Monday, August 23, 2010

Stop the hatred

Hate is expressed when people are:

Scared - Greedy - Jealous - Hateful - Mean - Selfish - Ignorant - Uninformed

Hate comes in the form of:

Persecution: a program or campaign to exterminate, drive away, or subjugate a people because of their religion, race, or beliefs: the persecutions of Christians by the Romans.

Denigrate: (Denigration n.) 1. to speak damagingly of; criticize in a derogatory manner; sully; defame: to denigrate someone's character. 2. to treat or represent as lacking in value or importance; belittle; disparage: to denigrate someone's contributions to a project.

Discrimination: treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: racial and religious intolerance and discrimination.

Victims of Hate

Muslims * Christians * Jews * American Indians * Cherokee * Navaho * Disabled * African-Americans * Japanese * Asian * Haitians * Romani * Cubans * Women * Homosexuals * Elderly * Latinos * Irish * Italian * Pilgrims * Gypsies * AIDS * Mentally Ill * Smokers * Poor * Short * Obese * Alcoholics * Drug Addicts * Biracial People * Ugly People * and too many others

It's time to STOP!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Cordoba Initiative: Middle East meets West

In the days when Jerry Falwell was at his peak, he led the Religious Right which critics found to be a paradox, retorting, “The Moral Majority is neither.” This generation has a new misapplication of terms when referring to the “Ground Zero Mosque,” as there is no mosque being built on Ground Zero, the former site of the World Trade Center.
The 16-acre site of the former twin towers is undergoing reconstruction with a total of seven new buildings and a memorial for those lost in the attack on 9/11.
The surrounding area is like other districts in New York, with shops, restaurants, offices, and other sites for service and commerce. Lower Manhattan has been in need of a community center, much like those in other cities, where people can view and learn the arts, take fitness classes, hold meetings, and enjoy other activities related to serving the surrounding neighborhood.
Park51 is being developed to do just that, and more. In an effort to meet current needs, unite the community within, connect with the world, and bring the world to New York, the structure. which will take over the prior site of the Burlington Coat Factory a few blocks from the World Trade Center, is going to be 15 stories tall.
The Cordoba House is part of this structure, from which the Cordoba Initiative will operate under the leadership of Imam Feisal Abdul-Rauf. Unfortunately, Islamophobia has infected many casual observers, turning mainstream Americans into intolerant, fearful, uninformed activists who have not learned details of what they are protesting.
The Cordoba Initiative has a mission of outreach to “cultivate multi-cultural and multi-faith understanding across minds and borders.” The effort is being made to dispel the mysteries about Islam and the Muslim community, but instead of accepting the offering of peace and brotherhood, narrow-minded westerners are slapping the welcoming hand and extinguishing the light of knowledge.
Imam Feisal has accrued an impressive curriculum vitae and has worked for a number of years with the U.S. Government to improve Islamic relationships; he currently is on a trip in the Middle East, encouraging religious tolerance.
“He is the most liberal, forward-thinking Imam I have ever met,” said my friend Deonna Kelli Sayed. Her husband, a UN diplomat, will be meeting with Abdul-Rauf this week in Bahrain. I sensed a bit of dismay in her voice when she mentioned this tidbit, since she will not be there to welcome this man about whom she discusses with great admiration.
Imam Feisal is a true visionary in his efforts to create peace and understanding amid such turbulent topics. His project, the Cordoba Initiative, is being met with vitriolic backlash, much the way peacemakers before him have been addressed.
- Socrates was forced to die by poison for his belief that humans had souls.
- Jesus was crucified for his efforts to peacefully introduce new doctrine into mainstream society.
- Gandhi was a victim of prejudice, yet sought peaceful co-existence and political reform which was met with aversion.
- Martin Luther King, Jr. sought equality and peaceful race relations, but faced adversaries in mainstream America.
There is a long history of people seeking integration, peace, and unity while being met with hatred and violence. I only hope that Imam Feisal and the Cordoba Initiative can pave a new road for Western advancement, setting an example for world peace efforts.

Reporter: "Mr. Gandhi, what do you think of Western civilization?"
Gandhi: "I think it would be a very good idea."
"All we are saying, is give peace a chance" - John Lennon

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Park51: Much ado about Mosque

Photo by Val Kerry

Uproar over the building of a mosque on Ground Zero continues, yet those who protest once again prove my belief: the general population are sheep that will bleat loudly while blindly following a shepherd, instead of looking for the truth.

I often get agitated with people who panic or work themselves into frenzy before assessing a situation. Why waste energy? If there’s a problem, energy is better spent in finding a solution, rather than chewing on the issue. But, alas, I digress.

First and foremost, the fret over a mosque being at a location near the site where the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center stood is not necessary because Park51 is not a mosque, but is actually a community center designed to celebrate diversity and culture through arts, contemplation, and communication. Within the center, a wide variety of programs will be offered, intended to bring the best of the world to New York and the best of New York to the world. A childcare center, restaurant, culinary school, auditorium, and fitness facilities will also be included. Odd is the fact that people worry over the building of a mosque, citing it as an insult to those who died in the vicinity, yet, there are already long-standing mosques within a few blocks. A separate, unrelated, 501(3)(c) mosque will be housed at Park51 but will only be a small part of the multi-cultural, multi-storied building, and will welcome all visitors, carrying out the spirit and intent of Park51. Such a center is an honorable tribute to those affected by the attack on 9/11, and in no way defames them.

Perhaps the root of the distress is not over the building, but rather the fact that a Muslim is heading up the project. Mainstream America must get over irrational fears of Muslims. Again, the lack of knowledge is the cause of hatred and mistrust. Unfortunately for the majority of Muslims, extremists have misrepresented the religion’s true ideology. The same can be said for Christian extremists who have contributed to misconceptions about Baptists and Catholics. Every religion has its stereotypes, drawn from the actions of a few bad apples. Then there are those that twist religion to fit their mission. The Ku Klux Klan extends Christian love, but is it fair to say all Christians embrace the ways of the KKK? In the same way, many Americans have unjustly linked Muslims to the Taliban – a group that distorts its religion to carry out extremist actions.

My friend, Deonna Kelli Sayed, is a blonde-headed, American, born and bred in the South, but embraced the Muslim religion because of its values. She and I have had many discussions regarding world culture (her husband is United Nations diplomat in Bahrain ) and the purported “mosque” has been among the topics. “I wonder if we should call it a mosque, indeed,” she conveyed. “A new kind of mosque for a new kind of Muslim, a community center that embodies what Islam is about at its core: dialogue, relationship building, community development, and interfaith exchange.”

The World Trade Center stood tall and proud over the gateway of America, holding international commerce and racial, ethnic, and religious diversity. Muslim extremists chose to attack that site because of all that it represented. How appropriate for a Muslim man, reflecting the religion’s true doctrine, lead the building of Park51 which will be tribute to unity aside the new World Trade Center. “So if people want to call it a mosque, so be it,” said Deonna. “Let it be a transformative mosque, the kind that issues in a new paradigm.”

For more information and a toolkit on interfaith relations, visit http://gamc.pcusa.org/ministries/interfaith/