Thoughts welcome on an issue of current public interest

There has been heated debate on the local, national, and international levels regarding the Imam’s desire to erect a mosque and Islamic community center near Ground Zero. The action is part of the Cordoba Initiative, an effort to facilitate religious tolerance and mutual understanding. Some, however, perceive this as insensitive to those directly affected by the 9/11 tragedy. It’s worthwhile to explore the issue from both sides, and this has been the dialogue that’s ensued for quite some time now.

We are interested to hear thoughts.

5 comments

  1. What is there to say? This is a non-issue that's being exploited purely for political gain and to fill up space and time in the news media. The only objection I've heard is that this mosque project is "insensitive/offensive," which is not a legitimate reason to prevent it from proceeding. This is America. We all put up with a lot of stuff we object to in the name of liberty and freedom.

  2. "It's worthwhile to explore the issue from both sides"

    I see one side dominated by angry bigots who apparently want to rewrite the Constitution to exclude Muslims from the parts about freedom of religion, equal protection etc… not sure what there is to discuss there. I understand wanting to preserve the World Trade Center site as some sort of memorial, but that's not even on the table, is it?

  3. I think the bigger question for many of us is not necessarily the right of this group to open the center, but rather the motivations that come along with it. There are some very disturbing things this Imam has said, including statements along the lines of condemning Americans as partly responsible for 9/11, and refusing to refute other extremists claims. Also important is the idea of "outreach" we hear so much about. If President Obama, this Imam, and Muslims around the world really wanted to reach out, they would see the emotional distress and division this Mosque is causing, and would choose to move the site away from Ground Zero. However, for many of us this "Islamic Center" is seen as a victory flag next to the site where thousands of people were murdered by Islamic extremists.

  4. I certainly want to say that to treat the matter with caution and a sense of national sympathy in no way smacks of bigotry; perhaps there is something to be said that it's worthwhile to avoid divisivness and further rancor.

  5. "…for many of us this "Islamic Center" is seen as a victory flag next to the site where thousands of people were murdered by Islamic extremists."

    To connect these two things, the Islamic Center and the terrorist attack carried out by nutbag Islamic extremists, one has to rely on a visceral, gut reaction that ropes in moderate adherents of a faith with a handful of lunatics; one has to be illogical. Such a visceral illogic is understandable and (partially) forgivable in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy or a terrible crime. If my family members or neighbors were killed in the 9/11 attacks, and someone tried to build a mosque next to Ground Zero a month or a year later, I would probably be out there picketing and bellowing just like the protesters. It would still be illogical, but it would be understandable; it would be, after all, not very far removed from a traumatic event.

    But there's gotta be a statute of limitations on how long illogical and visceral reactions are forgivable. It's been almost a decade now since 9/11. People's illogical associations of all Islamic institutions with terrorism and extremism are no longer permissible or forgivable. People have the right to be traumatized and temporarily illogical, but they don't have the right to persist in their illogic for decades on end and pollute our public discourse with their self-righteous sense of victimization or sensitivity. (And I would strenuously affirm that statement to anyone who tried to associate me with my slave-owning forbears as well.)

    Just to put it in historical perspective, it took roughly four years (1944-1948) for the German residents of West Berlin to be transformed in the eyes of the American public from the Nazi menace that they were under war-time propaganda to the "freedom-loving" bulwark against communist aggression in the east, needing to be rescued by the Berlin Airlift. If our opinions of the Germans changed so quickly, why do so many Americans persist in their views on Muslims, which is a much more illogical scapegoat than the Germans were? The Orwellian answer, which would probably be the most useful answer in our case, is that America's "enemy" hasn't changed in the last 9 years. In the middle of the 40's our nemesis switched very quickly from the Nazis and Japanese back into the Soviets. Today our "enemy," speaking in full understanding of the irony of that word, still has an Islamic face. But I would bet just about anything that if China launched a surprise attack on US soil next week, and most of the Islamic world pledged their fealty to American interests (hypothetically, of course), all those protesters against the mosque would get lost pretty quick. Then they would be protesting the construction of any Chinese restaurants anywhere in America. So short is the collective memory of the American public when we have a new enemy to loathe. And it's this fact that makes the indignation of the protesters in NYC look so hollow.

    Just some food for thought. And it goes without saying that I think this whole issue is being exploited by a very cynical set of politicians looking to cash in on the old school Prejudice Vote in November.

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