Sunday, August 29, 2010

Cordoba - Moving Forward

Once upon a time, there was a group of moderate Muslims who wanted to promote Muslim/American understanding. Among other things, they hoped to:
• Uphold respect for the diversity of expression and ideas between all people
• Encourage open discussion and dialogue on issues of relevance to New Yorkers, Americans and the international reality of our interconnected planet
• Commit to social justice, dignified human development and spiritual growth for all
• Pursue the development of American Muslim identities, engaging New York’s many and diverse Muslim communities and promoting empowerment and compassion for all
There were other things, but primarily, it was to improve relations between Muslims and non-Muslims, which have been sadly deteriorating of late.

Even the name they chose, Cordoba House, referred to a city in medieval Spain where Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived together centuries ago, despite centuries of religious intolerance.

And they planned to do all this in a pretty epic way. They planned to build a 13-story, $100 million dollar community center, with a swimming pool, gyms, a basketball court, a 500-seat auditorium, a theater, a library, reading room and art studios, a performing arts center, a restaurant and food court, even a cooking school. They were going to offer art exhibits, educational programs, cooking classes., and childcare. And they planned to set up a 9/11 memorial and contemplation space. All open to the public.

One of the tenets of the Muslim faith is that you pray five times a day. So they set up a mosque, big enough for 1000-2000 people, but "accessible to all members, visitors and our New York community."

And because so many Americans are small-minded and stupid, that was when the fecal matter hit the rotating blades.

There are a limited selection of reasons to oppose the building of Park51 (the most current name of Cordoba House, because of its address at 51 Park Place). Let's look at some of them.

It's an insult to the memory of the people who lost their lives on 9/11 to allow a mosque to be built on this sacred ground!
Since there are other mosques in lower Manhattan, this seems like a fairly silly argument. And if you dig into it, you discover that there are probably around 800,000 Muslims living in New York City. So as you push your way through the halal lunch wagons on your way to work, one out of every ten people you pass are likely to pull out the prayer mats five times a day.

And apparently, even though the Pentagon was hit that same day, it isn't "sacred ground." After all, there's a mosque inside there, just yards from the rebuilt crash site.

(Technically, the chapel in the Pentagon is only a mussallaah, because large portions of the Pentagon close down after duty hours, and one of the requirements to allow something to be called a mosque is for it to be used for prayer five times a day.)

By the way, "sacred ground?" (And yes, they do talk like that.) I have to say that I support any religion that has strippers on their sacred ground, but perhaps I'm being insensitive... Of course, on that note:

It's amazingly insensitive to the families of those who died on 9/11!
You know, it's a funny thing. When you actually ask the families of the people who died on September 11, 2001, the answers are a little different.
"What is happening to this country?" asks Robert McIlvaine, whose son and namesake was killed that day. "It is so sad that people would use a simple issue of religious tolerance to spew hate and anger and create fear."

McIlvaine, from Oreland, PA, was a fixture at hearings of the 9/11 Commission... "People who have absolutely no connection to 9/11 are using it for their own political agendas," he says. "Fear and hatred help those agendas."

Lorie Van Auken of East Brunswick, widowed by the attacks on the World Trade Center, says she feels chilled by (these) efforts... "It’s only because of religious tolerance in this country that my family is here," says Van Auken, one of the so-called "Jersey Widows" who led the fight to create the 9/11 Commission. "They escaped intolerance in Europe — now we see it here."

"I am frightened by what the leaders of the opposition are doing and saying," says Diane Horning of Scotch Plains. Her son Matthew was killed that day. "I agree it’s insensitive of Muslims to want to build close to Ground Zero, but I grew up in a country where differences are tolerated. I’m not rallying for either side."
Sure, you'll find some that oppose it. Some people have a hard time moving on. But in the words of another family member:
Charles Wolf, who lost his wife, Katherine, at the trade center, says emotions among family members are especially raw right now. "This is anniversary season. It's really, really hard," the Manhattanite said. "Passions are up and this is bringing up a lot of hurt in people."

He says he worries that any decision to respond to public pressure and move the mosque would be used by extremists to paint Americans as intolerant... Now, with the mosque dispute, "here is where we're falling into the terrorists' trap... trying to tear each other apart. Good people fighting other good people - does that sound like evil at work?"
Which brings us to one of my favorite memes.

Muslims always build "victory mosques" on the sites of major victories!
Now, this is an interesting twisting of the facts. Yes, some Muslim rulers would build mosques, palaces and other architectural structures to commemorate a battle. On land they'd taken over. Since the al Qaeda has demonstrably not taken America over, this is what we call a "false comparison."

When an Islamic nation conquered a neighboring country, if it wasn't already Muslim, they needed to build mosques anyway, for their own worship and for the use of any of the local populace who might convert (this usually wasn't done by force - politically, it can be a pretty smart move on the convert's part).

It's a simple rule - where Islam spreads, mosques are built. In the same way, where Christianity spreads, churches are built. In the Middle East, reactions have been mixed - mostly negative (with one editorial calling it a "Zionist conspiracy"), but without any celebration.

The problem is that some microencephalics think that all Muslims are terrorists deep down. Well, there's a group of Christians who call themselves "the Army of God," who use terrorist tactics (you know, murder, kidnapping, explosives) on abortion providers. So, according to that same logic, because the Army of God exists, all Christians are terrorists, too, right?

This attitude tends to be proudly ignorant, shouting catch phrases like "sharia law" and "islamofascism" without even knowing the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims. Pastor Terry Jones of the ironically-named Dove World Outreach Center is planning an "International Burn a Koran Day," but when asked what he knew of the Koran, told the reporter with a straight face "I have no experience with it whatsoever. I only know what the Bible says."

And the spread of this ignorance is now leading into what the military refers to as collateral damage: a drunken Omar Rivera staggering into a mosque, shouting that everyone was a terrorist, and urinating on the prayer rugs; the incompetent arsonist in Tennessee who couldn't do more than damage a few pieces of construction equipment at the planned site of a mosque; or Michael Enright, who asked his taxi driver if he was a Muslim, and when the driver said yes, tried to cut his throat.

And because the right-wing media, from Fox "News" to the lowliest blogger, is pushing the "Muslim = terrorist" meme, it's only going to get worse.

For some reason, there is a class of people who believe that the words of the Founding Fathers merit some greater respect than the simple act of thinking for yourself. Well, here's some of those words now.

In 1790, one year before the Bill of Rights was passed, Moses Seixas, a warden in the Touro Synagogue in Rhode Island, wrote to George Washington, worried about the reception of the Jews and the American viewpoint on religious liberty. Washington wrote him back.
All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent national gifts.

For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support... May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants.


Nance said...

I think so many of those who love to quote the Founding Fathers these days have those Founders mixed up with the Robber Barons...whom they also mistakenly take to be Fatherly.

Nameless Cynic said...

They also often tend to talk about "America is a Christian nation!" Which means that they're ignoring the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by Founding Father (and President) John Adams, which explicitly says that it ain't.

Anonymous said...

"Which means that they're ignoring the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by Founding Father (and President) John Adams, which explicitly says that it ain't."

Well...not quite:

The Treaty is notable for Article 11, which reads:

"As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."

"In 1930, it was discovered that the extant original Arabic version of Article 11 was gibberish. Presumably, it was changed at some point after Barlow certified his English translation on January 4, 1797. Regardless, it was the English version that was approved by President John Adams and Secretary of State Timothy Pickering and ratified by the Senate.

The Treaty was broken in 1801 by the pasha of Tripoli and renegotiated in 1805 after the First Barbary War, at which time Article 11 was removed."

It's interesting to see those on the left hail Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli as the ultimate evidence regarding the founding fathers' stance on religion and government. Perhaps they haven't read the preface or first sentence of the body of the Treaty of Paris 1783, drafted by B. Franklin, J. Jay, and the aforementioned J. Adams (which pretty well defined the colonies as sovereign).

Nameless Cynic said...

* yawn *

Religion itself may become a motive to persecution and oppression - James Madison, regarding the "religious test"

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his god, [the people, in the 1st Amendment,] declared that their legislature should make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof, thus building a wall of separation between church and state. - Thomas Jefferson, in his 1802 letter to the Danbury Baptist Association (there are literally running miles of Jefferson quotes on the subject. I'll just use this one, one of his most famous.)

The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe in blood for centuries. - James Madison again, in an 1803 letter objecting use of government land for churches

This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it. - John Adams

I cannot conceive otherwise than that He, the Infinite Father, expects or requires no worship or praise from us, but that He is even infinitely above it. - Benjamin Franklin, "Articles of Belief and Acts of Religion", 1728

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
- Thomas Paine, "The Age of Reason"

I have generally been denominated a Deist, the reality of which I never disputed, being conscious I am no Christian, except mere infant baptism makes me one; and as to being a Deist, I know not strictly speaking, whether I am one or not. - Ethan Allen, in the preface to "Reason: the Only Oracle of Man"

Hell, let's go further, and check out Abe Lincoln. Lincoln's first law partner, John T. Stuart, said of him, "He was an avowed and open infidel, and sometimes bordered on atheism. He went further against Christian beliefs and doctrines and principles than any man I have ever heard."

Supreme Court Justice David Davis: "[Lincoln] had no faith, in the Christian sense of the term -- he had faith in laws, principles, causes and effects."

Oh, and incidentally,
The 'establishment of religion' clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the Federal Government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever from they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State.' - Supreme Court, Everson v Board (330 US 1 [1947])