Claiming values vs. living by them – a contrast between conservative America and Lebanon

Americans love to describe respect, tolerance, diversity, and acceptance of the other as “American Values”.  American hunger to claim as “American” everything that is good about humanity was clearly – some may say comically – illustrated by Glen Beck, an American conservative radio and television political commentator, when he asserted during a conservative, religious rally in Washington, DC last weekend: “We can claim Dr. Martin Luther King as ours.”  As American conservatives claim the human values of Dr. King as theirs, they propagate intolerance, practice disrespect, spread Islamophobia, and organize rallies against a group of Muslim Americans who would like to build – on private property in Lower Manhattan, New York – an Islamic community centre that would include a prayer space.  They even gave it a suggestively negative name; they call it “Ground Zero Mosque”.  It would be useful to remember that the term “Ground Zero” was first used to refer to the points on the Japanese ground where the two atomic bombs caused the most devastation in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  While “Ground Zero” in this context is obviously meant to refer to the site where the twin towers of the World Trade Centre used to stand, the negative implication of the term “Ground Zero Mosque” does not escape the mind of the least informed American.  The American conservative drive in opposition to this Islamic centre is so intimidating that some progressive American politicians, while not arguing against the right of Muslim Americans to build their Islamic centre, started to question “the wisdom” of the decision to build an Islamic centre in that specific location; more than two blocks away from where the twin towers used to stand.

Arabs do not lay exclusive claims to those values.  In Arabic, such values are described as human values {قيم إنسانيّة}, and not Arabic values, thereby keenly and respectfully acknowledging that all other humans have – and must live by – them.  While they are not exclusively claimed as Arabic, those values are lived by – as built-in components of Arabic culture confirming the humanity of Arabs – on a daily basis.  Lebanon has recently demonstrated that deeply rooted belief among Arabs; not in words, but by deeds.  The Lebanese (Muslim and Christian) government approved the renovation of a Beirut synagogue and contributed financially to its restoration, without even one opposing demonstration, disagreeing editorial column in a newspaper, or a negative comment by a media personality.  Such act of opposition would have been dismissed as sacrilegious by Lebanese Muslims and Christians alike; after all, Judaism is one of the 18 officially recognized religious denominations in Lebanon.  Among the key leaders who approved the renovation of the synagogue was As-Sayyed Hassan Nasrullah, General Secretary of Hezbollah, who said: “We respect Judaism, just as we respect Christianity.  Our only problem is with Israel.”  No one dared to rename the Maghen Abraham Synagogue anything near “Ground Zero Synagogue”, for that would have been disrespectful and Lebanese Muslims and Christians and their leaders would have rejected it outright.

The huge moral and ethical gap between claiming values in America and living by them in Lebanon is worthy of note.  On the one hand, and in spite of the near total absence of media coverage of such a highly civilized act and wonderful display of respect for human values, all Lebanese deserve to feel proud of their country, their people, and the wisdom of their political leaders.  And on the other hand, while American conservatives enjoy massive media coverage of their claim to those human values as theirs, they need to take a deep breath, consider what made their country great, learn from a tiny country in the Middle East, and start to live by the values they claim to be theirs.

The following link connects to an article reporting the news by Haaretz:
“The main Jewish prayer house in the Lebanese capital has been renovated beautifully, demonstrating tolerance for places of worship, although there is still residual anger in the country over its conflict with Israel.”

And the following link connects to a commentary on by Gus Bridi:
“An Arab democracy, with a Muslim Prime Minister and a Christian President, allowed the building of a synagogue, squarely in the center of their “Ground Zero” in the heart and pride of downtown Beirut which used to be a dumping ground for Israeli military ordinances.”

Monzer Zimmo
Ottawa, Canada

Hope is the stuff from which life is made!

About Alcanaanite

Monzer Zimmo, a Palestinian-Canadian living and working in Ottawa, Canada. Monzer is an advocate of resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict through the peaceful creation of a bi-national-democratic state on all the territory of historic Palestine, where Christians, Jews, Muslims, and others live together as equal citizens; be and feel safe, secure, and at home.
This entry was posted in America, Islamophobia. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Claiming values vs. living by them – a contrast between conservative America and Lebanon

  1. themadjewess says:

    Americans love to describe respect, tolerance, diversity, and acceptance
    America is filled with anti-God leftists who have tolerence for nothing but evil.

    • Alcanaanite says:

      Let me try to understand your argument. Because “America is filled with anti-God leftists” it is therefore accptable for the presumably God-loving rightists to be less civilized than the Lebanese, some of whom are God-loving leftists and some are anti-God rightists; or might have been the other way around – you confused me with your noise. What does that have to do with the price of meat?

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