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Sunday, August 29, 2010

I’m not religious, but the Islamic Mosque in New York deserves support

My own religious beliefs can be found in the books of Epicurus, (Έπίκουρος, 341—271 BCE). What appealed to me is that he rejected the existence of Platonic forms and an immaterial soul, and he said that the gods have no influence on our lives. It is not straight up atheism, but it is fairly close. It is based on materialism and the idea that humans and not gods are responsible for our well-being. I consider myself an agnostic, that to say there is no god with absolute certainty is arrogant intellectualism in my opinion.
So why does it matter whether people allow a mosque to be built near “ground zero” in New York if I don’t practice a traditional religion? Mike Ely raised the same question in the Kasama Project site;

“What does it mean for communists (who are secular and opposed to the many values of traditional religions) to defend the right to build a massive mosque in the middle of New York City?”

He answers his question;

“I don’t usually enter a discussion by posting quotes. But here is an exception. (V.I.) Lenin talks (in one of the key passages what is to be done?) about the importance of being a “tribune of the people” — a champion of the struggle against all the complex forms of oppression. And he talks about the importance of making this the content of our work among the working people (as opposed to economism — i.e. thinking that political work should be focused on immediate self-interest among those workers).
And it is revealing (for our moment and our discussion) that his examples specifically include defending persecuted religious groups. In the case of Lenin’s Russia, this was especially focused on the state suppression of the ultra-conservative “Old Believers,” who were a bit like today’s Hasidic or Amish sects in that they refused to adopt the ways of the modern world (and even defied 17th century reforms within the Russian Orthodox Church).”

It really doesn’t take quotes from Lenin or anyone else to find the answer. Those apposed to this mosque are using their own religious moral values to insult and degrades people whose religion is different. Moslems are a minority in this country and they are being discriminated against.
There have been several arsons committed against Islamic buildings recently. A cab driver was knifed by a man for admitting he was a Moslem. That’s not surprising when we consider how the Islamic community is being treated lately.
A report in this Sunday’s The Wichita Eagle pointed out how little the majority of Americans actually know about Islam and how few people have even met anyone who is Islamic. According to The Wichita Eagle;

“Beyond the simplistic debate — are we patriots or bigots? —pollsters, historians and other experts say that the nation's collective instincts toward Islam have been shaped over decades by a patchwork of factors. These include demographic trends, psychology, terrorism events, U.S. foreign policy, domestic politics, media coverage and the Internet.
Estimates of the number of U.S. Muslims range between 2.5 million and 7 million, or about 1 percent to 2 percent of the population. There's no official data on U.S. Muslims' geographic distribution, but mosques are concentrated in metropolitan areas.
Most Americans are Christian and most don't have much direct exposure to Muslims. A fourth of Americans say they know "nothing at all" about Islam, the Pew Research Center found earlier this month, and of non-Muslims polled, 58 percent said they don't know any Muslims.“

If there is one thing an Epicurean has in common with a minority religion as Islam it is a need for tolerance. We (atheists or agnostics) don’t need to promote our beliefs as some religions, but we don’t want our homes burnt, to be physically attacked or compared to revolting movements we are not connected to, such as Nazis. Consider some of these remarks by those who oppose the Mosque. This is from Andrea Peyser, of the New York Post;

“A chorus of critics -- from neighbors to those who lost loved ones on 9/11 to me -- feel as if they've received a swift kick in the teeth…..
The opening date shall live in infamy: Sept. 11, 2011. The 10th anniversary of the day a hole was punched in the city's heart……
(These are) Plans to bring what one critic calls a "monster mosque."….. Paul Sipos, member of Community Board 1, said a mosque is a fine idea -- someplace else.
"If the Japanese decided to open a cultural center across from Pearl Harbor, that would be insensitive," Sipos told me. "If the Germans opened a Bach choral society across from Auschwitz, even after all these years, that would be an insensitive setting. I have absolutely nothing against Islam. I just think: Why there?"
…….A rally against the mosque is planned for June 6, D-Day, by the human-rights group Stop Islamicization of America.”

This is from an Associated Press report of a rally by anti-Mosque people;

“Opponents of the $100 million project two blocks from the World Trade Center site appeared to outnumber supporters. Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" blared over loudspeakers as mosque opponents chanted, "No mosque, no way!"
Signs hoisted by dozens of protesters standing behind police barricades read "SHARIA" — using dripping, blood-red letters to describe Islam's Shariah law, which governs the behavior of Muslims.
Steve Ayling, a 40-year-old Brooklyn plumber who carried his sign to a dry spot by an office building, said the people behind the mosque project are "the same people who took down the twin towers."

Islam is a religion as any other. It can and is being used by political militant groups to promote an ideology based on Islam. But those groups don’t represent all members of Islam. The Qur’an, as with the Bible can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Just as Christian led crusades during the middle-ages that resulted in looting, murder and pillaging, all religions can be misused as an excuse for power hungry murderous people.
Comparing all Moslems to the Japanese who attacked Pearl Harbour is simply unfair, ignorant and insults an entire community of people over their religion. This is bigotry against people based on their religious beliefs and that simply isn’t fair. If we promote anything we need to promote religious tolerance. -សតិវ អតុ

I still have my own books to quote from. From Epicurus;

“It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly. And it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life.”

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