Addressing the “insensitivity” argument

Note: This post–and others down the pipeline–were intended for last Saturday (September 11.)  Though I wanted them to correspond with the anniversary of the attacks, the pieces are still relevant, I hope.  This first one addresses the “insensitivity argument” and the others will come later this weekend–I hope!   Homework may once again get in the way.

When I began this blog in early June, I had no idea it would be so timely.  I posted some links about the protests against the then-called Cordoba House (now Park 51 center) early on, and then soon after that the swirl of controversy began as the center, its supporters, and detractors began receiving much more attention from mainstream news media and politicians.  I was greatly surprised by how many ordinary Americans were paying attention to and weighing in on this debate on both sides.  This passionate dialogue is exemplified by a reader’s response to my 9/10 post from last friday.  Both this reader and I have both been paying close attention to this issue (though we have been receiving our information from far different “news” sources) and the fact that she took the time to write a lengthy paragraph in the comments section below my post is quite telling of her passion and the passion of so many others who share her views.  (Check it out here and please weigh in.  Who do you agree with?  She or I?  Do you fall somewhere in the middle?)

Though I’ve posted often about the Park 51 controversy, I haven’t written many of my own thoughts, and because of that I wanted to use the next few posts to do that.  I’m thankful for the woman’s comment because her views represent the those of many Americans, and by responding to her I can also respond to the concerns of many.

The flawed premise of the “insensitivity” argument

Many have argued that building the Park 51 center, an Islamic recreational, cultural, and religious center, near ground zero is “insensitive” to those who lost their lives on 9/11.  They claim it is insensitive to build a center with ties to Islam so close to the site where a few murderous men who called themselves Muslim killed many Americans.

This argument cannot stand on its own if we examine its main premise with even the littlest effort.  It presumes that the religion of Islam sanctioned and encouraged the kind of violence and terrorism that occurred on 9/11.  It equates the motives of the terrorists to the goals of all Muslims around the world; it assumes Islam is one violent monolith whose believers all adhere to the same radical principles; and it purports that because some people who claim to be Muslim (I and others would argue that the terrorists are not truly Muslim) believed blowing up buildings was an expression of their religious piety, that all other Muslims believe the same.

It should be obvious how completely false this premise is. Sadly its falseness is not immediately apparent to Americans due to the fear-based ignorance that I discussed last Friday.  If it were possible to move beyond our fear, we’d be able to learn about Islam from our classmates, teachers, and neighbors–our fellow citizens. We’d realize that the goals of Muslims are the goals of all religious people–to live in a peaceful and prosperous world around family and friends who love them, and in service of a God who blesses them.  We’d be able to see that Muslims are a diverse community within which, like any other religion, there are those who will use religion to attempt to justify their political goals.  Islam, like any other religion, is one which promotes peace.  The word, “Islam,” and the word for peace, “salaam,” are derived from the same Arabic root (s-l-m).

"Peace" written in Arabic

Additionally, many prominent Muslims have spoken out against the 9/11 attacks, making it clear that Islam does not sanction terrorism.  Whether or not the public chooses to listen is another topic that I’ll discuss in my next section.  I have never met a Muslim who supports or excuses what happened on 9/11–rather they are appalled that some “Muslim” men with destructive political goals would harness their religion as a way to (unsuccessfully) justify mass slaughter.

Just because Islam is associated with 9/11–just because the terrorists who committed the attacks called themselves Muslim–doesn’t mean that Islam is the cause.  As we discussed in my IR class last week, a correlation between two things doesn’t necessarily mean that one caused the other.

If Michael Enright, who stabbed and almost killed a New York City Muslim taxi driver a couple of weeks ago, is Christian, would we say that Christianity was the cause?  Would we blame the religion of Christianity and assume that all other Christians are murderers too? Not at all.  The same simple answer should come to our minds when crimes are committed by a Muslim or a person of any other faith.

I am not sure if Enright is Christian or not.  As it should be, his religion was not mentioned in news reports I have read.  His religion, whether it is Christianity or not, is not a significant factor in his crime, given that he ignored a fundamental rule of all faiths: thou shalt not kill.

The insensitivity argument can only stand if one believes that Islam is guilty and responsible for 9/11.  And it isn’t. I hope I’ve been able to successfully prove that here, in this short post.  If I haven’t convinced you, let me know, and I’ll address your concerns in future posts.

The Park 51 center has nothing to do with 9/11.  The link between the Park 51 center and the attacks on September 11 was created by those who thought they could exploit a  potential link for their own political purposes.


The insensitivity argument also disregards the fact that Muslims were negatively affected by the attacks.  Many perished and even more were first responders in New York.  Check out this PSA distributed by CAIR, the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

First-responder CAIR public service announcement

The next two posts will also reflect on the current situation, specifically focusing on many Americans’ calls for “moderate Muslim voices” and the criticism that many of these moderates have “ties to terrorism.”

One Reply to “Addressing the “insensitivity” argument”

  1. “It presumes that the religion of Islam sanctioned and encouraged the kind of violence and terrorism that occurred on 9/11.”

    Not true. What the insensitivity argument does is take into account that the victims families have a heightened sensitivity to Islam. Islam may have been perverted or the Koran may have been taken too literally by the 9/11 terrorists/hijackers but that day (and prior to 9/11)they thought that they were representing a “pure” form of Islam. They weren’t. But one must understand the anguish and the pain that the 9/11 victims families still cope with today due to Islamic fundamentalist’s atrocious actions that took place on that tragic day.

    Do you think that it would have been proper to allow a Shinto Shrine to be built near Pearl Harbor, 9 years after the attack on Pear Harbor occurred?

    When a group of Carmelite nuns moved into a building in Auschwitz during the 1980’s a clash between different faiths and between different historical narratives ensued. The Jews perceived this as an effort to Christianize a place of Jewish suffering. Whether there perception was correct or not, Pope John Paul II saw that there convent was doing more harm than good, and chose to honor the wishes of the citizens and asked the nuns to move to another building. After another convent was built for them, they pursued their mission in the same city.

    These nuns may have had a legal right to stay where they were living but they realized that by staying in that convent they were in fact hurting their mission and in fact counterproductive to their mission.
    “Many Catholics, not just in Poland, could not understand how nuns begging God’s forgiveness and praying for the souls of the departed could possibly offend anyone.”

    Pope John Paul II didn’t concede that the nuns mission was wrong but in fact took to heart the concerns of those who surrounded the Convent, acted out of what was for the greater good. This is one example displaying just because you have the legal right to do something doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do. Another example of this is the Park 51 mosque/community center. The Imam is doing more harm than good.

    The Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf says his main goal is to “build bridges” with other faiths and the community, but his actions are producing unintended consequences and is proving counterproductive to his cause. By pursuing this and in effect forcing the mosque on a community of heavy heart and still scarred by the 9/11 attacks he is refusing to take into account their grief and concerns. He may want to build bridges but this is clearly the wrong way to do that. The 9/11 families and others consider this to be a violation of their space (not talking about the site of the proposed mosque) and impeding their healing process.

    Hypothetical here – Could you imagine how you might feel if there were two police officers who responded to a shooting at a thrift store and one of them accidentally killed one of your children in the process of pursuing the criminals and then 9 years later the cop moved down the street from you? This police officer didn’t purposefully kill your child but I would expect that your emotions and sensitivities would still be heightened because of the horrific tragedy that happened that day. Imagine that, multiply that about 100 times, then by about 85% ( about the number of families against the building of the mosque) and then try and imagine how much angst that the building of the mosque is causing the families of 9/11 victims, the site where there loved ones were murdered on 9/11. Do you really think this violation of the victims’ families space is going to “build bridges” or “burn bridges” and cause more outrage against Islam and those speaking for Islam?

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