Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Burlington Coat Factory -- Hallowed Ground.

The American people are incredibly wonderful, forgiving people. It amazes me. Not many people would be so forgiving. Yesterday the New York City Landmarks Preservation commissioners unanimously denied landmark status to the 152-year-old Burlington Coat Factory building that currently stands on the site where the Islamic community plans to build a mosque, the Cordoba Initiative. The Burlington Coat Factory was a retail store until September 11, 2001, when landing gear from one of planes that brought down the World Trade Center crashed through the roof. Preserving the Burlington Coat Factory as a landmark building would have prevented any changes in its structure, and would have ended any controversy regarding the building of a mosque.  According to Debra Burlingame, whose brother died in the Pentagon on 9/11, "This is a place which is 600 feet from where almost 3,000 people were torn to pieces by Islamic extremists.” I sometimes struggle with the concept of forgiveness, but I do understand it. Forgiveness is more for the forgiver than for the forgiven. It helps us to move on, to release any ill feelings about whatever perceived slight has been done to us. It frees us. I admire people who can forgive so easily. It's a gift, a blessing.  But so is sensitivity to other people.

Ground Zero is a cemetery; it is hallowed ground. There are still the remains of people there who died on 9/11, and there is as yet no memorial built for them.  Regardless of how one views the building of a mosque at that particular location, to those folks who lost family members and friends there it can only serve as a painful reminder of the religious extremism that killed their loved ones.  It's not about "cultural racism" or bigotry, but rather it is about the fact that if it is going to cause pain to anyone at all, it should not go ahead.  And it has already generated enough controversy that it is causing pain and anguish for too many people. 

My philosophy is "When in doubt ... don't."  So, I am personally opposed to building a mosque at Ground Zero, simply because I think it is incredibly insensitive in the circumstances -- but that is just my opinion, and I am usually wrong.  However, I do admire and respect the forgiveness of the American people.  Perhaps that's the lesson to be learned here.

"Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heal that has crushed it."

--Mark Twain


Charles Gramlich said...

No good will come of it. I'm sure of that.

Teri said...

As an American person I am ABSOLUTELY opposed to the building of the mosque near Ground Zero. It has nothing to do with forgiveness (which does NOT mean forgetting). I don't believe for a "New York minute" that it is happenchance that they want to put a mosque in that particular location. I think it is a calculated move and I think it is absolutely WRONG to let it happen.

So says this American.

Katy said...

I think one of the great things about America is that we all have different ways of looking at things.

Is this really about fogiveness? Do we as Americans really need to forgive all Muslims for the act of wackos? Is it a calculated move? The man behind the project is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf who is a native to NYC. He is a moderate and a writer. The project is not just a mosque, but also a cultural center and auditorium that would promote an interfaith dialogue.

I get that people are upset and maybe if I lived in New York I would understand the dynamics better, but from where I sit in Texas it just looks like people are giving into knee jerk reactions and feeding the narrative of the anti-Islamic West that is promoted by al-Qaeda.

Russell said...

I am not familiar with this situation other than bits and pieces I have heard on the radio or TV.

How or why a mosque could be built on this particular location seems very odd and very wrong.

I agree with you that this area is hallowed ground and should be respected.

Jo said...

Charles, I think you're right.

Teri, the Burlington Coat Factory building has been used as a mosque for several years now, since 9/11. It doesn't feel right to me.

Katy, I would like to agree with you, but unfortunately I think there is a lack of sensitivity on the part of the folks who want to build a mosque there. Of course all Muslims are not to blame for 9/11, but it was done in the name of Islam. I would prefer to see a non-denominational memorial built there, that would truly promote an inter-faith dialogue. This huge mosque just doesn't feel right.

Russell, yes it is hallowed ground, and I odn't understand why a mosque is being built, but as yet there is still no memorial to the 3,000 people who died such a horrific, unexpected death there, or to their loved ones. It puzzles me.

Kathy's Klothesline said...

I am with you on this! It is extremely insensitive to the families of those still there and should not happen. Our current "leadership" leaves much to be desired ...

Jo said...

Kathy, I think your thoughts are probably in the majority. Unfortunately, people want to be "politically correct". I wish they would build a proper memorial there. That would be more appropriate.

Linda said...

I live in KS, and I don't think a mosque needs to be built there. They are popping up all over the country, and it is like the Muslims are thumbing their noses at us. Why do Americans always need to be the sensitive ones? If there is sensitivity to be shown, let the ones who flew the planes be the sensitive ones. That will never happen!

heartinsanfrancisco said...

Of course you know my views on this, which have not changed since I wrote a post about it when I first heard of the plan. I do not think it is about forgiveness, no matter how we would like to dress it in such clothing, but about fear. It is appeasement, similar to holding out ones lunch on a long stick to a large, vicious dog which is snarling at ones park bench. Cowardice and willful stupidity.

The fact that there is still no memorial to the many who died on that day while this celebration of victory proceeds is simply disgusting. I know that not all Muslims are responsible for what happened there, but if they are truly well-meaning, they should prove it by building their mosque elsewhere.

ABranch said...

Katy, I could not agree with you more. Very well stated.

myletterstoemily said...

i agree with you completely except on
one point. you are never wrong! :)

it is completely arrogant, insensitive,
and outrageous for a mosque to be built
on ground zero.

Maureen said...

This is a huge controversy here in downtown Manhattan,the decision had more to do with issues regarding historical buildings than the plans for the mosque.

Jo said...

Linda, I think building a mosque in that particular area is going to cause a lot of people a lot of pain, and that's what bothers me. It is not so much the mosque, per se, but where it is located.

Susan, that's the part that disturbs me -- there is no memorial to the people who died. Something is not right, and I'm not sure what it is. It just doesn't feel right.

ABranch, I think people need to be sensitive to what buildings they put up over the graves of other people. And that area is indeed a gravesite. It is a matter of sensitivity.

Lea, I can see there are lots of people who don't agree with us, but in any case, I firmly believe there should not be a mosque there. It's just wrong -- no matter how people try to explain it.

Maureen, case in point -- the huge controversy in Manhattan. And if the building had been preserved as a historical site, the mosque would not have been given the green light to go ahead.


Having just signed the petition to disallow the mosque (as are many signing and becoming active in stopping this), I feel it will be something that might possibly 'die off' and go away in due time, without much noise.

Obviously if they conclude that more want the center/mosque/whatever they plan to create from it, to be put elsewhere, then the powers that be will probably put enough obstacles in place to slow (or terminate) the idea.

Sometimes bold statements and bold acts that are definitely going to fire up adversity, are made public only to gauge the 'weather' out there.

There is a big storm a-coming and that's what those who are testing the waters have learned; we might just see that mosque move down the street - mighty far down.

Remember, they're not just gathering information about what Americans think of this cultural center,etc., but just what % of Americans are ready to accept an increase in their religious rituals, and just how far they might be able to 'pop up' without difficulty.

Sadly, we're back to religion and religious differences - if it's not one in some far away country from the USA, it's a dispute with the Mormon way of life, or tagging someone for being a extreme right-wing Christian, etc. etc.

I'm so glad I left the church in 1968 and have followed no religion (other than to learn about it); religious differences have seemed to trigger way too many wars and catastrophic events.

I'm reminded of Simon and Garfunkel when they said, 'Too many have died in the name of Christ for anyone to believe it all'....

I hope the news is good; I hope there will be compromise so there won't be conflict and potential violence as this issue evolves.

Jo said...

Diane, I did a post not long ago about how divisive religion is, and this just proves it for me. Religious differences have caused more wars than anything else. This mosque will not promote any kind of peaceful conversation between the faiths. For anyone who wants to read it, here is a complete list of names of everyone who died that day. Perhaps folks should ask them what they think. I'm sure they would tell us ... if they could.

KrippledWarrior said...

We can forgive. But we have a long memory, and we won't be forgetting anytime soon.
It's great having such friendly neighbors as yourselves.

Jo said...

Kurt, it seems as if people have forgotten already. Can you even conceive of anyone building a mosque at that site six months or a year after it happened? But now, nine years later, it's okay. That definitely is forgiveness.

Kathryn said...

I only heard about this yesterday.

I love your post, Jo, with its sensitivity & looking at the whole issue of forgiveness.

I'm not sure that forgiveness is the issue here, however. I think it is more that folks don't have much say in who is sold a property & what is allowed to be built upon it.

Jo said...

Kathryn, yes. In this instance, unfortunately that is true.

DJan said...

I don't know what will come of all this, but I fear that such a flashpoint as this mosque will end up with people showing how really really vicious they can be. I have cried many tears over 9/11 along with many other people around the world. I cannot understand how anything other than time will heal this terrible wound.

And I sure don't know what the answer is. Forgiveness is one person at a time, one encounter at a time.

Jo said...

Djan, I have a very close friend who is an office designer. She designed some of the offices in the World Trade Centre, and she lost some friends on 9/11. She is devastated by the thought of building a mosque at that site. And yes, forgiveness is one person at a time, one encounter at a time.

agunes/anlifu said...

that s not an issue of forgiveness..neither americans nor muslims can forgive the executer of the event. both americans and muslim communities damned that terrorist attact.. A muslim can not be a terrorist and a terrorist is not regarded as a muslim.. everybody know that the back of the stage is totally different. I think america owes muslims an apology to bring all muslims under suspicion. america should do something for this and that mosque project is the first step.
I also agree with u that it should be started to built a memorial for the died people.

Linda said...

Well, Jo, I try not to be argumentative, but I disagree with aguines. Of course, not all Muslims are terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslim. They should be sensitive to the Americans, and build their mosques a LONG way away from ground zero. IMHO

Wenderina said...

I have to be in the minority here. I am no friend to organized religion of any faith - but I am a huge supporter of freedom of expression and the rights to worship - or not - as suits your own conscience. A right on which the U.S. was founded.

While I see that a NYC resident commented that the real controversy was in the historic buildings issue, the public outcry is about what will replace the building moreso than if we will replace the building.

Is it less respectful to plan a Starbucks in that location? Is it less respectful if it is a church based in Christianity? How about Judaism? And yes, it is "hallowed ground" and a cemetary, but that isn't stopping NY from rebuilding office towers and roadways? Also subway stations and railways.

I'm not looking for a debate here, I just wanted to represent the other side of the story. What is it about the project that has everyone so upset? I fear it is more about the continuing fear of anything related to the Islamic faith than it is to protecting the memories of the fallen.

It has been said, Islamic Extremists are to Islam, what KKK is to Christianity. The actions of a crazy few do not represent the majority in either case. We cannot continue as a country to marginalize every group that has an extreme faction that acts out in violence or insane behavior.

This is a constructive use of the neighborhood space. It takes a blighted damaged building that is a reminder of a horrible day 9 years ago and turns it into a community center that will promote a greater understanding and hopefully some day help to bridge the gap between diverse cultures.

Banning this mosque makes as much sense to me as banning airplanes in the sky over NYC. To me they are a greater reminder of that horrible event than anything, yet after 2-3 days they returned to the sky and to the view from every remaining skyscraper in NY.

Jo said...

Agunes/Anlifu, thank you for your comment. In 1993 Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and a group of terrorists initiated the first attacks on the World Trade Centre and six people were killed. The same individual then initiated the second attacks in September 2010 and almost 3,000 people were killed. Recently a fellow named Faisal Shahzad tried to blow a car up outside a theater in New York. His attempt failed. The street was filled with families -- children. My family had been in that exact spot just two years prior to that. There but for the Grace of God...

Unfortunately, these attacks were done in the name of Islam, and unfortunately, there is no escaping that truth. That is not to say that all Americans blame all Muslims. Not at all. Goodness...! I have Muslim colleagues and co-workers, and they are lovely people.

Everyone wishes this had not happened. But sometimes the best thing to do is nothing, and I think this is one of those cases. Sometimes if something is forced onto people, it just causes more resentment, and I have a feeling this is going to be one of those times. No one can undo what was done.

“The Moving Finger writes and having writ,
Moves on; nor all your piety nor wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
Nor all your tears blot out a word of it."

... Omar Khayyam

Linda, I don't think you are being argumentative. I'm afraid in this case I agree with you.

Wenderina, I agree with you in principle, but not in the fact of this case. I think building a mosque there will cause pain to the victims' loved ones, and indeed is already proving to be the case. The KKK did not represent Christianity so much as they represented a violent sector of southern Baptists, so I don't see that connection. But in any case, Christians have been just as brutal down through the ages, and does not excuse what has been done in the name of any religion. The point of my post is not about anti-religion, but about sensitivity towards victims of a dreadful crime. It would be nice to think that the human race is just one big happy family, and that we are all in a big, warm, fuzzy group hug, but the sad fact is we are not. We are human, and people should not feel guilty about having a human, gut reaction to something. Political correctness will rule out, and the mosque will be built, and bad feelings will fester.

kenju said...

AMEN. I could never have said it better. It is an incredibly insensitive move on the part of Islam.

Jo said...

Judy, yes, that is the best word to destribe it -- insensitive. Most definitely...!

joanne said...

plain and simple; it is an outrage to even consider doing this. Wrong is wrong and this is by far a bad decision that will come back to haunt us all.

Jo said...

JoJo, you said it...! It will come back to haunt everyone, in ways they can't even imagine.

the walking man said...

Osama Bin Laden said that Islam is the religion of peace. Hell that is a nice peaceful spot for a mosque of a religion with sects that preach hate. Listen to or read a sermon from any Saudi Wahhabi Imam or Bin Ladens Fatwa of 1996.

All religions should be denied property and possession. Let them live in the heart of men and not the buildings where they plan murder and assassinations. I'd rather see another multiplex movie theater there than any church from any god damned religion. Including Mohamed's Islam.

Carol E. said...

I can only WISH that we Americans would be as forgiving as you give us credit for. I don't find that to be true in most cases. We seem to hold grudges for long periods of time.

Rebecca Nelson said...

Thanks for the hydrangea tips, Jo! I'm going to try everything!

What I understand most about forgiveness is this...

It is said in God's word that if we don't forgive others our Father in heaven will not forgive us. (Matthew 6:15)

Thanks enough for me...


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