I used the above picture during my week-long summer history institutes, as well as in my US history classes to illustrate the notion of American terrorism, religion, and white supremacy during Reconstruction. It seems that many believe the KKK existed before Reconstruction — but that is simply not the case. Whites seeking to recapture the South in the name of God and white supremacy sought to terrorize blacks and sympathetic whites. If you look at the image carefully, it portrays a change of the guard. At one point, blacks were enslaved thus controlled by environmental factors that worked against them. After the 13th Amendment, blacks were legally emancipated.
I am very careful in my class to illustrate to students that the KKK took on this role and act of terrorism in the name of Christianity; however, the reality regardless of their justifications is one that does not speak towards Christianity. The United States consist of a number of hate groups. Many of them claim to be doing the will of God. In truth, we as Americans know this is not the case. Moreover, Americans recognize that said groups only undermine the mission and faith of many loyal followers of Jesus Christ. Before 9/11, the worst act of terrorism to take hold on American soil was that of the Oklahoma City bombing; it was here that Timothy McVeigh invoked an act of terrorism on innocent Americans. Later, he will claim that he was driven to do so because it was God’s will. In a 2001 Time Magazine interview, he states:
Time: Are you religious?
McVeigh: I was raised Catholic. I was confirmed Catholic (received the sacrament of confirmation). Through my military years, I sort of lost touch with the religion. I never really picked it up, however I do maintain core beliefs.
Time: Do you believe in God?
McVeigh: I do believe in a God, yes. But that’s as far as I want to discuss. If I get too detailed on some things that are personal like that, it gives people an easier way [to] alienate themselves from me and that’s all they are looking for now.
I use the above examples to state that it would seem asinine for non-Christians to protest against a group of Christians wanting to build a church a block from where the old federal building once stood, simply because McVeigh was an American terrorist and Christian. I suspect that non-Christians realize the acts of McVeigh and other hate groups do not reflect the Christian community. So, if that is the case, then why are so many non-Muslims against the Manhattan mosque? I am sure such Americans realize that this center will be a showcase of hope and freedom.
By allowing Muslims to construct an Islamic center in Manhattan, Americans will be showing the world that we do stand behind the 1st Amendment of the Constitution and its values. The United States is not Iran…a state that would never allow a Christian center. Also, Americans might just weaken radical Islamic terrorist groups by allowing such a center to teach what is good and virtuous about the Qu’ ran and its 1 billion followers. I do believe this center is a good thing for both the Muslim and non-Muslim community. This is not an Obama matter; it is not a liberal or conservative matter; it is both a moral and Constitutional matter.
A number of independent schools and colleges are now offering “studies” courses in areas such as Islamic studies. This academic endeavour along with cultural centers, such as the Islamic mosque, are necessary in a world made up of highly devout Muslims.