Beginning with the controversy about the Islamic community center and mosque being planned several blocks away from the World Trade Center site in NYC, there seems to be a concerted, nationwide campaign underway to villify and persecute Muslims, mosques and any kind of Islamic activity across the country. Nine years AFTER 9/11, people seem to be going crazy with intense hatred of Muslims and anything to do with Islam. This is so disturbing on so many levels that I hardly know where to begin.
First of all, the fact that people across the nation are going on the warpath against mosques and Muslims demonstrates that this is NOT really about the mosque in NYC, which has anyway been in the works for a long time, and would not be major news if not for people like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich doing all they can to make this into an angry, divisive issue. This is one in a continuing series of efforts (remember the phony controversy over Death Panels?) to use lies and distortions to whip up a fearful and poorly-informed population into a mad mob frenzy for political purposes. The Republican Party and their Tea Party and FOX News divisions clearly want people to spend lots and lots of time talking about the "Muslim menace" supposedly demonstrated by Islamic groups doing horrible, heinous things like applying for construction permits.
Why do the Republicans want to push the panic button, if not the "Beat up on Muslims" button across the country? Because they know that the more that people get worked up over things like this, the less time and energy they will have to think seriously about issues like the Gulf oil catastrophe, the economy and the plight of the millions of unemployed, and the opposition of the Republican party to ANY government programs to help people or regulate corrupt and out-of-control corporations. The same applies to the news media, who get caught up in chasing these Republican Party-guided, FOX News-generated phantoms instead of attempting any thoughtful analysis or investigative reporting into matters of greater relevance to people's day-to-day lives. This kind of phony controversy plays perfectly to the Republicans' desire to portray themselves as the champions of patriotic, Christian, conservative white people--REAL Americans-- who desire protection, if not pogroms, against such horrible un-American entities as Hispanics, Muslims, gays, and liberals. In fact, you could almost say that the split in our politics today could be described as a divide between one party that proposes programs, and another that advocates pogroms.
But let's go back to the original topic. I noted that this is a phony controversy. It is important to understand the facts. (1) The proposed mosque and community center will NOT be at Ground Zero, but several blocks away, taking the place of a defunct clothing store, the Burlington Coat Factory. So all the noise you hear about the suppposed outrage of building a mosque on the hallowed ground of Ground Zero is hyperbole and crap. (2) The Muslims involved are peace-loving Sufis. They have nothing to do with Al-Qaeda or any Islamic extremism or terrorism. (3) The intention of the Muslim group planning the construction is not to build some kind of anti-American, pro-9/11 Muslim victory monument, but to create an institution like the Jewish-run 92nd St. Y, where lectures, concerts and other events open to the public can be held, along with a swimming pool and yes, a mosque, one of more than 100 in the NYC area.
This may very well seem a completely different situation than what you may have been hearing or reading from journalists and politicians bent on stirring up anti-Muslim passions. If you doubt what I am describing, please take some time and check the facts from a reputable news source like Reuters, Associated Press or The New York Times.
Some readers of this Pagan-oriented blog may wonder why I am taking so much time on this Muslim matter. "None of our business; they're not us, so who cares?" you might say, but you would be wrong. Modern-day Pagan movements are only possible in the USA and other countries because of the increased respect for social and cultural diversity, including religious diversity, that has been part of American culture and to some extent world culture since the 1960s, building on our long-ignored, Constitional respect for freedom of religion. If we start going back to a witch-hunting, minority-persecuting mentality in this country, it will only be a matter of time before emboldened conservative Christians will undertake a crusade against Pagans and Heathens along with anyone else whose life does not revolve around Jesus and the Bible. Remember the 1950s and McCarthyism? To some, those were the "good old days."
If you don't want to see our country go backwards toward Christian conformity and open season on anyone defined as an "Un-Christian," or "Un-American" Other, STAND UP, SPEAK UP and FIGHT BACK against the persecution of Muslims, as well as the persecution of Hispanics going on with the anti-immigrant movement. If you hear someone in the supermarket, at your work place, or in your ritual circle spouting anti-Muslim nonsense based on misleading news sources, open your mouth and calmly set the person straight. Otherwise, we may all end up rephrasing that old poem about the advent of Nazism: "When they came for the Hispanic immigrants, I didn't say anything because I am not a Hispanic immigrant. When they came for the Muslims, I did not speak out because I am not a Muslim. When they came for the Pagans...."