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Eugene Weekly : Notes from the Riverside : 9.9.10




The Mending

Our own history of desecration 

by Mark Harris

In decrying the Cordoba Initiative’s plans for building a Muslim interfaith center, conceptually built along the lines of a YMCA, or Jewish Community Center, the descriptors of a “victory mosque” ring a little hollow coming from conservative Christians and others.

Osama bin Laden is to Islam what Columbus, the Ku Klux Klan, and the Cavalry are to Christianity — not the best religious exemplars. Unlike Mohammed, Jesus didn’t lead armies. But Christian soldiers (when Christianity was considered whites only) inflicted atrocities upon Native Americans and African-Americans — atrocities whose trauma has not healed to this day. This is not to say that 9/11 survivor trauma is insignificant, but barring the Cordoba Institute’s plans is not the way to healing, if America’s skill at healing older and deeper traumas is any gauge. 

It has been written that war is terrorism with a bigger budget. The body count of Christian terrorism on this continent dwarfs that of Muslim terrorism on this continent, and it’s even greater when you add the legacy of the slave trade, and more than a century of legal segregation reinforced with terrorism — a terrorism, I might add, which enjoyed social and legal protection until fairly recently.  

Hitler wrote that he took his cues for the “Final Solution” for the Jews from the American treatment of Native Americans. In the context of bringing Western Civilization to the Americas, and the process of Manifest Destiny, at the low end, the process of reducing the population of at least 60 million Native Americans, to three or four million today, is the equivalent of one 9/11 every day for 54 years. If you use the figures many Native Americans agree on, 150 million, then it’s one 9/11 every day for 137 years. 

Erecting the Pentagon, Mount Rushmore and Stone Mountain on Native American sacred sites certainly looks like a Christian victory dance to me.  I don’t think carving dead white men’s faces and images on mountains is an improvement over God’s natural handiwork, but a desecration. Building Wall Street on the graves of African slaves is also a desecration, and not “What Jesus Would Do.”

The Klan, in addition to burning and bombing, contributed to lynching easily 10,000 African-Americans, including returning soldiers — all without any protest or prosecution from mainstream Christianity, or most American presidents. Every Confederate flag celebrates those values.

The Cordoba Initiative’s ideas come from the city which in the 10th and 11th centuries was the largest (500,000) and most advanced in Europe. In the middle of the Dark Ages, Cordoba boasted the largest library in the world, one million volumes. Moorish conquest brought libraries, fountains, gardens, culture, medicine, science, architecture, mathematics, finance and art. They fostered a religious tolerance which allowed the building of synagogues and churches as well as mosques. All this “progress” was erased later by the Inquisition. Al-Gebra means The Mending. Some folks make messes, other folks clean it up. A Muslim interfaith center of learning, modeled after the YMCA, or Jewish Community Centers, should be built near Ground Zero.

Mark Harris is an instructor and substance abuse prevention coordinator at LCC.