There’s a lot of argument going on about the plan to build a community center with a mosque near Ground Zero in NYC. First of all, it’s NEAR. Not AT. An important distinction – I would oppose building any singular religious center there as people from all faiths and no faiths at all died there. It is, by virtue of what happened there, a most solemn place.

Two blocks away, though – especially in the Big Apple, is comparable to a town away for the rest of the world. And, I have no problem with it. (For more on both sides click here.

Fanatical lunatic Muslims attacked the Trade Center, to the horror of all the world, including causing deep pain and embarassment to so many Muslims here who are normal, hardworking Americans just like everyone else - and who found these attacks equally tragic - like the rest of humanity. I find it a very sad sign of bigotry and intolerance to reject all members of a faith because of the actions of a few.

Not only do I not object, I believe it’s a good thing that this group of Muslims wants to do. A community center for all to use, with a mosque for their followers to use if they wish. Rather than a statement of ‘in your face hostility’ as many are claiming, I see it as a statement espousing unity with all. I believe this group’s ‘in your face’ statement is to those crazed fools within their faith – it’s a statement that they stand WITH the rest of the world against such acts.

To those who are quick to quote passages from the Koran which call for violence, I suggest they look to their Bible and note the voluminous number of passages which call for … violence! One cannot say the same calls for atrocity in the Bible don’t apply to Judeo-Christians, but in the Koran, it MUST apply to their believers. That’s just hypocritical, disingenuous and does nothing but foster hatred.

It seems most of the protest is led by one Pamela Geller, a conservative Jewish columnist from NY who actually has the audacity to tell the builders what they SHOULD be building there – a center to cut out parts of the Koran to make it palatable to her.

Unbelievable. Get out of the sun, Pamela.

"We feel it would be more appropriate maybe to build a center dedicated to expunging the Quranic texts of the violent ideology that inspired jihad, or perhaps a center to the victims of hundreds of millions of years of jihadi wars, land enslavements, cultural annihilations and mass slaughter," Geller said.

Perhaps a Judeo-Christian center which will revise the Bible to eliminate its calls for violence is also appropriate? Perhaps a World Religions Center wherein all faiths would edit their doctrinal/religious texts until any and all passages which offend any and all others are eliminated. (It would work for me!)

Regular readers know I am no fan of any religion - this dispute is a perfect example of how they cause problems; I believe just about all faiths cause vastly more harm than good. But in honesty, there IS also some good attempted by some religions, and I believe that this effort in NY is one of them.

All images as linked.

Posted in its entirety from my column here:

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Comment by Loren Miller on June 15, 2010 at 3:44pm
"How can they ever gain your trust if you're just going to dismiss any act towards that end?"

How about by demonstrating, as I suggested earlier, that there are cafeteria Muslims as surely as there are cafeteria catholics? That they find Sura 3:28 as unconscionable as I do, as well as those verses insisting on death to infidels and the like. If their own credibility is important to them and they are as aghast with what the likes of Al Qaeda and the Taliban have done, they can say so.

As for taking a chance and speaking out, merde, man, if I can do it as an atheist in a predominantly theist community (and I have), they can. I'm not asking for a total renunciation of the Qur'an, but a recognition of those elements of it which are incompatible with a diverse society.
Comment by Pat on June 14, 2010 at 3:19pm
I have to go with Loren on this one. To me, it is not so much about building a religious worship center which is protected by the 1st Amendment. If that's all it was supposed to be, knock your socks off. However, it is billed as a "cultural center" to promote, e.g. indoctrinate others in the cult of Allah. And, right next to the locale where Allah told his followers to slaughter the innocents in his name. To me, this is no different kind of slap in the face of Americans as building a shrine to the once-god Hirohito at Pearl Harbor, a German Army Memorial at the Holocaust Museum in D.C, or a KKK cultural center at the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis.
Comment by Loren Miller on June 12, 2010 at 7:38am
I watched the trailer for "The Mosque in Morgantown" and went through most though not all of the Intelligence Squared debate.

First of all, the results of that debate:

A pretty severe swing from Before to After, and they don't help the cause of Cordoba House.

Personally, what I'm looking at here is the core of Islam, which must be the Qur'an itself. As I pointed out before, the Qur'an endorses the idea of deceit and duplicity in dealing with non-believers, it evaluates women as half the worth of men, it decrees death for apostates and infidels. Interestingly, it sounds much like the Old Testament in this regard. Question: is it realistic at all to believe that such tenets can be edited out of the practice of Islam, or would it be eviscerated to to the point where it would no longer be recognizable? Further, can we have any expectation for the "moderates" (such as there are) to come forward to endorse this modification of Islam and the disavowal of the radicals who have usurped Islam in the view of the media, if not in reality? Finally, can we have any expectation that said radicals would ever renounce their radicalism in favor of a more moderate and civilized Islam?

To these questions, my own point of view must answer no, no, and most definitely: no. Thomas Jefferson did his own review of the bible, but I am dubious that it would ever be accepted by an christian sect or church. In like fashion, I have no reason to believe that an altered Qur'an would gain any form of endorsement by the Islamic community at large.

When the day comes that moderates are not intimidated by radicals, that they can feel free to speak out without fear of retribution and wrest the dominance of their faith from the likes of Wahhabiism, Al Qaeda and the Taliban and relegate the radicals to the dust bin of history, then my lack of ease at the thought of a major Islamic institution a stone's throw from the original World Trade Center site would be alleviated. As yet, that day has not arrived, and I don't anticipate it.

Finally, expecting radicals to deradicalize is expecting pigs to fly. The woman in the movie trailer said it:

"These are not human rules."

So long as there are those who believe that god's law outstrips civil law and that civil law should and must be superseded by shariah, I will continue to have a problem with Islam, as surely as I have a very similar problem with Christianity ... and I cannot and will not endorse the building of Cordoba House in its current location.
Comment by Sam in WV on June 11, 2010 at 5:52pm
This is the U.S. and I believe in applying the "equal protections" clause of the 14th Amendment. That is my bottom line. If the proposed mosque is on terra firma acquired through legal transactions and it fulfills all the zoning and building code regulations, so be it. My personal bias is that it is to our cultural detriment that new churches/synagogues/mosques be built anywhere (with their tax privileges). But that is just too bad.

The first sign that criminal or felonious activity is being directed from their house of religion, use any provisions of the criminal code to expropriate the property, and then some more sanctions.

Comments and videos here about the Muslim intent should be taken seriously. Like any old text, the Suras of the Quran and associated Hadiths are ambiguous about those who will not abide by its doctrines. But they are present and hostile enough, suggestive of intolerant hegemony, that the whole concept of "moderate Muslims" should be called into serious question in the face of any controversy.

Comment by Loren Miller on June 11, 2010 at 12:35pm
Encouraging, John, and thanks for the input. I just wish such people could be a touch more vocal about the more rabid and less rational participants.

Then, too, occurs to me that the same thing could be said for Christianity.
Comment by Loren Miller on June 10, 2010 at 6:23pm
"Massive" is in the eye of the beholder, and the immediate environment. St. Patrick's isn't any 13 stories by any stretch, and while I won't claim to a knowledge of the surrounding buildings, a structure that large would certainly dominate an area where the average height were, say, less than 10.

Still, that's a piddling point. The primary issues remain intent and perception. How do Muslims see a mosque located near the center of financial power in the US? Is it an attempt to foment peace and understanding, or a sub rosa insult and rallying point against the Great Satan? And how open and above board will the operations of this new facility be?

Personally, I'm not a great one for trust. I know what betrayal is, first hand, and I'm not given to offering second chances once my trust has been abused. The Islamic community in the US has a LOT to prove by me, and it seems to me that, in the past almost nine years since 11 September, 2001, that little has been done in the service of opening their community to the rest of us. Such an opening and invitation to dialogue should have happened a long time ago, and if it did, that event got precious little news coverage. That the proposal of this mosque is as controversial as it is speaks to the lack of communication and openness which might alleviate such tension ... and also assuage my own misgivings.

Until such time as Islam in America chooses to open itself after such a fashion, I remain on the dubious side.
Comment by Carol Everhart Roper on June 10, 2010 at 5:15pm
Ha, I never found Seinfeld all that funny, either... I thought I was the only one! Her point in her video was that Arabs (I just read somewhere that Muslims are only 30% of American Arabs, the rest are mostly Christians) are diverse people. I agree with you, though, Islam needs some serious PR for gaining acceptance and trust. BUT... supposedly this community center is to be a step towards exactly that. You ask excellent questions about how they interpret their Qur'an, for example. From what I've heard from friends, it pretty much IS as you describe - moderates ignore the crazy stuff, just as moderate Christians don't think earth is 6k yrs old... and fundie Muslims are as bad as fundie Xians in their literality.

I'm not saying we should arbitrarily trust any more than I think we should arbitrarily mistrust a group because they're Muslim. I think each event must be considered individually. So, so far, I have no objection to the mosque, and hope it will turn out to be a resource for peace and understanding. I rate the info I find by how they describe the situation - talking about a MASSIVE mosque of 13 stories - the plans of the bldg show a mosque on a lower level. The rest are other community oriented areas, and ... WHO in NYC thinks 13 stories is massive? No one I know. See what I mean?
Comment by Loren Miller on June 10, 2010 at 4:44pm
I really couldn't care less about Danny Thomas or Jerry Seinfeld (whom I never thought was particularly funny). Arab-Americans or people of Arab descent may or may not be Muslim. Part of the question becomes, how selective are Muslims about their Qur'an and what it has to say? Do they pick and choose their suras as "Cafeteria Christians" do, or are they more given to literalism, as the fundamentalist christians are? Honestly, I don't know, and that lack of knowledge is further hindered by the lack of public action or speech by American Muslims or their representatives. There is, to my experience, no public representative of moderate Islam in the media, and if Islam is serious about being accepted in the general community, such a spokesperson is very VERY necessary.
Comment by Carol Everhart Roper on June 10, 2010 at 4:29pm
Here's a video by a 14 yr old girl with a different point of view. I hope it loads here... but I'm pasting the link, anyhow...

Comment by Loren Miller on June 10, 2010 at 4:18pm
Whether he's a hater or not, the ONE thing I took away from it was that Islam, based in the Qur'an, endorses deceit as a means of dealing with us infidels! I thought the sura he quoted and the following commentaries were pretty damning:

Qur'an 3:28 - "Let not the believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers. Whoso doeth that hath no connection with Allah unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them, taking (as it were) security"

Commentary (Tafsir Ibn Kathir) - "... believers are allowed to show friendship outwardly, but never inwardly."

Commentary (Abu Darda) - "We smile in the face of some people although our hearts curse them."

Now granted: I don't have any current Muslim friends. Not that I avoid them; just no one around where I live. I cannot speak to individual practitioners, but when the basis for their religion promotes and encourages duplicity as a means to their ends, I have a SERIOUS problem.

As to the issue of expunging such from the Qur'an, this strikes me too much as a naive attempt at political correctness for a text which, in too many ways, exhorts believers to strike down those who don't believe or reject Islam. Further, you and I both know that any such effort would never be accepted by the fundamentalists, the Wahhabists, or any of those who retain the goals of Al Qaeda or the Taliban.

I remain in opposition, and it would take one hell of a lot of reassurance to get me to move from that stance.

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