Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Forge a New Symbol for Tolerance

The one of most essential aspects of me as a person is that I don’t live religiously, in that considering Ground Zero as a “sacred site” is not within my ken. I do see it as a powerful symbol -- a statement about secular-based American democracy against sectarian fanaticism. Because I am a non-theist, I oppose in principle any religious shrine, icon or building there because, in my opinion, it was religion that was at the heart of the problem and ultimately the cause of the attacks in the first place.

However, my concern for preserving the site from intrusion by religious centers, whether Muslim or not, became modified by the fact that there was a “sacred space” within the south tower for Muslim workers to perform their daily obligations. Thus the symbol changed in its significance for me, becoming representative of America -- just one country among many-- rather than as an idealized sysmbol of a principled system of freedom of, and from, religion, now under attack for its capacity for tolerance by enemies who themselves suffer no tolerance.

To me, it is an obvious no-brainer that burning Qurans would lead to anti-American violence. However the Iman Rauf has maintained that if the center is forced to move, Muslims world-wide would still commit violent acts, because it would be perceived as persecution of Islam in the U.S. This dubious reasoning is an attempt to corner us into giving in and allowing the center to remain close to Ground Zero, and is at best a probable exaggeration. The American extremists on the other hand maintain that giving in would make America look weak and encourage anti-American violence. This position is also based on the assumption that inevitable effects will follow from the cause, and is also logically fallacious. It could be just as likely that it will make America appear strong, not fearing that such a clear gesture of tolerance would be exploited, but rather praised and revered, perhaps leading to a lowering of the threat level.

I hope for a new symbol of everything that I personally love about America to be forged., though in practice it is far from becoming a reality.

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