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The Middle East has traditionally been important for the world economy. The Middle East situation today has an impact on all aspects of life in America and much of the world.

Only by understanding the motivations of the various factions in the Middle East can we hope to understand how to promote peace and national security for Middle Eastern nations, Europe, and the United States.

Sep 2, 2010

The Islamic Cultural Center Controversy

The proposed construction of the Cordoba Islamic Cultural Center in Lower Manhattan has encountered immense opposition from conservatives and bigots. Some conservative Republicans and Democrats have been publicly opposed to the construction of the center near Ground Zero, despite the fact that it is located two blocks away from the 9/11 site. Such behavior on the part of politicians like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, who aspire to run for president, as well as Rich Lazio, who is a candidate for New York governor, is not unusual. Deception and misleading the public are characteristics of some politicians who put their own selfish interests ahead of the national interest of the U.S.

These politicians and others provide Osama bin Laden with the rationale he has been using, namely that "the U.S. in particular and the West in general, have been waging war against Islam." Bin Laden's call entices some young Muslims to join his jihad campaign to wage war against the U.S.

Furthermore, the conservative mass media is adding fuel to the fire by presenting Islam as an enemy of Christianity, Judaism and the American way of life. I would say, without a second thought, that the majority of the conservative American groups are politically naive and poorly informed. Throughout history, individuals, organized political groups and states have committed atrocities in the name of religion, whether it is Judaism, Christianity or Islam.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks by al-Qaeda or the atrocity committed by Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City have nothing to do with Islam or Christianity. Nevertheless, some politicians use such incidents for personal political gain to persuade the ignorant and bigoted people to oppose the construction of the Islamic Cultural Center.

In an article by Nicholas Kristof (New York Times, 8/21/2010), he warned that conservative groups that oppose the construction of the Islamic center are helping bin Laden, who has been advocating war against the U.S. Mr. Kristof used the crusades as an example of an organized campaign under the banner of Christianity. He noted that, "The crusaders massacred so many men, women and children in parts of Jerusalem that a Christian chronicler, Fulcher of Charters, described an area ankle-deep in blood. While burning Jews alive, the Crusaders sang, "Christ, we adore thee". What Mr. Kristof was referring to a call by Pope Benedict VII, who called on Christian political rulers of Europe to organize a war in the Middle East to save Christ's land. The irony of this was that "Christ's land" was inhabited by members of the three monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The Crusades lasted for two hundred years, but at the end those involved were defeated and expelled from the Middle East. The consequences of that war led to the rise of anti-Islamic feelings in the West, which have lasted for more than a thousand years. Political events frequently enhance ethnic and Islamic discrimination, which began to emerge during the Crusades.

Some Christian leaders refer to Islam as a religion of "violence". Islamophobia in Western society has been functioning in cyclical fashion for the last thousand years. It has been used by some politicians and religious leaders to further their own personal agenda. President George W. Bush referred to the Iraqi invasion as a "Crusader's war". He later apologized for misusing that phrase. Senator Reid, the Democratic Speaker of the Senate, stated publicly that he opposed construction of the mosque at the proposed location, while Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi would like to start an investigation into who is providing financial support for the mosque. The biggest disappointment is President Obama retracting from his original support of the construction of the mosque by saying that he never specified where the mosque should be built, only that those building it had the right to do so. President Obama's policy during the past two years reflects that he does not have the courage to keep the promises he made to those who supported him. "Yes we can" - what a big joke! The political slogan should be changed to "No, we cannot".

It is fortunate that, from a secular-legal point of view, the American Constitution protects individual religious beliefs and practices. However, it is a tragic thing that many conservatives and bigots are ignorant of the content of the constitution. There is still hope that some members of the American Congress have the moral courage to stand up for the real values and freedom guaranteed by the American Constitution to U.S. citizens.

Congressman Ron Paul's official stand is reflected in his statement on the controversy. The fact that so much attention has been given to the mosque debate raises the questions of "why" and "whom is it driven by?" Ron Paul's opinion is that it comes from the neo-Conservatives who demand continual war in the Middle East and Central Asia and are compelled to constantly justify it. "They never miss a chance to use hatred toward Muslims to rally support of the ill-conceived preventative wars."

*R.Paul "To Sunshine Patriots: Stop your Demagogue About the N.Y.C. Mosque" (RonPaul.com).

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