I credit the New York Post with printing the single worst article I have ever read. Entitled "Mosque madness at Ground Zero" and published on May 13, it makes a mockery of the site where 3,000 Americans lost their lives, and it makes a mockery of the diligent leaders trying to build a community center several blocks away -- hosted by the Muslim community, but open to all of New York. Sources used to discredit the community center include a representative from the oh-so-venerable group Stop Islamicization of America and "fed-up New Yorkers" (nearly all unnamed) purportedly crying "'no!"' What more does one need for a masterpiece in fear-mongering?
In spite of the author's dubious intentions and obvious bias against the community center, "Mosque madness" created a firestorm in the press. The "mosque" with a pool, entertainment center, and conference space became an object of fear in people's minds. Even more respected news sources reiterated the "anger" the "mosque" was causing all of New York (still largely unnamed).
Then, in order to ensure that subtlety was not lost on us, Tea Party leader Mark Williams decided to jump on board -- first on Monday and then again later in the week. One hopes that his perspective represents rock bottom for discourse on the subject:
The monument would consist of a Mosque for the worship of the terrorists' monkey-god (repeat: "the terrorists' monkey-god." if you feel that fits a description of Allah then that is your own deep-seated emotional baggage not mine, talk to the terrorists who use Allah as their excuse and the Muslims who apologize for and rationalize them) and a "cultural center" to propagandize for the extermination of all things not approved by their cult.
Pure barbarity. Even so, Williams' comments clarify a great deal of what has gone on since the New York Post created the story that never was.
The community center is intended to memorialize the lives lost on September 11 and create a space downtown for Muslims, Jews, Christians, and New Yorkers of all stripes to gather. Yet the notion that Islam has become so rooted in America as to have its practitioners actually host a community center for others caused fear. Adjustments are always difficult -- fear is a natural emotion. The difference between Williams (thankfully not a New Yorker) and the majority of New Yorkers, however, is that Williams has become a tool of fear.
Rather than owning his fear, rather than dealing with his fear, rather than (heaven forbid) trying to understand Islam, meet Muslims, and appreciate the beauty of another religious tradition, Williams succumbed to his fear.
I don't know if Williams has ever met a Muslim. But with as many as 1.5 billion Muslims in the world, he surly has not met them all. Yet the fear that seized him, the fear that a tiny group of radicals who attacked America has given him, has enabled him to curse the rest. So he added a vicious streak to the torrent of hate that transpired from fear.
September 11 caused all New Yorkers great fear. But it did not make us tools. Certainly not tools of fear. It's time to welcome Cordoba House to the city, or at least voice our concerns with respect.
Follow Rabbi Joshua Stanton on Twitter: www.twitter.com/JoshuaMZStanton