Friday, August 6, 2010

9-11: What does it mean to you?

This is a question that's been on my mind for a few days, since then news came out that some people are trying to build a mosque in New York City, a few blocks from ground zero. Of course, some people took real issue with that, and it's not purely a partisan issue. For people who lost friends and family in the September 11th attacks, or who were there trying to help or simply as witnesses, for many of them, the idea of harboring the very religion connected to the terrorists is repugnant.

I am not so intimately connected to the incident, so I really can only empathize so much. But I know this: if we target Islam as the culprit here, if we block the construction of this mosque, that is one more little victory that the terrorists get to add to their list of victories in the wake of 9-11.

When the terrorists set out to bomb the World Trade Center, they were targeting American citizens, yes, but their primary goal wasn't just to kill people. No, their goal was to damage our freedoms and ideals. They were attacking our culture. And judging by how we changed in years since, they succeeded. We became obsessed with security, arguably to a fault. Flying ceased to be just another method of travel; we spend ridiculous amounts of time screening for possible terrorists and bombs and such. Islam, before just another religion, though one with several countries that could use some social progress, now appears to many as some sort of infernal faith of hatred and destruction.

So here are my arguments why we should embrace this mosque with open arms. First, the terrorists are still winning right now; if we allow this, and idiot extremist Americans don't attack it, we finally hand the terrorists a legitimate ideological defeat. We prove that we are better than them. They felt threatened by our culture, etc, and so attacked us. We now feel threatened by them, and if we attack back, like we've done, can we really claim to be any better?

Second, we need to end the "war". In the past, wars ended when one side achieved victory. As in the destruction or surrender of their foe. I dare anyone to honestly claim that they think that is actually possible in this "war on terror". There is no country named Terror. It has no capital. It has citizens, but they're not collected all together in cities. The only way to reduce and hopefully someday remove the threat of terror is by removing the motivation to attack us. In other words, we need to turn enemies into friends instead of destroying them. It's been proven pretty effectively that trying to destroy our enemies is inefficient.

However, if we somehow prove to the Islamic world that we are not their enemies, if we help build up their nations, educate their people, and make them more comfortable, they will have less reason to hate us. And accepting a mosque right next to ground zero, and seeing and learning about Muslims honestly and face to face is an excellent start to that.

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