Unless you have been off-planet recently, you know that there are plans afoot to build a mosque in New York City, two blocks from Ground Zero. This would be no simple place of prayer but a $100 million, 13 storey structure that would be nothing short of impressive. Many Americans have, understandably, voiced their outrage. Much of it is reasoned if emotional in nature, but there are also predictable rants coming from the hard right and, of course, FOX News. Other Americans, meanwhile, have voiced tolerance and even support. U.S. President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have both made statements that it is right for Americans to allow this; that it may well be a testament to tolerance and religious freedom. A short video of Obama's speech is included below.
In Canada, we watch the developments to the south with interest because America is, after all, our closest neighbor, our ally, our biggest trading partner, and the source of many of our favorite TV shows. We may not agree with everything that happens in the States, but that's not surprising. Rarely do members of the same family agree on everything. Consequently, ordinary Canadians have also voiced their own opinion in support of and in opposition to this so-called "Ground Zero Mosque".
What I find fascinating in all of this is that there is also some very vocal and stern opposition to the plan coming out of Canada. It's not that it would be unusual for Canadians to have opinions on what is happening south of our border. What is fascinating to me is the source of at least some of this opposition; Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Muslim Congress. Visit their Website and you will see the following:
"Proposal for a mosque at site of 9/11 tragedy is nothing short of a 'fitna' or making mischief"
In a letter that was delivered to Imam Faisal Rauf on Tuesday, August 10, the MCC stated, “Many Muslims suspect that the idea behind the Ground Zero mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation, to thumb our noses at the 'infidel.' We believe the proposal has been made in bad faith and, in Islamic parlance, is creating 'fitna,' meaning 'mischief-making,' an act clearly forbidden in the Qur’an.”
Raheel Raza, a board member of the Canadian Muslim Congress delivered the letter. She was later interviewed on CBC Radio's "The Current" (listen to the program here) where she spoke passionately about why building the proposed mosque is a bad idea. She also questions the real reason behind the plan and even the source of the funding, suggesting that the very source of the 9/11 attacks may in fact be helping to pay for it. Interesting questions indeed.
Later in the same segment, we get an opposing view from Globe and Mail columnist, Sheema Khan. These interviews are in the first of the two segments on that page.
I invite you to spend the few minutes it takes to listen to this interview. It's quite fascinating.