A bit disappointed; Jon’s brilliance; and our Sufi allies

A bit disappointed with Brian, Harry, and Barack

A segment on tonight’s NBC Nightly News urked me a little bit.  The segment was about Obama’s statements regarding the construction of the Cordoba House in Lower Manhattan, and how Muslims have the same religious rights as anyone else.  When introducing the story, Brian Williams describes the situation as a “fight” into which Obama waded.  Why use this word?  True, combativeness does hike up ratings, butit does not help us to better understand the nuances and details of the situation.  It further perpetuates the simplified “us vs. them” mentality that infects important and complicated political, societal, and cultural debates happening within our country.

As the piece continues, the “mosque” in question is not referred to correctly.  It is not simply a mosque–and even if it was a mosque, big deal!  The Cordoba House (it is hardly referred to by its proper name) is a cultural and community center, dedicated to bringing people of all faiths together, as well as providing swimming pool, workout facilities, and a place of worship.  Basically, it is a beefed up YMCA or JCC open to anyone.

Major news outlets must begin referring to this place as the Cordoba House.  Generalizing the Corboda House as a “mosque” or “Islamic center” only mystifies it and allows people to place their own views or ideas onto it.

I am also sad to see that Harry Reid is against the Cordoba House.  Many Democrats look up to him for guidance about their political and social views, and his denouncement of the Cordoba House encourages more Americans to do the same.

I was initially thrilled with Obama’s remarks at the White House Iftaar this past weekend.  (An iftaar is the meal with which Muslims break their fast during the holy month of Ramadan.)  But since he expressed his support for the Cordoba House and received backlash from some politicians and pundits about it, he has moved backward on that statement of support.  Obama has tried before to distance himself from the Muslim community when conservatives claimed he was Muslim during the 2008 election.  That was an opportunity to have an important national discussion about Muslims in America, and he failed to take it.  Again, Obama is missing an opportunity to play a key part in a dialogue that must happen in our country.  I am disappointed by his choice to back-off his support of the Cordoba House, and I hope he chooses to reverse that position soon.  If he truly wants to see Americans’ religious rights protected, he must step in.

Jon’s brilliance

The Daily Show recently did an awesome segment about the opposition to mosque construction in the U.S.  I’ll let the video speak for itself.

Our Sufi allies

This op-ed contribution discusses how as Americans we must work with those within Islam, particularly those in the Sufi tradition, to fight extremism.  One of these Sufis is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Muslim whose initiative is building the Cordoba House. Sufism is a version of Islamic mysticism, not a separate religion.

16th-Century Miniature Painting Depicting Dancing Dervishes, Image by © Archivo Iconografico, S.A./CORBIS

This line of poetry, written by the famous Sufi saint, Rumi, is crucial for us to remember and implement during this time.

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

In today’s America, those barriers are fear and misunderstanding.  Only when we recognize them can we begin understanding, befriending, and loving our neighbors.

4 Replies to “A bit disappointed; Jon’s brilliance; and our Sufi allies”

  1. Hey Jordan,

    I really liked this piece and I have been following this story pretty closely in the news. I actually listened to a story on it on Fox News today. It seems obvious to me that this debate is not over the Cordoba House, but rather Islam itself.

    The story I listened to today showed a poll where nearly 70% of those polled are opposed to the construction of the Cordoba House. I think that is pretty astonishing, especially for something as extreme as this.

    Personally, I don’t think it matters what you call it. If you just referred to it simply by its name, it would take away from what the center truly represents. News media should refer to it as “the Cordoba House,” a “mosque,” an “Islamic culture center,” a “Muslim version of a JCC OR YMCA,” “public gym,” and most importantly “an interfaith community center” becuase it is all of those things. If we want the public to make their opinion off as much information as they can, this is the way it should be. I don’t think you meant what you said in your statement “Generalizing the Corboda House as a ‘mosque’ or ‘Islamic center’ only mystifies it and allows people to place their own views or ideas onto it” because obviously you know that the media’s purpose is to present all the facts and let people form their own opinions on it. If people form a negative opinion on this story based on what the are receiving from the news, it will be because the some personal prejudices of their own, which they are obviously entitled to. This moves the discussion to something completely different, but to the place that it really needs to be: American and Muslim tensions.

    I love that you included the Jon Stewart piece. It really says it all. People and politicians oppose it without and logical explanation as to why it physically shouldn’t be there, which means they are only stating an opinion based on prejudice. Jon Stewart’s video showed that people are uncomfortable with mosques in their communities all over the nation. So what difference does it make that this one is two blocks from Ground Zero? One could put any radius on it away from Ground Zero and there would still be people upset about it. People have every right to try and ensure that the atrocities of 9/11 and those lost are never forgotten, but placing a mosque in New York City would never impede on it’s memory, because the religion of Islam is not responsible for it. TERRORISTS ARE RESPONSIBLE!!!!!

    These terrorists may have been Muslims, but they were also corrupt men. They were brainwashed to believe that it was what God wanted. They were wrong. They were influenced by a corrupt man. Why must Islam suffer the consequences? How can Americans be so blind when they have everything in front of them. There are so many that don’t, so many that don’t get the right information. We must open our own eyes, so we can open their eyes. In circumstances like this, I like to refer to how in an airplane you are always instructed to put on your oxygen mask first before you help anyone else. You are instructed to do so because if you pass out, you won’t be able to provide any assistance and you’re no good to anyone. We have the ability to put on our oxygen masks. We must take care of our own prejudices before we can help Muslims take care of theirs. This basically goes along with your final statement.

    I also can’t believe that Obama is back-pedaling on his original statements. In my opinion, his original statements very fairly spot-on and should have ended any other explanation on his part. Why would he back-pedal? That’s really weak leadership. Why conform to another idea when you know that your initial feeling fulfills the job description that you swore to up hold: defend and protect the Constitution. I am afraid for him in some ways. I am afraid that he is not staying the course that he started when he first took office, as ironic as that may sound! I too hope he reverses his position. Especially becuase of who he is, I really believe he can open a lot of doors on how to resolve this issue.

    Keep it up!

    1. Doug, thanks so much for your long comment. I want this blog to be a place where we can express what we all think. I agree with you for the most part, except I think you have too much faith in the media. It’d be great if the media–particularly cable news channels–did present all the facts in an unbiased, fair way, but it is clear, at least to me, that they don’t. For-profit news has their own agenda and unfortunately that causes their reports to be less than fair. See you in D.C. soon!

  2. I think Obama’s backpedalling can be traced directly back to the calls he got from every single elected Democrat…ever…screaming that he just cost them the elections. I’m convinced that’s where Reid’s reasoning stems from.

    The GOP and the Tea Party have worked up a good froth over this issue and are enjoying exploiting it. Backpedalling did the Democrats no favors (See, they don’t even commit to things!). Obama was right to say what he did at the iftaar speech, popular or not, because it was the RIGHT thing. Leadership isn’t always about popularity.

    Jordan, I completely agree that the media aren’t helping things with selective accounts and inaccurate, or misleading, language. Great post. Always a pleasure to read.

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