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Behind the ‘Ground Zero mosque’ frenzy

Sep 6, 2010

The hullabaloo and objections to the proposed building of the Islamic Cultural Center, also known as Cordoba House or the Park 51 project, as being “insensitively” located in lower Manhattan near the World Trade Center site, are not due to concern for “the feelings of the 9/11 families.” That is not the real issue at hand.

The current uproar has now spread countrywide and is even receiving international attention. Islamophobia, escalated after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center, represents centuries-old hatred, racism and bigotry toward “the other” that have been hallmarks of U.S. society and government.

Any group of people that doesn’t subscribe to Western or European beliefs and ideologies, or whose cultures, customs and traditions are declared “different,” is routinely demonized and depicted as “strange” and “uncivilized.” People of Middle Eastern origin are collectively branded as having “terrorist” leanings and essentially viewed as enemies of the West.

U.S. government and media propaganda and lies about the so-called “justified” wars in the Middle East have become endemic, insidious and life-threatening to all Muslims, or those perceived to be Muslims, in the U.S. The hostile atmosphere seems to be based on the premise that Muslim-Americans have fewer constitutional rights and all are potential “terrorists.”

Europe has already begun barring minarets on top of mosques. And the Zionist settler state of Israel, the U.S. counterpart and ally in the Middle East, has for decades been occupying and forcibly annexing Palestinian territory, and destroying Muslim cemeteries and Palestinian historic sites, often replacing them with synagogues and Jewish centers.

The rhetoric of the U.S. being the land of religious freedom and tolerance is a fallacy and has repeatedly been proven to be hypocritical. These stated values are not actually practiced. Conveniently ignored is the fact that Muslims also died in the World Trade Center. And Muslims have fought and died in U.S. wars.

Hysteria, generated by a right-wing blogger referring to the cultural center as the “ground zero mosque” has spread like wild fire. Politicians of every ilk are cashing in. Racists are coming out of the woodwork; all want a piece of the action. Even so-called religious leaders have joined the fray, including the Christian right and the Jewish Anti-Defamation League. New York City Archbishop Timothy Dolan weighed in saying he thought it was “inappropriate” to build “a mosque” at that location.

The building of Catholic schools or like facilities anywhere, however, is never objected to, despite the Catholic Church’s historical participation in violence against Indigenous people in this country and Latin America. The word “tolerance” itself comes with an implication of “putting up with someone/something different from the acceptable standard, or less desirable.”

The extent of this debate around the cultural center would lead one to believe that it’s going to be built on the actual site where the WTC twin towers once stood. Of course this isn’t the case, so it would be laughable if it weren’t so manipulative and dangerous.

Whose ‘hallowed ground?’

One has to wonder what is the radius of the so-called “hallowed ground” area of the WTC — blocks? Miles? The reference to the WTC site as “hallowed” or “holy” ground is a ploy. The reference is not only inflammatory, but dishonest.

The U.S. has a long-standing history of disrespecting and desecrating what others consider their hallowed grounds. To begin with, the WTC itself, the surrounding vicinity and all of lower Manhattan is considered ancestral sacred ground by Indigenous people. The slaughtering of innumerable Native peoples there essentially makes the entire area hallowed ground.

With the arrival of Europeans to the North American continent in the 1600s, Native lands were confiscated for the gain of white settlers. Occupation, military conquest, colonization and ethnic cleansing resulted in the loss of two-thirds of Native lands throughout the U.S.

New York City, named by the British, is also referred to as Turtle Island by the Indigenous, a term used by First People of the U.S. for the continent of North America. Before becoming Manhattan, it was called “Mannahatta” by the Lenni Lenape people who were the original inhabitants.

In the Tottenville section of Staten Island, one of five New York City boroughs, there is a Native cemetery called Burial Ridge, the largest Native-American burial ground in the city. It was discovered, disturbed and unearthed in the 19th century. Tottenville, like most of New York City, was developed and built on land where the Indigenous lived, died and were buried.

Lower Manhattan is also a desecrated burial site and sacred ground of enslaved Africans and African descendants. The original African burial grounds occupied approximately 6.5 acres in lower Manhattan from 1626 to 1794, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior. For hundreds of years African graves have been repeatedly built upon by numerous churches, stores, synagogues, commercial offices and government buildings without any consideration given to disturbing or destroying hallowed ground.

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UPDATED Sep 13, 2010 5:58 PM
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