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Steve Likes to Curse
Writing, comics and random thoughts from really a rather vulgar man
Ground Zero Mosque: A Thought Experiment 
Thursday, July 29th, 2010 | 05:09 pm [commentary, politics, video, vlog]
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The opposition to the Cordoba House, a mosque and Muslim community center being built two blocks from the former site of the World Trade Center in New York City got me to thinking.

Most of the critics, including Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, have suggested that it’s indecent and insensitive for Muslims to want to build a mosque near the place where other Muslims committed a horrific act of terrorism almost ten years ago. But let’s suppose for a moment we aren’t talking about Muslims, and we aren’t talking about New York.

If you think you’re opposed to the so-called Ground Zero mosque, watch the video. Try the thought experiment. See your objections for what they are, and decide for yourself whether they’re fair or not.

Friday, July 30th, 2010 | 05:28 pm (UTC)
But it is New York and it is Muslims. If we're going to try to compare what happened on 9/11 to something else, scale does matter. What happened 10 years ago wasn't your average everyday murder. We should compare apples to apples and oranges to oranges. What apple comes close to the same weight as 9/11?

Let's say I'm a Christian and I want to move next door to you. Not only do I want to move next door to you, but I want to put a great big ole cross on my front lawn and invite all my Christian buddies to worship at my house on Sundays. You also find out that I've got some very shady characters investing in my property. When I'm done, my house will be the biggest church in the entire country. I'll be putting in a pool and a gymnasium and I'll call it a community center rather than a church to make the idea slightly less offensive. Let's say I also plan to have a huge house warming party too, and I've set the date for the exact same day a massacre occured on your street. If 3,000 people were killed in your neighborhood in the name of Christianity just 10 years ago, can I really blame you for being suspicious of my intentions? Not only should I not blame you for asking me not to move next door to you, but by respecting your wishes I would prove I understand the magnatude of loss suffered on that day. To push forward with my ambitions with out regard to your feelings would be, at the very least, terribly insensitive of me, at worst, sinister.
Friday, July 30th, 2010 | 06:35 pm (UTC)
In your thought experiment the black family that wants to buy the house isn't picking that particular location because a murder happened there. I assume they just want a house to live in. But, if their intentions were to build some kind of shrine to their color of skin or something *because* some crazy maniac that shared their same color of skin murdered people 10 years ago and that's why they want to buy that particular house, as a real estate agent, yeah, I'd find it all very weird. I'm not so sure I'd believe them if they told me their motives were totally peaceful. The people that want to build a mega mosque at ground zero picked that location *because* of what happened there.
Friday, July 30th, 2010 | 07:44 pm (UTC)
You're extending blame for 9/11 to all Muslims, and assigning sinister motivations to the group that wants to build the mosque based on your feelings about the terrorists who committed those acts that day. Perhaps the hope is that the Cordoba House will allow the Muslim community in New York to take part in the healing process that, even now, is still taking place.

Look, I'm not a fan of any religion, Islam included. I'd be thrilled if there was never another mosque (or church or synagogue or other sort of temple) built anywhere in the world from this point on. But complaining that a group wants to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero smacks to me of bigotry. If you bought property next to my house and built the world's biggest church and invited all your Christian buddies over all the time, it would get on my nerves. It would irritate me. I'd definitely complain. But what I wouldn't do is try to intimidate or guilt-trip you into leaving, or not coming in the first place. Nor would I appeal to my government to block your right to build there. If worse came to worse, I would move, because I'd be the one with the problem.
Friday, July 30th, 2010 | 09:30 pm (UTC)
I'm with you on the not appealing to the government to block their right to build there. If it gets built, I won't like it, I'm not for it, but that's just tough. That's freedom of religion.

But, I'm not buying that whole business about it allowing the Muslims to participate in the healing process. I just don't see how a mega-mosque at ground zero will help any one. I'm not extending blame to all Muslims and I'm not a bigot because I think the last thing any of us need at ground zero is a mosque. I think its insensitive and I do question the motive behind it.
Monday, August 2nd, 2010 | 04:07 pm (UTC)
I'm not so sure the analogy works. Black people don't choose to be black. They just are. It's just skin color thing. Black people are just like everyone else, they just have different skin and different hair.

Being Muslim isn't like being black. People aren't born Muslim. People choose to be Muslim. They choose to believe that Muhammad was a prophet from a god and that women are inferior.

To be honest, I can see why some people have a problem with this Muslim center being built near Ground Zero. Though I don't think all Muslims are terrorists, I do recognize that most terrorists are Muslims. If the terrorists behind 911 didn't drive airplanes into the World Trade Center, the site where the Muslim center is going to be built would still be apartments with people living in them.

As far as analogies go, a closer one would be if a group of anti-abortion activists blew up a hospital they thought abortions were being performed, killing thousands of innocent people in the process. Ten years later, a pro-life organization wanted to build a pro-life education center where the hospital once stood.

My guess is that a lot of people would have a problem with that.

Monday, August 2nd, 2010 | 04:19 pm (UTC)
I like your analogy a lot, and think it comes much closer to the actual situation than mine does. But don't forget, the mosque isn't going to be built at Ground Zero. It's going to be two blocks away. So the analogous pro-life center wouldn't be where the hospital stood, but a good way's down the street.
Monday, August 2nd, 2010 | 11:52 pm (UTC)
Its going to be two blocks away, only because that's as close as they could get. If they could have gotten closer, they would have. That building was specifically chosen because a piece of the plane landed on it.

And, I like the anti-abortion scenario better, too.

Also too, the Imam heading this thing is pro-shariah. It says so, right on the Cordoba Initiative website.
Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010 | 01:16 am (UTC)
I've been looking over the Cordoba Initiative website for a bit now and I haven't found anything suggesting that Faisal Abdul Rauf advocates replacing civil law with shariah. I see lots and lots of things I disagree with him about, but then, being a secularist, I'd expect to disagree with an imam a fair bit.

Could you point me to where on the Cordoba website you find the statement that Rauf favors empowering shariah courts in the U.S.? That seems to be what you're suggesting.

But let's assume Rauf does favor instituting shariah law as an alternative, or replacement, to civil law. So what? You and I both agree (I presume) that creating a religious court and allowing it to make legally binding rulings is a horrible, undemocratic idea that no free society should even entertain. But why should the fact that Rauf feels the opposite (if indeed he feels that way) prevent him and his organization from purchasing property and building their mosque/community center?
Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010 | 02:11 am (UTC)

I read over the page at the link above, and what I got out of it is that they are for Shariah. But, I'll admit, it confused me, so, you read it and tell me if I'm wrong.

To answer your other questions, if I'm right that what is at the link is sympathetic to Shariah law it just makes the whole idea of this guy heading up a mosque at ground zero, all the more creepy. I think the same about it that I would any other preacher or ministry with radical ideas, because to me, Shariah IS radical. But, the Libertarian in me agrees with you, even if he is pro-sharia, it shouldn't stop him from building a mosque...a mosque. But the fact that he doesn't seem to care about the 52% of the population that doesn't want him to build a mosque THERE and if he is sharia-loving and if he is keeping the funding for this thing on the DL, I just can't help but think we're naive to not question his purpose.
Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010 | 02:40 am (UTC)
I wondered if that was the page you meant. I read that, too, and was troubled by this passage from the first paragraph:

A contentious issue between religious Islamic political and secular political parties within the Muslim World, and between Muslim and Western nations (for whom Church-State separation is a foundational concept), it evolves around the right balance between institutions of political power and authority and institutions of religious power and authority, and whether the modern nation state Muslims live in should be a secular or religious (i.e. Islamic) State?

To me, the answer to that question is obvious. Whether the nation in question is a majority-Muslim country or not, if they wish to be a free and democratic society, the government must be 100% secular and 0% religious (Muslim or otherwise). That Rauf would even pursue the question is suggestive to me that he doesn't see the same value in a clear and complete separation between church and state that most Americans do.

But there's still some distance between that and advocating the establishment of sharia. I haven't seen anything that tells me Rauf, or the Cordoba Initiative, have that as a goal.
Wednesday, August 4th, 2010 | 01:34 pm (UTC)
"As National Review’s Andrew C. McCarthy has documented, Rauf’s book, published in the West as What’s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America, had a significantly different title abroad: A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9/11. “Dawa” means Islamic proselytizing, a process that ends in the imposition of sharia. The book was published abroad with the assistance of the Islamic Society of North America and the International Institute of Islamic Thought, which are two appendages of the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization behind much of the world’s murderous Islamic terrorism. The Islamic Society of North America was identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terrorism case. The co-founder and president of the International Institute of Islamic Thought, Shaykh Taha Jabir al-Awani, was an unindicted co-conspirator in the Sami al-Arian terrorism case."

Thursday, August 5th, 2010 | 04:09 am (UTC)
I noted a few weaselly phrases in that National Review article.

For instance, Rauf is accused of being "an apologist for Hamas." No examples of this are cited — in the linked article, or in either of two recent articles my Andrew McCarthy on the subject of the Cordoba House — yet for the rest of the piece Rauf is referred to as an apologist. His purported reluctance to label Hamas a terrorist organization is apparently all the evidence we ought to need.

Also, Rauf's book, What’s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America, is referred to several times. Much is made of the word "dawa" used in its Malaysian title, as well as Rauf's association with Yusuf Qaradawi, an influential Muslim cleric who is banned from entering the United States, and has been accused of supporting and inciting terrorism. But there is not a single citation from Rauf's book in any of these articles. Not a quote, not a paraphrase. If it really is as radical as McCarthy is strongly suggesting it is, this seems a bit odd.

Rauf is also attacked for responding to a question about terrorism by saying "it's complicated." Well . . . it is complicated. Not all of it — of course I wish that Rauf, and other Muslim leaders, would come out strongly against terrorism, murder, suicide bombing, and kidnapping employed as strategies for advancing Islam. That ought to be bare minimum. But the terrorism question is not so cleanly answered. Even Qaradawi, who at first glance seems like a prototypical radical jihadist, has pushed for dialogue and cooperation between the Islamic world and the West. Does that make him a good guy? No; it makes him more complicated than a bad guy who must be roundly and utterly condemned by all right-thinking people.

Moderates like Rauf have no choice but to occasionally associate themselves with radicals that stand to either side of them. If he really wants a better relationship between Islam and the West, he can't just take the side of the United States and wag his finger disapprovingly at his fellow Muslims. He has to promote engagement, and maintain friends on both sides.

Thursday, August 5th, 2010 | 04:10 am (UTC)
(Continued from above.)

I can't help but think how much easier this would be without the irrational convictions of religion clouding the minds of hundreds of millions of people. But there's another thought that I have as I read these National Review articles, and listen to the reactions of other voices from the right to this mosque being built two blocks from Ground Zero:

Muslims are the new Communists.

When my parents were children, the Andrew McCarthys and Glenn Becks of their era were shouting to anyone who would listen about the dangers of communist infiltration. "They are among us," it was whispered. "They mean to take us over, slowly and quietly, without anyone noticing, from the inside." Does not McCarthy express this identical sentiment, only substituting sharia for communism?

How little faith these people have in the Constitution they claim to revere, and the American people toward whom they launch their ignorant and fearful and insulting appeals. For the last three hundred years, western culture has been evolving away from absolutism and intolerance, and toward democracy and liberty. More times than I can count these last few days I've encountered warnings from conservatives (many of whom have apparently become scholars of Islam) about the vile way women and minorities are treated under sharia, about the cruel and unbending governments that result. Do they really believe that such crude, barbaric traditions can be imposed on the people of the United States by allowing some moderate Muslims to erect a community center and mosque in New York City? Would they have us believe that the road from the greatest democracy the world has ever known (as they so often crow) to brutal fundamentalist dictatorship is really that short?

Those who saw closet communists behind every corner, and the Soviet takeover of our government as inevitable sixty years ago were not patriots or prophets. They were paranoid, hysterical demagogues who tried to pass their conspiracy theories by wrapping them in patriotism. Those, like the writers and editors at the National Review, Glenn Beck, and Dennis Miller — who spent much of his radio show this morning on an uninformed, but no less righteously indignant, tirade against the Cordoba House — who warn of the imminent imposition of a fascist Islamic dictatorship unless we isolate and marginalize our Muslim fellow Americans from our communities even more than they already are, are selling the same shit with almost the same pitch.

Edited at 2010-08-05 04:10 am (UTC)
Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010 | 03:03 am (UTC)
I thought it was going to be built someplace that had to be torn down because of damage sustained during 9-11. Or maybe it needs to be torn down and it hasn't happened yet. Either way, if the terror attacks of 9-11 hadn't happened, the opportunity to build the center at that specific location would not be possible.
Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010 | 03:21 am (UTC)
@ Rick, exactly. We wouldn't be arguing over whether two blocks is far enough away, if it hadn't have happened in the first place. From what I have read, the Burlington Coat Factory building was hit with debris. I'm not sure about right now, but up until just a few months ago, the building was already being quietly used as a mosque. There is also a mosque four (I think) blocks away, that existed before 9/11 that nobody seems to have an issue with. I would offer links but I'm too lazy right now...google it, its there.
Monday, August 2nd, 2010 | 11:55 pm (UTC)
two thumbs up!
Monday, August 2nd, 2010 | 11:58 pm (UTC)
oops, I meant for the "two thumbs up" to post under RR's comment. There's no "like" button on here damn it.
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