Time Magazine: Mosque Opposition Across the Nation
As part of their Park 51 coverage, Time has published a number of articles, in the past couple of days, on mosque controversies across the country. I’m glad, because I think it’s a critical bit of context that is missing in a lot of the major media coverage. It demonstrates that proximity to Ground Zero is often little more than a more socially acceptable facade that opponents use in their appeals to the general public, in the place of the base anti-Muslim animus that truly drives them.
Here are two of their recent articles:
When the congregation of Grace Baptist Church held services in its new building last month, no protesters marched outside to mark the occasion. It’s doubtful that protesters will gather later this month when the church throws an all-day party to dedicate the new brick building on the corner of Bradyville Pike and Veals Road. The words “Not Welcome” will probably not be spray-painted on the new church’s sign.
The same cannot be said for the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, which owns the neatly mown 15-acre field next to Grace Baptist and whose plans to build a mosque for its growing community has been caught in the net of anti-Islam sentiment in the U.S. Both of the signs the Center erected at the site of its future home were vandalized; the first had “not welcome” sprayed across it; the second was simply smashed in two. Since May when the Center gained building approval from Rutherford County, local Tea Party activists have aggressively fought to stop the mosque, staging protests, claiming that it was too big (inflating it from a modest 6,800 square feet to a whopping 53,000 square feet) and making it a campaign issue in recent elections.
The population of Murfreesboro is only about 100,000 and at first glance it wouldn’t seem logical that a small city in the middle of the Bible belt could need a large mosque. But Murfreesboro is a scant 30 miles south of Nashville which at the end of the first war in Iraq was designated a gateway city for refugees, setting the stage for a rapidly growing Muslim population, and anti-Muslim sentiment. Last February the Al-Farooq Mosque in Nashville was vandalized, with graffiti — a cross and “Muslims go home” spray painted on its facade. Earlier this year, a white supremacist was sentenced to 183 months in prison for his role in the 2008 bombing of the Islamic Center of Columbia. Attempts to build new mosques in other nearby cities, including Brentwood and Antioch, have been stopped.
The minutes of the town of Wilson’s planning-commission meeting of Feb. 8, 2010, are a record of Dr. Mansoor Mirza’s trauma. The internist had applied for a permit to turn a former health-food store at 9110 Sauk Trail Road in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, into a mosque. But residents from Wilson and surrounding areas joined the meeting to make their feelings heard.This second article does end on a somewhat encouraging note, with congregants of a church that fought in opposition to the mosque, rallying to support their Muslim neighbors when a Muslim child tragically goes missing, and in the process perhaps finding some degree of common ground and understanding:
A sampling: “We’re talking about a religion that has not a, not a very good track record, as we all know, nationwide, worldwide.” “I don’t want it in my backyard. I live three houses away. We have guys — I have good friends in the war and I have people over there, my nephew is there. I don’t plain trust it.” “I know they’ll say there’s the violent or jihad Muslims and there’s the peaceful Muslims, [but] to me it doesn’t make a difference because their goal is to wipe out Christianity around the world.” “The basis of this community is on Christ and Christ alone … Do we really want this in our backyard?” “If they’re against Christianity, I don’t want them coming after my kids.” “Lest we forget, we had some troops at Fort Hood just recently who were massacred by a doctor. He was a jihad idealist.”
A few voices piped up in support of Mirza and Islam (“Our own Christian religion has just as many extremists … and I don’t think that we should be making broad, sweeping generalizations”), but the doctor was stunned. He hadn’t expected much trouble. “I tried to clarify things,” he recalls. “I said, ‘I believe in the same God you believe in.’ People said, ‘You don’t believe in God; you believe in Allah.’ Only one person asked a question about water usage … People came to speak out against the mosque. ‘The mosque will be creating terrorists.’ ‘We don’t trust you.’ They were very loud, and I was kind of shaken up. When the hearing was done, I couldn’t walk. I [had] lived in New York and New Jersey, and I never expected this in my life. As a physician, I never expected that the same kind of people who came to me in the clinic and hospital and treated me with respect would talk to me like this. My lawyer helped me to settle down and took me to a café.”
Harmeling says she and her husband had attended meetings at their church that discussed why the mosque should not be approved. But, she adds, “I was never opposed to the mosque. Some people assumed we had the same views as our pastor,” who remains opposed to it. She explains that she was “interested in finding as much information as I could about Islam.” She still doesn’t agree that Christians and Muslims pray to the same God. And yet the tragedy, she says, “taught me a lot. My neighbors and I discovered that Muslims are gracious, loving people. They were open about sharing their faith and culture with us.”