Sunday, August 08, 2010

Shalom aleichem

Across Nation, Mosque Projects Meet Opposition

Short article in NYT well worth reading.

It's as simple as this: In America, you can't stop the construction of a religious building by a  legally recognized religious group because you dislike the religion.  Yes, opponents find other reasons to object, & sometimes they are valid. But you can't expect government to violate the Constitution.

Over the past few years, I found myself supporting the construction of one Hindu temple in Jersey & opposing another. The one I opposed was trying to build in a residential area. When I saw the ornate design & size of the building, clearly they had a large membership, lots of money, & were expecting to host big occasions. There are plenty of "occasions" in Hinduism. It would  change the character of the neighborhood   - which did not have a large Indian-American population - & cause traffic problems. The one I supported was  converting a building in a commercial district that included churches.  But in both instances, local opposition had anti-Indian feelings.

I don't like the idea of  constructing a large mosque & community center close to Ground Zero, I don't think it helps Muslims or the city, but if it gets past New York's zoning codes, what can you do?  I also don't like  Freedom Tower or  how the area  is being redeveloped, period.

Islam, in reality, in practice, is not a single, organized entity.  Just like other religions, practice & observance  varies from ultra-strict to hardly at all.  The United States is the rare nation with the religious freedom for religions to find new shapes. We grew our own protestant fundamentalism here. We created the predominant form of Methodism, a temperate Roman Catholicism (compared to what existed in Europe), a  Reform Judaism I admire, & some highly original religions of which Latter Day Saints is the most well-known. A great strength of America is that national & ethnic varieties of the same  religion must coexist here. They have to compete if they expect to grow; they can't bludgeon each other out of existence. In the process, they change.  I want to trust this process for Islam.We have to give Muslims freedom & space.

That won't happen with idiots like the ones I heard on an AM radio show yesterday afternoon.  They were speaking as "Christians" although it wasn't a religious show. One of them was mocking the phrase As-Salamu ʿAlaykum as "a salami something."  He was brutally, stupidly offensive. The similarity to Shalom aleichem didn't occur to the moron.
I try to set aside the peculiarities of religious belief. We believe in what appeals to us, often regardless of logic & reason. But it does strike me as odd for American Christian nationalists to complain that Islam is inherently a political system rather than a religion.

When I strongly react against a particular form of religion & examine my reaction & that form, it nearly always involves at some level how women are treated & the  limited roles allowed to women. Some are relatively mild, others extremely oppressive.

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