Thursday, September 09, 2010

Shana Tova, Eid Said!

MIHRAB in the great mosque, now a cathedral, Cordoba.
NURIA, waterwheel on the Guadalqivir (Wad el Kebir, Great River).
And statues of two great residents - Ibn Rushd (Averroes),1126-1198, below, and above Moshe Ben Maimon, (Maimonides), the Rambam, 1135-1204, both pioneers of rational thought.

TODAY is Rosh Hashana, or what is known as the Jewish New Year, and today - or in North America, tomorrow, September 10 - is the Muslim festival Eid al Fitr, which comes at the end of Ramadan.

So I thought I might use this happy co-incidence to offer festive greetings to my friends and readers.

It is also a time when President Obama has been hosting Israeli premier Benyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in an attempt to restart the Middle East "peace process" before America's mid-term elections, and while we may place neither trust nor hope in these leaders, we can re-affirm our hope that, in spite of them, the peoples' wish for genuine peace, peace with justice, will prevail.

Whatever the sincerity of Obama, the credibility of the United States as a force for peace or fairness of any kind has been undermined by the outburst of ignorance, bigotry and hatred that was sparked off by the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" affair. The wish of a Muslim society to set up a centre in New York, no more than a Muslim version of the YMCA by the sound of it, a couple of blocks away from the 9/11 World Trade Centre site, has been treated as an "outrage", with politicians and columnists thundering, a church pastor proposing to burn the Koran, supposedly respectable organisations like the Anti-Defamation League (sic) joining the opponents, and right-wing loonies with too much money parading a missile around the streets. Apparently a large percentage of Americans think that Obama is a Muslim, too. And many of the mosque opponents have made clear they are against Muslims and their institutions anywhere in the United States.

Newt Gingrich took particular exception to the Muslim charity involved being called the Cordoba project. According to this supposedly educated politician Cordoba in Spain symbolised Muslim triumphalism and intolerance. Well not in my book, nor most others I should think, and that is why I am illustrating this posting with pictures from Cordoba, a city of culture and wisdom long before the United States was founded.

The fact that there were Muslims among the 9/11 victims is ignored, in favour of blaming all Muslims for the attack. If the religion of the attackers were enough to rule out construction of a religious centre, there must surely be a large area of the globe on which enough crimes have been committed to make Christian places of worship out of the question? Faluja, in Iraq, for instance, where thousands were killed by US bombing, and the rate of birth defects and cancer reflects the diabolical weapons used.

One American commentator likened the project to having a Shinto shrine at Pearl Harbour. But surely a more appropriate comparison is with the Christian places at Hiroshima and Nagasaki? We might recall, too, that the Pilgrim Fathers, and others, came to America to escape the intolerance of Christian Europe, not Muslim Spain.

And point out, as others have, the reconstruction of the Magen Abraham synagogue in much-bombed Beirut as an example of tolerance and positivity from which New York could learn.

Finally, we can take heart from the fact that large numbers of Americans, of whatever religious affiliation and none, are now rallying against the anti-mosque protesters, and saying that anti-Muslim prejudice and hysteria is a threat to democratic rights for everyone in the United States.

Happy New Year, and awakening.

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