Friday, August 27, 2010

The Wrong Mosque in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time

Jonathan M. writes to me about a recent post stating that we are hardly Islamophobic as a recent Time magazine article asserted. He asked:

Don't you think the controversy surrounding the "Ground zero" mosque indicates that there is at least some anti-muslim sentiment present in the country? And doesn't the fact that several right-wing pundits appear to be trying to whip up anti-muslim sentiment concern you? I'm speaking of the comments by Gingrich, in which he appears to be adding a geographical component to the 1st amendment; of Limbaugh, who seems to think that there will be terrorist training courses available at the new "cultural center"; and of the slandering on FOX news of the religious leader there (Rauf), who apparently has in the past given State Department sponsored lectures in the Middle East (under both the Bush and Obama administrations), and is, by all accounts, a religious moderate. Moreover, protests against mosques being built in the U.S. are happening all over the country (see Clearly, the controversy in New York is not an isolated incident, and the proximity to ground zero as a basis for the protests is a canard.

I don't think that the issue of the mosque being built on Ground Zero is a matter of religious freedom. I wrote about this issue fairly early before the issue really ramped up in the media. I stand by my judgment about the sponsors--including Rauf who is not as moderate as he acts--notwithstanding his work for Obama and Bush--and the symbolism of such a place at that place and at this time. I can't speak to what Beck or Limbaugh said, not having heard them, but mosques run by radicals have long served as recruiting and indoctrination grounds for terrorists, and overseas--I'm thinking of Iraq in particular, but not exclusively--have functioned as jihadi armories and fighting positions, even.

The Moslems backing this project certainly have the right to build a mosque. That isn't a question. Our freedom of religion settles that. The question is where it will be built. That answer is a matter of zoning (a geographic component, if you will), financing, common sense, and sensitivity to others. Religious freedom--what Moslems clearly have here in America--does not have anything to do with where it is built. Where is a legitimate question even in first amendment matters--just ask universities that have speech codes. And don't even get me started on the restrictions of freedom of speech that our campaign finance laws impose, especially in the time right before an election for some groups (isn't that the most important time to get out your message?).

Consider an abortion clinic. Under current laws, such places can be built. They are legal and have been given constitutional protection by our highest court. But zoning ordinances will restrict where one can be built. Money will be an issue, and it is unlikely to be built in a high-demand area where property values are high. One probably wouldn't build it next to a Right to Life headquarters building even if you had zoning and money to do so, out of a sense of prudence. And you might even not build it next to a Catholic church, just out of decency. Avoiding the latter two would actually help the stated purpose of an abortion clinic in serving actual women who want to have abortions by avoiding high profile conflict. Now if their purpose was not to assist pregnant women who want their service, but to cause a political fight, then build away wherever.

Really, the position of those opposed to the mosque at the Ground Zero site isn't much different from the president's state position that the project people have the right to do so but that the wisdom of doing so is another question altogether.

There is also the matter of timing. Perhaps when Islam has made more progress in taming the fanatics who taint their religion, a mosque within the Ground Zero perimeter would promote understanding. But while there is a hot shooting war going on with jihadis? No. It is just wrong.

And do people who hate Moslems side with the anti-mosque side? No doubt. But the arguments I read do not rest on anti-Islamic feelings, but on anti-jihadi feelings and sensitivity to those impacted by the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. I think our war against jihadis and the ideology that backs jihad would be better served by not putting a mosque at Ground Zero next to where the World Trade Center stood.

And I really resent the accusations of Islamophobia here given how little actual violence is directed at Moslems here, even after 9/11, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, beheadings, and all manner of mayhem and murder carried out by the jihadis who claim they fight for Islam. I dare say Texans face more hostility from your average chapter and Marines would face more blind anger from a Code Pink coven than Moslems would face in rural Alabama.

Further, consider if the roles were reversed and some Lutheran blew up the Grand Mosque in Mecca. Nobody defending the mosque at Ground Zero would consider it a natural thing to build a Lutheran church and outreach center a block or two from the rubble of the mosque. Their opinions would be moot, of course, since the Saudis wouldn't allow that notwithstanding the goals of promoting understanding. The lot of Christians in Islamic lands is what you should look at if you want to see real religious intolerance. Until Islamic countries make a lot more progress in demonstrating tolerance toward Christians, Jews, Hindus, and even rival Moslem sects, I don't care to hear too much self-flagellating hand wringing over deciding where Moslems can build a mosque here.

And do some use the issue for political pursposes? Sure. Just as people supporting the mosque claim it supports a political purpose of winning over Moslems overseas so they'll like us more. Just as people who like Obamacare use sad tales of individuals without insurance for political purposes. Politics is how we resolve differences in how we govern ourselves or conduct foreign policy. But I have no doubt that the people on both sides sincerely believe they are right even as they hope to persuade other people that their position on related issues is the correct path to take. That's how we work--with persuasion and not guns and grenades.

Just as true as the accusation that bigots are among those who oppose the mosque, I bet pro-jihadi or simply energetic "dissenters" support building the mosque side by side with those who honestly believe the project will be a bridge to increase understanding. So I don't attach much significance to the fact that some oppose the mosque for bad reasons. I don't think that the fact that the honorable motives of most supporters of the mosque negate the reasons of the dishonorable and our enemies for being delighted with a mosque on that site.

And as to why I don't allow comments, I recently addressed that, too. I sometimes feel guilty about not allowing comments, but that feeling always passes quickly.

So thanks for your comments, Jonathan. (Funny, I had a friend by that name in college.) I usually don't post at length in response to comments, though I will sometimes use them when appropriate, but since I haven't written much on the issue, I thought it was a good opportunity to expand on the two posts I have written.

Build the mosque elsewhere. Or make it a true cultural center with no place of worship that hosts Moslems, Hindus, Jews, and Christians and works to fight the jihadi hatred that led to the slaughter on 9/11 and other attacks by Islamo-fascists around the world on Moslems, Hindus, Jews, Christians, and animists who do not wish to submit to the vision of Islam that the jihadis promote.

UPDATE: If hatred is so rampant, why the need to provoke it to film it? I have no problem with the idea that there is hatred out there--of lots of people, including of Moslems. But we really are a tolerant society. [I added some other links above in existing text to reinforce points.]