Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Our Hearts He Broke: The Provocation of the Mosque
"Our hearts he broke, he burned the Torah,
burned the Torah,
Ash and smoke and crushed Menorah,
In the time of Hadrian, Emperor of Rome, the study and practice
of Torah were forbidden. The teachers of Israel said: "How survive
without the Tree of Life? Why live when the soul is dead?" And so
they taught and learned and in doing so, Israel's ten
martyrs were taken and doomed. . . Hanniniah ben Teriadon
was wrapped in a Scroll of the Law and placed on a pyre
of green brushwood and burned alive. As he was so burned,
he opened his mouth and cried: "I see! I see!"
His students asked: "Master, what do you see?" And he answered:
"I see the parchment burning while the letters of the Law soar upward . . ."
What we have here is a story of provocation and counter-provocation. They are not equal in weight.
The original provocation--the announcement that a mosque-cum-community center will be built at Ground Zero--is explosive. The site has become to Americans a sacred place. A place to which the entire people of the United States look to honor those who were murdered by fire on that day so awful that it instantly became known by its numbers: 9-11. Most of the bodies of the dead were never recovered, having been vaporized in the extreme heat of burning jet fuel, or pulverized into elements and compounds by the weight of the buildings coming down upon their heads. There is no cemetary to go to, no place where the mortal remains of the murdered have been laid to rest. There is only a hole in the ground and a reflecting pool at the place where they died. A place that is on some of the most expensive real estate in the civilized world. They are in some ineffable way there, where their lives were deliberately taken, in the name of Islam; and when we go there or hearken to them in our hearts that were broken that day, we are standing in that sacred space.
That those buildings, full of civilians who went there to work in the service of their own individual lives, goals and happiness, were attacked and destoyed in the name of Islam, is not in dispute. The men who planned the hijacking of the airplanes--and the murder of everyone on them as well--and the men who duly flew them into the Twin Towers, all did so in the name of jihad--holy war--a duty for all who have submitted to the god of Islam in the name of Mohammed, the Prophet of Islam. That there are those Moslems who do not accept such behavior in their own names is real enough, but very few of them have publically abjured the murder of the "infidel" in the name of jihad and in the name of Islam. And even if the vast majority of Muslims worldwide had stood up against the jihadists of that day, and even if they had not celebrated the murder of innocents from 'Arabia to Zanzibar', they would have so stood against these murders out of shame for what was done in the name of Islam,and in their own names.
It is simply unbelievable that Imam Faisel Rauf and his wife do not understand how absolutely inappropriate is the construction of a mosque anywhere near the sacred place where innocents were deliberately killed in the name of Islam. If this Imam is indeed a moderate Muslim who understands American culture, then he knows. And his wife knows, too.
It would be like erecting a shrine to German culture at Auschwitz. It is true that every German did not condone the actions of the German National Socialist Party, and nevertheless the murder of European Jews was done in their name. Most German individuals are not responsible for those murders, but nevertheless they have the sensitivity to understand the pain such a building would bring to the survivors and their families. They have manners. And of course, Germans the world over do not dance in the streets to cheer on the Nazis, nor do they regularly gather in large groups to shout "Death to the Jews." A majority of Muslims the world over have and do. And the Imam and his wife dwell in America and could stand to develop some sensitivity toward American values, manners and mores. That they refuse to do so casts great doubt upon their stated motives.
In a very real sense, Ground Zero represents to Americans the burning of sacred text. The sacred text that is written large upon the lives of ordinary Americans, who in going about their daily work were in that moment pursuing happiness. They were the living text of the American dream. And in the next moment, the jet fuel brought upon their heads by the jihadist hijackers turned them and the work of their hands into an auto-da-fe for Islam. When the buildings came down and the ashes poured through the streets of Manhattan, we all watched the sacred letters of their lives rise toward the heavens in the form of a myriad of papers wafting into the perfectly clear blue Tuesday morning sky.
The mosque at that sacred place, the place where the living texts of American lives were vaporized, crushed and burned, all in the name of Islam, is a very large provocation. It is made even larger by the habit Islamists have had for centuries, the habit of erecting their mosques on the crushed ruins of places of worship the world over; the ruins of the peoples that Islam has conquered by the sword.
It should stop here. It should stop now. If there is a moderate Islam--and we are waiting to see evidence of it in the actions of the supposed moderate Imam Rauf--then such triumphalism should end now. At Ground Zero, that sacred place.