Religious Discrimination – In My Own Backyard

by Mark Lovett on August 11, 2010

On August 3rd The New York Times published an article by Michael Barbaro and Javier Hernandez that talked about the controversy surrounding plans to build a mosque near ground zero.  While I don’t agree with those who are opposed to the project, I understand why some residents are bothered by the construction of a mosque so close to the site of the former World Trade Center.

In that article, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was quoted as saying, “we would betray our values if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else.”

In my mind, this is the crux of the issue.  Will we uphold the principles that America was founded upon, or will we become as hateful and intolerant as the terrorists who destroyed thousands of innocent lives on September 11, 2001?

What I wasn’t prepared for, was a subsequent Times article published on August 7th featuring the picture below, taken at a protest in Temecula, CA, just a 30 minute ride north from where I live.  Members of a local Tea Party group had organized the protest of a proposed mosque in this small suburban community.

Residents in Temecula, CA Protest Against Proposed Mosque. Mike Blake/Reuters

I could only think, “Are they serious?”  The sensitive nature of NYC was one thing, but this was California, and it shocked me to realize that religious discrimination was alive and well, here in my own backyard.  The article went on to quote one of the protesters, and her words saddened me further, as they highlighted the fact that religious ignorance is also alive and well in America.

“As a mother and a grandmother, I worry,” Ms. Serafin said. “I learned that in 20 years with the rate of the birth population, we will be overtaken by Islam, and their goal is to get people in Congress and the Supreme Court to see that Shariah is implemented. My children and grandchildren will have to live under that.”

I do believe everybody has a right to freedom of religion,” she said. “But Islam is not about a religion. It’s a political government, and it’s 100 percent against our Constitution.

Can we uphold the principle of religious freedom,

or will we perish by the sword of discrimination?

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous September 13, 2010 at 6:02 pm

I am so sick of religion. Muslims want the Christians dead, the Christians want the Muslims dead, and the Jews, who the hell knows what they want. If there were a Satan, he would have invented religion. It is the most divisive, disgusting social movement in history and I can guarantee that if we don’t rid the world of religion, religion will rid the world of us.

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GlobalPatriot September 13, 2010 at 11:44 pm

I’ve spoken to many who feel religion causes more harm that good, but I tend to believe that once people come to realize we’re all one family on this planet, they can learn to put their beliefs in perspective. We have a long way to go when it comes to tolerance, and that includes religion, gender, nationality and political views.

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Mark September 14, 2010 at 1:04 am

Putting religion in perspective, in a collective sense, negates the purpose of religion. The whole idea of religion is to separate, divide, and control, along with the acquisition and maintenance of great wealth and political power. Humans are just not smart enough to understand that none of that stuff is real though believers in religious nonsense will continue to betray reality with their silly beliefs because all most people know about their religion is what someone else told them. Religion is anathema to the human race.

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GlobalPatriot August 16, 2010 at 2:09 pm

You make a good point Banu, as feelings are different when the issue is something personal, based on an experience close to home. So I understand the protest, and maybe it will take more time, but at some point we need to figure out how to live together on the small planet.

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Banu Bingor August 16, 2010 at 2:05 pm

To be honest, when I first heard about the news I found it needless/meaningless
to build a mosque on the ground zero. Of course mosques are not the monuments of
terrorism, or any temple cannot be named like that. Or muslims / Islam is not
equal to barbarism, terrorism like how one of your European readers said.

However although my religion seems to be Islam (I say “seems to be” because
I don’t believe in religion – I just believe in God and that’s all), I
would feel hurt if there was a mosque built in the land of the hotel Madimak,
which radical muslim attackers burnt and caused death of 33 laicist/secular
people in Sivas, Turkey, in 1993.

So I understand how families of those who lost their lives in WTC may feel…
We don’t need to fight or lose our humanity towards terrorism. On the other hand
I understand those feel sorrow about building a mosque there…

Maybe the whole world need some more time…

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Mark September 14, 2010 at 1:07 am

Just an FYI, there were two mosques in the towers. One in the north tower, one in the south tower. So the argument, to me, seems senseless.

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GlobalPatriot August 15, 2010 at 12:23 am

Well said Angie, with a global perspective I sometimes forget to examine what’s going on where I live! Many thanks for your generous support!

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Angie A Swartz August 15, 2010 at 12:02 am

Well, good thing the definition of Global includes San Diego County. Glad we have someone as tall as you..in body and in soul…looking out for us. Thanks for everything you do for us Mark!

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GlobalPatriot August 14, 2010 at 10:48 pm

I received another thoughtful comment on this topic, that injects a personal experience, so I wanted to share her views:

Living in New Jersey, and being about 40 minutes from where the World Trade Center disaster happened, I had a friend who passed in the tragedy. I am also surrounded by many towns who lost residents in the disaster. I volunteered after the towers were hit and brought water and food to the workers donated by so many people pulling together of all different religions and races to try and help with anything they could.

When going into the city today, it’s a harsh reminder looking at the skyline – that this indeed happened, and all those lives were lost. Being so involved in NYC in our daily lives here, I do have to admit, the mosque idea upset me tremendously. It also upset many people who were involved in the rescue and volunteer efforts.

I am not racist, nor am I bigoted in any way. My parents taught me that everyone is equal…. I have many friends of all different races. But to put a mosque in this hallowed area where this attack happened strikes a chord. Not of racism, not of demented values but of a question in our minds.. just how secure will the area be once completed?

It’s a constant fear of those of us who are in the city on a daily basis.. will today be the day? I think the underlying fear of another attack in the city is making everyone question this in the backs of their minds.

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GlobalPatriot August 13, 2010 at 7:51 pm

All good points Deets. I can’t imagine living in a country where the government dictates life based on religious beliefs. I have to admit that I’m spoiled by the freedom of expression that exists in America, which is why it bothers me when people want to restrict that freedom.

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Deets August 13, 2010 at 6:57 pm

These are very valid arguments again any theocracy though, and I agree with your friend in many respects. This country has a separation of church and state. So, while within Islamic groups in the US there very well may be examples of sexism and abuse, but this does not mean that they will be forcing their values on the whole of society. Also, while in reality and ideology are two different things, in the US they have the right to leave their abusive spouse. There are plenty of social issues in regard to many religions, but in the US as long as they can get the permits and there is no illegal activity going on they should be able to put a church wherever they can afford too. That’s what I love about America.

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GlobalPatriot August 13, 2010 at 3:21 pm

I received this comment privately from a dear friend who lives in Europe. Her view is quite different from mine, but I wanted to share her perspective, as it reminded me that our opinions differ widely based on where we live and what we have experienced.

“As my country is very close to the Islam world, I would say as a women, and as an atheist, that Islam is an extremely dangerous religion and most barberian and opposed to all humanistic and democratic values. Advocates of Islamic religious rights could be someone who has never seen or heard about the way Islam treats women and human rights as a whole. You just take this matter in wrong way – Islam is not a peaceful religion – it is a culture that ignores democracy and thrives in the West because of ignorance and wrong perception. I have never been in the USA, and I know the tea-party movement is not the best of your civil society, but this is not a proper reason to welcome Islam!”

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dan August 12, 2010 at 3:01 am

The main reason that people are so ignorant about religion is because of all the propaganda surrounding this topic. The main stream media puts it in our heads that Islam = Terrorism.

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GlobalPatriot August 11, 2010 at 9:49 pm

It does seem that many people are using the same tactics as those they dislike, which is not the road to peace or understanding how we can live & work together.

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GlobalPatriot August 11, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Your point about “black sheep” is so true, and we judging a religion (or movement of any sort) based on the actions of a few in not fair to the whole. We are far more similar than different, but those with an agenda, or those without the facts, feel compelled to spread hate and misinformation.

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Taylen Peterson August 11, 2010 at 7:28 pm

“religious ignorance is also alive and well in America”
That about sums it up. It is sickening that people do not take the time to learn anything about a religion and just slam it because a few extremists gave it a bad name. As Deets mentioned, do these protesters not realize that Islam and Christianity worship the same God? Both believe in Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah, and the other prophets. Muslims even believe in Jesus (just that he was a prophet, not the coming of the Lord, similar to Judaism). It’s sickening that the thing these protesters are against (religious takeover) is exactly what they are promoting by trying to suppress Islam.
As always, excellent article.

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Deets August 11, 2010 at 4:18 pm

Ok so didn’t we start this country to escape religious persecution. If we have gone over 200 years without implementing Christianity into Law (debatable I know) Why would that change now? There are plenty of Bible Belt white politicians in office. Should we start pretesting every Baptist Church that they build? People in our Country have a right to believe in whatever they want. It saddens me that people have such a bad understanding of Islam in our Country. Islam is based on many of the same beliefs as Christianity, and yet because a few yahoos blow themselves up in the name of Allah we assume all Islamic people hate America and will do whatever they can to hurt it. This is simply ignorance at its worst. All religions have their black sheep who take dogma too far and misinterpret the true meaning of their faith. We should not judge the majority by the minority that is just stupid.

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