Sunday, August 22, 2010
The "NYC Mosque", Nondualism and Justice
From the intensity of the debate on my Facebook wall over the past couple of days, it has become apparent to me that the issue of the "NYC" or "Ground Zero" Mosque (or community center) is of no minor significance. It's become a gauge of the exact position of American/Islamic relations post-9/11. It has challenged my thinking at a time when I am a week away from beginning classes to finalize a degree with a peace and justice emphasis. How does one approach this situation PRACTICALLY in a loving, just manner? How does one practice justice in real life without taking a "stand"...and therefore saying "this is WRONG"? It would be great to think that everyone acknowledges the inherent unity of each of us, but the ego predominates in our world, and that is not the case. Practical justice issues...real life situations...are messy.
A great deal of my personal study over this past year has involved the further enhancement of my concepts of love and justice through Nondualistic methods. I was introduced to Nondualism by the Western spiritual teachers Richard Rohr and Eckhart Tolle. Nondualism is the most beautiful expression of love and unity that I have ever come across. It reaches to the very depth of who I am as it touches that ESSENCE that is a part of us all...the ESSENCE that IS God itself. Nondualism being perfect unity, it simply IS. It eliminates the need for "right" or "wrong" and "winners" or "losers". These are illusory labels in an external world. It is THAT world that is dominated by the ego.
Yet real life IS externals. Real life is physical hunger. Real life is oppression. Real life is racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, killing, torturing, war and religious intolerance. We can not ignore these issues and profess to practice love and justice towards others. How do we take Nondualism and apply it to an external situation?
I think back to the great non-violent leaders of the recent past such as Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. When I look at how they approached Nondualism, they did it through the means of equality. They saw an oppressed people, their people, and they sought to elevate them to an equal status with the rest of humanity. To do this, they had to take a stand. To take that stand they had to carefully evaluate an "objective" issue through their own "subjectivity". For everything we can comprehend...our reality (at least externally)...is filtered through our own mind first. These men reached deep into their souls and saw that true love involved their own self-respect as much as it did loving their enemies. Jesus saw this same truth. He said to "love your neighbor as yourself". He also said to "love your enemies". This is a spiritual maxim and if you do not claim to be spiritual, is something that can be found in the basic concept of love. I use the example of Jesus because it is the one I am most familiar with, having been raised in a Christian environment. However, the "love" he was referring to was UNITY. We have no choice but to love our enemies, because they have a share of the same essence and "universal consciousness" or "God" that we do...that is to say that we are united to them whether our ego accepts that or not. However, that unity does not mean that we have to accept the external manifestations of the ego. This is where real life and Nondualism intersect.
So, here we are, on August 22, 2010. A demonstration has taken place today on the streets of lower Manhattan, of people opposed to the building of the "Mosque" which is to be two blocks away from Ground Zero. The crux of the situation is simple. According to the official version (which I won't debate in this forum), Muslims attacked America on 9/11. The protestors believe that a "Mosque" built two blocks away, representing the religion of the alleged attackers, would be an affront to the dignity of the victims. The protests range in intensity from eliminating Islam from America to the seemingly minor issue of moving the "Mosque" a few blocks further away. Depending on one's viewpoint, all levels of these protests involve elements of intolerance (and that is in fact my position, that all the proposals are intolerant).
Now here is where the dirty work begins...in the details. Tolerant progressive papers proudly promote the right of Islam to practice wherever and however they choose, as long as it is done in a peaceful manner. However, most that I've seen have the one caveat that it would be "prudent" for the "Mosque" to be moved a few blocks away...so as to not "ruffle any feathers" in effect. President Obama has also taken this stance.
It is hard for me not to picture Martin Luther King and Gandhi when I hear the word "prudent". Both were told that they had a right to do what they were doing, but that it would be "prudent" if they would tone things down a bit. It would certainly have been more "prudent" for Rosa Parks to acquiesce to Jim Crow and give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery. However, that "non-prudent" action of Rosa Parks ended up igniting the Civil Rights movement and made great steps forward in the cause of equality for African-Americans (although we still have a long way to go).
Rosa Parks understood the same thing that Martin Luther King and Gandhi understood. She was quite aware that any step she took away from her own self-respect was a step away from the unity of humanity. She was aware that in order to be able to love others, she first had to love herself. She had to respect herself. She had to acknowledge her equality with others in order to retain her humanity.
The Muslims of "Park 51", the official name for what has been irreverently dubbed the "Ground Zero Mosque" are struggling with this same issue of self-respect. They no doubt feel the hate and angst of a nation to a level that we can only imagine. I have tried to empathize with these Muslims, and ask myself what would I do and how would I be thinking? My next step would bring me to a decision. I could take the "prudent" route and acquiesce to the demands of an angry nation and move Park 51...even though the crimes of 9/11 had absolutely NOTHING to do with me. Then I would ask myself: Would this solve anything? Would they hate me less? Would I have any self-respect left by acquiescing to a penalty for a crime I didn't commit? Wouldn't my love for myself be greatly diminished by validating the hateful demands of multiple manifestations of troublesome egos? This is the sober thought process that I would have if I were the Imam of Park 51...today. If it were ME, I would know that I couldn't be true to myself...loving of myself...respectful of myself...if I acquiesced. If I couldn't love myself, how could I expect to truly know love, to love others, to look at them as equals? So, what would I do? I would take a stand and say "NO"; I will not move my building. I respect your demand. I honor your pain, but I will NOT accept the intolerance of your ego. This is all I would know to go on...what the depth of my soul told me was love...both to myself and to those around me. This is the only way I would know to honor the unity in all of us. Both King and Gandhi showed us that there are certain non-negotiables in life. These non-negotiables involved a stand against any demand to lay down their own love of humanity...and that included their OWN humanity...their very ESSENCE...as much as it did that of others.
What is justice? How does it look in action? How does Nondualism apply? How do we solve conflicts like these? How do we practice equality? Nondualism is a relatively easy abstract concept. However, abstractions do no good unless they are effectively applied in a loving way. Is there a universal approach to this specific situation? A universal, non-opiniated, Nondualistic response? If so, how do we enact it?
This is the work to which I have devoted my life. That work is the application of love, justice and Nondualism in the real world. What does it look like to you in flesh and blood? I welcome your thoughts, and I thank you for all the commentary, debate and dialogue in which I have already had the opportunity to engage.
Update on 8-23-10: It has come to my attention that things may not be as they seem in regards to the "Mosque". The intentional stoking of hatred for the benefit of profiteers and the war agenda is a possibility, I'm reading and being told. This may or may not be true. What IS important though remains unchanged...the issue of intolerance of Muslims. I stand behind this blog...every word...with the information I had at the time it was written. WHOEVER is behind the Mosque, and WHATEVER their intentions are, this situation has brought Muslim intolerance fully into the spotlight in America. Now is our chance to deal with it and take a stand for our fellow sisters and brothers of humanity...that ALL may be equal in respect and justice.