Monday, August 23, 2010

Why I am in favor of the new Manhattan Islamic Community Center

I've been meaning to post this for a week. My husband found an article with a really nice map, and I wanted to show it to you, and I may as well write my thoughts about it too.

I got that map from this article on (Credit given where credit is due.)

1) Neighborhoods in Manhattan are very small and crammed together. You have to live there to truly appreciate what that means. Many people who live in the boroughs of NYC hardly have to leave a 4-block radius around their house to get the things they need to live, aside from going to work and maybe visiting an occasional museum.

In other parts of the country, demanding that a mosque not be built within one's entire town might seem reasonable. (If there's any Muslim population at all, it's not, but it may seem reasonable to some people.) But in Manhattan, two to four blocks is the EQUIVALENT of an entire town. A much more diverse town than you're used to. Indians, Pakistanis, and even the occasional Orthodox Jew chat at street corners. Normally mortal enemies are friends in this town. It's a beautiful thing.

If you can't grok that, shut up. Seriously.

2) I'm not a big fan of religions, but if I can respect one, I can respect them all. I respect them warts and all. Catholics are responsible for a large number of deaths via oppression. Protestants too. Read a book about European history or the founding of the US before you go telling me it wasn't the same thing. No, it wasn't the same thing - the scale is different. We Christians of European origin... we pwned. (That means we had a tendency to move in, crush the opposition, obliterate populations, claim land and other resources, and then strut around like we owned the place, because by that time we did.)

But that was a long time ago... no, actually, it wasn't. A couple of piddly centuries. Or less. Hey, the US hasn't passed an equal rights amendment yet, and didn't have a bill protecting the rights of Black Americans until 1964. Our human rights record is really bad.

It hurts sometimes, but protecting the rights of fellow Americans who aren't exactly like us will improve the nation as a whole. That includes protecting their quality of life. If you lived in Manhattan, wouldn't you like to have a community center a couple of blocks from your apartment? Wouldn't you want your teenage kids to go there and play basketball under the supervision of responsible community-oriented adults?

Just because two of the most prominent buildings in the neighborhood were destroyed by terrorists does not mean all the survivors moved away. Or converted to your personal favorite religion. They still live there, they're still Americans or (hopefully legal) immigrants, and they work hard and love their kids.

3) The building in question used to be the Burlington Coat Factory. I love Burlington Coat Factory as much as anyone, but it's not sacred. And it's not going to move back in. Wouldn't you rather live next door to a community center than to an abandoned 13-story building? I bet the Manhattanites would.

4) If I speak up for other people's rights now, maybe they'll support me later. If I ever need it.

Being compassionate is an investment. If you're nice to someone today, maybe you've taken them by surprise and they're still mean to you tomorrow, but by next Tuesday they'll reconsider and decide to accept your friendly gesture.

The NYC Indians and Pakistanis did it.

The rest of us can, too.


  1. Amen. We can't even count the number of people who have died - all around the world, all through time - in the name of "religion." But faith and religion... all too often they aren't the same thing. Treating people with respect, showing compassion and kindness, avoiding prejudice - those are the hallmarks of faith.

  2. Just discovered your blog via your comments on Tonggumomma's site (the post about diversity). I thought I'd check out your blog since I thought your comments were so dead on. I couldn't agree more and even posted my own thoughts on the subject on my own blog which will show up on Saturday. I like your perspective! Will add your blog to my favs.