A group called the Muslim American Society wants to build a mosque on the grounds of an old convent in Staten Island, New York. Having purchased the building from the church, they went before a packed community meeting last night to discuss their plans. It wasn’t pretty.
Issues like this can bring out either the best or the worst in our communities. In this case, it is definitely the worst. Though, as is often the case, whether best or worst, whatever comes out reflects real issues in the communities involves.
In this case that means that as TV cameras rolled, people got to watch a rage-filled, deeply Islamaphobic group of Christians and Jews challenge a less than transparent and overly defensive group of Muslims. In short, everybody behaved as if they had been sent over from central casting to participate in a show called “people behaving badly in the name of God”.
I think the most troubling words came from one participant in last night’s shout-fest, Bill Owens, who declared, “This is our D-Day“. D-Day, Mr. Owens? Do you actually want to compare the struggle over whether or not a mosque gets built to the allied invasion of Europe and the long, bloody process of beating the Nazis? Do you really think this is a war, and if so, at that level?
The tragic irony is that such language is not all that different from the jihadist language which frames every communal and cultural struggle and a violent war against and all people who differ from the jihadists. The old adage is true – the longer one fights against an enemy, the more alike they become.