Passions are high. Understandably so:
Several proposed Islamic centers, including one near Ground Zero, have touched off a heated nationwide debate that raises questions about the state of religious tolerance in post-9/11 America.
A planned mosque and Islamic center, just a stone’s throw away from the World Trade Center site, even prompted Sarah Palin to send a series of Twitter posts Sunday asking peace-seeking Muslims to “pls reject it in the interest of healing.”
The possibility of an Islamic center in California compelled a Baptist minister, whose church would sit next door to the mosque, to compare the plan to putting cats and dogs in the same cage. In Murfreesboro, Tenn., a proposed mosque led to heated outbursts at public hearings, including threats to boycott any builder who works on it.
Opposition over mosque building appears to be at a new high and follows a recent string of thwarted terror plots involving American Muslims, say experts. Muslim leaders say the protests are built on bigotry and ignorance, while opponents say they have legitimate concerns over Islamic militancy.
It’s helpful to map the landscape of this issue, naming some pertinent features of what reasoned debate/conversation would need to address. In a future entry, we’ll explore these in more detail. For now, a partial list:
1. (a theological question): The nature of the universal/exclusivist claims of Christianity and Islam. (This pertains to the California Baptist minister’s characterization of a mosque and church next to one another being like putting cats and dogs next to one another.)
2. (a theological/psychological question): The nature and dynamics of healing. (This pertains to Sarah Palin’s tweet.)
3. (a religious/theological/political question): The relationship– or lack thereof– of Islamic teaching to radical jihadist rhetoric and “religious” violence.
4. (empirical, sociological questions): What can we truthfully say about the American Muslim community, in terms of demographics, countries of origin (if not the United States), cities and states with the largest Muslim communities, etc.?
5. (a historical question): What’s the history of American Christianity and Islam?
6. (a theological/psychological question): How does fear affect us and our relationships?