More Mosque Madness
Today I received a robocall to my home phone which was pre-recorded by someone claiming to be a Muslim-American lawyer from Dearborn, urging support for religious freedom and not “property values”. In light of this call, and in light of a series of Facebook posts I saw earlier today being exchanged between Dearborn Muslims and Sterling Heights Chaldeans, I think the mosque debate has entered a dangerous new phase.
My primary concern is not that we are having a contentious row between neighbors and a property owner about a proposed new use for a site. That situation is hardly new, and it repeats itself every few years. NIMBY is a strong impulse, and people have a tendency to complain loudest when someone is proposing to change things close to their home.
My concern is that we are seeing, at least on a small scale, a religious conflict taking place between two large groups of people who are within a short drive of each other in two different suburbs. The Muslim Imam who spoke before his congregation last week appeared to be making conciliatory comments on the one hand, and then critical comments on the other, and he ended by urging his congregants to support their Muslim brothers and sisters in Sterling Heights. The robocall I received today is no doubt a result of his message, and it represents real money being spent to get a message across.
In the meantime, I am seeing threats going back and forth on Facebook pages between people claiming to be Christian and Muslim. I am also seeing religious debates, replete with graphics comparing basic tenets of the two religions, each critical of the other. All in all, such religious debates are not uncommon, but when they are coupled with threats, they become dangerous. We are potentially entering into a realm of sectarian conflict that could turn physically violent. This is not good.
Personally, I refuse to take sides between Islam and Christianity. I adhere strongly to the secular form of government we have in this country, and I shudder to think what life must be like in places where religion plays a strong role in how daily business gets done and laws are made. My sympathies lie with people who are having their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights oppressed, whether those rights are First, Second, or Fourth Amendment rights, just to name a few. These are basic human rights codified into law, and I take the Constitution and ALL of the amendments very seriously.
I am on record as saying these folks proposing a mosque do not deserve the behavior they are being subjected to by the opposition. It has been ginned up by people seeking to use it to their political advantage during an election year, and I find it deeply and personally offensive, even though I do not have a religious stake in this. That being said, threats coming in from places outside of Sterling Heights are particularly unwelcome, and they need to be addressed.
We are now at the point where neither side of this debate can expect to get everything they want. The people wanting the new mosque will now have to contend with hard feelings on the part of some people in the neighborhood, and vice versa. Regardless of what decision is made, there are now likely to be repercussions that will at minimum be very unpleasant for everyone involved.
I would like to remind people on both sides of this issue that there are literally thousands of innocent people living in the vicinity of this site; people who have absolutely nothing to do with what is going on. Their safety and right to lead their lives as they see fit is of paramount importance. Some of those people are elderly, some are women and children. They do not deserve to be subjected to any sort of violence, and they should not have to question their own safety.
As for the Muslim vs. Christian “debate” that is going on right now on Facebook, I think it is about time that everyone backs off and remembers that this country is great because we have a system of government that is not supposed to favor one religion over another when decisions such as this have to be made. Lady Justice is blind, folks, and we operate under the rule of law, not mob rule. This is not a pure democracy. Shouting at each other in the streets or on Facebook is counterproductive. Let’s try to behave in a civilized manner.
And finally, I would sincerely ask that everyone reflect on the basic tenets of their faith. I’m not talking about Leviticus here, I’m talking about the parts of each faith that are designed to promote peace and harmony among different peoples. If you are so inclined, I would ask that you pray for a peaceful solution to this, whether you pray to a being you call Allah or God. The peaceful solution is what everyone here, Muslim, Christian, or just “in the neighborhood” should be striving toward.