Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Islamic Community Center in New York City: a perspective

image of the World Trade Center's Twin Towers in NYC is from here
Note: this post was revised on 3 September 2010 ECD.

A woman in Canada asked me what my feelings and thoughts were about the matter of the Islamic Community Center being built in the same section of Manhattan as the site where the Twin Towers fell.

This is my answer:

I'll speak to the issue of the Islamic Community Center being built within a few blocks of what is termed "ground zero". This is basically being addressed to those people who think the Community Center shouldn't be built.

First, I don't think the problem with the U.S. is one of being insensitive to people with power. The problem with the U.S. is its rather grossly destructive insensitivies to people without power, to the oppressed, and to marginalised people. The problem with the U.S. is its racism, misogyny, heterosexism, xenophobia, and its genocidal brand of capitalism.

A few members of a small terrorist group arranged to fly planes into several areas, primarily the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. These few people have been determined to not be part of al-Qaeda even if they got some training with al-Qaeda. (Please keep in mind many "terrorists" abroad are trained by the CIA, but that isn't assumed to make the operatives of the U.S.'s terrorism industry.) Their goal was never to collapse the buildings. That the towers collapsed as they did was due to faulty metals used in the construction. A collapse shouldn't have happened by a fuel-loaded plane flying straight into the higher side of it. Al-Qaeda, in other words, didn't topple the Twin Towers. They poked holes in them, and in the Pentagon, killing themselves and 3000 innocent others to make a political point--in a terroristic way--about the harm the Twin Towers and the Pentagon are doing to people around the world, and specifically in Central Asia. That harm was and is also real, and the Twin Towers were designed to do the kind of business that, given ample time, callously and horrifically kills hundreds of thousands of innocent people as well as the planet.

So, let's assume that things had gone as they would have if the buildings had been appropriately built. There would have been terrifying scenes of destruction and horror: explosions, fire, smoke, debris, and deaths. The event would have been traumatic for the city, no question. But the mass media didn't just cover the trauma to the city; in addition, it immediately concocted and has never stopped building on a xenophobic narrative about Islam vs. the anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, Christian U.S. that has enabled the U.S. military, run by the Pentagon, to engage in two terribly corrupt years-long wars in two countries: Iraq and Afghanistan. So far the U.S. military, with NATO forces, has mass murdered, raped, and otherwise terrified, bludgeoned, and butchered hundreds of thousands of people abroad. This has been generating incalculable amounts of explosions, fire, smoke, debris, and deaths--easily thousands of times as much of each as was caused on Sept. 11 by those who once got some training from al-Qaeda. The phrase "an eye for an eye" seems inadequate to appreciate the horror of what the U.S. has unleashed in Central Asia. "A million bodies for 3000 bodies" is more like it. The death toll is complete in NYC; it's still running higher and higher in Central Asia and the vast majority of those killed, contrary to Western media reports, are not U.S. troops.

So, again, the problem here is that the U.S. is a bully State, attempting to expand its religiously Christian and secular Empire across the globe--one which is deeply racist, misogynistic, heterosexist, imperialistic, colonising, genocidal, and ecocidal. THAT'S the problem with the U.S. prior to, during, and following "9/11". But the U.S.'s genocidal programs are not discussed as such in the media. The genocidal programs are discussed instead as matters of freedom and democracy, and of self-defence and protection from "terror". And that's all horseshit, because the U.S. is THE global terrorist. We do not protect people from terror: we inflict terror on people, including upon millions of women in the U.S. through accepted and protected practices of battery, rape, trafficking, and slavery by men who are pimps, husbands, boyfriends, and fathers. Al-Qaeda is puny by comparison and the few people who bombed the buildings and land in the U.S. are microscopic. That said, a microscopic group of flyer-bombers and the puny anti-U.S. imperialism network called al-Qaeda did, over several years, organise and implement several terroristic anti-Western activities. Regardless of who you assume they were representing, a few people did fly a few planes into some key buildings in the U.S.: precisely the buildings that are building a corporate and quasi-Christian Empire of terror across the globe. But patriarchal atrocity counts as terror too, if women are human, that is.And despite U.S. media's insistence that we are in Iraq and Afghanistan to liberate women there is just plain wrong. Dead wrong. U.S. men rape women there and they rape women here. There has been an undeclared war against women for quite some time, and the U.S. has never seriously considered stopping the central forms of violence against women that structurally subordinate them to men.

And let's not forget: the U.S. has genocidally been at war against Asia for at least sixty years: from bombing Japan, to war in Korea, and on to Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia, and on to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan, with mumblings about a return visit to Korea. There have also been less noted U.S. terroristic campaigns in Lebanon and Saharan and Eastern Africa.    

Operation Enduring Freedom's long-term investors, like Dick Cheney and David Petraeus to name but two war-mongers, want their dividend checks to flow, regardless of how much blood out-flows to generate their income. The U.S. has also been waging war against Black, Brown, and Indigenous people across the Americas for hundreds of years--in the last few decades that has been especially active in the Caribbean and across Central America including but not limited to Grenada, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. The U.S. government's economic, cultural, and political genocide against American Indians is on-going, to this day and well into tomorrow. One wonders how much "freedom" the world can endure from the U.S.'s globalised military, pseudo-Christian values, and corrupt economic systems.

Given all that, how does "the issue" become an Islamic Community Center getting built downtown in NYC? It's a non-issue, as far as I'm concerned. The U.S. mass murdering Afghan citizens, while pretending to exit a corrupt and completely immoral war in Iraq. With tremendously cynical fanfare, it claims "an end" while leaving troops in place and only after training people to do the same evil things the U.S. has been doing there for the last many years. For example, the U.S. has placed in power one of the people who oversaw the horrors of Abu Ghraib. There's no plan to exit Afghanistan, even while Malalai Joya and many others proclaim the U.S. presence there to be unequivocally rapist and racist. I'm sorry to say, we are not a peace-loving or anti-terrorist nation.

If our morality and ethics are determined by our publicly denied and officially unacknowledged shameful actions since this nations' inception, we are also not a nation of outstanding morals and principled ethics nor are we even one that values democracy or freedom. We are, rather, a country founded on slavery, genocide, and rape that has no intentions, policies, or plans to stop committing any of it. How is it, then, that the so-called axis of evil never includes the U.S.?

So who is publicly outraged about a Mosque? Various white Jewish and white Christian citizens who witnessed or were impacted by the bombing of buildings with planes and many other horrific things that happened downtown on Sept. 11, 2001. Without question, there should be a permanent memorial at the site of the former Twin Towers, remembering those who died--those of many ethnicities and faith traditions.The surrounding neighborhoods cannot and ought not be "Mosque-free" any more than they can or ought to be Church-free and Synagogue-free. That makes no sense of what happened on Sept. 11th and goes against all of what the U.S. pretends to be. Even with hypocrisy being a central value in this country, we cannot hide from the fact that all of the U.S. is engaged in overt and lethal anti-Muslim terrorism.

Al-Qaeda-trained 9/11 assassins and al-Qaeda generally cannot be considered, in any meaningful or honest way, to be the sole practitioners of a kind of terrorist activity that is morally or qualitatively different from the kind we produce and protect our right to inflict on the rest of the world. To pretend "those" terrrorists are more callous, cruel, or terroristic than U.S. military and paramilitary forces would be to engage in a form of denial and delusion that ought to send shivers up and down all our spines. Also guilt and shame.

What the U.S. government wants the collective white "us" to do, is to continue to scapegoat groups like "Muslims" (most of whom are Indonesian, not Central Asian), and "Mexicans"--and Americans--many of whom are rudely being escorted off the very same land that was stolen from them by our government. This scapegoat strategy keeps that glaring light of responsibility and accountability off of that very white and culpable "us". It is imperative to continue this ethnic shell-game strategy because the U.S. has no moral leg or legitimacy to stand on regarding any matter of "sensitivity".

The U.S. needs scapegoats so that it never has to morally or politically contend with the fact that it is the bully nation of the world, is unrepentantly pro-genocidal when it comes to people of color, is misogynistic and heterosexist to the core of its being, and is set up to manufacture and exploit tensions between and among oppressed people that can be sensationalised in media that continue to keep the spotlight off what white Christian straight men are doing in the U.S. and abroad to colonise, terrorise, enslave, and kill people--all in the name of the their one true lord and savior. Should this lord make a return engagement, may he kick the asses of every U.S. Christian white het man who was arrogant enough to think this country--allegedly his--and his bombastically condescending corporate religion stands for anything resembling human decency or the glory of G-d. For the victims and survivors of that environmentally, politically, religiously tyrannical and caustic crusade, the whole of the planet is "ground zero". Shall Christian churches, then, not be allowed anywhere on Earth?

All of this is to say, there are more important matters at hand than the issue of whether or not an Islamic Community Center is built in downtown Manhattan. And it's about time the vocal critics of  "the mega-mosque" being built there started dealing with those matters with the passion currently being demonstrated in the financial district of New York.



Well said Julian - but white male dominated US media will not allow such 'radical' views to be mainstreamed. That is why the myth of 'war on terror' has to be constantly repeated ad nauseum.

Here in the UK my government which is a minion of the very powerful NATO and US constantly promotes claims that UK military forces are needed in Afghanistan in order to 'free Afghan people' from the Taliban.

The small numbers of UK military personnel killed in Afghanistan are treated by the media as 'heroes who supposedly died protecting our country.' The media rarely mentions the innumerable Afghan women, men and children who are being killed every day by UK forces, NATO and the US military.

Patriotism is promoted in order to hide US and UK accountability. And yes the UK media consistently promotes the myth that 'muslims' are all terrorists, because there must always be a convenient scapegoat or group in order to deflect attention away from the real issues.

Clarissa said...

You are a very powerful writer, Julian. Among all the pieces on the Muslim Community Center in NYC that I have read (and written), yours is the strongest.

Thank you for writing this!

Patti said...

And speaking of how the media reports the deaths of military personnel... I don't know about the UK, but I see it all the time on the US's always with shock, horror and outrage that they report about US military personnel who have been killed. Like it's jaw-dropping amazing how retaliation might occur in a war. Like "How DARE they kill OURS!! WE are the Good Guys!!" Do they really expect that, when US soldiers land on the foreign soil, all should be dropping to their knees, praying to and begging forgiveness of their new gods come to liberate them?

Julian Real said...

Thanks so much, Jennifer and Clarissa. I'm sure glad and lucky to have you both as regular readers and commenters.

Summerspeaker said...

I'm both happy and amazed that you continue take the time to write so many quality pieces. The sheer volume sometimes scares me off but I never regret it when I do get around to reading. Best wishes.

Julian Real said...

Hi Patti,

It really is a deplorable level of inhumanity to not regard those our troops mass murder as people who have been killed just as dead as our soldiers--but who didn't leave their own country, invade another, hunt down and butcher people to become dead. This is not to say that U.S. soldiers are not pawns manipulated, particularly economically, by the U.S. government that obviously doesn't give a shit about them. (I wonder how many people would decide to fight in the armed services if the government didn't offer the financial carrots?) This is to say that we are all responsible for our actions, and that killing is killing and unless it is genuinely done in self-defence, it is not moral.

Our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have nothing whatsoever to do with self-defence, and the plan to wipe al-Qaeda off the Earth is government war-speak for being able to invade every corner of the globe under the pretense of acting in self-defence. Let any other country act as the U.S. does, in "self-defence" by invading the U.S., and we'll see how much our press calls it "self-defence". It won't.

Thanks for your comment.

Julian Real said...

Welcome Summerspeaker,

Thanks so much for your comment. I am likely to slow down at some point. But there's so damned much to write about!

I look forward to the day when I scan the national and international alternative media news and find nothing at all to criticise.