Today, people somberly remember the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But September 11th also marks the anniversary of another, less well-known tragedy born of religious fanaticism—the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
The was Mountain Meadows Massacre a mass slaughter of the Fancher-Baker emigrant wagon train at Mountain Meadows, Utah Territory, by a local Mormon militia and members of the Paiute Indian tribe on September 11, 1857. The incident began as an attack, quickly turned into a siege, and eventually culminated in the murder of the unarmed emigrants after their surrender. All of the party except for seventeen children under eight years old were killed—about 120 men, women, and children were killed, but precise numbers have been debated.
The Dove World Outreach Center (what a name) is going to hold a “Burn the Koran Day” event on Sept. 11 to mark the falling of the World Trade Towers. While they are within their rights to do so, there has been some discussion of it potentially becoming a PR disaster for the US in the Muslim world. General David Petraeus wrote that “Images of the burning of a Quran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan — and around the world — to inflame public opinion and incite violence.” He is arguing that Qurans should not be burned because it endangers the men and women of the US armed forces serving overseas. The full story can be found here.
It should be noted that there is opposition to “Burn the Koran Day” by a group of Jewish, Muslim, and Christian leaders. One member, Richard Cizik said “Watch out, for if you so casually trample on the religious rights of others, your own children may someday see their religious liberties deprived. As an evangelical, I say … you bring dishonor to the name of Jesus Christ.”
What do you think? In times of war should we refrain from some forms of freedom of speech? Is it noble to do so, or would you look down on someone who did that? Do you think Petraeus has a point? Should we refrain from other types of protests against specific religions? What if they were burning a Bible, Torah, and Quran all together? Is that ok?
To start us off: I personally don’t have a problem with someone deciding to not participate in such an event if they thought it was too offensive (whatever that may mean) to the target group. I would not think of that as allowing the target group to dictate the terms of the argument, I’d think of it as a personal decision not to fight that particular fight.
In the debate over the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” (which is actually a multi-cultural community center), you might have come across this illustration:
There are some who mistakenly believe all Muslims are terrorists. The illustration lays bare the absurdity of that belief. Islam boasts nearly 1.6 billion adherents; Al Qaeda, less than 10,000. Put another way, only .00063% of Muslims belong to Al Qaeda.
The majority of Muslims preach and practice peace. American Muslims are especially moderate. So I appreciate the illustration insofar as it disabuses people of the “all Muslims are terrorists” stereotype. However, I think the illustration is itself overly simplistic. It downplays the very real, dangerous, and widespread extremism in Muslim world.
If you have somehow managed to avoid the controversy, allow the Boston Globe to bring you up-to-date:
Is ground zero the right place for a major new mosque and Islamic cultural center? Cordoba House is a 15-story, $100 million development to be built just 600 feet from where the World Trade Center stood; the plans include the mosque, a 500-seat auditorium, swimming pool, restaurant, and bookstore.
The prospect of an Islamic center so close to ground zero is, not surprisingly, controversial. Many relatives of Sept. 11 victims are strongly opposed. One group, 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America, calls Cordoba House “a gross insult to the memory of those who were killed on that terrible day.’’ But the project also has strong political support. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer are among its backers, and Cordoba House was endorsed by lower Manhattan’s Community Board No. 1 in a near-unanimous vote [29 to 1] last month.
And just yesterday, several thousands of people attended a rally to protest the proposed Islamic center. Among the most upset are some of our fellow atheists. Pat Condell went off in one of his trademark screeds about the mosque:
It seems that every day brings a new censorship controversy involving Islam. Just a couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Comedy Central’s censorship of South Park for its attempted (and mild) portrayal of Muhammad. I’d be remiss to ignore something that happened earlier this week.
On Tuesday, controversial Swedish artist Lars Vilks was attacked by a Muslim student during a lecture at Uppsala University. Vilks played an offensive film that juxtaposed homoerotic images with Christian and Muslim images. Many in the audience took offense, and less than a minute into the film the room erupts into chaos.
Jon Stewart is once again the voice of reason. In this video, he discusses the recent controversy over South Park’s unsuccessful attempts to portray Muhammad. To those who have threatened violence against the creators of South Park, Stewart tells them to “go f*ck themselves.”
Hello SHAFTers! I’d like to thank everyone who came to the Mountain Meadows Massacre discussion on Friday. If you are interested in seeing the rest of the PBS documentary “The Mormons” or if you missed the discussion and want to watch the chapter on the Mountain Meadows Massacre, you can watch the entire program online thanks to miracle of the series of tubes.
We hope to see all of you tonight at SHAFT’s Opening Social!