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Weighing In On The Mosque Near Ground Zero

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The last few weeks have been very interesting to watch from the sidelines. I’m not a political person. I’m more of a “get it done” kind of guy who gets annoyed when people can’t put aside their differences and compromise to come to a decision. I am decidedly a liberal, so you can go ahead and hold that against me. And I’m an atheistic-leaning agnostic, just to get that out of the way.

I’m annoyed enough that I’m willing to put up with some grief for taking a position that doesn’t seem to be popular at the moment. The U.S. Constitution in the Bill of Rights – Amendment 1 – protects freedom of religion…

Amendment 1: Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Now, as far as I remember, state and local laws can’t supersede Federal laws. And it doesn’t get much higher than the Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

The Muslim community has just as much right to build in that area as any other religious group does. If it was in my neighborhood, I wouldn’t object to any community center that a) was respectful of the beliefs of non-believers who also live/work/play in the area and b) obeyed the federal, state, and local laws of the area.

That said, the New York zoning folks may have some regulation that prevents them from approving the new Muslim community center. If so and it’s not based on religion, then I’m good with it. See (b) above. But I have to wonder if we would we even be having this discussion at a national level if it was a Christian, Jewish, Hindi, Shinto, Buddhist, Scientology, Wiccan, or even Rastafarian group looking to reuse the space of the old Burlington Coat Factory building.

After 9/11, everyone practicing Islam as a faith was immediately labeled a terrorist. Maybe not everyone, but even I bit into the paranoia for a while. But, like all faiths, it boils down to people. Extremists. They exist in every philosophy, religion, political party, and profession.

Do I blame 9/11 on all Muslims? Heck no. It’s a few people who like to live in caves and preach hate instead of tolerance I blame 9/11 on. It’s those people we need to be focused on — not the average Joe simply trying to get by day to day who believes in Allah instead of a Christian deity. More power to anyone seeking a bit of guidance now and then.

I do object to extremists seeking to do us harm simply because we don’t share their beliefs. I have the same issue with people attacking abortion clinics. I have the same issue with people who choose to disallow marriage for gays and lesbians simply because they don’t meet the standard of a traditional family. Hate isn’t the answer. Acceptance and compromise are the tools we need instead.

So let the Muslim community have their center two blocks from Ground Zero. Prove to the world that we – as a nation – can move forward from our 9/11 black eye and see beyond the hatred that brought down the Twin Towers. If we can’t accept that our nation is full of people with differences, then how are we living up to the standards set by our own Constitution and the ideal embodied by the United States?

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About Fitz

Fitz is a software engineer and writer who lives in Colorado Springs, CO, with his family and pets, trying to survive the chaos!
  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/alan-kurtz Alan Kurtz

    … would we even be having this discussion at a national level if it was a Christian, Jewish, Hindi, Shinto, Buddhist, Scientology, Wiccan, or even Rastafarian group looking to reuse the space of the old Burlington Coat Factory building.

    Fitz, how’s your hernia? I ask because you obviously must’ve suffered one in constructing such a strained analogy. Of course we wouldn’t be having etc., etc. Unless, that is, Christian, Jewish, Hindi, Shinto, Buddhist, Scientology, Wiccan or Rastafarian fanatics had destroyed the Burlington Coat Factory building in the first place.

    And since you mention the Burlington Coat Factory, it’s worth noting that on 9/11, recounts The New York Times, “the sales staff was in a basement room eating breakfast, waiting to open the doors to the first shoppers at 10 a.m.” Waiting, that is, until a “fiery cataclysm erupted overhead starting at 8:46. Out of a baby-blue sky suddenly stained with smoke, a plane’s landing-gear assembly the size of a World War II torpedo crashed through the roof and down through two empty selling floors of the Burlington Coat Factory.”

    Thank God the store was not open for business. If those two selling floors had been occupied by customers and sales staff, who knows how many would have been killed or injured. And in that event, we wouldn’t be having this discussion, Fitz. Because not even Muslims would be crazy enough to propose a mosque in a building where innocent victims had perished at the hands of Islamic fundamentalists, and not even you would be naive enough to support such an obscene project.

  • Carl

    “…Unless, that is, Christian, Jewish, Hindi, Shinto, Buddhist, Scientology, Wiccan or Rastafarian fanatics had destroyed the Burlington Coat Factory building in the first place.”

    That factory was destroyed by terrorists, not by a religious community. They like to justify their actions on religious grounds but that doesn’t mean they represent the people of that religion.

    If you truly believe that Muslims should not be allowed to worship there, why does it not apply to the rest of American soil?

  • http://writer.fitzhome.com Fitz

    @Alan Kurtz – Though I must respectfully disagree with you, I appreciate your response. I’m certainly glad nobody was harmed in the building when the landing gear assembly hit. Though we should never forget what happened on 9/11 and the direct or indirect damage caused, I think it’s time to dust off and move on with our lives as best we can.

  • http://writer.fitzhome.com Fitz

    @Alan Kurtz & @Carl – Though I appreciate the comments, I think you missed my point.

    Muslims are protected by the First Amendment as are all other types of religion. The only way the community center should be shut down (if it is, and I hope it’s not) would be if the founders, builders, or anyone else involved with getting permits from the local zoning board didn’t comply with some legal requirement. That’s it. The fact that they’re Islamic shouldn’t come into this conversation AT ALL.

    We should never forget the events of 9/11, but it shouldn’t put us in a paranoid state to mistrust anything Islamic or Muslim. Extremists exist in all groups of people, not just Muslims.

  • http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/author/danmiller/ Dan(Miller)

    Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression are firmly embedded in the U.S. Constitution. I may have missed something, but I’ve seen no serious (or even semi-serious) suggestions that construction of the proposed mosque would violate the constitutional right to freedom of religion; nor have I seen any suggestions that the freedoms of speech or press of those who favor or oppose construction have been or will be violated.

    I don’t have much against straw men; the straw man in the Wonderful Wizard of Oz was cool and they do make pretty good scare crows.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://writer.fitzhome.com Fitz

    Well and now that it’s come to light that Iranian money may be funding the community center, I would have more objections…

    Taking money from dictators intent on destroying Israel isn’t high on my list… See here.

  • forged

    If people are objecting to the mosque because of the religion it is dedicated to, then that is a first amendment issue and that will eventually trump the arguments.

    However, I suspect there are a lot of other factors coming into play for whether this will happen or not.

    In the end, it will be about money. It is sad, but it is the way the United States seem to work these days.

  • http://pajamasmedia.com/blog/author/danmiller/ Dan(Miller)

    The First Amendment proclaims Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. People who wish to do so can protest peacefully in favor of or in to opposition Roman Catholicism, Islam and even the weather without violating the freedom of religion aspects of the First Amendment. I might go out one day and protest against tornadoes. Silly? of course; but silly can be fun. Roman Catholics, Muslims and worshipers of the weather gods might be offended, but that’s tough. Under the freedom of speech provisions, they have a right to do so — not in the middle of a thoroughfare or in my yard but there are plenty of other venues.

    Dan(Miller)

  • http://notesfromnancy.blogspot.com Nancy

    Bless you Dan. I was waiting to see if someone would mention the rest of the 1st Amendment. Yes, 9/11 is something not to be taken lightly. Ever. But, we should be equally prepared not to tarnish all Muslims with the same brush. Extremists invaded, more than a few Muslims watched in horror in disbelief at their actions. Denying the right to build a center doesn’t help – neither does burning the Koran as some are suggesting.

  • Ruvy

    MUSLIMS have – or should have – the same rights to worship freely in the States as do others. And you know what, Fitz? They already do! They have a prayer room in the remnant of the Burlington Coat Factory. And that is all they need.

    The WAHHABI want to build a “mosque” to show that they kicked your butts by knocking down your tallest buildings in NYC. When is “a mosque not a mosque?” – when it is a symbol of victory.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Who are you to say “that’s all ‘they’ need,” Ruvy? Has the history of your people taught you nothing?

    And shut up about the goddamn Wahhabi. You keep mythologizing this group because you read about them on some email group you’ve joined, but their role in the building of the facility is the stuff of urban legends designed to scare little kids and deluded old people. Stop spreading these ridiculous lies.

  • Ruvy

    No, Jordan, I’ll not shut up. Certainly YOU will not shut me up. A group of people who LOOK like Muslims, and who DRESS like Muslims and who CLAIM to be Muslims were at fault, and the Wahhabi heretics who own and control Makka and Medina are those people at fault.

    Innocent Muslims should not be blamed for their evil and murderousness.

    My own history taught me that all you need to pray are ten men, a Torah and a room with a wall facing the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. From what I have seen of Muslims in Israel, all THEY need is a prayer rug and a compass to tell them where the Qa’aba is. When they gather in a group, they need a leader.

    NEXT!!

  • Jordan Richardson

    Not what I was driving at Ruvy, but you do partially touch on something I was going for.

    You say “My own history” taught you what you need to practice your faith, not some external force deciding for you. You followed your own traditions and when other groups began attempting to tell Jews how/when/where/why to worship, what happened?

    There’s no question that heretics and fanatics were to blame for the murders of 9/11, but by equating the facility at Ground Zero with Wahhabism and suggesting that it is a “monument of victory” or some other such nonsense does nothing to separate the two factions you sheepishly claim to know the difference between.

  • Jordan Richardson

    By the way, many leading religious scholars have spoken about the differences between Osama bin Laden’s Qutbism and the Salafism/Wahhabism you so frequently crow about. I wonder if you’ve read “The Wahhabi Myth” by Haneef James Oliver, for starters, or anything by Karen Armstrong on the subject.

    While you’re busy trumpeting about the Wahhabi and the Saudi connections, the followers of the Sunni strain of Qutbism probably present a far greater danger.

  • Ruvy

    I took the trouble to read about al-Qutb, who belonged to the Muslim Brotherhood. If you had taken the trouble to read about the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, you would know that they are nothing more than a branch office of the Wahhabi.

    And if you actually took the trouble to realize that for religious reasons having nothing to do with the delicate sensibilities of westerners not engaged in turning Afghani weddings into funerals, you would understand why, until their overthrow in in mid 1920’s the Sunni wanted nothing to do with the Wahhabi. Now, they are silent, lest Wahhabi goons kill them or beat them up and rape their wives.

  • Jordan Richardson

    If you had taken the trouble to read about the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt, you would know that they are nothing more than a branch office of the Wahhabi.

    No. The Muslim Brotherhood carries many different “wings” of Islam and isn’t a “branch office” for any strand, so that’s inaccurate. It is vastly important to any honest discussion of Islamic fundamentalism to make the distinction between Wahhabis and Qutbists.

    From the “Terror, Islam and Democracy” by Ladan and Roya Boroumand: “Most young Islamist cadres today are the direct intellectual and spiritual heirs of the Qutbist wing of the Muslim Brotherhood.”

    President Gamel Abdel Nasser of Egypt exiled the Muslim Brotherhood in 1954 and they split into various countries and sects from Algeria, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, etc. From there, varying strands took hold in the Brotherhood. Qutbism was one particular strand, Wahhabism was another, and so forth. Along with these various angles of Islamic thought came a hodgepodge of European and Western ideas. Qutbism, for its part, is just not traditional enough to please the Wahhabis.

    The War for Muslim Minds by Gilles Kepel outlines how the Brotherhood splintered further with many young Islamic radicals siding with the teachings from Qutb’s Milestones (Ma’alim fi al-Tariq) and the Brotherhood’s core siding with “moderation” rather than violent resistance. This was when the split occurred, with Milestones being published in 1964.

    Again, there are vast differences between modern Wahhabism and Qutbism. Ignoring those differences only leads to a simplified view of Islam.

  • Zedd

    Jordon

    Re: #11

    OH you are my hero!!!!! THANK YOU. I know he’s wakadoodles and I should pitty him but THANK YOU!!!

    Oh and #16. YES!!

  • Porkov

    Everything I have read says that Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam behind the Islamic Community Center near Ground Zero, is a Sufi. Think “Jewel of the Nile.” All of the Islamic right-wing sects mentioned in the comments have little use for practitioners of Sufi. Sufi is a mystical path, and it undermines the authority of the demagogues and zealots on the Islamic right for people to take it.

  • zingzing

    ruvy, you know what the wahhabis want? they want us to bicker and fight and show our hatred for islam, so they can justify their hatred for america. the only “monument” they can create is this controversy. and it’s a damn fine monument we’ve erected for them. look at all this hate in america. look how right they were. we do hate muslims. we’ll bend our most cherished laws backwards to deny them their rights. we’ve got our feelings hurt, because we’re weak. look at the ignorance of americans, who don’t even know that that which they’re protesting won’t change what’s already been going on at the site for years.

    if the thing is built, it will be a monument to america’s most cherished beliefs and the basic goodness of those beliefs.

  • STM

    Yeah, Fitz, compromise … and being aware of other people’s sensitivities.

    The latter is just as important in a mature, modern democracy as compromise, tolerance and rights.

    I can’t understand why it is in America that “rights” aren’t also weighed up against what’s morally right (or wrong) when it comes to the exercise of those rights.

    All the squealing about rights in the US, no matter the consequence, always reminds me of the little kid who, with a quick stamp of the foot and a little tantrum, takes offence at something said by his playmates – and because he owns the bat and ball, he’s going home and bugger the rest of you.

  • STM

    I use as evidence the gun lobby (at least those who won’t give an inch in that debate when it comes to reasonable controls on firearms), and lunatics like the Phelps family who are exercising their constitutional right by protesting and posting up hateful messages at the funerals of American soldiers.

    Democracy (in the modern sense, not the ancient Greek) is about more than rights. It’s also about responsibility.

  • STM

    And since this issue seems to be blowing up again over the weekend, I say again: Who would have thought, in proposing this mosque, or interfaith centre, that there wouldn’t be dramas because the sensitivities of others were being overlooked? No one. Because no one could be that stupid or insensitive or blind to the reality of the results of their actions.

    I understand the stance of Obama and many liberal commentators, and usually I’d agree – but in this case there are issues other than “rights” to be considered.

    And I say again … paying heed to such sensitivities is just as important as protecting people’s rights. Strict adherence to “rights” without anyone paying attention commonsense as well is a recipe for disaster.

    At some point, we’re always going to see the opposite end of the rights spectrum in response, where a pastor of a church with 50 followers sparks worldwide protests and threats to kill (more) Americans because he wants to burn the Koran.

    Whatever anyone thinks, blind legal adherence to the right to stand up for your rights can be an abrogation of the responsibility that goes with those democratic rights.

    Sometimes, the law really can be an ass … the constitition isn’t the holy grail. It’s a document written by men who thought the men following them would be smart enough to understand what it all meant and represented.

    Plainly, that’s not always the case. Somewhere, rights needs to co-exist with responsibility.

  • STM

    And in case anyone wonders why I’m commentating on an “American” issue, this is a huge story around the world. Since Al-Qaeda and its offshoots have lumped all of us in the non-muslim West in the same category and have targeted citizens of our countries as well, what happens in the US has a huge impact here.

    We currently have a criminal trial underway in Melbourne of islamic extremists accused of plotting to put a cache of weapons together to attack an Australian Army base and kill as many soldiers as possible before they themselves were killed … because they felt Australia was one of the countries involved in the so-called worldwide attack on Islam.

    I wonder if Pastor Jones and the New York Imam understand how all this stuff is also playing out outside America and around the world?

  • zingzing

    stm, 90% of the neighborhood in which the “mosque” will be built agrees to let it be built there. it’s a local thing. let the neighborhood decide what they think is right.

    also, you should consider the fact that it’s an attempt by moderate islam to make a statement concerning where they stand with america. this is a good thing. the right has called for moderate islam’s voice, and when they hear it, they shout it down.

    i live in new york. i rarely go to the financial district, but the fact is that the address in question has been a muslim prayer center for a year and half and it hasn’t bothered me. nor have the terrorists won. nor have the heavens rained down fire or piss or whatever rains down from heavens.

    other than that, i kinda mostly sorta agree with your “the constitition isn’t the holy grail” statement.

    but the constitution is right on this one. separation of church and state is crucial. it isn’t federal or state property. build whatever the fuck you want. if he had enough money, bin laden should be able to grow his own fucking zen garden there. or they could put up a cathedral. i don’t care. the gov’t can’t say no.

  • zingzing

    “I wonder if Pastor Jones and the New York Imam understand how all this stuff is also playing out outside America and around the world?”

    yeah, well, better take every step possible towards putting this shit to bed, eh? what better than a show of support from moderate islam for the west at the point of radical islam’s worst crime? it shows radical islam that not everyone agrees with them. moving it now, after all the controversy, would be a victory for radical islam and a loss for the rest of the people who want to live in peace with each other.

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

    STM,

    Well, what the hell we have done the same to an entire nation of people.

    Al-Qaeda and its offshoots have lumped all of us in the non-muslim West in the same category

    There should be little surprise. We have demonized these people as long as I’ve been alive and it started way before then.

    JD

  • STM

    zing: “moving it now, after all the controversy, would be a victory for radical islam”.

    Maybe. But it still doesn’t alter the fact that it was a silly idea in the first place, which the imam has now admitted. The last quote I saw from him was along the lines of “If we knew how much controversy it would cause, we’d have put it somewhere else”.

    And honestly, you wouldn’t have to be a rocket scientist to have worked that out. Seriously.

    Like I say, rights go hand in hand with responsibility and respect. You can’t now just look at the controversy this has caused and wash your hands of all responsibility.

    And Jeannie, I don’t agree. Moderate muslims haven’t been demonised at all. Only the nutcases … and they deserve to be demonised because that’s exactly what they are.

    We wouldn’t even be having this discussion if they weren’t engaged on a decades long path of mass murder.

    The mosque could have been built near two skyscrapers that were still standing.

    Everyone does remember what happened on 9/11, right?? … and the subsequent bombings in London, Madrid, Bali, Moscow, Jakarta and the blown up airliners in Russia and all the foiled attempts, like the plot the British uncovered a couple of years ago in which al-Qaeda planned to blow up a whole shitload of airliners over the atlantic??

    Don’t make apologies for sick death cultists masquerading as muslims. Unfortunately, the death cultists have spoiled things for moderate muslims too.

    That’s not our fault.

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

    STM,

    You said:

    Moderate muslims haven’t been demonised at all. Only the nutcases … and they deserve to be demonised because that’s exactly what they are.

    As far as I can tell it started in 1921. This stereotyping and demonizing of the Arabs and their culture began in Hollywood and has, as you can see, spread-out from there.

    Don’t make apologies for sick death cultists masquerading as muslims.

    Yes, there are violent factions, but I refuse to throw the whole culture out because of fear.

    Jeannie