Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Enough about the Ground Zero mosque already

President Obama is absolutely correct; the Cordoba Initiative has every Constitutional right to build their mosque and community center there. Just as the Westboro Baptist Church has every Constitutional right to wave signs saying "Thank God for IEDs" at soldier's funerals, just as the American Nazi Party had every Constitutional right to march through the Jewish community of Skokie, Illinois, where many Holocaust survivors lived. If Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf wants to demonstrate the wisdom, sensitivity and human compassion of Rev. Fred Phelps and NSPA Chairman Frank Collin, we have no legal or Constitutional standing to prevent him from doing so.


Will Shetterly said...

It's not a mosque, it's not at ground zero, and if it's okay to have strip clubs there, it certainly should be okay to have a community center.

Jim Magaw said...

Thanks for the link to the Cordoba Initiative. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is working to improve relations between the Muslim world and the West. My hope and prayer is that we all try to do likewise.

Bill Baar said...

Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid had an excellant column in Asharq Al-Awsat yesterday.

His conclusion,

What the US citizens do not understand is that the battle against the 11 September terrorists is a Muslim battle, and not theirs, and this battle still is ablaze in more than 20 Muslim countries. Some Muslims will consider that building a mosque on this site immortalizes and commemorates what was done by the terrorists who committed their crime in the name of Islam. I do not think that the majority of Muslims want to build a symbol or a worship place that tomorrow might become a place about which the terrorists and their Muslim followers boast, and which will become a shrine for Islam haters whose aim is to turn the public opinion against Islam. This is what has started to happen now; they claim that there is a mosque being built over the corpses of 3,000 killed US citizens, who were buried alive by people chanting God is great, which is the same call that will be heard from the mosque.

It is the wrong battle, because originally there was no mosque in order to rebuild it, and there are no practicing Muslims who want a place in which to worship.

I just wish our Prez could utter a few words of solidarity to Muslims every time a sucide bomber blows up a Mosque because it voices an Islam at odds with Radical Islamists. I wish the Prez (and our own UUA Prez) could muster up that kind of courage.

Chalicechick said...

This is essentially a visual explanation of Will's point, but I think it makes the point well.

Who thinks your comparisons are a little dramatic.

Chalicechick said...
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Chalicechick said...

This time with fewer typos:

According to the map at this post, the strip club is actually one block farther away from Ground Zero than the community center would be. The offtrack betting parlor is the same distance and the cafe with Arabic writing on the sign is a block closer.

Anyway, yeah, kinda difficult to consider it hallowed ground.

who, in December, drove right past Ground Zero on her way back to Brooklyn. Mary went "that's Ground Zero" or I would have missed it. Admittedly, driving in Manhatten requires concentration and I wasn't looking at the buildings. I'm sure Ground Zero itself is obvious when you're paying attention to your surroundings rather than focusing on the road. But it's not like the neighborhood is Arlington National Cemetary. The site is smack in the middle of lower Manhatten and the area around it just looks like the rest of New York.

Red Sphynx said...

OK, among UUs, we will probably find few to none who oppose the Cordoba Mosque. Bu I commend to you this blog post by Rod Dreher, Disgust and the Ground Zero Mosque. Ultimately, Dreher supports letting the mosque be built. But he gives the most thoughtful, articulate statement of why, for many people, this is hot button issue. He doesn't write off opponents of the mosque as bigots. Read the whole thing.

Chalicechick said...

Again, even that article describes conservatives who see the area around Ground Zero as sacred ground that is not defiled by strippers or off-track betting, but would be by a house of worship and a community center.

And that still seems nuts.

Also, the only reason the nuns aren't still outside Auschwitz is because someone convinced the pope. Taking that comparison as an example, comparing the seemingly well-meaning folks who want to build that thing to Fred Phelps, claiming that it would be a "monument to terrorism" as the protesters did in a giant banner, etc, etc, is not a good tactic.


Steve Caldwell said...

CC wrote:
"Also, the only reason the nuns aren't still outside Auschwitz is because someone convinced the pope."


First, there is a difference in polity between Islam and Roman Catholicism. Catholicism has a monarchical polity where there is a singular sovereign authority to make decisions. This authority is called the Pope. There is no Pope in Islam nor is there a Pope in any of the smaller sub-groups in Islam (e.g. there is no Sunni Pope either).

Second, One cannot ignore the historic role that Christianity in general and Catholicism had in anti-Jewish bigotry is part of the historical record (a good introduction to this history is Garry Wills' Papal Sin: Structures of Deceit).

Centuries of anti-Jewish violence and bigotry that was encouraged by church authorities is one factor in the Holocaust happening. The Jesus Seminar co-chair John Dominic Crossan sums the Christian connection with anti-Jewish bigotry up in his book Who Killed Jesus?, which exploring the Easter passion stories in the Bible and their connection to anti-semitism:

Anti-Semitism means six million Jews on Hitler's list but only twelve hundred Jews on Schindler's list. This book is about anti-Semitism, not, however, in its latest European obscenity, but in its earliest Christian latency. It is about the historicity of the passion narratives, those terribly well-known stories about Jesus' arrest and trial, abuse and crucifixion, burial and resurrection. It is about the accuracy and honesty of Christian scholarship in its best reconstruction of those ancient yet ever-present events. Biblical exegesis and historical analysis may often seem but distant murmurs from an ivory tower. Why should ordinary people care about discussions and debates among scholars? Two examples, one very small and one very large, indicate why the historicity of the passion narratives is not a question just for scholars and experts but for anyone with a heart and a conscience.

In the gospel of Mark, Jesus is tried by both a Jewish and a Roman tribunal, and each juridical process concludes with physical abuse and mockery. After the Jewish trial in Mark 14:65, "some began to spit on him," mocking him as a pseudo-prophet. After the Roman trial in Mark 15:19, "the soldiers...spat upon him," mocking him as a pseudo-king. If you are being scourged and crucified, being spat upon or even slapped may seem a very minor indignity and hardly worth consideration then or now. But, as Father Raymond E. Brown, S.S., notes in his...The Death of the Messiah: From Gethsemane to the Grave --- A Commentary on the Passion Narratives in the Four Gospels, those mockeries were recalled by "the Passiontide ceremony in the 9th-11th cents. in which a Jew was brought into the cathedral of Toulouse to be given a symbolic blow by the count --- an honor!" (575 note 7). No Roman, one notices, was accorded a like honor.

This is a long reply but it does point out that the comparison between a Catholic convent at Auschwitz situation with the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" situation may be an apples-and-oranges comparison.

Chalicechick said...


My point is that people didn't get the nuns moved by demonizing the Catholics and calling them persecutors like you're doing or holding demonstrations. The nuns moved because somebody convinced the pope that it was the right thing to do.

IMHO, throwing around accusations of terrorism and comparisons to the American Nazi party isn't going to do it in this case.

If the community center so horrifies people, then the idea to get across to the founders is is "Hey, we realize you guys are Sufis. If the enemy of the enemy is our friend, you're our friend because the Taliban regularly bomb your temples and slaughter your people and the Iranians persecute you too. And we understand that you're more or less Muslim hippies. But people are just way too freaked out. Give the Upper West Side a library and gym and a cultural center and a restaurant. Use the publicity to do some educatiing now and try again in a decade or so when people are more ready to listen."

Instead, the general response has been so incredibly ignorant that it has over and over shown the founders that the educational center is desperately needed.


Joel Monka said...

Yes, the comparisons are a little dramatic, but no more so than Nancy Pelosi calling for a congressional investigation into the background and funding of the opposition to the is/ain't a mosque, or Norah O'Donnell saying on MSNBC that the opposition is behaving like the 9/11 terrorists.

As to whether it's nuts to consider ground zero sacred ground, I remember being told when the subject was code words and code language concerning race, sex, and ethnicity that we don't have the right to tell someone else that it's stupid to be offended, and that to continue once being told it was offensive proved intent to offend. What's different here?

As to intent, that is the only real difference between the examples used and the Cordoba Initiative project. I do not accuse Imam Rauf of Muslim triumphalism- you know my dictum, never ascribe to conspiracy anything that can be explained by simple incompetence. But for a man of the cloth to not realize that people would be offended in this case is an example of, quite literally, monumental insensitivity. And in the end, his original intent matters no more than Joe Biden's original intent in calling then senator Obama "articulate".

Red Sphynx said...

Steve, you make the point that we can't make facile comparisons between the Catholic convent at Auschwitz and the Cordoba mosque. Dreher, an Orthodox Christian, continues the conversation with a thought experiment. What if they were to build an Orthodox chapel and cultural center at Srebrenica?

The atrocities - 9/11 and Srebrenica - are roughly on the same scale. Would you defend the right of the Orthodox to build there?

Red Sphynx said...

Chalicechick says "people didn't get the nuns moved by demonizing the Catholics and calling them persecutors like you're doing or holding demonstrations."

Actually, protests and demonstrations were very much a part of getting the Pope to overrule the Polish Cardinals.

Chalicechick said...
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Chalicechick said...

Red Sphynx,

Actually, my reading of the article you linked to was that the Convent was going to be moved to a place the Jews were more OK with and the actions of the protesters actually got in the way. It says that even the Jewish world was divided on the protests. It certainly doesn't say anything about the protests being what changed the pope's mind.

I will say one thing for that article, it is quite fairly written for something coming out of one side. I was more sympathetic to the Polish Catholics after reading it than I was beforehand. That said, I'd say there's a difference between having a convent on the grounds of Auchwitz and having it a couple of blocks away among the strip clubs and off-track betting parlors. All the Jews asked for was that the convent not be on the grounds. In this case, the building in question is already blocks away and cannot even be seen from the grounds.


As for the comparisons, since when do two wrongs make a right? You complained an awful lot about Nazi comparisons during the Bush era. Am I to understand now that they are actually OK when the other side has done them first? If I wanted that sort of logic, there are other blogs I could read.

Ditto for the "offending people" stuff. And be fair. Pelosi asked for an investigation into the finances of both sides, likely because the timing of people suddenly caring about this controversy is so convenient to the usual August news slump and to the midterm elections. Oh, protect us, Republicans, from these anti-American invaders!

I'm not sure why you're so sure that the Sufis involved should have known it would be such a big deal. For one thing, stories about it have been running in the New York Times since at least December, including coverage of a public meeting in May, and nobody cared nationally until a couple of weeks ago when pundits decided it was the latest thing to fuss about. (I'd say it has been getting more and more famous since Sarah Palin started tweeting about it on July 19, ensuring that by August people would be all over it.) There's already a mosque in the neighborhood, one of over a hundred in New York, so the idea of building a second one nearby just doesn't seem that shocking.

If the local mosque that is already in that neighborhood burns down, do you plan to be offended if it is rebuilt?


Joel Monka said...

You complained an awful lot about Nazi comparisons during the Bush era. Actually, I said very little about it during the Bush era; when I started talking about it was when all those editorials and blogposts were saying that proof of how racist the rightwing was were the pictures of President Obama morphed into Hitler and the Joker. Never before had politics been so vicious, they said. I posted pictures of Bush similarly photoshopped to show how the "racism" was politics as usual. The same with my response to Chris Matthews saying how racist it was for radio talkshow hosts to refer to the "Obama regime", when he himself had referred to the "Bush regime". Prior to that, my major complaint about the tone of politics was not about Bush, but what they were saying about Bristol Palin.

As to being fair to Ms. Pelosi, that statement you reference is a CYA press release she issued when she started taking heat for this interview, the day before, in which she called for an investigation of the opposition only. Perhaps she did that because Mayor Bloomberg had previously called requests for an investigation of funding for the mosque "un-American", according to Huffington Post

I'm not sure why you're so sure that the Sufis involved should have known it would be such a big deal. Well, others did. Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, a devout Muslim and director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington: “building a 15-story Islamic center at ground zero isn’t something a Sufi would do,’’ according to Schwartz, also a practitioner of Sufism. “Sufism is supposed to be based on sensitivity toward others,’’ yet Cordoba House comes across as “grossly insensitive.’’ Zuhdi Jasser, a physician, US Navy veteran, and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy: “For us, a mosque was always a place to pray, to be together on holidays — not a way to make an ostentatious architectural statement,’’ Jasser said. “Ground zero shouldn’t be about promoting Islam. It’s the place where war was declared on us as Americans.’’ To use that space for Muslim outreach, he argues, is “the worst form of misjudgment.’’ Source: Boston Globe Raheel Raza, board member of the Muslim Canadian Congress, says in the beginning of this radio interview that the mosque is "very insensitive, confrontational, not in good faith... isn't compassionate or tolerant...", and continues on from there. Tarek Fatah, along with Raheel, said in this article for the Ottawa Citizen, said "The Koran commands Muslims to, "Be considerate when you debate with the People of the Book" -- i.e., Jews and Christians. 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"

"If the local mosque that is already in that neighborhood burns down, do you plan to be offended if it is rebuilt?" No, nor would the citizens of NY, as evidenced by the fact that they were built in the first place- some of them built after 9/11. Being Islamic, or the building being a mosque, isn't the issue; the location is.

Joel Monka said...

BTW, another of those Republicans opposed to the GZM: Howard Dean

Chalicechick said...

Harry Reid also has taken the "Of course they have the legal right to build it, but they should build it somewhere else out of respect for the angry people on the Internet who hadn't heard of it two weeks ago" position. It is the obvious middle ground.

As for other Sufis disagreeing, this is a conversation of Unitarians who disagree.

I'm curious about the Mosque a few blocks farther that could be rebuilt inoffensively. Why is this no problem? Because it isn't new or because of the extra few blocks? How far in all directions does the Hallowed ground extend? Is there anything else that would be offensive to build there thar isn't offensive other places or would a mosque be the only thing?

Joel Monka said...

I don't believe that people only heard of it two weeks ago- the Boston Globe article I referenced is ten weeks old, for example. And, as you mentioned, there have been news stories since at least last December. But there was no point in discussing it until the various government agencies made their decisions- would the building be declared a landmark, etc. Two weeks ago the go-ahead to build was given, which is why the debate heated up at that time.

As for other Sufis disagreeing, this is a conversation of Unitarians who disagree. I only quoted them to demonstrate that other Muslims, holding similar positions in similar organizations to Imam Rauf, had been able to figure out that people would be offended by such a structure- you did ask me why I thought the Cordoba Initiative people should have known.

As for the parameters, I don't know. Not only am I not a New Yorker, I have never even been to NY City itself. I don't know what they lived through, what it was like to flee that horrible white cloud of dust and debris blowing down the streets, wondering if the attack was over, or if there was another round coming. Right off the bat, I'd guess that to a New Yorker the preexisting mosque would be "one of us", neighbors who know what it was to live through that day. Which is also the answer to those who sneer "What, is the strip club sacred, too?"

I'd also guess you're right that distance would be a big factor. The building in question was close enough that parts of the doomed airliner struck and damaged the roof. It is 600 ft away, just 240 paces; athletes routinely run that distance in 20 seconds. Had the WTC tower fallen over rather than collapsing in, it would have fallen 1,727 ft. I don't know what a New Yorker would consider far enough... as far as body parts flew?... as far as the debris cloud drove people in panic? Something to do with the districts of the Fire Departments who lost all those men? I don't know- I can't know; I wasn't there.

What else would be offensive? I'd guess that any single-faith church would be unacceptable, given the cosmopolitan nature of the victims. No other situation has ever called more strongly for a modern Pantheon; it's a shame it's not politically possible to build one. I imagine anything perceived as disrespectful to Firemen and other first responders. What else? I don't know- try and list in advance everything that might be offensive to any given victim/survivor group.

Chalicechick said...

My impression is that all you demonstrated about other Sufis is that they have 20/20 hindsight like everybody else.

I'm pretty sure that if the people who were building a church/community center a couple of blocks away were Baptists, we wouldn't be having this discussion because we would never have heard of it because there would have been no controversy.

Also, I really don't get the concept that anything BUT a church would be inoffensive. I will take that for granted for the sake or argument.

Basically, lower Manhattan has not preserved itself like a tomb. As the photos indicate, it has suffered its tragedy and is doing its best to move on and live life. People actually live there and work there. And part of going on and living life in a city is change and business closing and reopening and, yes, the occasional new church.

Making anybody who lives there and wants to go to a new church have to travel farther to it since it had to be built farther away because guys in Indiana who've never been to New York so strongly objected doesn't seem right.


Roger said...

I have personally seen the bigotry displayed by some people conerning this proposed Islamic center. The last person I spoke to said they shouldn't let the people who brought the towers down build a mosque so close to ground zero. I guess using that logic all Christians are like those who bomb abortion clinics, etc.

I wish people would just shut up about it and let them have their Islamic center and in a few months nobody will even give a rat's behind. There is already an Islamic center a few blocks from Ground Zero. And let's not forget that American Muslims died in 9/11 as well.

I really can't help but feel that this is mostly a result of right-wing scare-mongering influencing a large segment of our population, similar to the sad spectacle we saw before the Iraq invasion.

Joel Monka said...

I doubt that anyone would have to travel farther to go to a mosque; population pressure and demand were about the only reasons NOT given for building it. And yes, it would be silly indeed to move it because a guy in Indiana objected, but he objected only because a sixty some-odd percentage of New Yorkers object; were there more than thirty percent of New Yorkers saying it was a good idea, it would be a non-issue. And as far as "had to", I stated twice in a single paragraph that they have every right to build it; I said that it would demonstrate insensitivity, not illegality.

I wonder how NY would have reacted had the plan been to renovate the existing building, rather than demolish it and build a new one. I bet that would have gone over much better.

Chalicechick said...

Turns out that places as far off as Sheboygan, Wisconsin are STILL on ground too sacred to be tainted with a house of worship, according to Tea Partiers. But I'm sure racism and religious intolerance have nothing to do with their objections, right?

I didn't necessarily say the new church would be a mosque. After all, there's a mosque like a block farther away. (Though I don't think it is a Sufi mosque.) Anyway, I said another new Church. You said that "I'd guess that any single-faith church would be unacceptable, given the cosmopolitan nature of the victims." So, presumably, if the neighborhood doesn't happen to have, say, an LDS church and the Mormons want to build one, it would be insensitive for them to do so given than not everyone who died in the WFC was Mormon.

Neighborhoods change. The religious mix of an area can change, too. I'd say the idea that faiths should be shamed into neglecting the neighborhood is far more offensive than the idea of building this or any other house of worship.

And if the local government approved the project and lower Manhattanites feel that strongly about it, they have the power to vote those responsible out.

who drives closer to the Pentagon site than that Mosque would be to the WFC every day on her way two and from work. Luckily highways don't offend the delicate sensibilities of the tea partiers.

Steve Caldwell said...

I don't know if anyone has seen this commentary from Ron Paul:

"Ron Paul to Sunshine Patriots: Stop Your Demagogy About The NYC Mosque!"

In brief, he says that those who are speaking out against the mosque are political demagogues who don't respect personal property rights and would rather focus on trivial but divisive issues instead of the real problems we're facing today.

Joel Monka said...

You know a situation has become desparate when Ron Paul is quoted as the voice of reason.

Jaume de Marcos Andreu said...

Being from the country where the original Mosque of Cordoba is (, probably built upon the ruins of a Visigothic (Arian?) church, and now embedded within the Christian Cathedral of Cordoba), I think it would be great that a mosque is built on Ground Zero, just as it would be great that a church is built in Mecca. But failing to do so in a dictatorial country such as Arabia is not an excuse for not doing it in the supposedly democratic USA.

Chalicechick said...

I liked this cranky British guy's take.

who thinks Ron Paul is the voice of reason a fair amount of the time. Rand Paul is the crazy one.

Chalicechick said...

(((I doubt that anyone would have to travel farther to go to a mosque; population pressure and demand were about the only reasons NOT given for building it)))

FWIW, factcheck.org does quote the Park51 website as saying the new mosque will be replacing an older mosque that lost its space and that right now the current mosque is so overcrowded people are praying on the sidewalks. Source.