About six times this week, over on Facebook, I’ve had someone in my group of friends post or comment on a link to Keith Olbermann’s bit about how the “Ground Zero Mosque” isn’t really at Ground Zero, and isn’t really a mosque. Alright. Granted. So it’s not a mosque and it’s not really at Ground Zero. That still doesn’t make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. I wouldn’t be happy about a new Islamic center being built waist deep in Everglades muck either. I’m just not all that stoked on Islam at all.
Lest we forget. This is the religion that kills cartoonists and made similar threats in my own back yard, recently! I just cannot abide a religion without a sense of humor. This is also the religion that tries to blow planes out of the sky every so often, and would succeed more often if they could figure out how to get electronic fuses on-board. I don’t like religious nutjobs of any stripe, but it’s not Ted Haggard or Fred Phelps that I’m worried about at 30,000 feet. When I’m traveling in Asia, it’s not Christian missionaries that make it so I have to stay in a hotel guarded by men with machine guns. It’s not Jews, and it’s not Hindus, or Mormons, or Sikhs or Buddhists…
Yes, I know that there are “radical” Muslims and “moderate” Muslims and probably some “really nice” Muslims. I don’t give a shit. Religious tolerance is just the thin end of the wedge. We’ve been entirely too tolerant of religion, all religion, for far too long. We’ve been too eager to embrace religion and give it a place of privilege outside the law. Too hesitant to criticize, even when it’s deserved, out of our desire to uphold the protections in the Constitution. But the Constitution exists to protect our individual rights as well. I fail to see how indulging intolerant religions leads to more individual freedom.
In the UK and elsewhere, Muslims are demonstrating because they don’t feel they should be bound by the law of the land, but by God’s law. Isn’t that the same as establishing a parallel theocratic government? I find that terrifying. And they will likely get their way because people are afraid to be accused of suppressing religious freedom. Who is willing to stand for secular freedom and the freedom to not be bound by any irrational religious law?
I do not want my art, music, fashion, commerce, speech, literature, sexual practices, food or social interactions to be restricted to the subset that is acceptable to a certain branch of Islam (or Christianity for that matter). I’m not interested in being stoned to death for speaking to a married woman. I’m not interested in having my future daughter’s face mutilated because she committed some offense against an imaginary deity. I would like to retain my freedom to be as far away from Islamic law as humanly possible.
There are very good reasons – rational reasons – why we should closely scrutinize the people involved with the construction of this religious center in Manhattan. (Can we be sure they won’t offer “study abroad” courses at sister schools in Pakistan where you can major in subjects like Roadside Electronics and Exploding Underwear?) This doesn’t mean I’m hopping into bed with Newt and Sarah – I don’t agree with their theatrics and false outrage; this doesn’t mean that I’m going to start demanding my own copy of Obama’s birth certificate, or that I think the earth is 6000 years old. I’m writing this in part because this debate seems to be taking shape along familiar left/right lines, and I don’t see it that way. It’s going to take a hell of a lot more than Keith Olbermann’s accusations of nationalist extremism to make me think that I’m being too hard on Islam. Go ahead and build your church…er, community center…but I’m still free to be pissed off about it. For now.