As an American citizen, I was dismayed when my summer was agonisingly torn apart by the news that a terrorist-worshiping super-mosque was being ungracefully plonked on to Ground Zero, as a big “Hey America!” to the victims of the 9/11 attacks on New York. As I struggled to come to terms with what was happening to my once great nation, I read further into the debate, and was shocked to learn that Ground Zero is soon to become an Al-Qaeda stronghold, with secret nuclear weapons capabilities, and an elite underground training facility for would-be terrorists which include bomb-making lessons, a Hercules-esque gauntlet, and a rather fun “pin the nuke on the Obama” game in the crèche for the kiddies.
And before you ask, no of course I haven’t actually read or heard any interviews with Imam Rauf, the man behind the controversial plans. Everything I need to know about the project and about Islam I learn from Glenn Beck, or by listening to the ramblings of Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker who described the ‘mosque’ as an “intolerable act of triumphalism” for Islam. Furthermore, I wouldn’t want to run the risk of being subjected to his Islamic propaganda, for fear that similar mosques will start sprouting on British shores on the top decks of buses, in a direct celebration of the 7/7 bombings.
The reality of the matter is that campaigners with such views are champion peddlers of make-believe, on a monumental scale. And their tales have become so loud and so angry that the world has taken notice. This is damaging, not only as it promotes the rise of Islamophobia across the western world, but also to the Ground zero debate. The outrage is forcing the debate to change from one about the practical role of Islam in America, to one about rage and intolerance. This is shameful because once we strip away the anger the necessity to have a calm debate becomes clear. Even recognising that Park51 (the organisation behind the ‘Ground Zero mosque’) will be promoting interfaith relations with a prayer room, restaurant and swimming pool, the point remains that building the faith centre is still a sensitive issue for many Americans, even the moderate ones we don’t see on Fox News.
Unfortunately, the distortion of truth seems to have spiralled far out of control, and reached the God-fearing irate population who don’t seem willing or reasonable enough to listen to the truth about Park51 or about Islam. This was most infamously displayed two weeks ago when Pastor Jones really pulled the crazy out of the bag and decided burning the Qur’an might be a good idea. But if people like Jones were more reasonable, then perhaps they might grasp the concept of tolerance, see the positives to an Islamic community centre and realise that despite religious and cultural differences, the overwhelmingly large majority of Muslims don’t want to harm the west. Truth be told, it sounds like Jones, Gingrich and others could really do with a nice relaxing building where they can have some down time, a delicious meal and a bit of a swim.
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