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Barack Obama

Canadian Muslims Oppose Ground Zero Mosque

Unless you have been off-planet recently, you know that there are plans afoot to build a mosque in New York City, two blocks from Ground Zero. This would be no simple place of prayer but a $100 million, 13 storey structure that would be nothing short of impressive. Many Americans have, understandably, voiced their outrage. Much of it is reasoned if emotional in nature, but there are also predictable rants coming from the hard right and, of course, FOX News. Other Americans, meanwhile, have voiced tolerance and even support. U.S. President Barack Obama and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have both made statements that it is right for Americans to allow this; that it may well be a testament to tolerance and religious freedom. A short video of Obama's speech is included below.

In Canada, we watch the developments to the south with interest because America is, after all, our closest neighbor, our ally, our biggest trading partner, and the source of many of  our favorite TV shows. We may not agree with everything that happens in the States, but that's not surprising. Rarely do members of the same family agree on everything.  Consequently, ordinary Canadians have also voiced their own opinion in support of and in opposition to this so-called "Ground Zero Mosque".

What I find fascinating in all of this is that there is also some very vocal and stern opposition to the plan coming out of Canada. It's not that it would be unusual for Canadians to have opinions on what is happening south of our border. What is fascinating to me is the source of at least some of this opposition; Canadian Muslims and the Canadian Muslim Congress. Visit their Website and you will see the following:

"Proposal for a mosque at site of 9/11 tragedy is nothing short of a 'fitna' or making mischief"

In a letter that was delivered to Imam Faisal Rauf on Tuesday, August 10, the MCC stated, “Many Muslims suspect that the idea behind the Ground Zero mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation, to thumb our noses at the 'infidel.' We believe the proposal has been made in bad faith and, in Islamic parlance, is creating 'fitna,' meaning 'mischief-making,' an act clearly forbidden in the Qur’an.”

Raheel Raza, a board member of the Canadian Muslim Congress delivered the letter. She was later interviewed on CBC Radio's "The Current" (listen to the program here) where she spoke passionately about why building the proposed mosque is a bad idea. She also questions the real reason behind the plan and even the source of the funding, suggesting that the very source of the 9/11 attacks may in fact be helping to pay for it. Interesting questions indeed.

Later in the same segment, we get an opposing view from Globe and Mail columnist, Sheema Khan. These interviews are in the first of the two segments on that page

I invite you to spend the few minutes it takes to listen to this interview. It's quite fascinating.

We will restore science to its rightful place . . .

Allow me to once more use that word, historic. Yesterday was indeed an historic day as Barack Obama became the 44th President of the United States of America. Watching from Canada, where there was never much love for Dubya and his policies, there is much hope for the future under the new President. And a great deal more cautious optimism. During the noontime celebrations, I was busy feeding my son his lunch, so I caught the show later that evening. Even distanced by the sound bites and analysis of the nightly news, it was still powerful to watch. Obama said many things to many people, each person taking away what they felt was important to them. Here is part of what I took away; what drives my hope that real, positive change may well be upon us.

“Our health care is too costly and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

“We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its costs. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age.

I've often said that too much technology isn't the problem. The problem is too little, insufficiently mature, technology. For this world to survive, for us, the human race, to survive, curiosity and science needs to grow and to thrive. Sadly, curiosity and science have been under sustained attack by ignorance, superstition, and that fear that accompanies both.

As Edmund Leach said in his 1968 book, "Runaway World",

Men have become like gods. Isn't it about time that we understood our divinity? Science offers us total mastery over our environment and over our destiny, yet instead of rejoicing we feel deeply afraid. Why should this be? How might these fears be resolved?

The answer to those last two questions is this. Embrace curiosity and science. Learn. Bury those twin demons of ignorance and superstition. Rejoice in every new understanding, and each new discovery. Reach forward into the future with bold optimism and with unrestrained hope.

Obama's words regarding science give me a new hope. In our society, much direction comes from those in positions of power and whatever you may think of this, there is perhaps no higher office on this planet than that of the President of the United States. As George W. Bush so ineptly demonstrated, one person in that position of power, can do an incredible amount of damage. Perhaps the right person can do an incredible amount of good.

Is Barack Obama the right person? I won't claim to have loved every word of Barack Obama's inauguration speech. I didn't. But as I said when I began this post, every person will have walked away with some part of that speech; some part that spoke to them; something that touched them.

Science is the vanguard of human achievement. It is our future. I sincerely hope that the President truly understands that.

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Isaac Asimov