As always your thoughts are welcome.
This We Will Defend!: One Mosque, One Battle In the War of Ideas
We are in a period of deep confusion, general malaise and loss of direction. We are faced with an issue that, in a very real way, leads to questions about who we are as a people and citizens of these United States. Today, we must decide whether we are a nation of freedom who lives up to our Constitution and our ideas or if we are to become something else. Something less.
The building of the Mosque two blocks from ground zero and the subsequent protesting and attempts to hold up or stop the building of this house of religion shoots right to the core of these issues. Where is our nation going if we fore swear one of the basic rights by which we were founded and for which millions of our citizens, past and in the present, have shed their blood and given their very lives to defend?
We were founded on basic principles that have defined us for over two centuries. We have fought wars between ourselves and with others to obtain and maintain these principles. Not only as principles by which we choose to live by, but rights that we believe all mankind is entitled to.
Our founders created an idea that flew in the very face of the only form of government known at that time: absolute and powerful monarchies who all claimed their right to govern came from God. They turned the claim of the divine rights of kings on its head when they wrote: We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are the rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness
To that end, they wrote a constitution that created a limited government, of, for and by the people. They signed a Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments, to protect us from the potential abuse of the government.
The first of these amendments states:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
This amendment was not placed first for arbitrary reasons. Most school children have learned that the pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock to escape religious persecution. Most adults have forgotten that the more relaxed and less homogeneous establishment of religion and the exchange of philosophical ideas led to that singular idea and cornerstone of our nation: that men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.
The first right to freedom of religion was not only written to protect religious minorities from persecution, but, in fact, to protect this very simple idea that our rights were not handed to us from men or their governments, but from a Power above the earthly power men can create or take for themselves. A power that was unassailable and unchangeable. So, too, were the rights of men.
That is why this freedom must be protected. That is why it is imperative today, in this battle of ideas against tyranny and oppression, we defend that right even more.
It is understandable that the people of this nation, particularly the citizens of New York, would find the building of the mosque near ‘Ground Zero’ egregious. There is still, ten years later, a very strong belief that Islam as a religion inspired the men who attacked our nation on September 11, 2001 and took from us 3,000 innocent citizens. Even so many years later, the anger and pain still lingers.
It took from us our sense of security and our belief that conflicts over freedom and religion were relegated to far away places with names we could not pronounce and people we did not know. That these battles were not our own, but something for someone else to sort out. On that day, we were faced with a very different reality. A reality that we still wish to negate and ignore as much as possible. Even more so after ten long and bloody years of war.
We as a people may argue the question of Islam’s role for decades and never agree as to that truth. What we do know is that September 11, 2001 was an “attack on Freedom” as President Bush so succinctly described it, more so than most Americans understand even today. One of those freedoms that was and is still under attack, is the freedom of religion.
At the very core of the fundamentalist beliefs that inspired Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden and the men who carried out those attacks, is the idea that freedom of religion, the freedom to worship or not to worship as any man or woman sees fit, is the very essence and proof of the iniquitous nature of our nation.
In fact, the writings of Sayyid Qutb that informed the beliefs of these men insists that freedom and democracy as a whole, a belief system and government that leaves leadership and decisions up to men and women instead of direction from God alone (as interpreted by them), is the greatest and gravest of all sins. They sought to weaken and, if possible, destroy that freedom in a belief that the establishment of their tyrannical and oppressive ideas of religion and government would set the world and its people on the right and holy path. All those who will not follow should be destroyed.
Now we are faced with a battle that is at the very center of this war between the ideas of freedom and oppression. The question that we have to ask ourselves is whether that battle is won by holding the ground and preventing the mosque from being built in its proposed location as if defending it from “the enemy” or is that battle won by holding on to our ideas, that the building of the mosque is a protected right, that freedom in its every form is better and stronger than any tyranny proposed by Zawahiri and bin Laden or any of their adherents?
Are we, as they claim, hypocrites who pick and choose to whom these rights apply? That we would willing throw out our beliefs and oppress others whenever it was in our interests or simply our desire to obtain something we want?
It is my firm belief that we will lose this battle of ideas if we do not step aside, relinquish our fears and animosity, and allow this mosque to be built. That it is at this site where so many died, unknowing martyrs to the idea of freedom, that we must defend freedom in its every form, in its every idea, in every line of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and its amendments.
Most importantly, we must defend the rights of every citizen, of every race, of every creed and of every religion. We cannot give an inch. Not in fear, not in anger, not even in grief. We must be who we say we are, the defenders of freedom, or every drop of blood spilt from that day to this will be for nothing.
Let the mosque be built and let freedom ring from New York City to the remote villages of Waziristan, Pakistan, the plains of Afghanistan and every place where his tyrannical idea raises its head. Let it be known that it is we who believe in freedom that defends the right of every religion to worship as they see fit, where they see fit, when they see fit. Not some fanatic hiding behind his religious intolerance and inflicting his ideas on innocent people on the pain of death.
Let us plant our flag here. Write it in stone because we have already paid for it in blood. This we will defend!