Sunday, June 06, 2010

The Mosque at Ground Zero

Consider for a moment this bit of alternative history...

Nineteen young American Christians plot to kill Muslims. They do this because their radical parish priests tell them the Bible demands it and they will be rewarded in heaven for their act. The men hijack airliners and crash them into the Grand Mosque in Mecca, killing more than 3,000 people. Saudis, horrified at this act, decide that a good way to help ease tensions between the Muslim world and everyone else would be to erect a Christian church near the hole where the Grand Mosque used to be.

Okay, you can stop laughing now.

As you are no doubt aware (and if you're not, you should be), the American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative have obtained local endorsement for a controversial plan to build a 13-story Islamic community center including a mosque, performing art center, gym, swimming pool and other public spaces not far from the site of Ground Zero. It is not being referred to as an "Islamic" center, but the prominent inclusion of a mosque leaves little doubt as to what it is.

As I wrote in the introduction to yesterday's Cartoon Saturday post, I think this is an appallingly bad and grossly insensitive idea. And I think it's being supported by well-meaning people who have not thought through the implications of what it is they are doing.

The United States is a nation founded on the ideal of religious freedom...that every person has the right to worship God (or not) according to the dictates of his own conscience. The first amendment to the Constitution begins with these words: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." The founders had seen what evils could arise when religious beliefs were abused by kings and princes, and they wanted none of it in the new nation they were founding.

Islam is completely alien to this concept of religious liberty. You are a Muslim, or you are an infidel. It is the duty of every Muslim to spread the faith, by force if necessary. If you are a Christian living in a Muslim-ruled land, you can exist (although not worship openly) by paying a tax to the religious authorities. Or you can be killed if you refuse to convert to Islam. The Islamic faith sees no division between the power of the mosque and the power of the state...there is no equivalent to Jesus' injunction in Mark 12:17 to "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." This is why the billions of dollars we pay for Saudi Arabian oil each year help to ensure that Saudi religious textbooks - including those shipped to this country for use in Saudi-funded Islamic schools - vilify Christians and Jews. You cannot build a church or synagogue in Saudi Arabia, nor can you openly worship there in any faith other than Islam. All of this goes back to the devil's bargain made between the al-Saud family and the forces of the brutally intolerant Wahhabi sect many years ago...and it's why the Saudi government will never be able to crack down on the worst excesses of Islamic radicals. They depend on them.

Islamic believers and apologists stress that Islam is a religion of peace and justice. What they neglect to mention is that this peace and justice applies to Muslims...not necessarily to infidels who worship according to other belief systems.

Make no mistake: I have no problem with anyone who wishes to be a Muslim or hold Islamic beliefs. But I believe it is important to note that Muslims believe the Koran is the final, unchangeable, revealed word of God...that every single word is definitive and must be accepted. There is no room for interpretation. There are most certainly some very bloodthirsty parts of the Bible, particularly in the books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy...but there aren't priests and ministers telling impressionable young people today to go out and burn, stone, or kill sinners. On the other hand, there are a considerable number of firebrand Muslim clerics who encourage their congregations to murder those who are of other faiths...or even those who are insufficiently Islamic (consider the terrible violence between Shia and Sunni Muslims in Iraq).

The gulf of hatred and mistrust between Muslims and other religions will not be bridged by building "community centers" near the sites of atrocities committed by Muslims. It will not be bridged by Muslim apologists who tell us that they are good people and the rest of us just need to be more understanding and accommodating.

It will be bridged when Muslims take a hard look at the tenets of their faith and recognize that they are no longer living in sixth century Arabia. When Muslims of good will (and I don't doubt that there are some) start rising up and taking action against the uncompromising religious bigots who murder and oppress in the name of their faith, I'll start taking them seriously. Until then, I believe that even thinking about putting a mosque anywhere near Ground Zero is a slap in the face of those who were murdered by Islamic extremists on September 11, 2001.

I'm sick to death of being told that it's my job to understand and accept Muslims. If they want to live in the United States and practice their faith, fine. But I believe it's their job to understand and accommodate themselves to the rest of the world.

Not that it will ever happen.

No mosque at Ground Zero. Ever. Period.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



Bandit said...

Well stated, Bilbo. I agree totally.

Anonymous said...

Well put, sir. You've caught the essence of the problem.
Eminence Grise.