Yesterday, protests at Ground Zero continued to gain international attention. What's at issue is a figment of the American public's imagination: the ground zero mosque. Herds of "well-intentioned" Americans flooded lower manhattan to chant down the construction of what they are calling a ground zero mosque, but what really is an Islamic community center. This case is a powerful lesson in framing, which I was first introduced to by the George Lakoff but you and I experience constantly. If we want to make sure The Community Center at Park 51 is built, we've got to re-frame the conversation, or else the Islamophobes have won!
Basically frames or framing structure how you think about a thing and often influence your actions towards it. They play to what you know and most importantly what you fear. It's the reason why when people hear welfare, they think poor Black women, despite that fact that Whites are the majority on welfare. It's the reason when you hear immigration people think Mexicans sneaking across a border, despite the fact mlliions of people who look "White" or "Black" are here illegally but will never be questioned. Smartly, conservatives have brewed up a massive controversy around the Park 51 community center by calling it a mosque (or masjid) - which usually is a space that's primary use is prayer. After convincing the masses it's a mosque they then lead folks to believe it is a breeding ground for terrorism and all sort of boogie monsters. Now I won't go into how faith=terrorism in many folks minds because that'd take me down a whole different rode. Instead, I think it's important that supporters of Park 51 project do a stronger job of counter-framing. Every TV appearance, every radio show, every online interview the first thing out of their and their allies mouths should be something like, "We are not supporting a mosque, we are supporting building a community center. A center whose primary purpose is arts, culture and recreation. Just as the YMCA is not and was not a Church, Park 51 is not a mosque." Reframing in that way gets at the heart of combatting the fear mongering, highlight the disingenuous framing that has been occurring, and spells out to the true purpose of the space. Yes, there is a space for prayer but the majority of the space features other activities like athletics, cooking, and will be the first green islamic center! All of these things are key to highlight because as the conversation is guided, supporters of Park 51 are steadily losing ground in public opinion.
This a game of politics and semantics (literally the meaning of things) and if we are going to ensure religious freedom is available to all, we have to play politics and semantics. As each day passes, I get more and more concerned that the misinformation of "ground zero mosque" is not only spread by the protestors but also those of us who support Park 51 who continue to abet the language of those who deny the basic freedoms that this country.