Wednesday, 18 August 2010

‘Noble savages,’ the Ground Zero mosque and Christian ideals

Countries have every right to govern themselves in accordance with the wishes of their population. Switzerland can ban minarets, France the niqab, tightly fitting clothes in Aceh, Indonesia and so on. And, yes, the United States (US) can disallow a mosque from being constructed two blocks from New York's 'Ground Zero.'
Most countries, however, do not stand on judgement about the rest of the world (at least not anymore).
The US is different. It proclaims for itself the right to propagate freedom and democracy throughout the world. It claims to defend religious freedoms and the rights of the oppressed the world over.
In the post war era, the US has invaded tiny countries like Grenada and Panama. It has engineered coups in countries like Iran. It has hatched assassination plots against several world leaders, including Castro and Gaddafi. More recently, the US invaded and 'liberated' Iraq. There is not enough space to summarize America's interventions in Latin America.
Now, no one is naive enough to assume that countries pursue interests on the basis of morality; it's only diplomats who couch interests in terms of morality. Yet, the US debate about the Ground Zero mosque reveals a seamier side of the American population: people are free, within certain social constraints, but 'not in my back yard.'
The Americans have painted themselves into a corner. By continually lecturing the world about the rights of free peoples they have strutted about on a moral high horse for years. Although this moral reputation was hurt by supporting oppressive dictatorial regimes it took a serious body blow during the recent 'Easter egg hunt for weapons of mass destruction' war in Iraq.
The Americans are mortals just like the rest of us. Humans, by nature, often find it difficult to rise above prejudices when directly confronted with them. (Many of the same American founding fathers, including Thomas Jefferson, who wrote eloquently about freedoms and human dignity in the constitution, owned Negro slaves.)
America is a nation founded on Christian ideals – the early pilgrims were escaping religious persecution. No one, Muslims included, begrudges America's Christian heritage. It is a part of their country's history.
Few will be surprised if the Ground Zero mosque project will be abandoned. Contemporary Americans are a product of their environment and history. The events of 9/11 are recent history. To many Americans, Islam is the new enemy; Muslims the harbingers of terrorism.  
Now if Switzerland suddenly started invading nations in the name of freedom and democracy, the world might have a problem with Switzerland banning mosque minarets. Surely, the Americans must realize that hypocrisy raises questions about American political intentions, at least amongst the world's Noble Savages.


  1. What disturbs me most, is the fact that on one hand - the US emphasizes that Muslims ('in general') and the terrorists of the 9/11 attacks are not one and the same. That Islam is not to be feared, and that the people responsible for the attacks are extremists.

    However, I feel that by protesting the building of a Mosque near Ground Zero, said protesters are doing exactly that: lumping both the terrorist and their ideals together with the Islam as a religion..!

  2. Hi Eva,

    Great to hear from you and thanks for taking the time to post a comment.

    It is a difficult time for ordinary Muslims in many environments, as emotions are running high and racial stereotyping is a common occurence.

    It will be interesting to see how the Islamic centre debate ends. The Imam sponsoring the project, who has links with the US establishment including the Department of State, does not seem to be willing to compromise on his 'freedom of religion / worship' rights and is pushing forward with the project.

    I look forward to hearing from you again in the future.

    Best regards,