A Bangladeshi cab driver was attacked this week, after allegedly being asked if he was Muslim. The comments on this Yahoo news article make me want to throw up. We are living in a powder keg of hate, of intolerance, where the diversity of New York, its greatest strength, is being turned against it.
If there is one thing that has stood out to me during this current brouhaha over the lower Manhattan Islamic community center, it’s how the media and the political machine have perpetuated a cycle of misinformation and fear-mongering. Buzz words have obfuscated the facts (which, okay, is ‘business as usual’) and indignant screaming has drowned out so many things that the public needs to hear. Like that there are already mosques near the World Trade Center site. (And, you know, strip clubs and a McDonald’s and stuff, too.) The Daily Show, now the nation’s top investigative news team (and isn’t that sad?) uncovered that the man behind the so-called radical Islamic foundation funding the Park51 project also owns stock in News Corp. He’s Rupert Murdoch’s partner and owns part of Fox News!
Why is none of this being reported more widely? Because it would get in the way of well-timed election season soapboxing? Because, God forbid, it would actually be accurate? What should be a local issue, handled by the Park51 people, zoning boards and neighborhood groups, has become a national circus, with people who have no vested interest in the daily workings of New York City making judgment calls on what should be done.
What’s most distasteful is that in the name of “sparing” and “protecting” those who lost someone on 9/11, all this righteousness and noise is exploiting them. Why torment survivors of a tragedy like this?
And where is the outrage over building office space, a subway station and a shopping mall at the actual WTC site? Er, sorry, make that a “transportation and retail concourse below grade connected to the central PATH terminal.” (Per RenewNYC.com.) I mean, hey, maybe I’m a bad capitalist or something, but the idea of a Pinkberry or something on the WTC site is a little more hinky to me to me than a house of worship and cultural center going up a few blocks away. And, of course, Conde Nast will be in the new complex, too. Let nothing stand in the way of progress! Unless it’s progress by people who don’t look like you…
When our nation is already so divided, with so much nativism and racism being cloaked in political rhetoric, the public is being misled. And it is completely irresponsible.
I’m not religious, and I don’t live in lower Manhattan. I have no personal stake in where the Islamic center goes. But I am a New Yorker with a personal stake in my own safety and the safety of my fellow man. I’m brown, and I don’t want to walk out the door every morning with the sense that just because I’ve picked out a kurta to wear over my jeans, I might have painted a target on my back. But hate is everywhere, isn’t it? On Staten Island right now, it’s not the assumption that you’re Muslim that will get you beaten; it’s the assumption that you’re Mexican. Bigotry is inescapable. It’s alive and well and powerful.
And, all too frequently, it starts because of a tale told by an idiot.