There have been several recent responses to the planned building of a Muslim community center and mosque (a.k.a. Park51) close to Ground Zero. I’m not opposed to it — more on that later — but I’ve been reading some interesting responses to the situation.
President Obama supports the right for Muslims to build the mosque, though he took no official stance on whether it should be built.
White House officials said earlier in the day that Mr. Obama was not trying to promote the project, but rather sought more broadly to make a statement about freedom of religion and American values. “In this country we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion,” Mr. Obama said at the Coast Guard station. “I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about.
“And I think it’s very important as difficult as some of these issues are that we stay focused on who we are as a people and what our values are all about.”
“I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state — as important a test as we may see in our lifetimes — and it is critically important that we get it right,” the mayor said.
“To cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists,” he said, “We should not stand for that.”
The New York Times supports the building as well:
Instead of caving in to the angry voices — many but not all of them self-promoting Republican politicians — commissioners paved the way for construction of the mosque and Islamic center. It was not just the right thing to do, it was the only thing to do.
Sam Harris supports the right to build a mosque, though he objects to this mosque in particular:
Should a 15-story mosque and Islamic cultural center be built two blocks from the site of the worst jihadist atrocity in living memory? Put this way, the question nearly answers itself. This is not to say, however, that I think we should prevent our fellow citizens from building “the ground zero mosque.” There is probably no legal basis to do so in any case — nor should there be. But the margin between what is legal and what is desirable, or even decent, leaves room for many projects that well-intentioned people might still find offensive.
The claim that the events of September 11, 2001, had “nothing to do with Islam” is an abject and destabilizing lie. This murder of 3,000 innocents was viewed as a victory for the One True Faith by millions of Muslims throughout the world… And the erection of a mosque upon the ashes of this atrocity will also be viewed by many millions of Muslims as a victory — and as a sign that the liberal values of the West are synonymous with decadence and cowardice. This may not be reason enough for the supporters of this mosque to reconsider their project. And perhaps they shouldn’t. Perhaps there is some form of Islam that could issue from this site that would be better, all things considered, than simply not building another mosque in the first place. But this leads me to a somewhat paradoxical conclusion: American Muslims should be absolutely free to build a mosque two blocks from ground zero; but the ones who should do it probably wouldn’t want to.
Personally, while I agree with Harris that there is a major problem with Islam in general and certainly a lot of reluctance to admit that by moderate Muslims, I think this building would do more good than harm. It’s a chance to show the rest of the world — especially the theocratic, Muslim world — how Americans respect religious freedom and don’t act out of fear, prejudice, and bigotry.
There are good arguments against building it, though, and I don’t think being opposed to it automatically makes you a bigot (even though there’s quite a bit of overlap between those two groups).
I really appreciated this post from Christian Julie Clawson (who is married to a contributor to this site, Mike Clawson) :
… there are many Christian Americans who have spoken out against this centre, claiming that it is inappropriate and offensive, and that its proximity to Ground Zero would allow Muslims to mock the events of 9/11. Since speaking out in support of the centre, I’ve even had other Christians accuse me of supporting the work of Satan and turning my back not only on my faith, but on everything the United States stands for.
… Some Christians unfortunately say that the terrorists’ actions represent the heart of Islam. They project their fear and hatred onto all Muslims, blaming them for those events and asserting that they desire the destruction of Christianity and America’s freedoms.
Ironically, many of these same people are the first to argue when so-called Christians commit heinous acts that they do not act on behalf of all Christians. They go so far as to say they aren’t actually Christians, much less representative of the religion…
But this same distinction is rarely extended to our Muslim brothers and sisters.
I think she’s wrong later on when she writes that 9/11 is inconsistent with Islam — there is undoubtedly a strong connection between the two and the terrorists really believed they were following the will of Allah.
Still, when we’re talking about the actual bigots who oppose this mosque for ridiculous reasons, it seems very hypocritical for Christians to say all Muslims act the way the extremists do.
The Economist puts all this in context when talking about Sarah Palin‘s response to the mosque (she obviously was against it):
In a tweet last month from Alaska, Ms Palin called on “peaceful Muslims” to “refudiate” the “ground-zero mosque” because it would “stab” American hearts. But why should it? Cordoba House is not being built by al-Qaeda. To the contrary, it is the brainchild of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a well-meaning American cleric who has spent years trying to promote interfaith understanding, not an apostle of religious war like Osama bin Laden. He is modelling his project on New York’s 92nd Street Y, a Jewish community centre that reaches out to other religions. The site was selected in part precisely so that it might heal some of the wounds opened by the felling of the twin towers and all that followed. True, some relatives of 9/11 victims are hurt by the idea of a mosque going up near the site. But that feeling of hurt makes sense only if they too buy the false idea that Muslims in general were perpetrators of the crime. Besides, what about the feelings, and for that matter the rights, of America’s Muslims — some of whom also perished in the atrocity?
It’s been a couple months since I last mentioned this topic, but has anyone’s views changed on whether or not the mosque should be built? I’d be curious what made you change your mind one way or the other.