WKU Students Discuss Mosque Controversy at ICSR

T3 in September

T3 in September

By: Kwabena Boateng

T3 or Third Tuesday Tea is a program of Western Kentucky University’s Institute for Citizenship & Social Responsibility. T3 is a gathering of students, staff, and faculty to discuss a contemporary issue. The program takes place in Garret 109 at 4:00pm on the third Tuesday of each month during the academic year. The topic discussed in this article pertains to “The Mosques Controversies Across the County.”

The last Tea 3 event I attended centered on the Islamic learning center controversy (the one near WTC ground-zero). There were plenty in attendance (more so than I think was anticipated) for the discussion led by a couple of WKU professors and Dr. Nagy Morsi of Bowling Green’s Islamic Center. A diversity of groups (differing ethnicities, academic concentrations, religions, etc.) made for a productive dialogue. From the central issue regarding the permissibility of the Islamic center’s placement, the speakers presented three overarching questions and examinations.

First, Dr. Morsi asked if there were objections to building a mosque near ground-zero (on American land under constitutional jurisdiction), then where could one be placed? To answer this question, one would have to bestow special status to the zone, which raises the problem of deciding the extent of this zone and building limitations (would McDonald’s or Starbucks be prevented from branching there?). Mainly silence responded to the question. This was followed by an examination of other anti-mosque/Muslim incidents within the same period. Vandals targeted a mosque in Murfreesboro. Protestors in Florence, KY decried the relocation of a mosque to more visible area (near traffic0heavy Mall Road). Then in the over-reported saga in Gainesville, Pastor Terry Jones planned Koran Burning Day (which happens to coincide with the WTC attack anniversary). These episodes revealed the generalized fear of terrorism and Islam; a fear that discounts the overwhelming presence of peaceful Muslims in America and fails to recognize terrorism perpetrated by non-Muslims. Many in the room blamed this fact on the media (a view I do not share) and the general “us” or “we” versus “them” narrative, in which the former two exclude Muslims.

Finally, the solution question was posed: what needs to be done to change this? The most common response was increased education to counter general ignorance, which the T3 event served as a good example of possible solutions. However the “education” was never specified, and in the case of conflicting ideologies, even those thoroughly educated on the subject can be prone to holding incorrect views. Though, the presence of such a diverse crowd was a good starter, which leads to the biggest disappoint I had with the event: the lack of opposition. The singularity of views (at least the voiced ones), while comforting, troubled me. Where were those passionately against the center in NYC? I think the format may have had something to do with the lack of dissenting voices but it did not detract too much from the lively and beneficial conversation at T3.

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