Saturday, August 14, 2010

Will they celebrate Gay Marriage at the Ground Zero Mosque?

Will they celebrate Gay Marriage at the Ground Zero Mosque?

I'm getting the issues confused.

But if New Yorkers can tolerate a mosque at Ground Zero, shouldn't it be a highly tolerant mosque?

Back to gay marriage. I've thought about it for about ten years, and I've decided it's a good thing. It really bothered me that judges were interfering with my own thinking on this question, because it is not a matter for the courts to decide.

Marriage is customary, legal, and moral. They all go together and the nature of marriage ought to be determined by the legislature, and failing that, by referendum.

The courts are the very worst place to decide questions like this, and that judge in California is doing no one a favor by ruling in favor of gay marriage -- or against it. He is a usurper against my own voice and I resent it.

It would be much better if people are persuaded, as they can be. Proponents of gay marriage have full access to the political process and can take their case to the people. I expect they will win if they take that course.

But if they keep going to court, the question will remain unsettled for decades. Keep the lawyers out of this, please.

Going to court is always the very, very last option in any dispute.

The Mosque. I was married to a Moslem woman for seven years. She was from Africa. Her ancestral village was in the mountains of Malawi. We visited this village shortly after we were married in 1997. Chembe village it was called, with a small mud brick mosque in the village square, and an ancient bearded imam in a blue robe.

The imam had several tattered copies of the Koran. He sang the call to prayers each morning before dawn -- no loudspeaker and no electricity in this village -- only the haunting call to prayer.

Five or six men would come to the mosque in response to the imam's call.

There were no dogs in Chembe village I liked that, because there was no barking in the night and it was quiet.

There was no alcohol -- not exactly, more of a low key kind of thing. In the evening the women gathered in the cooking hut down the hill. The village chief would invite me to join him at his place where we sat in chairs -- probably the only two chairs in the village.

He would bring out a bottle of rum and we had a drink together. It was fine. We treated each other as equals. I was proud of my life and my American heritage and education. He was proud of his village. I was married into his family and was welcomed in that way.

After some conversation, we would go to the women's cooking hut -- they had a fire going and it was warm in there, and we sat around the fire on mats and talked.

That's really all I know about Islam from personal experience. I think the villagers took their religion very lightly, and I wish we were all like that.

Having said that, the Ground Zero Mosque -- actually I don't know what to think. Legally it's a slam dunk -- they can build it wherever zoning ordinances permit a house of worship.

Otherwise, it's entirely up to the people of Manhattan, who are not likely to notice it amid the roar of commerce and culture

But if they do build it, this mosque should be the center of a mission to Islamic countries, which often forbid the construction or even the repair of churches and synagogues in their lands.

If the mosque is built, it should be a shining example and we should seek reciprocal treatment in Moslem countries. "Allow the free interchange of ideas, welcome our preachers as we welcome yours. Respectful argument is a good thing. We can challenge each other."

I was married to the African woman for seven years, but other than going to Chembe village to visit the graves of her ancestors, we had no more exposure to Islam. She claimed it as an identity, but only that. She had no knowledge or practice of Islam, but was more familiar with Christianity and indigenous spiritual practices -- in the way that Africa people can mix these things all together.

I have learned and thought about Islam since then -- from reading books and newspapers, from knowing about the attacks of September 11, 2001, and our military invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan, and reading about the endlessly complicated disputes between Palestinians and Israelis -- but I will not let those images intrude on what I actually experienced first hand -- I think I will cherish and remember the evenings with Chief Chembe in his village, a man just like me, except he had two wives.

So we end. And we realize that the Mosque and the question of Marriage are actually related.

And there is a lot to talk about -- if we can keep it out of court.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

send mail to:

Fred Owens
Box 1292
LaConner WA 98257

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