If there is one thing that the Bill of Rights has always been clear on, it is that everyone has the right to practice their religion freely; it does not pick a religion, it does not differentiate between religion and cult, it does not prescribe a god to worship, it does not force everyone to be religious, and it does not say that there are only certain places that people are allowed to worship. It is difficult to explain these facts to a group of people who claim to love the Constitution and claim to hold it in the highest esteem but clearly have no idea what it says. It does not protect people from being offended and it does not give one group of delusional religious people the right to dictate terms to another group of equally delusional religious people. However, if you listen to people like Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey (R-TN) and Pastor Bill Rench, then you may think otherwise.
I refuse to be forced into the position of defending something as vile as religion, however, the Bill of Rights is something that I do hold in high esteem and prefer it not be overrun by a group of people who have an imaginary friend in the sky. So, sometimes I get forced into the position of defending a group of people, not on the basis of religion, but on the basis of the Constitution. It does not matter what I think of someone’s religion, only that they are allowed to practice it freely as stated in the First Amendment. Yes, this also extends to Muslims who want to build places of worship. I am sure that the examples that I am about to bring up are not the first and will definitely not be the last, but religious freedom is something that must be defended. If Muslims are told they can no longer practice their religion, then it is only a short time before atheists are told they are not allowed to have no faith. I speak of course of the recent events surrounding the proposed mosques in NYC and Temecula, CA, and the Muslim community center in Murfreesboro, TN.
It seems to be a trend to hide behind national security when hating an entire group of people for, really, no reason. ‘Difference’ is the only thread that links all of the different forms of bigotry together. Take, for example, the Community Center that is proposed to be built in Temecula, CA. One thing to keep in mind when reading anything about this planned community center is that a mosque has existed in Temecula for a decade now. There has been no trouble out of the Muslim community there. They are currently performing their bronze-age rituals in an industrial building and have recently saved enough money to build a community center in a place that was zoned for religious buildings. The outcry from the community was simply stupid. The mosque is to be built in a cul-de-sac across from a Baptist church. Yes, the Baptists, those beacons of acceptance and tolerance. This lead to the sniveling “whoa is us” comments from the pastor of the church.
The reasons that the mosque shouldn’t be built at that location are easily shot down and uncovered to be what they truly are: an attempt to restrict the constitutional rights of one group of people because another group of people are ‘uncomfortable’. The first reason was snarled traffic in the area. On a recent radio show from Los Angeles, (Frosty, Heidi, & Frank), the Imam explained that Muslims hold their services on Friday afternoons, while Christians hold their services on Sunday. The issue of the traffic: ended. Then there was the idea put forth by the pastor that there may be some religious tension and possible violence between the church and the mosque. That part was very disconcerting for me, personally. This seemed to be a warning from the pastor that “if you come to our neighborhood, I can’t promise some of my congregation won’t go crazy on your building and congregation.” It was a very thinly veiled threat against the Imam. Again, the Imam explained that they held services on Fridays and were unlikely to see each other.
The final comments were ones that I am torn on, but not for reasons that may be clear until I explain myself. The Pastor told the Imam that he was worried about the mosque housing members of a terror cell, either knowingly or unknowingly. I agree that a terror cell in the area connected to the mosque would be horrible, however, the mosque has already existed in the community for over a decade. There have been no attacks on the community, no attacks on the nearby Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, and no attacks on Los Angeles. There has been no indication that there are any terror cells operating out of the mosque. On the contrary, the mosque has actually shown itself to be quite open. They allow anyone to view their services, as long as they remove their shoes and remain quite and their meetings are always in the open, free for anyone to visit. I would go further, though. I don’t think that every Muslim I meet has to apologize for September 11th just like every Catholic I meet doesn’t have to apologize for the Inquisition and every hillbilly doesn’t have to apologize for the KKK. Perhaps I should demand that all Christians apologize to me for Jerry Fallwell, Pat Robertson, and Fred Phelps. Try walking around Germany and demanding that everyone denounce the actions of Hitler or walk around Japan and demand that the actions of Hirohito be “refudiated”. I think that, at least in the US, the Muslim community has gone to great lengths to distance themselves from al-Qaeda. Again, the argument seems ridiculous.
The response from the community has been bigoted, but not surprising. They have even brought the local Tea Party on board. The community unified for one thing: stopping the mosque. The good people of Temecula have even went so far as to form a protest outside of the existing mosque on July 30, 2010, during the Muslim service. The protesters were encouraged to bring their dogs and to sing songs because, as one insane lady put it, “the Muslims hate dogs and songs.” Well, that may be so, and I thinking the idea that a dog’s saliva somehow makes you unclean is weird to say the least, the actions of the protesters are at a minimum mean-spirited. However, that is their right. We do not have a right in this country not to be offended. I do think this speaks volumes about the opposition to the mosque. It is exposed, once again, as simply a bigoted view that this is a Christian nation and therefore all inhabitants should be Christian. Well, I have news for the people of Temecula, this is not a Christian Nation and it hopefully never will be. As a side note, I am trying to figure out what the Tea Party is doing involved in this. I thought that the Tea Party was about fiscal conservatism and the constitution. If anything, they should be on the side of the First Amendment being utilized here. This is one of thousands of examples of the constitution being flexible in all parts except for the second amendment, at least according to the Tea Party. I sure am glad that the Tea Party isn’t the party of bigots.
My favorite case of the ridiculous nature of this argument that the country is having comes out of Murfreesboro, TN. I wrote about the Lt. Gov. who had some thoughts on whether Islam is a religion or a cult. Guess what Billy Bob; they are one and the same. All religions started as cults, and to be honest I still consider them all cults. The Lt. Gov. thinks that the first amendment is awesome and we should uphold it, but if Islam is a cult then it shouldn’t be protected. This game of making the Constitution fit your own religion, racist, or political (which is really three words describing the same thing) view is sickening. These are the same people who will tell you “I’m not a bigot/racist, but…” You can guess where this uproar is heading. There are already stirrings of protests of the community center. It’s the mentality of “You can have your own place of worship, just not here.” The Lt. Gov. and the yokels of Tennessee clearly think that Christianity reigns supreme and the Constitution is there to protect only their religion.
The most controversial out of these cases has to be the proposed Cordova House/Park51/Ground Zero Mosque/community center. First of all, there are a few things that need to be understood about this case. Foremost, the proposed community center is not going to be built on the site of the WTC. It is proposed to be built a few blocks from the site which, in New York City, may as well be in Chicago. The fact that you would be able to see the “Ground Zero” from the top floor doesn’t really mean anything to me. What if there was a mosque next to the site before 9/11; would they not be allowed to rebuild their mosque on that site? As long as there is a Bill of Rights in this country, people will and should be allowed to build their religious buildings where they please. This has a lot to do with the atheist community as well. Think about how many religious people would be happy to wipe us off of the planet. Imagine the uproar if the Charlotte Atheists & Agnostics were to put an office on Billy Graham Parkway or right next to a church. Even worse, imagine if the CAA bought an old church and turned it into a gathering place for atheists. Should we care about what the religious community thinks? Should we have our rights to assemble stripped from us because someone doesn’t agree with us? Of course not.
Second, there is this misconception that there is going to be a giant golden dome with the minarets and the call to prayer at the location. It’s a community center! This building is going to be 13 stories and will have things like restaurants, a gymnasium, classrooms, and also mosque. The idea that the al-Aksa Mosque is going to be recreated in the middle of NYC is stupid. No one complains about Jewish Community Centers or YMCA’s, why would anyone complain about this? Have you been to the Y? There are Bible verses on the wall. I haven’t been to a Jewish Community Center, but I can’t imagine it being any different. No one would suggest that the Y is a hotbed of Christian fundamentalism. That is what is most annoying about this. People hear the word “mosque” and automatically say that of course they are ‘jihadists’ and of course their goal is Sharia Law. Well, that may be their goal, but we have this thing called the First Amendment that protects peoples religious preferences and also stops the government from establishing a religion. When there are people actively trying to do this we can have a conversation.
Finally, there is this idea going around that this community center is going to be the new headquarters of al-Qaeda. This information couldn’t come from anywhere but the right-wing. There are people like Newt Gengrich who complain about the name of the foundation. The Cordova Foundation is named after a city in Spain where the Muslims set up a mosque after they conquered the country. My response to that is Billy Graham calls his self-masturbatory events “crusades”. Is anyone going to complain about that? Not likely. Then Newt says that “we will allow a mosque here when there are churches and synagogues in Saudi Arabia. I thought we were better than Saudi Arabia. It was my understanding that this was supposed to be a free country, which Saudi Arabia most certainly is not. Saudi Arabia is a theocracy. I thought the republicans were defenders of the democracy, protectors of this gaudy, self-indulgent society. Again, they are when it suits their bias, but when it’s something that ‘offends’ them, then we must stop and pass laws to stop the 6 million Muslims in this country from being able to practice their religion freely. Imagine if we passed a law that said “all churches must be Catholic. All other churches will be shut down. You are free to practice your religion, just not in public.” That would be interesting.
Is the community center in bad taste? I don’t know and I am not willing to make a judgment on that. Do I want them to build any of the places? I don’t want anyone to build any kind of religious buildings anywhere. I have to agree with Christopher Hitchens: religion poisons everything. Under the Constitution, do the Muslims have the right to build their community centers? Absolutely. This country is a place for all people and ideas to come together and, hopefully, exist without killing each other. As long as we allow these right-wing idiots and Tea Party bigots dictate the terms of people’s belief structures we are going to continue to have this problem of the American Theocracy.
This is a secular nation. The sooner everyone gets that though their head, the better off we will be.
- Temecula Mosque
- Tennessee Islamic Community Center
- NYC Mosque