04 January 2012

A "Really?" Moment concerning a Tippecanoe Islamic Center

I did not attend the meeting, but just saw this article on Tippecanoe County approving a rezoning for an Islamic Center. The article pretty much gave me a quick reaction of "Really people? Really?" I was glad the center was approved, but was surprised at some of the comments people made.

Currently there is an Islamic center near campus. I regularly walk by it to get between my dorm and academic campus. It isn't much, a two story building and a gazebo. It is clear they don't have enough parking at times, but I have not ever seen it rowdy. It is pretty much what you would expect from a religious center. To my knowledge the center itself is not a source of disruption.

The article shows one person worried about increased pollution, essentially an issue with any building being built in an agricultural area. Something I can understand, I have my own reservations about suburban sprawl, and I think we should generally encourage growth inside cities rather than development outside of them. That is understandable, and nothing to complain about.

The problem are the rest of the comments. Here is one that really irks me:
"They voted to rezone property for the Islamic Society to build a community center, an elementary school and a mosque," Hall said. "Shouldn't those 13 government members of the commission consider the implications of putting American citizens in harm's way?"
How in the world are American citizens being put in harms way by this? I mean I may be misunderstanding this quote, I wasn't there, and they could mean increased traffic or something, but I'm assuming that isn't the case. I think the implication is very anti-Muslim. I would like an explanation of how this puts American citizens in harm's way. Really, how? I really hope they mean something like traffic or the dangers of suburban sprawl.

I just don't get it. Sure, I dislike how many different groups' rights are treated in Islam. I think women having to cover their hair is archaic. I think the treatment of LGBTQ people by the Islamic religion is often appalling. I dislike the notion that there is only one correct way, that theirs is the only one correct answer, and I think those stem strongly from monotheism. Yet to think that the Muslims in the Lafayette area are in some way putting American citizens in danger is wrong. I may disagree heavily with the religion, but it has as much of a right to build a community center as any other religion. A right I firmly believe should be protected.

Another statement that bothers me is this:
"Bottom line, my concern about your position is why not pledge allegiance to the flag?" Davis said.
I know of a few people who belong to Christian groups that do not pledge allegiance to the flag because they won't pledge allegiance to anything but their god. Would one of these Christian groups be questioned on this point if they had been the ones wanting to build the center? I don't say the pledge of allegiance because I think nationalism is dangerous, if I wanted to have this rezoned to put a used bookstore there, would that be questioned of me? Just because somebody doesn't say the pledge of allegiance doesn't mean they hate America.

I am concerned that people would question the right of an Islamic community center to be built. It makes me very uncomfortable. On Hillel (the campus Jewish center), there is a sign stating that the property is under video surveillance. I worry that this says something about the campus community, and I don't like what it has to say. I think of the things that people yell at the Islamic center from their cars. I think of the vandalism that has occurred to the Society of Nontheists' display case, or to various organization's fliers that are frequently removed. I think of some of the experiences I have had (College of Ag, being shouted at, and of course fliers). I think of the Purdue Diversity Assessment. These events don't bode well for the religious (and lack thereof) inclusiveness of the Purdue community. It seems pretty one-sided to me. I hope the situation improves.

I also quickly want to make a plug for Purdue's online bias reporting form. If you personally feel that you have experienced religious bias (or any other bias for that matter), even if it is trivial, I encourage you to send in a statement on this form. You can report anonymously, and action does not have to be taken, but it is important for the administration to realize just how big of a problem these issues are. Maybe then they will be able to take action.

1 comment:

  1. After seeing the community come so far in my years there, it's sad to see it take so many steps back. I'm glad the zoning passed, but for any religious group who doesn't seek to violate another's rights to have to fight so hard is embarrassing. Great writing on the subject, however.