Posts Tagged ‘diversity’

The “Ground Zero Mosque”

August 19, 2010

The proposed “Ground Zero Mosque”—or more accurately, the proposed multi-purpose Muslim community center, Park51—has been at the center of a media firestorm lately. All the usual suspects among the right-wing pundits have been milking the outrage over the planned construction. Some prominent Democrats, such as Harry Reid and Howard Dean, have jumped on the bandwagon. President Obama has backed off his earlier defense of the project. In the face of majority opposition to the project, these politicians are willing to compromise their principles for political expediency. But the fact that a majority of US citizens apparently oppose the Mosque does not make that position just or wise.

From what I gather, many who oppose the community center acknowledge that the developers have the right to build on this site. Instead, the opposition is denouncing the plans as inappropriate. They seem to believe it is insensitive to build a Muslim center so near the site of a catastrophe associated with Islam. Some, such as Newt Gingrich, even suggest that the project is a vindictive triumphalism, that this is some “victory mosque” to celebrate the 9/11 attacks.

Park51 is not next to, will not loom over or be visible from the 9/11 Memorial, will not even be on a prominent route to the Memorial. The proposed project is not a mosque. But really, I don’t care if it was a mosque, or directly connected to the site of the twin towers or the memorial. I don’t feel that the project is insensitive to the US or the pain of caused by 9/11. On the contrary, it is exactly what we as a nation need.

We need the visible presence of sincere Muslims of goodwill—of whom there are many—to take back Islam from the Jihadis and radicals. We need Muslims who reject the corrupt Islam which looms so large in the perception of our nation today, and who want to help heal the devastation done by those who have misappropriated and desecrated the name of their faith. We need Muslims who will declare through their works “That which tore down and destroyed this area is not Islam. This which we do to build and renew is Islam.” We need a presence which can help bridge the divides between us, help overcome the xenophobia which has only grown stronger as a reaction to the work of evil men under the pretense of religion on 9/11. We need their help in taking back the site from the spectre of the terrorists.

The developers of Park51 seem qualified to be that presence. The people and organizations involved with the project, such as the Cordoba Initiative, seem to all be “moderate” Muslim organizations, focused on outreach to the wider community and to multifaith understanding. As Newt Gingrich has suggested, the name Cordoba is significant, but not in the way he believes. Yes, Cordoba was the capital of Muslim Spain. Cordoba was also the land of the most religious freedom in Europe at the time—and for several centuries afterward. The Cordoba Initiative is inspired by that oft forgotten legacy to nurture understanding and respect among different faiths and cultures.

To thwart Park51 would ultimately hurt our nation. It would be a boon to Al-Qaeda and other radical Islamic organizations in their recruiting. They would be able to point to the US’s obstruction of Park51 as further proof of the irreconcilable differences between the West and Islam, that the West is inherently hostile to their faith. Compromise and appeasement only encourages the West to act as bullies, they will say, and thus the only way to communicate with the US and the West is through violence.

More importantly, it will aggravate the divisions between us, alienate Muslims and others who are different from the majority in the nation. Our collective psyche will never mend if we continue to nurse the pain and jealously protect it as our own. Innocent Muslims died on 9/11 as well. The only way to heal the festering wounds caused by 9/11 and our xenophobia is to face them head on, to meet with Muslims of goodwill, to find the common ground we share with them, to have faith in their humanity, and invite them in to share our pain as we share theirs. Park51 can play a role in facilitating that healing process.

As Valerie Elverton-Dixon eloquently put it:

Our true power lies in how we refuse the terrorists our terror, our fear and our suspicion of our Muslim sisters and brother. Our true power and our true strength is that from many we are one. It is from the strength of that unity that gives us the bravery not only to allow an Islamic Community Center two blocks from ground zero, but to welcome and to celebrate it (“Park 51 and America‚Äôs Unresolved Pain, Tikkun Daily, 08.19.2010)”.

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Then if we don’t ban them, they’ll infiltrate our schools…

October 29, 2008

My wife and I like to have nieces and nephews over for over-nighters whenever we have the chance. On one such occasion a year or so back, we took a batch of them to Liberty Park to play around on the Saturday evening. They splashed gleefully in the Seven Canyon’s fountain among the dozens of other kids. Suddenly the oldest neice, a rather impetuous girl perhaps seven years old at the time, suddenly froze. She pointed accusingly.

“Hey! They’re smoking!” She called out in her best tattling tone. “We’re not supposed to do that!”

I glanced over at the two women conversing about twenty yards away, holding their cigarettes. We smiled wryly at my niece’s lack of discretion. Reflecting upon the situation later, I should hardly have been surprised. This is the same niece who on an earlier trip to the park had seen a family celebrating a birthday, and had immediately gone and asked for a piece of cake. Nobody has ever accused her of timidity nor restraint.

While these offenders meandered along their way, I explained to my niece that while we don’t smoke, we also believe in free agency. People can choose to smoke. We need to respect their right to make those choices in public places.

Recently, my wife received one of those political email chain-letters which are often passed around in LDS circles. This one encouraged everyone to be active in promoting California Proposition 8. It contained a video created by the Family Research Council, talking about the insidious effects of normalizing homosexual marriage. The case was centered on a situation in Massachusetts. As part of diversity education, the video points out that elementary school children were presented stories revolving around married homosexuals or those courting to marry. The parents interviewed were aghast that elementary school children would be exposed to such ideas, and that this forced them to have conversations for which they did not feel the adolescents were prepared. The only thing missing was Helen Lovejoy wailing “Won’t somebody please think of the children!”

I don’t think it is necessary nor inevitable for schools to teach about homosexual families. But so what if they do? As I experienced with my niece, children are frequently exposed to ideas which run counter to the moral beliefs of their family. Many LDS familys uphold moral prohibitions on drinking coffee, tea, or alcohol, using tobacco, engaging in commercial or other everyday pursuits on the Sabbath, watching r-rated movies, Monday night activities, clothing styles, tattoos, etc; all of which are presented as acceptable by significant elements within society. At some point, we will be required explain to our children why we choose to believe or act differently than others in society. To expect everything about our communities and our schools to conform to our particular beliefs would be unreasonable. Do we have so little faith in the moral compass of our children? Despite several teachers in jr. high and high school (not to mention a grandfather) who treated coffee as perfectly acceptable, I’ve never touched the stuff. If I am doing my job as a parent, teaching my children to reason, to make righteous judgments, and to listen to the spirit, it doesn’t matter what the schools teach on important moral issues. And if I am not being an effective parent, no amount of prohibition, indoctrination, or censorship in the schools will keep them pure.

Our children will be exposed to the concept of homosexuality at some point in their childhood. Ultimately a family member will come out of the closet, or there will be homosexual couples in the community, or a peer will have homosexual parents. To use the fact that they might learn of it in school through a book as a reason to ban homosexual marriage is absurd.

Alternative Pioneer Festivities

July 15, 2008

Utah’s big holiday is fast approaching. Our state pulls out all the stops for its Days of ’47: Parades, picnics, fireworks, the whole nine yards to celebrate the Mormon pioneer trek to Utah.

My wife and I enjoy the holiday, but not in the traditional way. We tend to skip the parade and most of the Mormon pioneer-oriented activities, preferring more alternative celebrations. On the evening of the 23rd, we regularly attend the International CultureFest, a celebration of cultural diversity downtown at the Gallivan Center. And on the 24th, we hang out in Liberty Park for several hours (or as long as our water holds out in the blazing heat) at the Native American Celebration in the Park. They have lots of craft and food booths, kids activities, music, and the Powwow. We’ve really enjoyed seeing the costumes, the dancing, and the singing at the Powwow Unfortunately, it appears that the Powwow is no longer free. But even if you’d prefer not to spend the money, there will still be plenty to see and do at the park.

If you’re looking for something different to shake up your Pioneer Days, give some of these a shot.

Salt Lake City Living Traditions Festival

May 16, 2008

One thing I hope to continue doing on the blog, and do more consistently, during my step back from blogging is to promote local social and political events I think are worthwhile. I’m looking for some sort of web calendar service or application I can use. I’d prefer not to resort to MySpace or FaceBook. Any suggestions? Until I find a good one, I’ll just post here about them.

This weekend we will enjoy one of our top two or three events of the summer: The Living Traditions Festival. We look forward to the festival every year. Wonderful music and dancing from all corners of the earth. Great food produced by local non-profit ethnic organizations. Many skilled crafts are on display. And for those with kids, there is an area for children to participate in crafts and activities. I know it’s late notice, but if you have some free time over the weekend, there is no better place to spend it.