I think I will keep this blog for all my general blogging, even though I started it just for my trip to Haiti. It also serves as a good reminder of Haiti now that I'm back in the states.
A friend shared this link through facebook to an article by a Muslim woman reflecting on the controversy over events related to the mosque in Manhattan near the 9/11 Ground Zero site (a few blocks away from it) - http://motherjones.com/politics/2010/08/ground-zero-mosque-obama-muslim
This is a topic I'm passionate about and hope to write about in my forthcoming book, a response to Sam Harris' "A Letter to a Christian Nation". I submitted some hastily written thoughts to the website and am including them below.
Thank you, Matteen for this article - I appreciate your insights, the struggles you face, and your efforts at being involved in civil society. This is a very complicated subject because in all religions there is hypocrisy and people who twist the religion for their own ends. That said, it seems that people do need to have a conversation about what is actually in the contents of the religions. The Hebrew Bible (or Christian Old Testament) does have a lot of horrible violence in it, with very similar laws or themes as the Q'uran. There doesn't seem to be a problem now with religious Jewish people taking those laws too literally - was this a long process of getting past it, or did Judaism somehow "effectively deal with this problem"? I don't know. Then you have Christianity which proclaims Jesus as the consummation of the old laws, and he is consistently nonviolent and pacifist - even Paul with his line of "do not return evil for evil but return evil for good - this is like heaping burning coals over your enemies' heads" is committed to a love that overcomes and transforms evil. Yet, in the course of history Christianity has been extremely violent and many of the people fighting the biggest wars in history say they are Christians, and fought other Christians no less (like WWII for just one example).
In addition, many countries in the West have political leaders that claim Christianity as their religion (and as others have pointed out, this is even an important qualification for many of the highest positions) - yet foreign policies are often very destructive (like US policy in Haiti - see "Damming the Flood" by Peter Hallward). Why is there not as big a push from people to make Christianity more consistent? I think it's because being a dominant structure/institution in the West, it is powerful, it feels harder to criticize it, and because with this power and level of acceptance it can do evil in a less conspicuous (more hidden) way. Contrast that to Islamic extremism which is very open and a goal of it is often to draw attention. I for one, am ashamed of all the evil that has been and is being done in the name of Christianity (as well as in the name of anything) and I am trying to speak out about it, to do something about it. It just seems that one can never do enough!!!
As for the mosque, here's a suggestion. Once it's built, why not start a program there in cooperation with churches, synagoges, and other groups to bring Muslims, Jews, Christians, atheists, etc. together so these different groups of people can actually get to know one another? That would be a great way to show that the mosque can have a positive effect in the NYC community at large and is trying to address some of these questions. And by the way, it's not just the mosque's responsibility to do this - synagogues, churches, non-religious groups, and so on should be doing similar things! It's silly to say "the Muslims need to do this x, y, or z good act." EVERYONE needs to do good acts!