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Dismayed to incoherence

August 10, 2010

For days now I’ve been trying to say something meaningful about the Republican campaign against the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”.  But even though I go on for endless, impassioned paragraphs, I just can’t seem to get beyond; “how can people be taken in by something so stupid and un-American?”

Fortunately, I can just post a picture of a feather that I took this morning, and direct you to two articles that said what I wasn’t able to.  I suppose it’s the equivalent of buying a Hallmark card, only I’m sending you to the very best.

***Dave confronts The Party of Hate.

“Rather than E Pluribus Unum, “Out of Many, One,” their motto seems to be, “Out of Many, There’s Us vs. Them, So We Better Get Them Before They Get Us.  Oh, and Send Us Money, Too.”

The Economist says Build That Mosque.

“WHAT makes a Muslim in Britain or America wake up and decide that he is no longer a Briton or American but an Islamic “soldier” fighting a holy war against the infidel? Part of it must be pull: the lure of jihadism. Part is presumably push: a feeling that he no longer belongs to the place where he lives…

Thank you, that is all.  (And no, the feather isn’t symbolic of anything.  It’s just something I saw this morning that I thought was nifty.)

Here’s an essay by another thoughtful Christian on the controversy: Michael Kinnamon on Cordoba House and mosque at Ground Zero

… His family lived with the onus of suspicion for six months until Salman’s body was identified. He was found near the North Tower with his EMT bag beside him, situated where he could help people in need.  The point of this now famous story is simple. Not every Muslim at Ground Zero was a terrorist, and not every Muslim was a hero. The vast majority were like thousands of others on September 11: victims of one of the most heinous events of our times. But for the family of Salman Hamdani and millions of innocent Muslims, the tragedy has been exacerbated by the fact that so many of the rest of us have formed our opinions about them out of prejudice and ignorance of the Muslim faith…

And here’s The Daily Show on the Manhattan Island Islamic Center

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. August 10, 2010 at 23:36 | #1

    It’s sad that in 2010 this is an issue. Daily Show had a great show on this topic just a few hours ago. You should check it out.

  2. August 12, 2010 at 03:18 | #2

    This thing certainly has brought out the charlatans, hasn’t it? The Economist has a point, but a more basic point is that this isn’t who we are. We let people practice their religions, as long as they’re not a clear danger to themselves or others.

    I’d be fine with making the area around the WTC a religion-free zone if that’s what NYC wants. Failing that, though, Muslims ought to have as much right to build there as any religion does.

  3. August 14, 2010 at 07:50 | #3

    They have a right to build their mosque, and the government should not try to stop them – that would infringe on free exercise. And American Muslims, just like other Americans, have a responsibility not to act like jerks. Building a mosque in the shadow of the wtc is a jerky thing to do, and it’s not excused by the fact that lots of other people are jerks too.

    On the other hand, it’s clear that people disagree about this. Now that President Obama has spoken up in defense of Cordoba House, we have a great opportunity. We can hope the Democrats running for office will use this teachable moment to explain to us in the hinterlands about tolerance, diversity, sensitivity, and respect.

  4. August 14, 2010 at 08:33 | #4

    Why is building a mosque near the WTC site a jerky thing to do? It was fanatics with a perverted sense if what it means to be a Muslim that attacked us. Read the book, “Captive: My Time as a Prisoner of the Taliban” to get a sense of just how perverted. I’m not trying to paint a rosy pic here, but certainly not the entire religion is just fanatics wanting to fly planes into buildings.

  5. August 14, 2010 at 08:43 | #5

    No indeed, most Muslims are fine people. Two such are Raheel Raza and Tarek Fatah. They say (in the Ottawa Citizen, quoted at the link): “Building an exclusive place of worship for Muslims at the place where Muslims killed thousands of New Yorkers is not being considerate or sensitive, it is undoubtedly an act of ‘fitna.’”

  6. August 14, 2010 at 10:37 | #6

    You know, Marcel, you could be onto something.  By your logic we should pull out of the middle East entirely, because we’ve* killed a hell of a lot more Muslims than they’ve ever killed of us.  And all Christians, regardless of denomination, should slink around quietly at a respectful distance, however that is defined by people who feel aggrieved by them.

    Never mind the Muslims who died in 9/11, or the Muslims who live and work in the Ground Zero area and who are glad to be in America.  Never mind that Imam Rauf is Sufi, which is about as far from Al Queda as you can get.  Forget that he’s exactly the kind of Muslim that Christians have been demanding have a louder voice against terrorism.  Let’s just call a billion Muslims, regardless of sect, “them” and tar them with the actions of their smallest and most radical minority.

    Oh, and let’s be sure to act all vindicated when Al Queda uses that prejudice as recruiting leverage (read the Economist article) among moderate Muslims here in the United States.  After all, some Muslims somewhere interpret the Muslim civic center (rather like a YMCA, and containing a Mosque) as “fitna”.

    *(“We” refers to Europeans and Americans here)

  7. August 14, 2010 at 11:16 | #7

    Well, I think building a mosque just there is in bad taste, and deliberately provocative, like a big new Serbian Orthodox Church at Srebrenica. Out of consideration Imam Feisal should build it somewhere else. If he’s determined to go ahead, the government should not, and cannot legally, prevent it. Suggesting I am lumping all Muslims together is contrary to what I wrote. If you want to argue with some stereotype of your own, a Christian whose one-dimensional view of Muslims you can dismiss, I’ll withdraw and leave you to it.

  8. August 14, 2010 at 11:54 | #8

    You know, there is someone commenting here who clearly has problems with reading comprehension, so let me spell this out in “bullet points”:

    - This isn’t a mosque, it’s a community center

    - It’s not at Ground Zero

    It’s like a Jewish community center, or a YMCA, and it’s two blocks from the WTC. Given how built up Manhattan is, it’s likely you can barely see it from there.

    Yet this doesn’t stop people from complaining about how it’s all nasty and stuff to build a mosque at Ground Zero.

    I wonder if the two thirds of people who are offended by this thing are the same two thirds who believed there were WMDs in Iraq. There’s probably a high correlation, because in both instances believing this stuff means ignoring a lot of facts. That can’t be coincidence.

  9. August 14, 2010 at 12:04 | #9

    Oh, I get it; this is the part where you act all indignant.  Let me see if I understand you correctly: it’s in bad taste because Rauf is Muslim, and there was an atrocity committed nearby by some completely different Muslims, whom he has completely denounced, and spent much of his life working against.  You’re not lumping them together at all.

    I guess it would be bad for conservatives if Rauf succeeds in improving understanding between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities there in Manhattan.

  10. August 14, 2010 at 13:08 | #10

    That’s another feature of modern American discourse, George. He who is offended first wins, even if what he’s saying could just as easily be taken as offensive as the responses.

  11. August 14, 2010 at 16:38 | #11

    Suggesting I am lumping all Muslims together is contrary to what I wrote.

    Really? How would you interpret your original piece you wrote?

    From Marcel:

    And American Muslims, just like other Americans, have a responsibility not to act like jerks. Building a mosque in the shadow of the wtc is a jerky thing to do, and it’s not excused by the fact that lots of other people are jerks too.

    Because in case you were unaware, just about anyone on the Internet or in the world will read that as, “They (as in Muslims) should not build a mosque near WTC because we (as in Christian Americans) were attacked in close proximity.” That is not only a generalization but it lumps all Muslims together in the group of terrorists that were really the ones that attacked us. And will give the ones reading that statement the impression you know little about the Muslim religion or Muslims in general.

    This is why I recommended reading the book title I mentioned above. It really shows the Muslim terrorists in a different light. They quote lines from the Quran that are just wrong as if they know it by heart. They interpret things in a much more barbaric sense.

    To lump the terrorists with the other 1 Billion Muslims in the world is disingenuous at best.

  12. August 16, 2010 at 08:21 | #12

    I don’t have a lot of opinion about this subject. I will say this, I have no use for violent Islam, and its fellow-travelers, that so called vast majority of peaceful Muslims. Very few of those peaceful folk speak out against violent Islam, and I wonder why.

    At “Ground Zero” I just see a big empty hole, with various interests squabbling over it.

  13. August 16, 2010 at 11:57 | #13

    Very few of those peaceful folk speak out against violent Islam, and I wonder why.

    Very few peaceful Christians speak out against violent Christianity either.  And I wonder why. 

    Maybe peaceful folk are by nature non-aggressive and don’t like arguing with violent folk.  Not a happy thought for the future of humanity…

  14. August 16, 2010 at 15:50 | #14

    I said the Imam had the same rights as everyone, but out of consideration should build his mosque somewhere else. That doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. If he does choose to build it elsewhere, good for the Imam. That would probably improve Muslim/Christian relations in America. 

    Now Harry Reid’s spokesman says “The First Amendment protects freedom of religion. Senator Reid respects that, but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else.”

    I hope readers will take it easy on the Senator, and not damn him as stupid, un-American, or disingenuous. The article doesn’t describe Senator Reid’s current position on WMDs in Iraq, but surely we can give him the benefit of the doubt.

  15. August 16, 2010 at 16:13 | #15

    Out of consideration to who, Marcel?  People who confuse Al Queda with all of Islam?  People who wouldn’t know a civic center wedged in between two other buildings from a mosque?  People who can’t tell an abandoned factory from Ground Zero?

    It would be like saying no Christian churches of any kind could be built near the site of the Oklahoma City Bombing because Timothy McVeigh was influenced by the Christian Identity movement.

    The frothing conservative set has made it very clear that they don’t want any mosques of any kind built anywhere on American soil.  It’s a good opportunity to demonstrate that we have a higher standard of religious freedom in this country than they have in Saudi Arabia.

  16. August 16, 2010 at 16:27 | #16

    Out of consideration to Harry Reid and the other Democrats facing reelection, if to no one else.

    And we do have a higher standard of religious freedom than Saudi Arabia, or even Turkey. When we say “please build it somewhere else,” we don’t mean “in some other country.”

  17. August 16, 2010 at 18:00 | #17

    Ah – for gutless politicians who have to jump on the bandwagon rolling downhill to the lowest common denominator of fear mongering and bigotry.  Got it.

    If we can’t get beyond that point, is there any hope at all for our country?  Can’t anyone look right into the camera and say; “Get a grip!  This is clearly a wedge issue designed to play on our fears while degrading our ideals.”

    And yes, the Frothing Fox crowd does throw a fit when anyone builds a mosque anywhere from sea to shining sea.

    What slays me is that they all say; “I believe in religious freedom, but…”  Well do we?  Tell me that if somebody wanted to make a Hindu cultural center in the former Burlington Coat Factory building, that you’d be pitching a similar fit.

  18. August 16, 2010 at 18:57 | #18

    Sorry, I just don’t see how it’s frothing bigotry to suggest, while noting the Imam’s legal right to build it there, that he instead build it somewhere farther from Ground Zero. I see there’s a computer game set in Afghanistan today. You can play either side: a US soldier killing Taliban, or a Taliban killing US soldiers. The US constitution clearly forbids the government to stop them – the game makers have an unquestionable right to make it and sell it. But it’s in bad taste, and I wish they wouldn’t. Should President Obama speak at a gaming industry dinner supporting their rights? He has every right to, but I bet you hope he doesn’t.

  19. August 16, 2010 at 21:10 | #19

    Noted; you think it’s in bad taste.  Take a look at this picture and tell me which interpretation you think is about right?  Just to clarify things. 

    Sorry, I just don’t see how it’s frothing bigotry to suggest, while noting the Imam’s legal right to build it there, that he instead build it somewhere farther from Ground Zero.

    You’re right: you don’t see.  It’s bigotry because it equates all Muslims as somehow responsible for 9/11.  It’s bigotry because it says to Muslims who had nothing to do with 9/11; “This is a Muslim-free zone”.  And it’s dangerous because it’s exactly how the Jihadists are hoping we’ll react.

    I find most church buildings offensive on general principles, but why should they take my aesthetics into account?  Suppose we say there shouldn’t be a Catholic church within two miles of any elementary school, because of pedophile priests?  How about if we said; “No Christian churches of any kind?”  Every year about 1,200 US men kill their wives; that’s ten thousand and change dead since 9/11.  Maybe we should forbid men from building sports bars… or something.

    There were Muslims in Manhattan before 9/11; many died and many more have felt the sting of prejudice.  9/11 was their tragedy too. 

    New York mayor Michael Bloomberg said; “To cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists. We should not stand for that.”

    But OK, you’re offended, so I guess you win.

  20. August 17, 2010 at 05:45 | #20

    George, I hope you find your world a brighter place in the future. I’ll do what I can to reduce the amount of bigotry you find in it.

  21. August 17, 2010 at 06:27 | #21

    It’s all right, Marcel; frankly I’d have been amazed if you had understood that your “it’s in bad taste” trope is basically saying that are Muslims are distasteful.  Not as obvious as Newt Gingrich who wants to cap religious freedom in America to a mirror image of Saudi Arabia, but a signal on the same wire nonetheless.

  22. August 17, 2010 at 13:16 | #22

    Talk of the Nation is having an episode right now on this discussion. The link below will probably not have the recording of the show till later today or tomorrow.


  23. August 19, 2010 at 11:40 | #23

    Some of the rhetoric on this subject has been exceedingly corrosive, but the more civilized arguments against the center have been based on the concept of “sensitivity” to the victims of 9/11.

    Let’s assume for the purpose of discussion that the proposed building would in fact be a mosque (it won’t be), and that it actually would be within sight of Ground Zero (it won’t be). Let’s further assume that rather than an antiterrorist Imam who plans to include a 9/11 memorial within the building, the prospective builder of the facility were a radical Wahabbi cleric from Yemen. Despite all that, it should still be allowed.

    As many of my conservative friends have pointed out to me on numerous occasions, freedom requires sacrifice, and I totally agree. Sometimes that sacrifice is of a physical nature; sometimes it is emotional. There’s no question that the presence of such a structure will be, however irrationally, a source of pain for many 9/11 victims. But one of our fundamental freedoms, considered so vital by the founders that it was the first one named in the Bill of Rights, is freedom of religion. If preserving that freedom results in pain, that is simply part of its price.

    Kathleen Parker, who is generally known as a conservative, summed it up very well in her newspaper column yesterday by writing, “The mosque should be built precisely because we don’t like the idea very much.” That’s the counterintuitive nature of a free country. As pornographer Larry Flynt once said, “If somebody like me can have freedom of speech, then we can be damn sure everybody does.”

    I believe this building will send an important message to al-Qaeda, to the effect that whatever they do, we will continue to be a free country and proud of it.

  24. August 19, 2010 at 15:56 | #24

    kentashcraft writes:

    I believe this building will send an important message to al-Qaeda, to the effect that whatever they do, we will continue to be a free country and proud of it.

    Damn right. If we’re going to act like a bunch of frightened bigots every time someone vaguely Muslim or Middle Eastern does something we’re not all that happy with, we might as well just admit the terrorists have won. The only WTC survivors I’ve read about don’t seem all that upset with the idea. If some are, that’s sad, but I think it’s hard to gauge whether they’d be any less upset if this thing were ten blocks away or on the other side of Central Park.

    Thankfully, the polls I’ve seen on this issue seem to say that Americans agree with this notion. It should be their right to build there, even if we’re not happy with it.

    For my part, as I’ve explained before, I’d be happier if there were no religious institutions anywhere near there, since at least part of the motivation for the attacks was religious fanaticism. But there are already lots of religious institutions there, and I’d say that many have had no less involvement in atrocities of years past. One of the other reasons for the 9/11 attacks was Israel’s conflict with its neighbors. Shouldn’t we exclude synagogues from the area, too? Isn’t it possible that some 9/11 survivors blame the Jews, too?

    Trying to guess how everyone feels and whether there are enough folks who are upset about something being a particular way is a tough way to run a country.

    If any religion can be there, then they all should be. That’s how it is, and it’s how it ought to be.

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