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Ground Zero Mosque: Olive Branch or Stick in the Eye?

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Suppose the American Nazi party proposed building a cultural center outside the Holocaust Memorial in New York City. Would the high-minded politicians and columnists, many of them Jewish (Mayor Bloomberg, Richard Cohen, et al) defend their First Amendment rights to do so, as they are now doing on behalf of the proposed Islamic Center two blocks from Ground Zero?

Constitutional evangelists would likely spurn such a question. Cohen calls such comparisons (a Japanese aeronautical center at Pearl Harbor, a KKK headquarters in Selma, a Wagner opera house outside Auschwitz) “demagogic buffoonery” and a “pornography of analogy.”

But if such parallels are really “demagogic,” take another point of view. Would any Islamic government allow an American center to be built at one of our own bombing sites in Iraq or Afghanistan?

Presumably our First Amendment champions would say no. But they would hasten to invoke American exceptionalism: as the leader of the free world, we as a nation are morally obligated to set the gold standard of freedom and human rights. In short, we must extend freedoms to those who would not only deny them to us, but wage holy war on America as a colonialist, apostate, morally corrupt society.

In rationalizing current Islamic terrorism, political progressives insist that holy warriors, jihadists, are a radical fringe group not at all indicative of the Muslim community at large. To this day, however, entire nations — Iran, Somalia, Indonesia and many other Islamic theocracies – sanction beheadings, stonings, floggings, and amputations not merely for western “infidels,” but alleged journalist “spies,” homosexuals, and adulteresses.

According to Islamic scholar Nonie Darwish, no fewer than 35,200 verses in the Koran encourage such practices. Above all, in the “Sword Verses,” Mohammad preaches: “Those who reject Islam must be killed. If they turn back, take them and kill them wherever you find them” (4:89). Furthermore: “I will terrorize the unbelievers…. Strike off their heads and cut off each of their fingers and toes” (8:12). (Also see: 8:39, 8:59, 9:5, 47:4, etc. etc.)

Have the jihadists, as their moderate brethren insist, truly misinterpreted their holy text? And are their sympathizers really so few? According to the UK Sunday Times poll after 9/11, 40% of British Muslims supported bin Laden’s attack. In 2004, a Pew survey reported that 65% of Pakistanis viewed bin Laden favorably, as did 55% of Jordanians, and 45% of Moroccans.

And what of our progressive Constitutional purists who defend the right of such a religion to freely import its dogma to the very site of a slaughter? Does it occur to Mayor Bloomberg that in an Islamic theocracy he would more likely be a Zionist prisoner than a billionaire politician? Does Mr. Cohen consider that he, like Daniel Pearl, would more likely be relieved of his head than be allowed to pen admirably high-minded, humanitarian columns? Does Rachel Maddow realize she would more likely be stoned as gay journalist spy, rather than have her own TV show?

These commentators and their colleagues continue to decry those who oppose a Ground Zero mosque as ignorant, prejudiced, Islamophobic. In fact, theirs is more a fear of terrorism itself and of the religious intolerance that feeds it. Most Americans would fear medieval Christianity no less, and would be equally troubled if Torquemada or Savonarola came back and petitioned for a cultural center.

The great irony is this: Our forefathers wrote the First Amendment in order to outlaw Old World religious intolerance and persecution. It ushered in a modern society where church and state are separate, and where all faiths are respected just long as they respect others.

It is no mistake that Islam, which literally and zealously clings to its seventh century dogma, and which claims a monopoly on truth and God’s affection, has flowered in the form of tyrannical theocracies. How, then, might our democratic Washington or Jefferson have felt about extending constitutional freedoms to a faith which self-righteously demands its freedoms on foreign soil but, historically, has warred against the freedom of others?

Before flying into the Twin Towers and incinerating 3,000 innocents of every religion, including their own, the jihadists cried “God is Great!” What sort of “religion” would inspire such a cry?

Religion is defined in many different ways, but surely most would agree that, in modern practice, it is a deist belief which – in spite of historic atrocities – promotes tolerance, peace, and understanding.

Feisal Abdul Rauf, the sponsor and spokesman of Cordoba House, pledges to foster these very virtues. But, he refuses to acknowledge Hamas as a terrorist organization. “Look, I’m not a politician,” he says. “The issue of terrorism is a very complex question.” Yet there is no complexity about Hamas’s body count much less its commitment to destroy Israel. Nor will Rauf say if Hamas, the Saudis, Iranians or other groups or nations which cheered 9/11 are behind its funding.

In spite of implicitly pleading the Fifth on these questions, Rauf has disclosed his belief that 9/11 was largely caused by American foreign policy. But of the civilians killed, none were responsible for that policy. Moreover, ninety nationalities were on the casualty list.

Many conflicted First Amendment champions bring up the “sensitivity” issue. Manhattan has more than a hundred other mosques, they say, but why must this one be built where thousands lost their lives to holy warriors? Wrote Muslim Canadian Congress members, Raheel Raza and Tarek Fatah:“We Muslims know the … mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation, to thumb our noses at the infidel.”

In spite of all this, we remain a country of freedom for all. Intolerance has never been defeated by counter-intolerance or discrimination. Let Cordoba House be built and let it flourish, but only under reasonable conditions:

First, that Rauf openly identify Hamas, Hezbollah, and el-Qaeda as Islamic terrorist organizations and pledge that his mosque will divorce itself from them entirely. Second, that he reveal all its investors and show that they have no links with jihadist groups or nations. And third, that Cordoba House will identify and dismiss any visitors, worshippers, or staffers found to have terrorist ties.

In the tragic wake of 9/11, is this not a small price to pay for freedom, not to mention the life and well-being, of others?

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About David Comfort

  • Faye

    I don’t object to building a Mosque, but not in that location. It would be a slap in the face of America.

  • John Lake

    I have spent considerable time researching the Imam of New York who is promoting this Mosqe, and without exeption he is deeply involving in closing the rift between Muslims and the Christians and Jews of the world. His record is clean and goes back several years.
    I find no support for the theory that Muslims are trying to add insult to injury by the placement of the Mosque.
    They have a right to build it a few blocks from the site of the former World Trade Center.
    Like many others I personally feel that a new less controversial location should perhaps be found.

  • http://www.suprarational.org Ron Krumpos

    I just read a comment on an atheist website that has the best statement on this controversy I have heard yet.

    Plus, has anyone looked at the Ground Zero site lately? It’s trashed. It’s gross. If this is supposed to be a memorial, a place for people to come to remember, mounds of dirt and scaffolding is not going to do the job. It truly worries me that our politicians and citizens are too busy being worried about a religious group trying to practice hope and love and peace (which IS what Islam teaches), than to memorialize a site they consider oh so sacred.

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/dr-dreadful/ Dr Dreadful

    “Suppose the American Nazi party proposed building a cultural center outside the Holocaust Memorial in New York City.”

    False analogy. It was not the religion of Islam which flew planes into the World Trade Center – it was a gang of maniacs who took their orders from a bloke in a cave with a tablecloth wrapped round his head.

    “Would any Islamic government allow an American center to be built at one of our own bombing sites in Iraq or Afghanistan?
    Presumably our First Amendment champions would say no. But they would hasten to invoke American exceptionalism.”

    Wrong. They would hasten to point out, quite correctly, that the decisions of foreign governments regarding what to allow on their own soil have nothing to do with constitutionally guaranteed religious freedoms in the US.

    They might also remind you, again quite correctly, that neither circumstance has anything to do with the proposed building, which is a matter for the citizens of New York and their local planning laws.

  • zingzing

    my roommate (who is somewhat against the whole thing) says that a poll was taken of the actual inhabitants of downtown manhattan, and 90% of those who live there were in favor of the it. i dunno where he got his figures, but he seemed pretty certain of it. (and as he’s against it, i dunno why he’d make it up.)

  • zingzing

    the it? it.

    (i’m being vague on purpose. calling it a mosque isn’t quite right. calling it a community center isn’t right either. people aren’t really pissed off about anything else within the community center, so i guess it’s really the mosque bit of the community center that’s causing all this shit… but it’s not even a mosque. so confusing.)

  • http://www.maskedmoviesnobs.com El Bicho

    “Does it occur to Mayor Bloomberg that in an Islamic theocracy he would more likely be a Zionist prisoner than a billionaire politician?”

    Does it occur to you that the U.S. should have higher standards of freedom than an Islamic theocracy?

    “Before flying into the Twin Towers and incinerating 3,000 innocents of every religion”

    Prove it. What Jainists, Rastafarians, or Zoroastrianists were killed? Or is this more hyperbolic language to prove a point when your facts don’t?

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    “It was not the religion of Islam which flew planes into the World Trade Center – it was a gang of maniacs who took their orders from a bloke in a cave with a tablecloth wrapped round his head.”

    I don’t know, Dreadful. I try to stay above the fray but I’m still kind of ambivalent about it.

    At its heighday, the Ottoman Empire was on a mission to conquer the world, intent on extending the rule of the caliphate to its furthest reaches. They were stopped at Vienna.

    Well, they’re past their zenith, of course. Terrorism is the new way of waging war. It may be the work of few fanatics, but you can’t altogether dissociate it from Islam, at least fundamental Islam.

    And there is of course the age-old tradition in Islam of erecting their places of prayer – mosques – on top of the ashes of the altars destroyed. And that’s where the “Nazi analogy” comes in.

  • Jordan Richardson

    It may be the work of few fanatics, but you can’t altogether dissociate it from Islam, at least fundamental Islam.

    No, you really can.

    Using the Nazi analogy, this is like not allowing a German restaurant to be constructed near a Holocaust site. The very fact that you even draw as far back as the Ottoman Empire to attempt to connect modern Islam with some sort of “conquering heyday” shows your desire to attach terrorism and violence to Islam.

    The fact is that the amount of modern Muslims that practice any brand of hardline violent Islam is extremely and extraordinarily small in comparison to the massive numbers of practising Muslims that don’t engage in the ravings of Qutbism and other radical offshoots. Holding the entire faith to the flames by suggesting that “Terrorism is the new way of waging war” is just silly.

    The Arab and Muslims cultures have been “terrorized” by U.S. forces and client states for decades now. Statistically, it makes more sense to associate Americans with terrorism and violence than it does to associate Muslims with the same concepts.

    What bothers me about your comments, in whatever way you meant them this time around, is that you feed the flames of this “villain of the week” rhetoric that American elites use to fuel their war against Islam. Disgusting.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Rog –

    But the point is that we must not turn back our tradition of freedom of religion because of the actions of a small minority of Muslims.

    We must not turn our backs on our national principles, on that which makes America great and unique in all history, because of the actions of a few. If we do so, then Osama bin Laden will have won completely – for we would no longer be the America he attacked.

    Bin Laden’s stated aims before the attacks was to attack America, draw her into a war in the Middle East that she could not win, and to bankrupt her. By any objective military measure, bin Laden achieved a strategic victory quite possibly comparable in scale to either Thermopylae or Agincourt (with a far lower logistic and manpower cost than either of those great victories). We must not take another step down the slippery slope to religious intolerance as a response to the religious intolerance of the Muslims.

    I do strongly agree with your statement that terrorism is the new way of waging war – in other circles, it’s called “asymmetrical warfare”…and pouring hundreds of billions into our military to fight it is bankrupting us.

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Rog –

    But the point is that we must not turn back our tradition of freedom of religion because of the actions of a small minority of Muslims.

    We must not turn our backs on our national principles, on that which makes America great and unique in all history, because of the actions of a few. If we do so, then Osama bin Laden will have won completely – for we would no longer be the America he attacked.

    Bin Laden’s stated aims before the attacks was to attack America, draw her into a war in the Middle East that she could not win, and to bankrupt her. By any objective military measure, bin Laden achieved a strategic victory quite possibly comparable in scale to either Thermopylae or Agincourt (with a far lower logistic and manpower cost than either of those great victories). We must not take another step down the slippery slope to religious intolerance as a response to the religious intolerance of the Muslims.

    I do strongly agree with your statement that terrorism is the new way of waging war – in other circles, it’s called “asymmetrical warfare”…and pouring hundreds of billions into our military to fight it is bankrupting us.

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    David,

    Would any Islamic government allow an American center to be built at one of our own bombing sites in Iraq or Afghanistan?

    We are already there…

    Furthermore, we never ever leave. What are 50,000 of our troops still doing in Germany? The *Wall* has been down for many years…

    8 O I was stationed at Ramstein AB in the eighties. Mission: Watch Berlin

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Jeannie –

    *gasp*

    You mean YOU were in the MILITARY??? That means we must PURGE our military of all those worthless welfare-loving social-justice-promoting unAmerican scum! They’re WORSE than pinko commies and nazis – they’re LIB’RULS!

    Horrors!

    (I know how you feel – it wasn’t easy being a liberal in the military)

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    Another thing that bothers me is your first sentence. Right from the start, you paint the Nation Of Islam as militant, violent, and out to kill all of us by comparing them to Nazis. You are incorrect, and appear to clump all Muslims in one narrow view. They are not all responsible for 9-11.

    : O Are you responsible for Ted Bundy’s crimes? How about Charles Manson? The first Settlers?

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    Us moon-bats gotta stick together, Glen. lol!

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    BTW, I really loved your story with your boy. :)

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    (1) I stated at the outset that I’m ambivalent about the issue. And yes, I do recognize American brand of terrorism with respect to those cultures, so don’t take me for a fool.

    (2) All things being equal, however, if the Ottoman Empire still had the wherewithal, they would have continued on their conquest; there was nothing inherent in the philosophy of Islam that would have made them stop. (We can argue of course as to whether it was, strictly speaking a “secular expansion,” with religion used as a pretext, or whether in part at least, it was “inspired” by religious undertones – that’s the real question!) Anyway, that’s the only point I was making, a historical point which often gets lost in today’s complex conditions and the heat of the moment.

    (3) For you to say therefore that my comment only adds fuel to the fire on the part of all those who are intent on waging war against Islam is simply ridiculous, and so is your false sense of outrage, “disgusting” (because it follows from your apparent ability to divine my motivation). Nowhere have I advocated any such policy. And as to the “American elites,” they certainly don’t need my innocuous little comments to fire ‘em up. Thus far, they’ve done pretty well without me.

    (4) Statistical argument doesn’t hold water here: the subject I raised is whether fundamental Islam is a militant religion.

    (5) Terrorism is a new way of waging war, whether on the part of Islam or any other oppressed people. No one can stand against the US military might, especially since it is used to justify acts of aggression and imperialistic expansion, so guerrilla type of warfare it has been for quite some time. Vietnam was one example. You should be consistent at least: if you claim, as you do, that the US itself is a terrorist nation, counter-terrorism is the only way to go.

    (6) Come to think of it, you must have confused me with another person – Archie Bunker perhaps.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    (7) “What bothers me about your comments, in whatever way you meant them this time around . . .”

    Nothing but a cheap shot. It’s the first time I’ve ever addressed the issue; consequently, you have no vantage point whatever – though you suggest otherwise – from which to compare this to any past statements on the subject, simply because there aren’t any. Good try though.

  • http://takeitorleaveit.typepad.com/ roger nowosielski

    Glenn, I never suggested nor am I about to suggest that we should abandon our traditions and stop playing by the other guy’s rules. If I left that impression somehow, it must have been sloppy writing on my part.

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    David,

    Have you seen the proposed cultural Center?

    And what of our progressive Constitutional purists who defend the right of such a religion to freely import its dogma to the very site of a slaughter? Does it occur to Mayor Bloomberg that in an Islamic theocracy he would more likely be a Zionist prisoner than a billionaire politician?

    And what of it?

    They aren’t taking over the government offices in their diabolical plan to turn NYC into a Theocracy.

    : )I’ll bring you some links later, OK?

  • http://jeanniedanna.wordpress.com/ jeannie danna

    There’s an America where it doesn’t matter what language you speak, what god you worship, or how deep your New World roots run. An America where allegiance to the Constitution trumps ethnic differences, language barriers and religious divides. An America where the newest arrival to our shores is no less American than the ever-so-great granddaughter of the Pilgrims. -By ROSS DOUTHAT NY Times, OP ED

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