Vaishali: Mosque’d in Controversy
Recently there has been so much time and energy given to the topic of building a mosque near the site of the Twin Towers, that it would be a shame to allow the opportunity for greater understanding to pass by without further examination.
It has been argued that this is an issue of judging and discriminating against an entire religious group due to the sociopathic actions of a select few, who were more politically motivated than anything else. If we put this “religious issue” in historical perspective, it changes the context. Hitler, a self-professed practicing Christian, committed atrocities on a much greater scale. His “final solution” was a crime of the most extreme religious bias. But at no time did anyone suggest that the construction of Christian churches be stopped, because it honors Hitler, or any other infamous, crime-committing, self-proclaimed Christians. Somehow, we recognize that as myopic and small minded.
There are zealots in every religious sect. It is a personal trait, not a religious characteristic. Punishing all the Muslims is no different than the Jews punishing all Germans. Not all Germans were Nazis, and not all Muslims are terrorists. We do not want to lose sight of the important question here: who is the enemy? Are all the Americans of German ancestry who fought in WWII the enemy? What about the Americans of Japanese ancestry incarcerated in internment camps? And, on a not so global level, what about all the serial killers who claimed God told them to kill? God even told Abraham to kill his first-born son, which not only sets a precedent, but also adds credibility to the others. We haven’t stopped those who openly practice communicating with God because of the crimes of a few deeply emotionally ill people. We know better than that. So who is the real enemy here? Is it Islam? No. It is a small group of extremists cowardly hiding behind Islam to justify the indefensible.
Most people do not know that there is already a Mosque that is only four blocks away from ground zero. It is in a building that predates the Twin Towers. If we start censoring where people can build a house of worship, where do we stop? How many blocks away will be far enough? And what about Mosques that existed before the Twin Towers were built but are now considered too close to a sensitive landmark? Do we raze them because we find their very existence offensive? And what about free will? Are the builders of this proposed Mosque subject to different laws than anyone else following their heart in a land where they are proclaimed constitutionally free to do so?
Loving and caring for each other is the highest philosophical, moral, ethical and religious teaching in the Universe. America is a predominately Judeo/Christian country. We give aggressive lip service to valuing this ethical “love thy neighbor” compassion-based philosophical standard. Yet it is those people practicing religious beliefs based on the ethical gold standard of tolerance, compassion and forgiveness that are the ones protesting with the most vitriol. Do these same people protest that all Muslims should be denied access to Heaven? After all, how could Heaven permit any Souls from Islam to enter? It would be too offensive to the Souls who died in the Twin Towers to have to share paradise with them. And if growing beyond limitation, fear and hate is what Heaven is all about, how can we co-create manifesting Heaven on Earth if we practice a way of life that clearly violates the Spirit of Heaven and peace on Earth?
As prominent as religious hypocrisy is in this debate, there is a deeper issue. Responding to others in a manner the unifies everyone, respects the free will of others and honors the sacredness of all life, regardless of the “outer label,” is what the potential of this affair is truly about. Forget what religion the people who crashed into the Twin Towers claimed to be, for their actions represent them more accurately than their dogma. Clearly their real religion is disrespectful to human life and based on a love of hatred and mindless destruction. The Twin Towers attack was designed to divide our unity as a people and as a nation. The terrorist have accomplished their mission, all these years later, if we allow ourselves to focus on the negative and dwell on how that single event continues to fracture and divide instead of unify and heal us.
The real tragedy is if we participate in creating further division and separation within our own minds and communities. The danger we need to be aware of here is not the scrutiny of religions associated with terroristic acts. It is not where a Mosque is or is not built. It is the twisted and distorted concept that democracy is somehow served by justifying an argument of isolation and hatred. If we allow that to happen, we destroy democracy from the inside out.
When a bully intimidates you, that bully expects a certain reaction from you, his victim. That bully wants you to behave in a manner he is coercing. If you give away your power to that bully, he wins. Now is the time to stand our ground, in solidarity, and take our power back. This is the time to say, “No matter what happens to us, we are unconditionally the land of the free and the home of the brave. We do not recognize any other power: not the power of intimidation, fear, divisiveness, intolerance or bigotry. No matter what the world throws at us, we stand as one, and 9/11 only has the ability to makes us stronger and more resilient.”
When we choose to let the conduct of others divide us, we lose something infinitely greater than the Twin Towers and those who perished that day. We lose sight of ourselves as free, brave people. We undermine our individual and collective dignity; we erode our inner relationship with integrity; we corrupt our knowing of ourselves as sovereign. But most importantly, we compromise what we value most of all … the experience of ourselves as the greatest experiment in human freedom the planet has ever seen.
The reductionist fixation on the location of a building is distracting us from a bigger picture problem which is essentially how do we see ourselves. How do we choose to define and perceive ourselves? It would be a tragedy of the greatest proportion to permit the work of a few terrorists to set the parameters of our self-knowing, and self-actualizing. Allowing the actions of a few to skew and contort this critical point of focus is not what free, brave people choose.
Where a mosque is or is not built should not have the power to define us. A building is an inanimate structure that only has the meaning we imbue upon it with our thoughts and beliefs. If we choose to see ourselves as broken, victimized and wounded, we will see life through the filter of fear and outrage. We can take our power back and liberate ourselves from the gyrations of the outer world by choosing inwardly to see ourselves as free, brave people who have the power individually and collectively to grow beyond anything that has hurt us.
Intellectually we know that Love is the most powerful force in the Universe, but we rarely identify ourselves as Love and nothing else. And, even more infrequently, do we remember to fearlessly align ourselves with these Truths — especially when life gets challenging.