Because something is happening here
But you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones? — Bob Dylan, Ballad of a Thin Man
Today marks 234 years since the US declared its independence from Britain. Slightly less well known, but almost as important is the date April 9, 1865, the end of our Civil War. Other memorable dates for Americans include December 7, 1941 and September 2, 1945, which bracket our involvement in WWII. And September 11, 2001. These will be on the test, history students.
Does 9/11 belong on the above list? Does it mark a turning point in our history as a nation, or is it simply a rather large ‘man-caused disaster’, in the words of Janet Napolitano, horrible but with no long-term significance? Or something in between?
Since shortly after 9/11 the US has been at war, and as far as I know we’ve never fought a war against an enemy so poorly defined. From fighting ‘terrorism’ — clearly a tactic and not an entity — we’ve gone to fighting al-Qaeda and the Taliban, groups that seem to be the tip of the spear of something much larger, which is unmentionable.
Today’s enemies can’t compare to Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan in military capability, and yet somehow they keep going. In Iraq, we defeated Saddam in a matter of months. But American soldiers are still fighting someone or other there.
My father was asked (OK, told) to spend the first few years of his son’s life at war in the Pacific because the Japanese, rapidly conquering East Asia, had bombed Pearl Harbor, killing 2459 Americans and severely damaging the Pacific fleet. The US entered the war to stop the Japanese aggression and incidentally to help save Europe from Hitler. This made sense to him and many others. Today our ‘leaders’ cannot name the enemy.
Many of us are confused about the significance of events. Here’s something that should wake us up, an issue that separates those who get it from those that don’t:
The Imam of a mosque in lower Manhattan, Feisal Abdul Rauf, has proposed building a 13-story, $100 million structure that will house a mosque and community center, in place of the former Burlington Coat Factory building which was damaged by debris on 9/11. Incidentally, this picture, which seems to deemphasize the relative size of the building, appears to be the only one available on the web. It will overlook the site of the destroyed World Trade Center.
This proposed project is about promoting integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion through arts and culture. Cordoba House will provide a place where individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, will find a center of learning, art and culture; and most importantly, a center guided by universal values in their truest form – compassion, generosity, and respect for all.
New York’s mayor Bloomberg doesn’t have a problem with a mosque at this location, and neither did 29 out of 30 members of a local community board, in a non-binding vote. But five to ten thousand New Yorkers had enough of a problem to join a massive demonstration against it.
It’s a fascinating question. Does Abdul Rauf represent a moderate, conciliatory, tolerant Islam — one that is not previously found in history, I might add — or is he following in the tradition of the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, who built the Dome of the Rock over the ruins of the Second Temple in 692 CE? Is it a work of peace or a triumphal celebration of a successful act of war?
Maybe we can get a hint from this news story:
The imam behind a proposed mosque near Ground Zero is a prominent member of a group that helped sponsor the pro-Palestinian activists who clashed violently with Israeli commandos at sea this week.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is a key figure in Malaysian-based Perdana Global Peace Organization, according to its Website.
Perdana is the single biggest donor ($366,000) so far to the Free Gaza Movement, a key organizer of the six-ship flotilla that tried to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip Monday.
Does the ‘tolerant’ imam support the highly intolerant Hamas?
But there’s more. Abdul Rauf’s bio on the Cordoba Initative site describes some of his publications thus:
His publications include the books, Islam: A Search for Meaning, Islam: A Sacred Law (What every Muslim Should Know About the Shariah), and What’s Right With Islam: A New Vision for Muslims and the West, which the Christian Science Monitor rated among its five best books of 2004…
Interestingly, the profile on the Perdana site is a bit more explicit:
He is the author of Islam: A Search for Meaning, in which he defines Islam as the universal religion that goes beyond the cultural settings of the Prophet Muhammad, and Islam: A Sacred Law, What Every Muslim should know about the Shari`ah.
…far enough beyond, to include New York City, right?