Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Responding to E-Mail Forwards

It was the first I had heard of it: a proposal to build an Islamic center a few blocks away from the "Ground Zero" site in New York City, where the Twin Towers once stood.

I heard of it because of an email that was forwarded to me, urging me to click a link and watch a YouTube video. The video shows a British gentleman explaining his objection to the idea of building a mosque or anything associated with Islam in that neighborhood.

When I get these forwards, my practice is first to confirm them -- an awful lot of hoaxes get mailed around. When it's a hoax, I hit "reply all" and announce that it's a hoax and share the links I used to determine that.

When the forwarded email expresses bigotry, I respond to that as well. This sometimes causes awkwardness between myself and whoever sent the email. The discomfort, however, is less important than responding, civilly yet honestly, to hatred.

I clicked the video to check out what was being said. After all, this may well have turned out to be a sensible and well-informed objection to building a temple near this historic site. Sadly, less than a minute into the monologue, what manifested was sheer islamophobia.

Below, I share the email I sent to my friend and the entire distribution list. If this email comes your way, by all means check it out yourself if you are interested. This is simply one man's personal response to it:

About 50 seconds into this video, the gentleman refers to the Islamic religion as "the religion that murdered" the victims of 9/11.

This is wrong. Islam did not murder those people anymore than "the Catholic religion" molested all of those boys. If you want to blame Islam itself for 9/11, are you willing to blame Christianity for the murders that take place at abortion clinics? I would hope not. I certainly don't. Most Christians I know do not condone terrorism or murder; why should they be associated with unhinged terrorists? How do you blame one religion for being intrinsically violent, yet make exceptions for the other?

Putting an Islamic center on Ground Zero would not be my first choice, but this video is an expression of bigotry.

Can I imagine anything more outrageous than putting a house of worship up on or near "Ground Zero?"

My first choice for the site would not be a church, synagogue, OR a mosque. But of course the point here is that we are supposed to be more outraged by a mosque.

In light of this, my first choice for the site would be a center for reconciliation and dialogue, a place for anti-racism training, a center for cultural education, a place where human beings can learn and grow, rather than sink into scapegoating, ignorance, and fear.

My strong response, and "reply all," is because this sort of thing upsets me and dishonors our great country. The Islamic religion is not our enemy. It is not anti-American. The Islamic religion does not call for an act such as what took place in New York City. Many thoughtful critiques can be made about this religion and its text, the Q'ran (which I have taken the time and interest to read -- it is a provocative, intriguing, sometimes lovely, sometimes mystifying sacred book), but that is very different than this knee-jerk association of muslims, or people who speak Arabic, or people who merely "look" middle-eastern, with deluded militants living in caves (literally or figuratively).

Characterizing this act of terrorism as somehow intrinsic to Islam is offensive to me as an American with many muslim friends who are loyal, considerate, decent citizens and good friends. One hard-working muslim family back in Rhode Island taught me, by example, an unforgettable lesson about work ethic and determination. They are not the exception that proves a bigoted rule. Terrorism claims many religions and philosophies: but in the end, it is a lie. Terrorism is terrorism. Period. It is not Christian. It is not Muslim. It does not evoke the kingdom of heaven for the mortal, it does not bring salvation or justice, it does not make the world a better place. Let us reserve our scorn for terrorism, for senseless murder, for the hatred and bigotry that inspired the horrors of 9/11.

We fall far indeed when we embody the hatred and bigotry that were visited on us that day.

Your friend,
A day later, a question occurs to me I would love to ask those who object to building a mosque in lower Manhattan. Where would you draw the boundaries of your "no mosque" zone? Would you be okay with building one midtown? Anywhere in Manhattan? What about the other boroughs? Can a mosque be built anywhere in New York City without your objection?

Or is there an unspoken desire for a religious purge here? Just askin'.


Ji Hyang said...

good work

Paul Lynch said...

of course as always you are following the middle way. Thank you.

Kelly said...

Well said, Algernon.

Laurie DesJardins Ferhani said...

Thank you, Merci, "Sho kran"