Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Mosque

There has been a lot of talk lately about the proposed building of an Islamic community center two blocks from the 9/11 site. Many people have expressed concern that it is insensitive to the victims' families of this horrible event that anything associated with the religion of the perpetrators of this odious act should be built within such close proximity. While I can understand why many Americans might be hesitant to accept an Islamic center (including a mosque) near the site of one of the most horrific events in our history, it surprises me that the rhetoric and vitriol have reached such levels. There are certainly Islamic fundamentalists who seek the destruction of America. But to condemn the billion (?) of so members of the entire religion seems un-American to me. The letter below was in response, not to someones opinion against the plan, but to thank the Inquirer for publishing an article that attempted to shed light on the hyperbole surrounding the proposal.

My experience so far with letters to the Inquirer have shown me that they need to be relatively short and to the point. I would have liked to expand my thought about fear and its seemingly far-reaching effects on our populace and hence our debates.

What do you think? Are we more fearful than in the past? Or is it my bias that the things we seem to be afraid of are not worthy of our fear? When we were afraid of a possible nuclear war with the Russians that seems more legitimate than being afraid of the Taliban.

Or, to be more conspiratorial, perhaps fear is the tool that our politicians use to distract us from the real problems that we face. Perhaps by demonizing the gay community or illegal aliens or the entire Muslim community, it enables our leaders to avoid the real problems that face our society.

Or maybe we just don't want to face the truth that we are all responsible for our problems so it is easier to blame someone else.

To the editor:

Thanks for publishing Stephen Salisbury's column concerning the proposed Islamic center in New York City. It was nice to gain some information about this issue that was fact-based rather than an ideologue tainted opinion. However, it surprised me that he did not mention Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf whose current Mideast mission was reported on page 3 of Saturday's Inquirer. Perhaps if the general public was aware of Rauf's position (with both the Bush and Obama administrations) "as a symbol of American religious freedom", and his connection with the proposed Islamic center there would be less room for our politicians to fan the flames of hatred and then take advantage of the public's fear of the proposed community center and mosque.

Which makes me wonder; when did Americans become such a fearful populace?

Whether it is in discussions of this mosque, or gay marriage, or national health care, or immigration, or even the deficit, it seems that so much of today's discourse centers around reasons to be afraid. Whether the fear leads to hatred of merely gives that emotion legs, our culture seems to have reached a point where we give into these emotions much more readily thereby enabling politicians and pundits to direct our feelings at their targets du jour.

Despite our faults, we are still the greatest country in the world. Perhaps we would be better served if we acted as an example for the positive through trust and cooperation rather than reacting to today's important challenges through the prism of fear and hatred.


  1. Good for you, Joe. Personally I believe we have been living with a fear syndrome that might even be a campaign to keep us occupied from seeing those changes that we really should be afraid of.
    Either we believe in the constitution or we don't, in freedom of religion or not, of property rights or not.

    We have pushed our armies into two Islamic countries without permission or regard for their feelings. Now those people have something to complain about.

  2. Linc,

    Do you happen to read Smithsonian Magazine? There was an intersting article in the July/August edition by Joel Kotkin in which he predicts the population profile of America in 2050. As a result of reading the article and in conjunction with an e-mail correspondence I have with a friend, I wrote the following the below response which begins with "As for the illegal alien"... It is not specifically about the mosque controversy, it is about the illegal immigration issue but as I indicated above, I believe there is a common thread that makes both issues tick so explosively.

    As for the illegal alien question, I think I have a softer viewpoint than you. I recently read an article in Smithsonian Magazine which attempted to predict the population profile of America in the year 2050. It seems to me that the prosperity that we experienced from the post WWII years to the 1980's was produced in large part by the descendants of the great immigrations of the early 19th century (my grandparents were part of that wave). These descendants were driven by both their difficult experiences (Great Depression, WWII) and the tremendous opportunities that existed as a result of the building boom both in America and overseas. They had very low
    requirements for themselves but very high expectations for their children (count me and my siblings among this group). And for the most part, we did succeed, materially at least. But that prosperity had a price in a lower fertility rate and so we are facing all kinds of financial repercussions related to an aging population along with less young people to provide the financial foundation needed to allow the children of those original descendants (like my parents) to live out their lives in their own homes and with adequate medical support.

    Now we have a new wave of immigrants, not from Europe but from Mexico and South America. They have the exact same desires as my grandparents but not the same physical boundary or immigration quotas. They work at this century's low end jobs, live in below standard housing and give everything to their kids. I guess what I am saying is that we need this wave of immigrants just like we needed the one that brought our ancestors to America 100 years ago.

    To me, the problem isn't the people it is the system, and I think we agree on that point. Lets document them, collect their taxes and those from their employers. Help them afford decent housing to reduce the temptation of crime and its easy money. As long as we look upon them as a problem, we will never get this right. We need to look at them as part of the solution. A solution to providing the tax base to afford the debt we owe to the generation who came before us. A solution to providing the labor for entry level jobs that our kids don't or won't need to fill. A solution to keep our country one leg up on Europe and Japan who are aging just as fast (or faster) but do not have the influx of new blood to bolster their aging populations.

    I truly believe that much of this rancor about illegals is related to skin color and ethnicity just as it was 100 years ago when our ancestors were called micks, waps, polacks, kikes, etc. Remember, white Anglo-Saxon protestants are pretty darn white. They weren't just abusive to the immigrants of the early 1900's for no reason.