Bradlee Dean, head of "You Can Run But You Cannot Hide International", appeared on Fox and Friends to discuss plans for the mosque, now being called Park 51, a few blocks away from Ground Zero. Dean may already be known to you for his comments in support of the death penalty for gays in Africa. Gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer has praised Dean and his rock group but maybe this time he should call him to account. Of course, Gov. Pawlenty’s own words open the way for Dean’s new diatribe.
Speaking of the mosque being built in lower Manhattan in the same neighborhood as the former World Trade center, Dean said, “I see the absolute arrogance and absolute disrespect for the American people here. It’s always the American people who have to sit down and basically accept everyone for who they are when they come into America.” Yes, well, that’s called freedom of religion and our forefathers fought valiantly to establish this right. This freedom of religion is not a right that can be safeguarded only when the majority wants it to be. The constitution and courts have been very clear about that for centuries. Even if rock stars and politicians forget it sometimes, the American people, have to cry out and demand this freedom. It’s not always easy; especially when the group is a minority group and different from me, but if we don’t demand religious freedom and tolerance for them who will demand it for us?
Gov. Pawlenty called the construction “inappropriate”, and said a mosque would “degrade and disrespect” the “hallowed” ground of Ground Zero. A verbose rock star is bad enough but political leaders trying to influence religious affairs - not good. Gov. Pawlenty calls the building of this mosque “degrading?” On the contrary - the existence of peace loving Muslims, who joined the rest of us in our outrage and grief on 9/11, being present, promoting peace, denouncing violence, and working hard at interfaith relations - that’s a good thing. Remember George W Bush called Islam a "religion of peace" during his presidency.
After all it is about the religion isn’t it? Would it be a problem if it was a church or a synagogue? There is a connection in our minds, isn’t there, between the new mosque - its Sufi Imam - and the terrorists of 9/11, who were, in fact, from the opposite end of the Muslim spectrum. It is like connecting Christians like me, and some of you, with Timothy McVeigh. I am not a Christian bomber and I am glad I don’t have to prove that every day of my life. So to can we see that the Muslims who were born here, the Muslims who have lived in the US for decades, who have good jobs and pay taxes, the Muslims who are coming here as refugees, threatened in their homeland by the violence there - can we see that these Muslims are not part of Al Qaeda any more than I am part of Timothy McVeigh’s gang?. They are living with us peacefully, denouncing the violence being perpetrated by others. The connection in our heads between the terrosits of 9/11 and all Muslims has got to change. Let’s ask our rock stars and politicians to help us do that.
The Rev. Peg Chemberlin is the executive director of the Minnesota Council of Churches. She is the immediate past president of the National Council of Churches, an organization of 36 communions with 45 million constituents across the nation. Read more about Rev. Peg Chemberlin.
Rev. Canon Peg Chemberlin was asked to provide a Christian perspective on religious violence at a bipartisan press conference this Monday at the State Capitol. "We affirm the best of our faiths' traditions which call for respectful engagement with each other."