Posted by Tania Kindersley.
I do not understand why the proposal to establish an Islamic cultural centre in a derelict building appears to be the only thing that any television person in America is talking about this week.
I actually really don't.
I also find it quite hard to understand why it makes me quite so angry. I am an old atheist, after all. (Could never quite square the gods with the suffering.) But I am also an old liberal, and I can't bear to see an entire group of people, one billion in this case, smeared with the actions of seventeen of their co-religionists.
This is a cultural centre. It is going to have a pool hall. It is not a massive mosque with soaring minarets, built in the very place the jets hit, peopled with preachers calling for Death to America. It is two blocks away, on a non-descript street. It is headed by a moderate Imam who worked with the Bush administration. Yet apparently this is 'an insult to the dead'. I keep thinking: were there only Christian dead? I heard a woman on the wireless today say: 'It is about our heroes, the first responders.' I saw a Muslim firefighter being interviewed yesterday on MSNBC; she rushed into the Twin Towers to help the afflicted on that devastating day. Presumably, she does not count.
I find it inexplicable that Chuck Todd, a respected political commentator, says that it is politically dangerous for President Obama to state that America was built on the idea of religious freedom. The President's observation is like saying America is a very big country north of Mexico. The whole point of America is that it was founded by people fleeing religious persecution. Those founding fathers knew well what over-mighty governments could do to those whose gods were not approved. The great genius of America is its separation of church and state. So how could it be controversial that its president stands up and gently states one of its self-evident truths? I understand nothing.
I find it even odder that the people who are crossest about this, who have accused Obama of not understanding 'real' Americans, of not 'getting it', are those on the hard right. These are the people who bang on about the founding fathers all the time. They are always waving their second amendment rights about when they want to carry a loaded rifle in a public place. Yet, suddenly, the first amendment counts for nothing. How does that even happen?
The extrapolation is so crazed that it makes me feel as if my head is about to explode. The argument is: 9/11 was perpetrated by Muslims, therefore anything Islamic within spitting distance of the World Trade Centre is desecrating hallowed ground. This logic means that all one billion Muslims are to blame. If we were to live by this argument, then there should be no Catholic churches in Belfast, on account of the IRA. Come to that, there should be no Catholic churches near a school anywhere, on account on the paedophile priests. Let's take it further. In this country, 93% of the prison population is male. By the anti-Muslim logic, we should not allow any men to gather in groups in any place, because they are all criminals.
I can't help thinking that this has something to do with brown people. I keep thinking: if all Muslims looked like Jeremy Paxman, would anyone be having this argument?
It's also such a stupid argument. There are serious intellectual challenges that should be made to all religions. I get very sad about the Church of England and its refusal to allow women bishops. I do not understand why women may not worship alongside men in mosques. I find the Pope's teachings on condoms baffling. Everyone should have these debates and discussions. But someone can't go around telling people where they may or may not worship, just because it induces an uncomfortable reaction, based not on logic but on some kind of knee-jerk emotionalism.
I would love to ban the burqa. It makes me excessively sad to see a whole human disappeared under an unwieldy mess of heavy cloth, merely because she has ovaries. Some days, all I want in the world is to set the women free with my bare hands. But I can't. If something is legal, and doing no harm to others, then I must let it be.
Without freedom of expression we are nothing. We are North Korea. In a free country where all religions are allowed, you cannot start choosing the ones you do or do not like. Otherwise it's: first they came for the communists, and then they came for the Jews. And we all know how that turned out.
Now, after all that seriousness, some soothing photographs for you:
The lovely lavender (very soothing):
The last of the honeysuckle:
The calm green mint:
And, because one of my very kind readers seemed a little sad that there were no dog pictures yesterday, here are some to make up the omission:
Perhaps if I waved these at the cross, illogical shouty people they would stop yelling, on account of the beauty. This could be an excellent new mission: dogs for peace and understanding. It surely must be worth a try.