New Yorkers, the proposed Mosque and Ground Zero Politics.
By George Onuorah
Special to USAfricaonline.com and CLASSmagazine, Houston
Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, I was privileged to help with providing counseling to many traumatized by the attacks and requiring mental health counseling. The to this day, I am sure that those first Responders and others are still suffering the effects of this unfortunate tragedy of our century. Few words can describe the surprising controversy and politics that characterize the debate about whether or not to build an Islamic mosque center near where many today regard as hollowed ground. As we mark the ninth anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attack on American soil and famous the World Trade Center land mark the debate and protest has only intensified. Some would have thought this occasion calls for a more solemn commemoration instead of the kind of protest we see today.
Well, regrettable or not, some in this land of Lincoln see our divergent opinion as a testament to our democracy. Others feel and rightfully so that dissension is inherently a sign of effeminacy – arguing that a permissive society such as obtains herein allows too much percolation of ideas and penchant for too much tolerance and accommodation that can be inimical to political progress. Well, even if such is the case. Are those represented by other religious faith and dogma no longer part and parcel of what continues to be regarded as “land of the free” and home of the brave?
First and foremost, America and this society is founded and grounded on a Constitution that places adequate premium on the rights of individuals: the American Constitution guarantees the right to “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness”. As well as recognizes ones right to practice their religion and worshipping without any intrusion by government or even molestation. The founding fathers may even have conceived the concept of separation of church and state while framing the American Constitution but let’s reserve that for another time. Especially when in so doing, no ones rights are infringed upon or violated. Americans pride themselves on such uniqueness.
You have same symbolism when you equate current incendiary debate about opposition to building the mosque to the preaching by Dr. Martin Luther King jr. who urged us not to judge people by the “color of their skin but by the content of their character aka in his famous “I have a dream speech”. As you not judge others of other faith by the iniquity of those whose actions has bordered on extremism that resulted in harm to this Americans. Now the question becomes: How does the fact that Americans pride themselves in such freedom and individual rights affect other faiths desire to integrate into the melting pot of cultures, social, political and otherwise.
Quite simply, throughout human history, humans are prone to have reservation about categories of people especially those whose actions have caused harm to their fellow human beings. We can even rewind back to the Nazi history and the atrocities meted on the Jews during the despotic reign of Hitler. After the unfortunate incident of 911 where more than three thousand Americans died in the WTC, the Pentagon and another of the hijacked plane crashed with loss of lives. Some remain upset by the brazen nature of the attack which has resulted in astronomical financial loss which to this day helped cripple the economic system of world financial super-power leaving a sour taste in the mouth of many. Listen to the pronouncement of those opposing the building of proposed mosque blocks from ground zero and you will hear the feeling of revulsion as they find it hard to digest fact some would even entertain the debate about allowing the building of this mosque in the first place. Politicians have joined the chores of condemnation –Rick Lazio, Rick Paladino and Newt Gingrich are opposed to building this mosque; whereas our mayor Michael Bloomberg, Christine Quinn and even Mr. President support other faiths the right of practicing their religion as does the Catholics, Jewish, Hindu etc.
In their opinion, Muslim Americans have same rights as any other Americans and such rights should not be abridged. Such open-minded argument is embraced by many in a world seeking tolerance, accommodation and compromise. But frankly speaking, some will tell you right out of the bat that American anger is not against Muslims faith or people but against fanatical extremists who destroyed World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Millions of Americans are Muslims and are comfortably assimilated and remain law- abiding and contributing to the economy of this country. For anyone to exclude or treat them as second class citizens is tantamount to being unethical and unacceptable.
As I watch this conversation about building a mosque or Islamic center morph into the controversy of today, I wonder how we got to this point. In an election year, politicians of all spectrums are joining the fray for whatever reasons, political gains or posturing, the fact remains that a solemn anniversary marking the devastation of 911 should first and foremost take into consideration the sentiment of those who lost their loved ones on that infamous day.
Regardless of where we stand on the politics of whether this Park 52 Islamic Center or mosque should be built or not, there is a school of thought that I support. I feel that relocation is an option and a compromise that will certainly appease many, especially those who lost family members and loved ones on 911. The issue is not so much about constitutionality as it’s about the feeling of those who are still affected by this September 11, 2001 tragedy.
Again, what kind of image does this create in the eyes of the outside world that our debates has taken precedence over the feelings of our loved ones. Granted that debate and dissension has been part of our democracy, but in a case of this nature, reasons must prevail and we should tone down the rhetoric.
The answer is not fanning the flames but to find closure so we can continue to move forward together as “One Nation under God Indivisible with Liberty and Justice for All”. But with the protests and politics fanning the embers, it appears we are stuck with the debate at least for now. God Bless America.
•Onuorah is a special correspondent of USAfrica and CLASSmagazine. His first book will be published before the end of 2010.