Thursday, August 19, 2010
Many questions are raised these days about the plans of building an Islamic cultural centre including a mosque near "Ground Zero." Ground Zero is the name of the New York place where the radical Islamist terrorist attacks exploded the Trade Centres towers on September 11, 2001. Almost 80% of Americans polled are opposed to the building of the Islamic cultural centre on grounds that it is a reminder of a dark day in America's history when thousands were killed by a foreign violent mob. On the other hand, Imam Faisal Abdul Raouf, who is behind the Cordoba Initiative, argues together with liberal supporters that the mosque will be a symbol for tolerance of all religions by America. But let's look at the question from a deeper perspective. Most Muslims do not endorse violence. They follow the dictates of Islam, pray, fast at least during the month of Ramadan and seek the All-merciful God. The vast majority of Muslims oppose abortion. Pope John Paul II collaborated with Muslim countries to defeat the abortion agenda proposed at the U.N. Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, 1994. Bringing the above memory to the present, we could see in the current agenda of global Western thought a scapegoat represented by religion. Any religion is to be excluded from Western social norms and legal systems. Look at America, Canada and Europe. You will see Rene Girard's prophetic words of the scapegoat - Excluding religious prayer and teaching from public schools, religious symbols from public hospitals, religious opinion from the media. Moreover, religious institutions (particularly the still powerful Catholic Church) are shunned and attacked everywhere there is an opportunity. The recent fiasco about a few sex-offending priests is a sign. These are only signs of the scapegoat. Only the powerful remains and we are again in Darwinian lands. As I wrote in The Economist today I wish people understand that in this age of science we cannot separate religion from life. We will never be able to remove from the human mind the need to worship. The idea of God will be with us because it responds to our quest for eternal life. Since we are the only creatures with memory, we think and relate to past events. Violence is a big problem today. The problem with building this mosque is about security. No one, it appears to me, wants to be a target of a violent destruction initiated by fellow humans "in the name of God." In spite of the formidable progress made by science, economic and political cooperation, there is an indespensable element lacking in relationships: trust. Trust requires good will which remains a hidden mystery to-date. Even if all Muslim and non-Muslim nations declare their opposition to violence, there could still be elements or people who would take advantage of religion to proclaim their victory over the others using a distorted picture of God. From a practical view, it is better not to build the mosque in the near future as it could today explode sensitivities still fresh from 9/11 when thousands of Americans, including Muslims, were killed. The Islamic cultural centre at Ground Zero may give the impression to fundamentalist Muslims that they have won the war against America. The name itself "Cordoba" is a reminder of Islamic conquering of Spain in the Middle Ages. Christian people may interpret it as a return to Islamic invasion by other means. Then there is the fearful question: Who will fund this project. It could be the government or an organization in Iran, Lybia, Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. Some of these sources fund terrorist groups. Some commentators argued that Muslims already worship near the Pentagon. However the chapel they use is also used by other people from different religions at different times.My opinion: DO NOT BUILD the Islamic Cultural Centre nor the mosque near Ground Zero. First there must be a more profound encounter of mind and spirit between peoples. Slowly a civilization of love may emerge or may not. We must pray for it to emerge. In the end, we have hope that Christ will transform many hearts and minds for he came to save people, not to condemn them.