Sunday, August 22, 2010

Worlds Meet

Let The Fear Mongering Continue...

The good folks at CNN have decided to give Republican nominee for NY governor, Rick Lazio a platform to express his views about the funding of the mosque and cultural center slated to be built two blocks away from Ground Zero. I was a bit surprised that CNN would give a political figure like Lazio, who also happens to be running for a state office, a platform to express his political views and in essence, further help his campaign to become governor of New York State. But it wasn’t just the fact that CNN allowed Lazio a pulpit from which to preach, it was what Lazio was being allowed to say that was somewhat troubling and concerning. As I was reading Lazio’s “commentary”, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the fear mongering days of the Bush Jr. administration, and I wondered why a “serious” news organization like CNN would agree to promote this type of attitude.

On, Lazio declared that he believes that the proposed mosque scheduled to be built two blocks away from Ground Zero (called Park 51) should be halted until a full investigation into the motivations of one of the project’s co-founders, an imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf, be looked into strictly on the pretense that he is Muslim.

Unfortunately, in Lazio’s world, all Muslims are nefarious, evil doers and Park 51 is just a front so that Rauf and his cohorts can wage their jihad against an innocent, unsuspecting public. This is somewhat humorous considering that Rauf has been outspoken in his views against terrorism and terrorist behavior.
Heaven forbid if there might be a non-radical Muslim or group of Muslims out there that doesn’t support terrorism or groups like al-Qaeda or Hamas. There may even be Muslims that support Hamas but don’t advocate violence or radical behavior against the United States or any of its allies.

What Lazio and his fellow neo-conservatives are doing is not only polarizing an ethnic group, but perpetuating the stereotype that that all Muslims are dirty, out to get us, and are ready to strap a bomb to their backs to blow up innocent women and children. I liken it to the way the Japanese were portrayed during World War II as sneaky, slanty-eyed mongrels with big buck teeth.

It’s unfortunate that after all these years, that we as a nation are still driven by the same paranoia as we were years ago and susceptible to the same internal scare tactics. It’s unfortunate that we can’t look upon the mosque that is being built next to Ground Zero as a symbol of healing rather than hate. It’s a shame that we can’t realize that many Muslims and Muslim-Americans despise terrorist groups like al-Qaeda or Hamas for what they stand for, and feel that these organizations have only made it more difficult for them to be accepted into mainstream American society.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg had a moment of clarity when he opposed Lazio’s demands by saying, “Government should never — never — be in the business of telling people how they should pray, or where they can pray. We want to make sure that everybody from around the world feels comfortable coming here, living here and praying the way they want to pray.” President Obama also weighed in with his approval but then sadly felt the need to backtrack when he felt pushback from Republicans and other opposition groups.

That’s the real message we should be supporting and pushing. Media outlets like Fox News and now CNN, have chosen to harp upon the same archaic fear mongering tactics that promote separation rather than unity and ignorance rather intelligence. If Lazio is allowed to express his opinions, why isn’t CNN allowing an opposing viewpoint to be heard? There are millions of Arab-Americans living in our country who want to be accepted into mainstream American society and want to help contribute to the United States’ success. Instead of giving a few radical fundamentalists their moment in the sun and the opportunity to further their agendas, shouldn’t we giving those Muslims who have struggled to achieve the American dream and who have played by the rules, a moment to shine?

We should, but sadly we won’t as long as “fear” sells papers and generates hits to websites.

- Hamilton Maher

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