Well it seems we’ve managed to avoid a Koran burning, but we still had Christians ripping pages out of the Koran at the White House to protest “the charade that Islam is a peaceful religion”—what a shame these hypocrites don’t give the outrageous violence and intolerance in their own Bible the same scrutiny. The huge controversy surrounding the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” (which will actually be two blocks away and will be more of a Muslim community centre than what most people think of as a mosque) has only been inflamed by this year’s anniversary of September 11, however.
My own views on this issue are expressed very well by the video above—opposing this mosque is tantamount to equating all Muslims with Islamic extremist terrorists, which is the same as equating all Christians with Christian extremist terrorists. As critical as I am of the extreme violence and intolerance written into the both the Koran and the Bible, it is not reflective of how most Muslims practice their religion, just as it isn’t reflective of how most Christians practice theirs. And while it may seem strange for an outspoken atheist to preach religious tolerance, the fact of the matter is, without freedom of religion, there wouldn’t be freedom of no religion. Freedom of religion is one of the key things that makes us better than the terrorists—to deny this only brings us down to their level.
Having said that though, I can sympathise with Obama’s apparent attempt to have it both ways on this issue. I, like him, absolutely support their legal and constitutional right to build this mosque at this site. On the other hand though, it will be the subject of ongoing controversy, and will no doubt be the target of Christian extremist terrorism, which could have repercussions for the whole world. So I can also sympathise with Obama’s implication that building a mosque at this site may not be wise, and that the backers of this project should really consider building it elsewhere—for their own sake as much as (indeed more than) anybody else’s.
As they always do with this sort of issue, the conservatives have cynically tried to use it as a wedge against Obama, and have shamelessly tried to fan the flames by openly speaking out against this mosque with some very inflammatory language. This is in spite of their stated devotion (and that of their supporters) to the US constitution—which absolutely protects the right of Muslims to build a mosque at this site. Of course, this is really the same as their supposed devotion to freedom of speech—the conservatives only want freedom of speech and religion for themselves, and not for anybody else. I fear Obama could lose his presidency over what should really be a non-issue, just as the labour party very nearly just lost power in Australia, in part because of the complete non-issue of “boat people”. I will have more to say on the recent Australian election in my next post.