Thursday, August 05, 2010

Gimme That Old Time Religion...No, Not THAT One, THIS One...

One of the big topics of the day, earning far more newspaper column inches and hot air by volume than it is worth, is the push by the Cordoba Initiative to build a 15-story "Islamic Community Center" (including a mosque) on property it owns in New York City, about two blocks from Ground Zero, where the twin towers of the World Trade Center once stood.

Passions are running high on all sides of the issue. If you read any report on the topic on CNN online, then read the hundreds of comments that are posted to it, you will find the most amazingly broad cross-section of opinion from the thoughtful to the call-somebody-to-bring-a-canvas-jacket-for-this-guy. There's nothing like a "discussion" of religion to bring out the best...or the people.

As it happens, I am on record as being utterly opposed to the construction of this Islamic center. You can read my earlier post on the subject here. And those of you who are my Facebook friends saw the thought that I posted on my page yesterday, asking why - if its purpose is to increase interfaith understanding and tolerance - the Cordoba Initiative didn't use the money to build a church in Mecca.

Oh, can't do that. It's illegal to build a church in Saudi Arabia. Never mind.

One of my good friends posted an answering comment, in which she said,

"...from what I hear, those people actually purchased the property way before 9 -11. They decided to build this year and it is two blocks away from ground zero. I just want to know where does the demarcation line for ground zero start or end?"

In her own gentle way, she has both made my point and missed it.

We have the wonderful opportunity to live in America, a country founded in part on the guarantee of religious freedom - freedom for each individual to worship (or not) according to the dictates of his (or her) conscience (check out the First Amendment!) and specifically forbidding the imposition of any sort of religious test for a candidate for public office (see Article VI). Because we enjoy religious freedom, we - all of us, regardless of our form of worship - enjoy the freedom to build our church or mosque or synagogue or other place of worship anywhere we choose. But, as I pointed out in another context in yesterday's post, the fact that we can do something doesn't necessarily mean we should do it.

The construction of an Islamic center near Ground Zero is perfectly legal as long as it conforms to the local zoning ordinances. It's legal, but is it right? In my own humble opinion, the best that can be said of the construction of a mosque in this location is that it is an act of staggering insensitivity. Even if we give the benefit of the doubt to the Cordoba Initiative and grant that it is sincere in its desire to advance interfaith understanding (and I'm not completely convinced of that), the simple fact is that the construction of a mosque in this location will be viewed by the radical Islamic fringe as a symbol of victory over a nation and a people they despise.

Obviously, not every Muslim is a heartless fanatic bent on murdering everyone who fails to see the overwhelming supremacy of his beliefs. But when Muslims of good faith fail to condemn those murderous religious bigots, they offer their tacit support to the radical fringe. When Muslims insist that theirs is a religion of peace and understanding, but refuse to accept the legitimacy of any other beliefs, it doesn't do much for the advancement of interreligious harmony. My opinion remains the same as it has always been: that it is not Christians and Jews, Americans and Europeans, who must strive to understand and accommodate Islamic beliefs ... it is the Islamic world which must accommodate itself to living in a religiously diverse and tolerant 21st century.

The construction of a simple church in Mecca, rather than a 15-story Islamic Community Center and mosque near Ground Zero, would be a wonderful example of the sincere desire of Muslims of good will to live in peace and understanding with their neighbors of other faiths.

But I'm not holding my breath.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.



The Mistress of the Dark said...

the more I read the more I believe organized religion is a terrible thing. Note I said nothing about god..just religion..I have no beefs with god.

Anonymous said...

It is no accident, comrade, (as the KGB used to say) that the organization promoting the mosque is named the Cordoba Initiative. Cordoba was the capital of Andalusia, Spain, the high point of the Muslim near-conquest of the West. I make much of the symbolism of the mosque on what is sacred ground to the Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and atheists that died together because of people that are still trying to conquer the world on behalf of their version of Islam. For those people and their supporters, the very placement of the mosque is part of the battle. It is deliberate "frighfulness." (Bilbo you know the German word for that, and that frightfulness was why the Nazis bombed defenseless Rotterdam) as part of Nazi deliberate frightflness policy.

With history in mind, it is hard to find an innocent explanation for the Cordoba Initiative's refusal to take the zillion dollars their land is worth and move their Mosque elsewhere. Also, one should also know the mosque will not be a neighborhood mosque. There are almost no residences in that part of Manhattan--a stray loft or two in an older building, but in the lower part of Manhattan near and south of Wall Street it is an absolute ghost town after 5 pm, except for Chinatown and Little Italy, which are further east.

Eminence Grise

KathyA said...

I agree with you, Bilbo. It's not incorrect or immoral, it's just slap in the face insensitive.

Mike said...

If they did indeed buy this property before 9/11, makes you wonder what they knew before hand.

Raquel's World said...

I just wonder if a strip club was being built there would it be this serious?