Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Is a YMCA a Church?

So, you might have heard that there's a gigantic, scary, probably terrorist-producing mosque being built right on top of Ground Zero. Pretty awful stuff.

Ya' know, if that were the case.

But, of course, it is NOT the case.

What is being built is a community center (basically the Muslim equivalent of a YMCA) that has an area in it set aside for prayer two blocks from Ground Zero. There is another mosque in the area, one that has been there for 40 years and sustained significant damage during the 9/11 attacks.

There have been all kinds of arguments about why the Park51 project should be stopped, but the one that makes the least sense to me (and seems to be the latest in a series of ridiculous claims) is that the building of the community center is insensitive to the victims of the World Trade Center attacks.

I think this bothers me primarily because it seems to paint the idea that the only people who died in the attacks were non-Muslim white people. We talk about this community center offending the families of 9/11 -- but what about the Muslim families that also lost loved ones in the attack? In our zeal to be "sensitive" we do them the disservice of ignoring the pain of seeing your religion twisted into something that you don't hold to, of marginalizing or flat out ignoring their loss, and of saying that their religion is somehow inherently offensive.

Aside from that, in saying that it's insensitive to build this community center, we're basically saying that it's insensitive for Muslims to say that they exist. A tiny fraction of Muslims are terrorists. The basic belief in the tenants of Islam are all these people share in common, yet we paint the mere existence of a Muslim community (community! As in, for all of the people, regardless of religion in the community) center as being offensive. It's like saying that building a new YMCA in Jasper, Texas is insensitive because some members of the "Christian" KKK brutally murdered a black man in that area. The ridiculous of that statement is obvious, yet we're saying the same thing with regard to the Park51 project. Seventeen people who claim to a very particular and extreme version of Islam perpetrated and unthinkable act against the people of America, and now it's insensitive for other Islamic Americans who were also victims of this attack to build a gym. It's xenophobic, plain and simple.

And ultimately, I just can't see how any of that jives with my faith. Even at a very basic, stripped down, Golden Rule level, it just doesn't work for me. And when I read Micah 6:8, this kind of reaction simply doesn't feel just or merciful or humble.

What are your thoughts on the Park51 project? Is it really insensitive and my liberal bias just won't let me see it?
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I'm a wife to an amazing man, and mom to four incredible kids. I'm a Christian woman who sometimes struggles with doubt. I'm a musician and a writer who is sometimes afraid to play and write. I'm trying to be more authentic every day.
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