But not all religious people make me uncomfortable. The ones who don't want to take science out of schools, the ones who don't want to force children to pray in school, the ones who believe that secular government is the best protection for both religious and non-religious people, the ones who treat people who have different beliefs with respect -- these I like. Many of these kinds of religious people are close friends.
With all of that in mind, I am disgusted by the reaction of so many Americans to efforts to create a multi-service Islamic community center in Manhattan a few blocks from where the World Trade Center towers were. The venomous reaction is exactly why so many religious people make me so uncomfortable.
Let's be clear:
- That area of NYC is not "sacred." My dictionary says that something sacred is connected with God (or the gods) or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration. It's a historic site deserving of respect and remembrance for what happened there, but it is NOT sacred.
- The person in charge of this multi-service Islamic community center, Oz Sultan, has two patterns in mind for this site: YMCAs and Jewish community centers. In fact, this Islamic community center is the kind of Islamic effort fundamentalist Muslims hate -- presenting Islam in a reasonable, loving, welcoming-to-all way. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan, are actually the kind of Muslim leaders so many of the people in the USA have been saying they want to hear from: modernists and moderates. Rauf is a Sufi Muslim, which I think of as the Universal Unitarian or the United Church of Christ versions of Islam. Sufi writings and followers draw wisdom not just from the Koran, but from a variety of modern Islamic writers, as well as Christians (including the Bible), Gnostics, and Zoroastrians. The men who flew planes into the WTC buildings, and all of their supporters, don't even consider Sufis as Muslim, because of their refusal to follow dogma -- the terrorists of September 11 considered Sufis heretics, infidels, or worse.
- Time magazine notes: "Ironically, Islam's roots in New York City are in the area around the site of the World Trade Center, and they predate the Twin Towers: in the late 19th century, a portion of lower Manhattan was known as Little Syria and was inhabited by Arab immigrants — Muslims and Christians — from the Ottoman Empire."
Islam is just as varied as Christianity in how it is practiced and how its adherents behave. Pat Robertson has much more in common with the terrorists on September 11 than the Muslims behind this Islamic community center do.
And people wonder why my handle on Yahoo is READ MORE BOOKS...