Like a clear majority of Americans, I too oppose the building of the proposed Cordoba Mosque near the former World Trade Center in New York City.
But for me this is not an issue of religious tolerance as much as it is one of compassion, community, and respect for the 3,000 Americans who lost their lives that day at the hands of Muslim extremists. And let’s not forget thousands more were injured physically and emotionally on that dark day of September 11, 2001.
Intellectually, we all know that all Muslims are not terrorists bent on killing Americans, Christians, and Jews. Intellectually, we all know that Muslims go to work, pay their taxes, love their families, and embrace the notion of being an American. The problem, however, as I see it, is much bigger than this–the problem is that the word “Muslim” has become synonymous with all that is wrong in the world — right or wrong — deserved or not.
Muslim for all intents and purposes is synonymous with the “n-word”. And we all know that once a race or group of people is branded as something so ugly and insidious that it is hard for that group to rise beyond the stereotyping that comes with such definition.
I recall hearing during the first Persian Gulf War Muslims and Arabs were routinely referred to as “sand ni**ers”, a derogatory term used to equate Arabs living in desert regions with American blacks. Although I have not heard that term for some time, it comes to mind again as I have listened to the debate that now rages over the proposed mosque and the palpable fear that many Americans still have of Muslims.
I think this fear is real, in some cases maybe even justifiable, but the heart of the matter that no one wants to address is that America still struggles with “differences” of any kind, be they racial, cultural gender, or religious. And we love to look for scapegoats for our problems in life. In a bad economy, where people are losing their homes, their wealth, their financial security and jobs; blaming President Obama, calling him a socialist and saying that he is coddling Muslims while kicking Americans, is a dangerous thing to do, folks.
So let’s decode what is really at issue here: The fact of the matter is that American Muslims, particularly the young male Muslims are seen as very similar to young black American males. Think about it: What do we see displayed over and over again on our televisions, via the web or in our culture?
We will recall forever the images emblazoned in our minds of the 9/11 hijackers. We see images of Muslim male rage in the streets of Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, and even here in New York at times when Muslims were angered over the depiction of Muhammad on South Park or on cable news as Muslim men openly expressed that their religion does teach them to “kill the infidels.” We gasped in a collective national horror as a Muslim Army Medical Officer killed 13 of his fellow soldiers in an apparent jihadist rage. We see video images of Muslim school children being taught to hate the zionist Jews and Americans, and pledge to kill them. We see people in angry Muslim mobs saying they hate America. This is what we see of Muslims daily and it sticks.