In The Shadow Of The Twin Towers, A Mosque Rises
Mark Seddon is the former United Nations Correspondent and New York Bureau Chief for Al-Jazeera English TV. He reported from eighteen countries during that time, including North Korea, China, Haiti, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has interviewed, amongst others, Ban Ki-Moon, Lech Walesa, Tony Blair, Hans Blix, Michael Foot, Mia Farrow, and George Clooney. In a journalistic career spanning over twenty years, he has been Editor of Tribune and an elected member of the UK Labour Party's National Executive Committee. He has written for most British newspapers and many magazines, including The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Spectator, New Statesman, Private Eye, British Journalism Review and Country Life Magazine. For a number of years he was a Diarist at the London Evening Standard, and has also reported for, amongst others, the BBC and Sky TV. He lives in Buckingham, England.
New York, like London, is peopled by every race and denomination –and indeed by those who have none. Whatever your place of worship, if indeed you do, there are Churches, Synagogues and Mosques a plenty. That is how it should be. For whatever the past prejudices and strictures, enough to drive the Huguenots to England and the Puritans to New England, the days of religious intolerance are over in these countries at least and many others too.
So it almost beggars belief that President Obama has felt the need to intervene over what has fast become a global story; the desire of some Muslems to build a place of worship not far from the site of the stricken Twin Towers. It is of course good that he has, and once again, reminded his fellow countrymen and the World that America was founded on the principle of freedom of observance. But he can only have done so because the planned Mosque build has been fanned into a controversy by some who have clearly do not have America’s best interests at heart.
Islam, is at heart a peaceful and generous religion, some of whose tenets have been distorted by what may best be described as mediaeval obscurantists. Their intolerance and bigotry is mirrored by those who appear to believe that somehow Islam is equitable with terrorism.
But since Obama has spoken out – for tolerance and the American Constitution, I have no doubt that the usual assortment of shock jocks, rabid xenophobes and loony tunes will even now be banging on about Obama’s Muslim antecedents and calling his patriotism into question. This squall will blow away, the building will rise, and many Muslims will no doubt pray for World Peace and remember the victims of 9/11, including of course a number of Muslims who died in the attack.
But the sooner we get away from this hackneyed ‘debate’ as to whether Islam is synonymous with terrorism, the better. From my own experience, one of the truly remarkable facets about the United States is not only it’s acceptance of migrants from all four corners of the World, but that once people have arrived, there appears a genuine desire amongst so many of them to “be American”. Perhaps this is because it is easier to become an American than it is to become French or British. What a shame that a few who rejoice in their ignorance have decided to make the planned Mosque build into any issue at all.
Shame on them.
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