Freedom of Speech – unless I don’t agree with you

I was reading an article in Time recently about “Islamophobia” and the public uproar regarding mosques being built in communities across the country.  One key paragraph stood out to me:  “Those railing against new mosques also use arguments of equivalence:  Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow churches and synagogues, so why should the US permit the building of Islamic places of worship?”

My immediate, disturbed, vocal response:  “Um…how about a little thing called freedom of religion?!”

I’ve been somewhat following the debate surrounding the building of Cordoba House, aka “Ground Zero Mosque.”  I say “somewhat,” because I can’t say I know all the ins and outs, who’s said what, and count off facts on the fingers of my hands.  I’ve been more interested in the broader issue.  I love politics and religion, the philosophical theory of each, though not exactly the practice of either.  The practice gets people involved, and it’s the people who spoil it.

Should they build a mosque in Manhattan, just blocks from the World Trade Center?  What if instead of being two blocks away, it was four?  Six?  Would it be okay then?  How far away is okay?  One of the main concerns is that if you go to the memorial, you will know that this Muslim Center isn’t too far away.  Does the fact that your loved one is dead, killed by extremists, become worse, because this center is two blocks away?

Is it insensitive?  Possibly.  You know what else is insensitive?  Blaming an entire group for the actions of a very small few.  I can’t tell you how much this issue is upsetting me.  It is showing how ugly and small-minded people can be.  Islamophobia – bad name for it, IMO.  Islamo-hatred, more like it.

On the other side, you have the Florida minister who intends to burn copies of the Koran on 9/11.

You know, there’s nothing that drives me more insane than hypocritical actions.  It’s hard to preach forgiveness when you can’t forgive.  It’s hard to teach acceptance when you can’t accept.  Turn it around – a mosque in Saudi Arabia is going to burn a bunch of copies of the bible.  Is that okay?  If the answer is no, then why not?

Who’s right and who’s wrong?  They are both wrong, and they are both right.  That’s the beauty of this country. Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Speech are two of the most incredible rights we have as Americans.  Black, White, Asian, Mexican, Buddhist, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, none of that matters.  We are Americans.  The laws of this country do not apply to this group only.  They apply to all of us.

Religion has been the basis of war and fighting and intolerance for thousands of years.  Seems to me it might be easier if we were all Atheist – then what would we fight about?  I’m sure we’d figure something out.

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Postscript:  After writing this post, a friend sent me this article from Slate.  “This is how it feels to be judged by the sins of others who destroy in the name of your faith. You’re no more responsible for 30 Christian extremists in Florida than Muslims are for the 19 hijackers of 9/11.  Yet most of us, when polled, say that no Muslim house of worship should be built near the site of the 9/11 attacks. In saying this, we implicitly hold all Muslims accountable for the crime of those 19 people.”

Bingo.

Post-Postscript – Also after I wrote this post, we have *Breaking News* – The Pastor will not be burning copies of the Koran

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4 responses to “Freedom of Speech – unless I don’t agree with you

  1. yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. scary commentary on the state of the US religious tolerance levels (or lack thereof).

  2. What if we judged all Baptists based on the actions of the members of Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas!?!?!?

  3. I can’t tell you how much I agree with you on this. America does appear to be islamophobic. I do, however, think this hysteria is misguided patriotism, in many cases. People don’t have a way to focus their anger about unemployment, instability and a break down of family, so it ends up coming out in anti-Islamic ways. It’s the easy way out for them.