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August 18, 2010


religious freedom – a misnomer?

by Andrea O'Connell

Perhaps we see the religious world differently, you and me.  I look at religion with wonder, fully accepting out of curiosity and trust the beliefs of any religion I encounter.  My eyes are wide open and my thoughts are not skewed by a fear of reprisal from a different cultural religion coexisting freely in the United States.

Trust takes on great importance when it’s but given rarely.  Trust is only as liberated as we are in our thoughts and in our communications with each other.

We are only human, but do we allow our humanness to sit on a back shelf when it comes to religion?

Today religion has grown beyond itself and I fear that freedom of religion (or freedom FROM religion) will not be our (sacred) right if we allow ourselves to fear an Islamic religion.

The only thing to fear is the loss of our freedom to worship with a group of like-minded persons.  If we take this right away from another group of persons, who is to say someone will not take our religious freedoms away?

The US embraces “religion” and it’s everywhere around us.  It’s in politics; it’s on TV, in our schools, on our money, in our anthems.

The US wants to be “God-fearing” because it sees this as noble.  But, these so-called noble allowances for religious freedoms have been hijacked by a sense of righteousness, or a sense of superiority.

Then there is the duplicitous  “Religious Right” who want to make hate legal – to allow it to trump the freedoms of some individuals…. But that is another story for another day.

Today I want to talk about religious freedoms because I don’t want to loose mine; and I don’t want you to loose yours.

Look at this image.  What do you see?  Do you see an old woman? Do you see a young woman?  Do you see both?

young woman old woman

young woman old woman

You should see two women.  Keep looking until you see both.

I hope you see both.  If you do, then perhaps, your mind is also open to accepting how perfectly natural it is for Muslims to worship any where they please in this free country of ours.  Since religion is a religion unto itself, so too are an old woman and a young woman one in the same.

If you see two women in the image above, then perhaps you will appreciate the cultural and rich religious diversity that an Islamic Mosque would bring to the sad and hollow earth we know as “Ground Zero.”

Should we not allow a Mosque to be built at “Ground Zero” the US will become shallow with hearts that are spray-painted with dull monochromatic apathy.  I trust that all religions want to mourn the victims of 9-11.  Islam, too.

If we fear the Islamic religion, my friends, we will have serious problems down the road.  If we fear Islam or any religion will that not engender hate eventually?

The U.S. must open its eyes wide and see that we all want the same things: Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Baptists, even agnostics and atheists too, all want the same thing: to live in a peaceful world where we can have the freedom to pray (or not) to the God or Universe of our choosing.

Pastor Martin Neimoller wrote these words as a result of his experience in World War II:

They came first for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.  Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.  Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up.

He was speaking of the unthinkable persecutions and horrors he and others witnessed when Germany was overrun by Hitler.  However, the context of this speech was the ultimate of ironies because Neimoller was himself a Nazi sympathizer until he was arrested himself for not supporting the regime sufficiently.  He was in death camps for seven years. It was after he was liberated that he spoke thus. (K. Olberman, 2010)

Please don’t think that I am comparing what Neimoller experienced with the situation in New York City, I am not making that comparison at all.  However, these words ring richly in my ears as a warning missive should we refuse to open our hearts and minds to the loving and peaceful intent of Muslims among us.

It’s really so simple.  But, in truth, nothing is simple when passion that is brushed in an apathetic hue, colors our trust.

4 Comments Post a comment
  1. weezie10
    Aug 19 2010

    It’s a very debated topic on CNN and other political hotbeds on t.v. The more the pundents make of it the worse the situation is going to be. I understand your viewpoint, but I want to mention that the owners of this landmark building are also not taking any steps to clear the pathway for a sobering dialogue. It is not without intention that they chose this spot. I’m sure it was for the this very reason, oppositional dialogue that he/they intended to have brought to the open. There is still many areas of the city that would need a mosque, where the transporation would be even better. I believe this is making a laughing stock of the Americans in Islam. IF this was being built 10 miles in another direction none of this would be even discussed. I realize that both sides need harmony but the philosophies of relgious rights to the First Ammendment and the emotional scars of those left behind to mourn are not making this subject objective. Yes we should have the right to our own religion and religious beliefs but I would never dream of entering your home, bringing the bones of your departed pet for you to mourn all over again. I don’t believe this is the right move on the part of the owner’s. They are disrupting and creating a boiling pot that is intentional. For that reason I do not support their venture at GROUND ZERO. jmo

    • Andrea
      Aug 24 2010

      Hello my friend! Thanks so much for your reply here, I totally respect your opinion and thank you for sharing!

      This kind of sums up my opinion:

      “The outcry over the building of the mosque, near ground zero, implies that Islam alone was responsible for the 9/11 attacks. According to those who are condemning the building of the mosque, the nineteen suicide terrorists on 9/11 spoke for all Muslims. This is like blaming all Christians for …the wars of aggression and occupation because some Christians supported the neo-conservatives’ aggressive wars.
      The House Speaker is now treading on a slippery slope by demanding a Congressional investigation to find out just who is funding the mosque—a bold rejection of property rights, 1st Amendment rights, and the Rule of Law—in order to look tough against Islam.
      This is all about hate and Islamaphobia.
      We now have an epidemic of “sunshine patriots” on both the right and the left who are all for freedom, as long as there’s no controversy and nobody is offended.
      Political demagoguery rules when truth and liberty are ignored.”

      ~Ron Paul

      I am not a supporter one way or another of Ron Paul, but I do agree with him.

  2. paula
    Aug 19 2010

    Weezie, I agree with you 100%. There is not one person who is against freedom for all religions and I resent when Mayor Bloomberg, President Obama and others put this spin on it. All Americans respect the rights of everyone to worship as they believe, but that’s not what this situation is about. As a New Yorker 9-11 was not only devastating but most people lost a loved one or knew someone who perished. It was horrible! I am glad that on some of the news shows the journalists keep mentioning that years ago, after World War 2, the Carmelite nuns wanted to build a convent right near Aushwitz. Many Jewish people objected and felt that this property should be held sacred for only Jews. Pope John interceded and it was resolved – no convent in that location….out of respect for the feelings of others. New York, America, and the whole country is very tolerant of others and different beliefs but that isn’t what this issue is about.

  3. New Yorker
    Aug 20 2010

    I am totally against the mosque being built at ground zero! I doubt it would even be thought of if Obama wasnt president and I take offense he takes time and effort to comment on it and not about anything else like the killings in CT, I can go on and on. Anywhere else it would be accepted but this is like a slap in the face and I doubt if it does get built it would last very long. I want to know who is funding this project and if it’s coming from any links to al qaeda, this is what should be looked into which the 9-11 families will probably demand, believe you me!


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