Teachable Moment: Mosque in Manhattan
I know this is a blog about education and an opportunity to share information about how important it is to continue your education, formally or informally. But this might be a teachable moment, as the controversy about the Mosque and Community Center in Manhattan near Ground Zero continues to be front and center in the news. As educated people our job is to be able to find reliable information about those topics that impact and interest us. We must be able to find answers to questions in order to make informed decisions and develop and support our opinions.
In addition to learning about “stuff” or content in particular disciplines, education allows us to learn more about other people and their beliefs. Education in the broadest sense is all about recognizing other perspectives and learning that our world view is not in fact THE world view.
Education is also about understanding the framework or structures that governs us, again formally and informally, and informs our actions. From an informal perspective that would mean our behavior reflects the rules and expectations of our family and school and work place. From a formal perspective that would include the legal system, our local and national laws. And our Constitution, particularly the First Amendment says
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Our country is based on freedom of religion and freedom of speech, both guaranteed by the First Amendment. Some argue that the First Amendment is the most important amendment. So it is critical to recognize that we have the legal right to disagree and voice our opinions, but we also have the right to religious freedom.
Many people in the US confuse Islam, the fastest growing religion in the world, with Al Qaeda. One is a religion and the other a terrorist group. Confusing the two is like assuming all Christians are part of something like the Ku Klux Klan. Small violent groups of people can give the larger peaceful groups a bad name, and the educated person is one who delves deep to find more answers before forming an opinion.
If you dug deep on this issue you may find that the group building this Mosque and Community Center is doing so on private property and they have been in the community longer than the terrorist attack of 9/11. You may find that group does good work and needs new space to support their community. You may also find that you would prefer they find other space to expand. Whatever conclusion you come to, do your own research. Don’t rely on politicians who are pandering to fear and intolerance. Educate and think for yourself.