I can't help but shout this out to all the irrational fearmongers who are afraid of a mosque being built in Lower Manhattan. So a few muslims want to build a place to pray in New York City, the idealized place of hardworking immigrants coming in to the melting pot that is our great country. Why are people so nuts about this? Irrationality and ignorance is what propels their hatred of anyone that doesn't look and act like themselves, even if freedom of religion is enshrined in the Constitution they claim to admire, adhere to and protect.
Tom Robbins from the Village Voice gives us a glimpse at the insanity observed at the latest hearings to approve the mosque:
Preserving urban landmarks hasn't been high on the roster of concerns in Tea Party land, from where a lot of the protesters were recruited. But many who showed up to denounce a Muslim-sponsored development so near sacred ground tied their cause to municipal art. All were suddenly gung-ho advocates for salvaging this splendid example of 19th-century Italian palazzo mercantile architecture.[...]Ah the internet, and I'm sure her reading was fully of well-sourced material....straight out of the tea party websites esteemed for their fact-checked stories and award-winning journalism.
Testifying at a microphone on the aisle, a heavy-set woman pointed to a tiny teenager seated nearby wearing a hijab. "How do I know this young woman isn't going to be strapped with explosives?"
That was about par for the course during the three-hour session. One speaker suggested that this is how Muslims took over London. "It's unsafe for a Westerner to go to London's East End," she said. "The mosques are used to subvert the neighborhood." After she sat down, she was asked if she'd been to London. "No, but I've been doing a great deal of reading about it, mostly on the Internet," she replied.
The sight of this melée for the even-keeled Robbins must have been nauseating to say the least. I'd like to say that these displays are infrequent and unrepresentative of the general body politic, but sadly it is not. Too many Americans indulge in ignorant views that help them feel greater than. It has been practiced in America since the beginning of miscegenation laws of 17th century Virginia. It continued with the Know-Nothings of the mid-19th century and the Ku Klux Klan of the late 19th century and well into the 20th century.
Despite all that miserable bigotry, I do hope that the decision-makers in the approval process for the mosque are above that nuttiness. America is supposed to be better and bigger than it's lowest common denominators. Allowing freedom of religion to flower, especially in spite of 9/11 is exactly what will help us win the battle of ideas with the actual terrorists who wish us harm, not muslims like Sharif El-Gamal who are working for the common good.