Mosque debate needs cultural perspective
The writer [“Mosque location lacks sensibility” printed Aug. 27 claims that “[Islam] and the Arab culture have vast hatred toward Western culture.” This is untrue. Many Muslims and Arabs around the world distrust the American government for its history in the region and oppose certain foreign policies that affect Muslims, such as our continued military support of Israel and the war in Iraq, but this is different from an ingrained hatred in Arab culture toward the West. And while certain strains of Islam—such as the violent extremism of al Qaeda—are reactions to modernity and western influence, these do not constitute the mainstream of Islamic thinking or Muslim beliefs.
Additionally, the writer uses poor examples to illustrate the insensitivity of building a “mosque” “at” Ground Zero. One must keep in mind that New York City is a melting pot of different cultures in addition to a densely populated urban center, so discussing a Japanese shrine next to Pearl Harbor is only vaguely similar. Pearl Harbor is not a place where many Japanese live or daily go to pray. Conversely, New York City has a large Muslim population; indeed, many Muslims died on 9/11, and there is already a mosque nearby. Further, the example of an “Antebellum-South museum next to the Martin Luther King center” is also misplaced: the lack of civil rights in the South was an accepted and prominent part of Southern culture against which Dr. King fought and of which he was a victim. To say that terrorism is an accepted and prominent part of Islamic culture would be to demonstrate the utmost ignorance of current affairs and world history—ignorance the writer exposes when he calls Osama bin Laden a “leader” of Islam.
The overblown controversy over this one mosque overshadows a genuine problem facing America: the widespread opposition to mosque construction across the country. There have been a number of recent cases in the news where large Muslims communities have faced vitriolic opposition to building new places of worship in their hometowns. While freedom of religion is guaranteed by our constitution, America has a long history of denying rights to minorities, and we must be careful to avoid sacrificing freedoms in the name of fear.
Political slant diminishes argument
In the article by Vivian Fan on August 27, 2010 [“Reverse racism, sexism impedes debate”], the author begins by stating a mantra of journalism, namely that journalists should strive to prevent bias in an article. I fear that she ignored this principle in her column and betrayed her thesis. The examples she chose to demonstrate exploitation of racism and sexism were apparently selected along political lines in favor of a liberal view. Though I agree with her thesis, I feel the expression of her view alienated a large audience.
I agree with Ms. Fan that the existence of the term “reverse racism” is evidence that we clearly haven’t reached the “post-racial society” through the election of a black president. Indeed, the election of Barack Obama stands as an example that racism is still present in our nation. He was a junior senator, who had served one term in office. He had little executive experience. The Democratic party could have provided a more qualified candidate, but as a nation we voted for him, futilely believing that making a black man our nation’s chief executive could recompense years of racial inequality. It is not my intent to disparage a president who has taken the reigns of command at a complicated juncture, nor to comment on his capability; I merely emphasize there were many voters whose selection was based on nothing beyond the color of President Obama’s skin.
Ms. Fan criticizes Sarah Palin for exploiting her gender to drive a political career. Palin is an accomplished politician in her own right, but her prestige in the national political scene is probably unwarranted. However, can we condemn her any more for using her gender than we can criticize Hillary Clinton? Is it any more heinous than Obama using his race to propel his career? It is a part of their identity and only the public has the power to give race or gender weight beyond its due.
The responsibility remains with each of us to explore ourselves. Are we making judgements based on the content of character, or are we falling into the trap of sound bytes and sensationalism? Though we have come a long way, people everywhere of all degrees of the political spectrum, have plenty of room for improvement.