August 10, 2010

Interfaith Dialogue and Ground Zero

Posted in Interfaith at 9:24 pm by chavalah

Site of the proposed Cordoba House

As a Jewish interfaith blogger, I almost feel pressured to write about Chelsea Clinton and her marriage to what’s-his-name (doesn’t really matter; the important word is JEW) but I figure I’ll let them have their privacy for a little while. Once they start bringing little half-Jewish Clintons into the world, I might break my word for my mixies brethren. 😛

A far more pertinent topic, to my mind, is the controversy surrounding the possible creation of the Cordoba Center for Muslim-West dialogue two blocks away from Ground Zero.

I’ve put a lot of thought into what my opinion is of this initiative, and I’ve concluded that I do think that Ground Zero is an ill-advised site for an Islamic institution. I think we have to divide logic from emotion in this case. Logically speaking, American Muslims have every right to build a place to pray, and more nobly, a place to foster interfaith dialogue. But emotionally speaking, the wounds at the site of the World Trade Center still run deep. And it seems unlikely that the families and friends of the victims of 9/11 will ever be able to get past their grief to see this place for what Muslims hope they will. (And I can hardly blame them. I feel the same visceral reaction when I hear of Mormons baptizing the victims of the Shoah. Their intent may be honorable, but their actions delegitimize our suffering as Jews.)

But what offends me most deeply is the argument made by some people that a mosque near Ground Zero would be a site for terrorism and intolerance. To imply that all Muslim practice is evil because the terrorists of 9/11 happened to be Islamist extremists is to play into the very doctrine that the “jihad” endorses. It’s a battle of us vs. them! One side is evil, one side is honorable. And of course, reaching out a hand of friendship to someone different than you only means that you’re stabbing yourself in the back.

Is that what the United States, the first nation where a leader reached out to it’s Jewish public, is all about? Because to me, the best way to “win” against terrorism is to support multiculturalism. The opposite of bigotry and hatred is not more bigotry and hatred, but rather love and acceptance. The American Muslim community is taking a huge step with this project.

But being from a mixed background, I know that the first thing that any interfaith dialogue needs is a common ground. And like I wrote before, the emotional damage at Ground Zero will likely ever preclude that as a place where rational discussions need to be had. I am completely in favor of building this center at a different location, however. I hope that Jewish, Christian and other institutions might even consider donating in the name of inroads. We should stand with Muslims as we all embrace the idea of tolerance.

…by the way, what better group to run a house of interfaith dialogue than the children of interfaith families? We have hugely personal experience with navigating these waters. 😛 Alas, however, that might open up a different can of worms when the world’s religions already have enough to talk about.

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1 Comment »

  1. nancy tankelson said,

    Well said,my friend! I think a more neutral site would be less painful, and I agree that tolerance is an essential but difficult emotion to find!


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