Grappling with Islamophobia

The Proposed Community Centre Near Ground Zero Raises the Issue of Ideological War

Graphic Erin Jasiura

Recently I spoke with a girl who had immigrated to Canada from the United States. As we talked, she told me, “you know somebody’s true character when they’re faced with a threat. When America was faced wi­th the 9/11 attacks, its first instinct was revenge instead of uniting together as a country. I didn’t like that, I don’t like people like that, so I left.”

Since the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, the growth of intolerance between the Western and Islamic worlds has far outweighed the building of peace and prosperity between them. Nine years after the attack, what my friend experienced in America is what has become a mainstream mentality towards Muslim people (see: Islamophobia) that has held true for almost a decade now. It’s not getting any better.

When the news that a community centre housing a mosque was going to be built two blocks away from Ground Zero hit North America, it was accompanied by bigotry and a blind hatred towards the Islamic faith. Protesters gathered around the site of the proposed Islamic community center on Aug. 22 in an effort to condemn it.

According to a CNN report, hundreds of people waved banners, including one which read, “Land of the free. Stop sharia before it stops you.” Another banner read, “No Mosque here. Preserve the dignity of our loved ones killed on 9/11.”

The uproar created by the proposed building also caused Terry Jones, a pastor for Dove World Outreach, to host the upcoming “Burn a Qur’an Day” on Sept. 11 in Miami.

As Jones announced that he would host the hateful demonstration of ignorance and New York Governor David Paterson took up the fight to push the Islamic center further away from Ground Zero, eyes from outside the Western world will see a polarization of North Americans towards Islam. They will rightly perceive us as intolerant.

But the bottom line is that the mosque doesn’t promote anger and hatred—it’s those that hate that promote anger and hatred.

You know the saying, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people?” Well, it’s the same as religion: religious people don’t cause terror, terrorists cause terror.

When will it be acceptable for people from different religions to live and not create hyped-up media events that overwhelm truly important issues? When will we rid ourselves of this get-off-my­­­porch notion that outsiders are a threat?

Pushing people away from places of worship will not promote the type of peace and prosperity that everyone should want in a post-9/11 North America.

When a Miami church hosts International Burn a Qur’an day, it is pushing us further away from understanding and into the backwoods of bigotry.

When we engage with this mentality and look at our neighbours with it, a mosque could never be built far enough away from Ground Zero.

This article originally appeared in Volume 31, Issue 02, published August 24, 2010.