Following all the kerfluffle about the Islamic center that might hypothetically be somewhere near Ground Zero, I would like to make the following statement.
If anybody is looking to built a mosque in Pittsboro, North Carolina, you are welcome to put it in my backyard. I doubt anybody is, but if they were…
There’s a couple of reasons for this, one of which is the relatively commendable one that we have freedom of worship in this country, goddamnit, and being Muslim is absolutely are valid as being Lutheran or Jewish or my own vague humanist. And I am not one of those idiots that think the existence of a radical fringe of any religion means that every member is a terrorist, otherwise I’d be calling the cops on the local Baptists and screaming about clinic bombings, and really, this is just pointless and exhausting for everybody, and there are enough Baptist churchs around here that such behavior would really cut into my free time.
I freely confess that the other reasons are self-centered, though.
First of all, the wooded space behind the house is eventually gonna get turned into some sort of subdivision, whereupon I can kiss my beloved pileated woodpeckers goodbye, as they require large tracts of wooded area, and our little patch isn’t gonna be enough. I would much rather have a mosque. I imagine it would take up less space than a full subdivision and might leave some trees for my woodpeckers.
You want a muezzin and a prayer tower, too? Knock yourself out. I have a beagle. A call to prayer multiple times a day is nothing.
Secondly, we have far more churches than restaurants in this town. The majority are Baptist. There are also a couple of Mormon, a smattering of Catholic, some Presbyterian, and if you go a little way into the unincorporated areas, you get a lot of Methodists, more Baptists, and on the distant fringes, a lone Buddhist center and the Society of Friends. Go most of the way to Durham, and there’s an Eastern Orthodox place, but it can’t even be considered geographically part of my town. I would love a mosque just for variety.
Thirdly–and this is the really selfish one–the Spanish-language Baptist church about a mile down the road (and which would doubtless incense a good number of people who also object to mosques) causes no trouble to anyone and is directly responsible for the presence of the one really good Mexican restaurant in town. And I will accept a great many things if it means I can get good huevos rancheros.
So I have this fantasy that if we got a large enough Muslim population to support a mosque, we might get a corresponding ethnic restaurant. Maybe more than one. Islam is a geographically diverse religion, after all. We might get an Indian or Middle Eastern place. Heck, we might even get Croatian! (I have no idea what Croatian food is like, but as we have maybe a dozen restaurants in Pittsboro–including the Pizza Hut and the Taco Bell–I will be happy to try it out.)
Do I agree with every tenet of Islam? Hell, no. I don’t even know all the tenets, but I’d be really amazed if I did. But I don’t agree with a lot of the tenets of Christianity either, and we’ve managed to co-exist in town. We shop at the same stores and no one has died or anything. Yes, ideally I’d prefer a Sufi branch set up in my backyard, since I have a great love of the poetry of Rumi, but really, as long as you’re not batshit insane, I’ll extend you the same courtesy I do to every other religion–I’ll assume you’re not all assholes unless you prove otherwise.
Do I have problems with the way that some branches of Islam treat women? Sure. Who wouldn’t? But y’know, I’m gonna go out on a limb and say that if decent Muslims are anything like the decent Christians I know, they spend a lot of time facepalming and going “oh god, these people do NOT represent me…” In fact, I bet it bothers you even more than it bothers me. So, y’know, I think we’ll probably manage.
Come on over. Put your feet up. Kevin will cook you a halal casserole. I will be over once the parking lot is laid out to try and convince you to put in native plant beds on the islands instead of grass. It’ll work out.