President Barack Obama said Saturday that Muslims have the right to build a mosque near New York's Ground Zero. Obama commented during a trip to Florida, where he expanded on a Friday night White House speech asserting that Muslims have the same right to freedom of religion as everyone else in America.
The President is right, or at least would be, if he had is facts right. You see, everyone has this issue wrong. Even I made the mistake in an earlier blog when I first predicted this would erupt into a storm of protests. I incorrectly said that the law was clearly on their side and that this was more an issue of sensitivity than legality. We do have a separation of church and state in this country, we do have a right to worship as we please. But, this is not a question of “freedom of religion”. If that was the question, then the President and Mayor Bloomberg and all the rest would be right. But they are not!
You see, we simply have it all wrong (and by “we,” I mean all of us raised in the “Western” world). To us, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hindu and all other forms of religion are exactly that. Religion. We can easily understand the separation of political and religious issues. To be sure, they often get a little mixed up and some of our clergy would like to exhort political influence, but this is usually seen, understood, and taken into account. We have become good at separating religious from political rhetoric.
Islam is not the same and we have never been able to understand that. Islam is not just religion. It is also the center of their culture, their community. They go to mosques not only to pray, they go to learn to read and write. They go there to get an education. They turn to the mosque for justice and obey religious law (Sharia Law) as if it were the Civil or Penal Code.
Muslims look to their religion as far more than just a place for spiritual guidance. That is why we “westerners” have such a hard time understanding “Islam”. We keep trying to see it in the same way we see our own religion. That does not work and will never work.
That is why the President and all the rest are wrong. That Mosque, that “community center” is not just a place of quiet worship. Is would be an Islamic Political Center as much as a place of worship. It would be a lightning rod for protest and dissent, possibly even violence- and that would suit the Imam and his “Cordoba Initiative” very well. It would put them in the light of the persecuted victims (something they are very good at using against us “politically correct” conscious westerners.
The Mosque must not be seen as a place of religious worship, It must be seen as a political statement and one which must be opposed at all costs!