Responses to the Ground Zero Mosque August 14, 2010

Responses to the Ground Zero Mosque

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.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg supports the right to build it and the building of it:

“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.

Very true.

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.


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  • Philbert

    Point of order – the proposed building is a community center with a mosque on an upper floor.

  • Rieux

    I think it should be there because the Muslims building it want it to be there, and it’s utterly ridiculous for anyone to tell them otherwise. I think the second paragraph you quoted from Harris is right on target—until the final clause. As far as I can tell, these are the right Muslims.

    The same First Amendment that protects our right to caricature Muhammad also protects the Cordoba House folks’ right to build their community center right there. It is not remotely a close question; the whining about “feelings” that supposedly will be hurt by the center are just as ridiculous as the equivalent whining about “feelings” that are hurt by caricatures of Muhammad. Constitutional rights are more important than fragile feelings.

    I’m a proud atheist (who agrees with Harris most of the time), and on this point I’m entirely with Bloomberg.

  • Must. Reiterate. Facebook. Post.
    I think it’s dangerous and disrespectful. It would be like building a church in or near a town that had children in it.

  • I think it is up to us “rationalists” to spread our ideas about what we think of religion and faith in a respectful way. While I don’t necessarily respect the ideology of Islam, I am committed as an American to respect the right of other Americans to hold Islamic world views and promote them in accordance with the law.

  • I think any place of worship is a bad thing. It’s a brainwashateria. It’s where the ignorant masses go to get stupid.

    So they want to build it with a ‘community center’ attached, like so many devious Christian groups do. It’s a tactic, and it won’t make Islam seem any less insane and dangerous to me, and I’m sure a lot of other Americans as well.

  • RPJ

    It shouldn’t be built in the sense that any place of worship shouldn’t be built: religion is a brain-rot at best, and it is inextricably a tribalistic distinction that promotes conflict by nature of its very existence.

    However, that is the only argument I have against it being built.

    As far as I have read, the point of the community center is to promote interfaith understanding and cooperation – in other words, its explicit intent is to overcome the tribalism inherent in religion. While this is most effectively achieved by the reduction of religion in general, in the short term lessening the tension between religions is also a worthy goal.

    The opposition is divided into two camps: Bigots and apologists for bigots. Neither have a leg to stand on.

    Again, the point of the center is to extend an olive branch. The primary opposition are those who will set the olive branch aflame and throw it back in their face; the bigots, the haters, the intolerant bastards who say that all muslims are evil and terrorists, who condemn all of the entire faith. The secondary opposition are those who claim fault in the Cordoba Center for attempting to extend an olive branch because obviously, this would offend the bigots.

    I do not condemn the peaceful camp as “warmongers” and “intolerant”. I condemn the opposition, who would set the olive branch aflame for the sake of maintaining the tribalistic intolerance, and I have contempt for those who would apologize for them.

  • Iason Ouabache

    I agree with almost all of those people. (I think Harris goes a little too far, but I always think that.) From what I’ve heard Feisal Abdul Rauf is basically a Muslim Rick Warren. And while I dislike Rick Warren and his beliefs I’m not going to protest him building a church where he wants to, especially if he follows all the local laws and regulations. Holding Abdul Rauf responsible for 9/11 would be like holding Rick Warren responsible for Scott Roeder.

  • Sven

    Not a fan of religion, but I am a fan of Free Exercise. Turning lower Manhattan into a Muslim-Free-Zone would make us no better than the theocratic tyrants of Saudi Arabia and elsewhere.

  • fea24

    I wish people would remember that it isn’t AT ground zero. It’s NEAR ground zero. Objecting to that begs the quesiton how near is too near? If a few blocks is too near, is half a mile, a mile? anywhere on Manhattan?

    I don’t object to places of worship, I believe that they have served a valuable role throughout history. If people want to use land that their group owns for that purpose, it shouldn’t matter what the religion is or where the land is located.

  • ckitching

    There are plenty of arguments (and some are even good) against building the thing. However, there are no good arguments for prohibiting it from being built, although there are plenty of bad ones.

    Perhaps of note is the fact there are three churches within that two block radius, too.

  • VXbinaca

    Build it. I think it should be built.

    Well put, RPJ.

  • Dan

    Sarah Palin had said “build it up the street” but didn’t specify exactly how many blocks it needed to be moved. So it seems they are only hypocrites in a non-specific radius around ground zero, but everywhere else they are for religious freedom.

  • Erp

    I support them building it.

    I note Susan Jacoby views it as legal but salt on a wound.

  • Revyloution

    On a slightly related note:

    I love the Economist magazine. It is a clear and dense work that produces more content than I can read before the next magazine comes out. Their articles are well researched and well reasoned. The only thing I don’t like is the subscription fee, but I guess thats what real journalism costs (over $100/year if you subscribe)

    If anyone else here is a subscriber, do you feel that, when they report on religion, they seem to report from an atheist perspective?

  • JustDucky

    Yep. My opinion changed.

    My visceral reaction was, “That’s going to piss off a lot of people, and probably set themselves up for a lot of vandalism and protesting.” My line of thinking was that they’re well on their way to some hate crimes.

    I also had the whole “Think of the families!” thing running through my mind. Yeah, it’s got to be hard, going through a humongous tragedy like that, and having no real sense of closure. The mind turns the anger and fear somewhere, and putting a building representing that hate and fear that close to Ground Zero isn’t going to win anyone any friends.

    Then I researched a little more. Muslims were some of the victims in the 9/11 attacks, and that their families are probably going through the same pain. A group, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, founded by family of those killed in the 9/11 attacks, fully support the establishment of a mosque at the chosen site.

    I took a look at Google Maps. There seem to be more than a dozen churches within a four block radius of the site; a few synagogues and temples, etc. Closest Mosque appears to be about a mile away. Which is not to say Google Maps is the most reliable source of information, but it’s the best I’ve got, and is usually pretty close. Anyway, for the people of Islamic faith not to have their comforting, healing spot nearby – well, how is that at all appropriate? (I’d like to point out that I’m an atheist, and I think that the houses of worship mentioned above are the most ridiculous monuments to human stupidity possible. You may as well believe in the tooth fairy or Santa Claus for all the good it will do you. BUT! FFS, if you’re going to allow one magic sky poppa, you may as well allow them all.)

    The site of the mosque isn’t visible from Ground Zero. You don’t want to see it? Don’t go down that street. Likening the Muslims involved in the community center/mosque to Al Qaida is likening the Westboro Baptist Church to mainstream Christianity. Grow up and accept that – especially in New York City, of all places – not everything is going to be agreeable to you, and there might be things that offend you.

    /rant

  • I passed by the proposed site everyday on my way to school, and not once did I ever get the sense that I was anywhere near “hallowed ground.” They have the right to build the mosque, and they should built it!

  • I suspect it will not be a “community center” in the fully inclusive meaning of the term. But we can test that.

    I would be interested if the Muslim group intending to build the cultural center and mosque make a practice of condemning Islamist atrocities when they happen. I think that would be the true measure of their intentions.

    And if they will let atheist and other groups hold regular meetings in their “cultural” center.

    In other words, do they hold the same values as the community that they live in, or are they only seeking to subvert those values?

  • I went from not caring to supporting their right to build it to supporting it being built, so much so that I blogged about it and put a link in my Facebook status updates for my friends. I’m an atheist and normally don’t care about whose building what to their imaginary friend(s), but as I read the opposition to the mosque, it really started to make me mad. First of all, where the WTC stood is NOT sacred ground. My dictionary says that something sacred is connected with God (or the gods) or dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration. It’s a historic site deserving of respect and remembrance for what happened there, but it is NOT sacred. And secondly, the people behind this Islamic center are primarily Sufi Muslims, people that the Sept. 11 highjackers and Al-Qaeda would loudly, vehemently complain are heretics, infidels, or worse, because the Sufis are modernists and moderates. Sufi writings and followers draw wisdom not just from the Koran, but from a variety of modern Islamic writers, as well as Christians (including the Bible), Gnostics, and Zoroastrians. I think of them as the United Church of Christ of Islam. They are the kind of Muslims so many of the people in the USA have been saying they want to hear from. Well, here they are! It sounds like an Islamic version of the YMCA.

  • ckitching

    Cyberguy, would you be asking the same questions if a Christian group wanted to build a community centre there? If not, why not?

    Do you think the Knights of Columbus would let their community centres be used for regular atheist meetings? I suspect they wouldn’t, but I have never asked.

  • I think it’s preposterous that this was ever an issue. Anyone who tries to prohibit the building of the mosque should be treated the same way as someone who tries to prohibit the building of a black community center, a Japanese community center, or even a gay bar.

    I neither support nor oppose this specific mosque on the grounds that it is none of my business.

  • jose

    If they have the right to do it and want to and have the money, noone should try to prevent those people from exercising that right.

    We have some community centers/mosques in Spain (I’m sure there are more of those just in NYC than in my entire country though.) Some of those places were sources of hatred, homophobia, and machismo (like one of those where the imam used to give advice about how to beat up your wife without leaving marks); some others are ok so they don’t make it to the news. The bad ones are denounced and closed, their imams put before the law; the ok ones are still open and doing fine.

    In this particular case, their attitude towards 9-11 may be a helpful hint to tell whether it’s going to be one of the ok ones. They should be asked how they feel about that and then people should going in and listen what they actually say when they think the press isn’t watching.

    As for the distance, if two blocks are not enough, how many blocks would do? Three? Eleven? To me this is completely arbitrary. Besides, I’ve checked it in Google Earth and you can’t even see the building from Ground Zero.

  • ATL-Apostate

    Fuck religion in general, and Islam in particular.

    The Muslims who would be impressed at how “Americans respect religious freedom and don’t act out of fear, prejudice, and bigotry,” aren’t the ones flying fucking planes into buildings.

    Sam Harris is right.

  • mouse

    Arg. It’s not a mosque and it’s not at ground zero. Sweet jeebus.l

  • William in LA

    Building even one more mosque, church or temple, is harmful to the ability of humanity to grasp reality clearly– effectively making it more difficult to overcome challenges.

    However, the separation of church and state in the U.S., under constant attack from Christians, could really use some bolstering. I think, as atheists, we have to support this ridiculous mosque simply for the symbolic assertion of that separation.

    Thanks to everyone else for their comments, many insightful voices here!

  • 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.

    Frankly, it’s not for me to tell someone in another state what and where to build. It’s not my business plain and simple. This is not a productive discussion if we care about having a civilized discourse and I sincerely hope it does not become commonplace.

    What if the tables were turned and a humanist/atheist organization wanted to build somewhere (as is the case every so often). How would we like a national back and forth about if WE should build somewhere? And don’t let me hear someone say that it couldn’t happen. I’m sure that Madalyn Murray O’Hair had to deal with plenty of this same type of discussion when she was starting with AA (though some of the old-timers who were around then can probably speak more authoritatively on this).

    I also find it quite shameful that every other politician who talks about this claims some implicit authority to speak on behalf of 9/11 victims, which is incredibly arrogant to say the least.

    Finally, I also find it amusing to hear arguments about perceived ‘offensiveness’ of the project by those who routinely dismiss the same accusations of their own work on a routine basis…

  • Michelle

    Won’t they also have to hire people and buy materials and a host of other services to construct a large center? Wouldn’t that be spending money in the U.S.?

  • Dan Covill

    Revylution:

    If anyone else here is a subscriber, do you feel that, when they report on religion, they seem to report from an atheist perspective?

    I think they try to report from an ‘objective’ perspective. But then, when you’re talking about religions, objective turns out to be pretty much like atheist, doesn’t it?

    I’m a great admirer of your comments, Revylution!

  • Fundie Troll

    Why shouldn’t the mosque be built? This a country founded on religious freedoms, is it not? Besides, everybody knows the muslim community didn’t bring down the world trade center buildings, the U.S. gov’t did (if there’s any doubt in your mind watch ANY video of WTC 7 collapsing, it’s the smoking gun).

  • John Small Berries

    Let’s ignore for the moment that, from all credible news reports I’ve read, this is not a mosque, but a cultural center that has a prayer room in it. For the sake of argument, let’s accept the premise that it’s a mosque.

    I’m an atheist. The building of a mosque normally affects me about as much as the building of a church or synagogue. To be blunt, normally I don’t give a rat’s ass.

    This is different, though.

    This is Americans turning their backs on the rights guaranteed to every citizen by the very first Amendment.

    This is Americans demonizing an entire culture for the actions of a few.

    This is American political leaders and opinion makers stating that we should turn our backs on one of the very things that made America a shining beacon, a source of hope, and a place where people fleeing persecution could turn to.

    This is a desecration of what America purportedly stands for. It is a deliberate tearing down of our stated ideals, which will be seen and remembered throughout the world.

    This is hysteria, fear-mongering, bigotry and injustice.

    For all these things, I want it built. To restore what I was raised to believe that America stands for.

  • Dan W

    I think we have too many buildings for the worship of imaginary deities already, no matter what religion the buildings are for. Other than that, no objections to it. If this group of Muslims want to build a mosque near Ground Zero, they have the right to do so. No-one makes a big fuss when Christians build new churches, because they have the freedom to do that. This is no different.

    I agree with Mayor Bloomberg on this.

  • Demonhype

    Wow, lots of good comments, but I particularly love how John Small Berries said it. Well put!

    For my own part, I think we need to remember our own shame involving that disaster–the violence that erupted against anyone who even seemed Middle Eastern in the aftermath. I still remember a story about a Sikh in Cleveland (I’m from NE Ohio) who was beaten to death because some angry patriots saw his turban (or whatever it is they wear) and assumed he had to be Muslim–not that it would have been okay even if he was Muslim.

    To allow them their rights to build there is not just an affirmation that we are not going to judge them all on the actions of a few. It can also be a secondary memorial to the shameful way we reacted and perhaps stand as a reminder, right there around the same site as the fallen towers, and perhaps an affirmation that we might try and remember to behave differently in the future. (And that’s not even to get into the BS wars that this led to, which have taken an even worse toll on Muslims abroad.)

    Well, I suppose I could word that better, but I’m tired. 🙂

    We keep asking for the moderate and liberal Muslims to stand up and say something, and if they do I think we need to stand up for them and afford them the same rights and protections that anyone else would get. And you really need to remember that, unlike the battle of lib/moderate vs. fundie Christian out here which is mostly just name-calling, these liberal and moderate believers may face genuine danger from fundamentalists who have proven themselves to be able and willing to commit obscene violence over the smallest matters. If they are going to take that courageous step and make themselves visible, the very least we can do is afford them the same freedoms that we claim everyone is entitled to, instead of using their Muslim-ness as an excuse to deny them those freedoms. Why the hell should the lib/mod Muslims want to risk life and limb speaking out against the fundie Muslims when we can’t even be trusted to grant them the same rights we’d grant anyone else, based entirely on the fact that they are Muslim? I would imagine that would make the claims of the fundies sound a bit more plausible.

    We know damn well what’s right, and we know how freedom works–and that people’s rights are not contingent on the emotional feelings of others. It’s like Rieux above said–just as our right to draw Mohammed should not be curbed by the hurt feelings of Muslims, so their right to build a mosque or religious community center or whatever should not be curbed by our hurt feelings either.

    One of the first things I was taught as a kid is that you don’t get to use “hurt feelings” as a justification for punching someone out or fucking them over, and that you have to treat everyone fairly even if you don’t personally like them or agree with them. So many people grow up without ever learning this lesson. It’s sad, really.

  • mouse

    John Small Berries, you sir, are awesome. To add to your thoughts, if we cave into this bigotry, the terrorists win. THe successfully hijack their religion from perfectly normal people who happen to also be of the same faith. I think it is a big “screw you fundie whack jobs” (to both islamic and xtian fundies) if we support the building of the cultural center (not mosque) near ground zero (not at it).

  • Sean Noonan

    I always get bummed out when I realize that most of my fellow atheists are bleeding heart left-wingers.

    Make no mistake, this is a victory mosque. It’s purpose is to rally Muslim terrorists all over the world. It is the equivalent to building a monument to the Japanese Emperor next to the USS Arizona.

    Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a well-meaning American? Are you kidding me? The guy who won’t call al-Qaeda terrorists? The guy who said America was partially culpable for 9/11? The guy who wants Shariah law in the US? You guys are whacked. Send me your addresses and I’ll send you a dollar so you can buy yourselves a clue.

  • Richard P.

    Maybe we should let them build it, then we could smash a plane into the top of it and see how they like it.

  • SickoftheUS

    Hemant wrote:

    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.

    You think that multiple military strikes, sieges, and wars of aggression for control and resources in Muslim countries, and decades of biased dealing with Israel/Palestine, don’t demonstrate that Americans authorize their government to act based on fear, prejudice, and bigotry? Come on Hemant, you can’t be that naive.

    The Muslim world at large isn’t going to be especially placated by a symbolic gesture, and the issues that make them really pissed off at the US are much more substantial and real-world than religious differences.

  • 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.

    Just did some research on suicide attacks and Islam because so many people think its part of the “culture” or “religion” of Muslims (there is no Muslim culture by the way). So… enjoy reading this awesome article by Muhammad Munir is Assistant Professor of Law at the Department of Law,
    International Islamic University, Islamabad. Please actually do read it, because he goes in depth as to why suicide attacks are wrong for Islam.

    http://www.icrc.org/Web/eng/siteeng0.nsf/htmlall/review-869-p71/$File/irrc-869_Munir.pdf

    And as for the community centre, I’m not a USian, but I support their right to build a community centre/mosque/statue/fun park/whatever. They have the permits, they live in the area and will use it, they should definitely build it.

  • JDN

    It’s a chance to show the rest of the world — especially the theocratic, Muslim world — how Americans respect religious freedom

    Hemant, I’m sorry to say that you forget that the muslim world (with the exception of secularised/westernised persons of muslim origin) does not function the same way as your democratic world.
    This is not something that will earn you their respect. The “theocratic” muslim world is going to consider allowing a “mosque near ground zero” a weakness and will exploit it. – Who is goint to prenvent the centre from being haded over to an other fraction later, anyway?

    Before assessing what muslims (other than secularised ones) will think and how they will react, please do look up among others the concept of Taqiyya (which basically says that in order to extend the power of islam, all means – explicitly including deceptions and lies – are not only acceptable, but a must if this gives more power to islam). This of course also sadly means that if you ever get any word from any muslim, you can never be sure that it can be truly trusted. And this also applies to what is stated sometimes about “real” islam being a religion of peace and terroism being un-islamic.

    – Excuse me for saying that, but you are too much locked into your culture to make informed judgements about other cultures.

    Of course the muslims have the “right” to build a mosque anywhere (including on ground zero), but the choice of place does show that the intention is to hurt (and to try how far they can go). As someone already said: the “decent” muslims (those who truly accept democracy and freedom of conscience) wouldn’t want to build a mosque there.

    But maybe the best answer would be to let them build it and to open a gay club just next to the “community center”, as well as a multilingual muslim feminist bookstore, a lesbian sex shop and a science museum for kids.

  • qwertyuiop

    Only if they allow us to build an “American cultural centre” in Mecca. Let’s see how tolerant these “moderate” Muslims are then.

  • I can see no reason why it shouldn’t exist.

    http://i.imgur.com/TacgJ.jpg is an good image.

  • Cyberguy

    ckitching wrote “Cyberguy, would you be asking the same questions if a Christian group wanted to build a community centre there? If not, why not?”

    No, because modern Christianity is not as violent or insidiously aggressive as Islam. And Christianity as a whole does not have the stated aim of dominating the world, if need be by violence.

    My opinion falls somewhere between Sam Harris and Pat Condell on the subject.

    Basically, it seems that most Americans greatly under-estimate the STRATEGIC INTENT of Islam, as practiced by its leaders. You think Islam is like Christianity – a religious system – rather than what it really is – a political system that uses religion as a means of control.

    Although I WANT to be multi-cultural and inclusive, I think you are being naive in the extreme if you think that each mosque is not seen by Muslims as an Islamic beach-head into your culture and politics.

    Have a read of these:
    http://www.citizenwarrior.com/2009/05/terrifying-brilliance-of-islam.html
    http://www.citizenwarrior.com/2010/07/how-non-muslims-have-been-disarmed.html

  • Lauren

    I just went back and read the responses to the linked post “I Don’t Oppose the Mosque Near Ground Zero.” I have to say that I was a little shocked by the comments. I would think that atheists would look at this situation skeptically and regardless of how they feel about the religion, support treating people with equality. It seems back in June the majority of readers were opposing it, but now most are supporting (happy to see). I’ve been in support of the mosque since the beginning. Americans who happen to be Muslim deserve all the same freedoms and liberties as every other American. Anyone who is an advocate for freedom of religion must surely be in support of the NYC mosque. Opposing the mosque is not promoting tolerance, and I think it’s important to point out that there were also Muslim Americans who perished in the 9/11 attacks. It’s not only the NYC mosque being protested even though NYC is getting the most attention, and it’s certainly setting the bar for discrimination against Muslims in America. If NYC doesn’t allow the building of the mosque near ground zero this will justify to others that they should not have to allow mosques in their communities either. Luckily, there are laws to protect people from discrimination. I think ultimately the mosque will be built. New York is so amazingly diverse, and that’s what makes it so special.

  • John Small Berries

    Sean Noonan writes: I always get bummed out when I realize that most of my fellow atheists are bleeding heart left-wingers.

    You say that like it’s a bad thing.

    This “bleeding heart left-winger” believes in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

    Does the right wing now hold those documents, the basis of America’s freedom, in contempt? Perhaps my memory is faulty, but I could have sworn that conservatives claimed the mantle of patriotism for themselves, while they accused liberals of hating America.

    Seems to me that any American who wishes to ignore our Constitution and the Bill of Rights – indeed, to expressly act contrary to them – is no patriot, and clearly has no respect for the ideals upon which this great nation was founded.

  • Erp

    Someone who thinks that modern Christians cannot be violent or aggressive obviously haven’t been following what is going on in Uganda (proposed death penalty for homosexuality, long prison sentences for those who support gay rights), or remembering Serbian Christians murdering Muslims in the 1990s not to mention recalling the small group of Rushdoony followers in the US.

    Islam is not monolithic and not even just two blocs (Sunni and Shia) but a multitude of different groups though they generally recognize each other as Muslim (much like most Protestants recognize Orthodox as Christian and vice versa). Some groups are aggressive and narrow, some aren’t.

  • Obama’s lack of leadership about the mosque at ground zero is appalling. And the muslim insistence that it go there is another attack on the fabric of America. Tell me they are not on jihad. The president could have easily and quietly worked a deal for the mosque to go elsewhere or for the government to come in and buy that property. It’s not rocket science. It’s what he does everyday on the items that promote his agenda.

  • I always get bummed out when I realize that most of my fellow atheists are bleeding heart left-wingers.

    You can take comfort in the reality that this probably isn’t the case.

    My strong sense is that atheism is pretty evenly distributed across the ideological/political spectrum. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be. The taboo surrounding non-belief tends to be stronger on the right than on the left. There are a lot of atheists who are closeted—both on the right and the left, but my hunch is that there’s way more on the right. Let’s remember, it’s highly possible that most atheists in the U.S. are—to some degree—closeted.

    There’s plenty of right-wing atheists—some of whom are clergy, according to the Dennett/LaScola research (pdf). They’re just not “out.” If we were somehow able to count the closeted, I believe we’d see just as much atheism on the right as on the left. Again, there’s no reason why this wouldn’t be the case.

  • Andrew Morgan

    The question of whether the government can prevent its construction is different than the question of if it should be built.

    Unless and until the mosque/center becomes a breeding ground for Islamic radicals — not entirely out of the question given other mosques in New York — there’s probably no basis, in light of American freedom, for the government to prohibit its construction.

    I think it is plainly obvious that it should not be built however, and find it, frankly, quite astonishing that anyone would find it appropriate to build anything that includes or represents the ideology which led to the slaughter of 3,000 near the spot.

    I’m with Sean Noonan. I’m not surprised that most atheists, from my experience, seem to be overwhelmingly liberal, despite that it bums me out too. Part of the reason I so respect Hitchens and Harris is that they haven’t, unlike many on this thread, lost the moral reasoning which lets a thinking person distinguish between Christianity and Islam, between the attacks and scattered violence, between Israel and Palestine, between the United States and the Muslim world, etc.

    And to whomever said that only bigots oppose its construction, I have to say: fuck you.

  • MV

    Cyberguy:

    No, because modern Christianity is not as violent or insidiously aggressive as Islam. And Christianity as a whole does not have the stated aim of dominating the world, if need be by violence.

    Really? You might want to take another look at the track record of the United States. This is a nation that is run by Christians (or those who pretend to be), has the largest military in the world and is not afraid to use it, repeatedly. Based on the massive death toll due to our recent wars, I have a hard time with the idea that Islam is somehow more violent or aggressive than Christianity.
    The differences depend far more on cultural and secular factors. Which is why it is important to allow the the center to be built. Those opposed to the center are generally demogogues and extremists. And even those who aren’t still use faulty reasoning that goes against our stated values.

  • John Gills

    I just sent an e-mail to my elected officials reminding them that perhaps the core values of America are, “With liberty and justice for all.”

    I urged them to support President Obama’s call to respect these basic American values and to support construction of the mosque near the World Trade Center’s memorial site.

    Please, whatever your point of view, contact your elected officials and let them hear your voice.

  • muggle

    I still hold what I’ve held all along: this is a matter of religious freedom. A private mosque/community center built with private funds on private property. To deny it would undermine religious freedom.

    It amazes me to see a disturbing trend growing among Atheists towards denying religious freedom from opposing the mosque to trying to dictate that parents can’t raise their children in their belief system. (Yes, we feel it’s indoctrination and have you any idea how many religionists accused me of brainwashing my daughter by not exposing her to the crap instilled in church and Sunday school?)

    It’s scary that a religious minority of — at best and it’s a questionable best because many of those who consider themselves to have no religion merely mean no organized religion while holding spiritual belief in something out there — 15% would oppose religious freedom just as a matter of self-defense. We would be in deep doodoo if we got religious freedom curtailed because we’re disgusted by religion.

    But beyond that, as a matter of conscience, I find the whole anti-theist movement disgusting even if we were the vast majority. It is nothing but wanting to hurt those who don’t think like you. If someone was to oppress you, stand up to them. But live and let live, those who do the same.

    Oh, and please stop with the sharia law nonsense. Even if they did want to enact sharia law, they can’t in America. It’d be grossly unconstitutional.
    This group is not only wanting to live and let live — show me some evidence that this particular group isn’t doing that before you spout over-generalizations; all Muslims want to kill all non-Muslims is exactly like the presumption that all Atheists are amoral — they want to extend an olive branch and work together with non-Muslims to make the society they live in a peaceful community.

    But the utter bottom line is it’s legal, it shouldn’t even be up for discussion. Plain and simple.

    If there’s some evidence of a terrorist plot, bring criminal charges. That hasn’t happened because there isn’t. If there were anything that could have been stretched into one by any overly zealous imagination, we all know (yes, once again I’m pointing to the elephant in the room) they would have been.

    Bloomberg and Obama are right. And Palin you’re giving me? That wackadoodle? Frankly, what’s the difference between her Muslims should be happy to take it down the street and blacks should be happy to sit on the back of the bus?

  • Beijingrrl

    “Don’t you ever, don’t you ever,
    Lower yourself, forgetting all your standards.”
    Adam Ant

    Seriously, people. I can’t believe some of you are using “but the other side wouldn’t hesitate to use such tactics” argument. Didn’t you have families who taught you two wrongs don’t make a right?

    Do you believe in American ideals such as freedom and justice? It seems to me that a lot of the people who oppose this are the same people who vocally proclaim their patriotism, but don’t actually stand up for what I see as our greatest principles. I love America, but when we move away from our ideals it needs to be called out. There’s nothing bleeding heart about that.

  • @Sean Noonan

    Make no mistake, this is a victory mosque. It’s purpose is to rally Muslim terrorists all over the world. It is the equivalent to building a monument to the Japanese Emperor next to the USS Arizona.

    And saying the people who flew planes into buildings is like saying Fred Phelps is the definition of mainstream Christianity. While I don’t agree with Mainstream Christianity, either, there’s a serious difference between the expressions of hate and compassion.

    There’s a big difference between “right next door” and “two blocks away and not visible”.

    Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a well-meaning American? Are you kidding me? The guy who won’t call al-Qaeda terrorists? The guy who said America was partially culpable for 9/11? The guy who wants Shariah law in the US? You guys are whacked. Send me your addresses and I’ll send you a dollar so you can buy yourselves a clue.

    America IS culpable, but no one seems to want to admit it. WTF, people? We go into someone else’s house, beat the shit out of the family, break all their stuff, tell them they’re idiots, and poop in their corners. You don’t think the cousins are going to get a little pissed off and maybe do something about it? Our entire policy towards the Middle East has brought this upon ourselves. We gave them guns, told them to fight, effed up their infrastructure, and instead of compensating them for it, just sort of left them hanging. If that doesn’t sound like a bit of culpability, I’m not sure what does.

    Oh, and with inflation? That clue you need is gonna cost you WAAAAAAAAAY more than a dollar.

  • I don’t support the building of any places of worship. I’m sure that planners can think of something worthwhile instead. That said they sure as heck aren’t building it for me nor am I ever likely to use it so if they want to spend their money on it then who am I to stand in their way?

  • Celeste Leone

    It’s not the religion, it’s the people promoting it. It’s the financial backers. Those are the questions to be answered. A news commenter pointed out that the location is even bad for Muslims i.e. traffic and distance to travel too. Most of the Muslims in New York City are in Brooklyn. Better the money go towards a community center located where it is actually beneficial to the Muslim community.

  • Erp

    hoverfrog,

    The planned building is a community center, it will contain a theater, fitness center, basketball court, swimming pool and restaurants that will be available to the general community. You might not use it but I suspect some atheists and other non-Muslims in lower Manhattan might (it will probably be cheaper than a private club).

    Oh, and given that the nearest other lower Manhattan mosques are overcrowded, I suspect there will be enough people willing to use it.

  • sailor

    If you believe in religious freedom and the constitution, of course they should be able to build it. Sure, there are some Muslims who want world dominance, some Christians too, maybe even some atheist. No religion is monolithic, you cannot judge Christians by the few who shoot abortion doctors. People also forget that quite a few of victims of 9/11 were innocent Muslims.

  • Are you guys aware that if (already fecund) Muslims attain more political power then the cherished ideals of religious freedom and tolerance are gone? To be a Muslim is to deny these ideals.

    So sure they have a right to build it, but we have a right to protect this nation from the intrusion of foreign peoples with ideals anathema to ours. We have a right to attempt to maintain our cultural solidarity in the face of ostentatious displays of triumphalism.

    And does national pride mean nothing anymore? These Muslims know exactly what they’re doing – spitting in our pusillanimous faces.

    Maintaining our nation is a higher value than religious freedom. But of course, national borders, traditions, and social mores mean nothing to a bunch of globalist leftist atheists like those posting here.

    (FTR: I’m an atheist and a skeptic, but a conservative who believes atheists reject religion but accept the equally noxious ideology of modern leftism.)

  • jolly

    It would be something if zoning laws were changed whenever a terrorist act was carried out by a religious person. Would get rid of a lot of churches in Oklahoma (McVay) and of course, Kansas(the abortion provider), Waco, TX… oh, the list would be long. What would happen with all that property?

  • Sam Harris once again manages to embarass me on behalf of atheism. Yikes. Now his personal sense of decorum gets to be the arbiter of where Muslims can erect a building? Really? (Nice variation on the No True Scotsman fallacy btw)

    Not only should they build this stupid monument to medieval superstition, they should flaunt the damn thing in the face of idiots like Harris. What on earth is so hard to understand, Sam? We’re a small minority group in this country and all that stands between us and brutal oppression is the separation of church and state. We should be strongly supporting the Cordoba people because if our lovely Christian conservatives manage to harass a bunch of Muslims out of their legal right to a building, it will only embolden them, and sooner or later it’ll be us the Christianists drive away.

    Oh, and because religious freedom/freedom from religion is a good in and of itself, but that’s a rather complicated concept for Mr. Harris, apparently.

  • Liokae

    The thing that strikes me about it is how nearly all of the people in favor of it are talking about broad principles… and nearly all the people against it are reducing it down to “the Muslims” attacking the US.

    Interesting fact: There’s more than one group of them! Shocking!

  • Gibbon

    Does it mean anything to the right-leaning atheists on this blog that allowing this Muslim community centre to be built would actually undermine the beliefs of the radical extremist terrorists who perpetrated the World Trade Centre attacks?

    Allowing Muslims to practice their religion openly and free from any sort of intimidation or antagonism would contradict the belief amongst radical extremist groups like al-Qaeda that the United States, and the West in general, is the enemy of Islam. This is aside from the fact that according to those Jihadist terrorists any Muslim who does not believe exactly as they do, most especially Sufis like Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, are not true Muslims.

  • Baconsbud

    Just a question or two for those opposed to this center being built. If we as Americans don’t allow this to be built, what is the next of our rights we are to cut back on? Is the possibility of a threat from a group enough to justify that their rights be denied? Should all groups that don’t accept all the rights view of what it means to be American be forced to be second class citizens?

  • Lost Left Coaster

    John Small Berries has pretty much said everything that needs to be said on this issue. But I wanted to emphasize one really important point: the people who are building this community center are the very Muslims whom we should all desire to grow in influence in the USA. They are moderate, cosmopolitan, tolerant, multicultural, and peaceful. A project such as this is the very type of institution that counters extremism. Opposing the construction of this project is just about the most counterproductive things you could possibly do, if you’re the type of person who is constantly wetting your pants over the fear of the scary Muslims you think are under your bed.

    I’ve never said this before, and I probably won’t say it again, but on this, Mayor Bloomberg speaks for me. His speech was eloquent and right on target and illustrated what is best about America. The center should be built.

    It gratifies me to see so many of my fellow atheists commenting on here and expressing such lucid and insightful thoughts on the issue, notwithstanding a few Fox News watchers who felt the need to weigh in.

  • Is the possibility of a threat from a group enough to justify that their rights be denied?

    Umm yea. America has a right to defend itself against the imposition of foreign, antagonistic peoples. We have a right to maintain our cultural solidarity in the face of such an ostentatious display of anti-American sentiment.

    They are moderate, cosmopolitan, tolerant, multicultural, and peaceful.

    They surely have a right to build it, but if they’re so peaceful and loving, then why are they doing something that they know will upset so many Americans? If their goal is to create harmony, why are they doing something that so many Americans disapprove of? And even Obama admitted that the emotional response to this is not unjustified.

  • p.s.

    OneSTDV

    Are you guys aware that if (already fecund) Muslims attain more political power then the cherished ideals of religious freedom and tolerance are gone? To be a Muslim is to deny these ideals.

    Well assuming your assumptions about *all* muslims is correct (including the american muslims), how exactly would that happen? They really don’t have very much political power now. Non-christians have a hard enough time getting elected into office. Do you think muslim’s will have an easier time of it? And how would they circumvent religions freedom? We have quite a few checks and balances to prevent that. And how would they prevent tolerance? “Damn you america, stop being so tolerant! *shakes fist*”
    Obvious fear mongering.

  • p.s.

    They surely have a right to build it, but if they’re so peaceful and loving, then why are they doing something that they know will upset so many Americans? If their goal is to create harmony, why are they doing something that so many Americans disapprove of? And even Obama admitted that the emotional response to this is not unjustified.

    If americans are so tolerant and value freedom of religion, why are they fighting the construction of the mosque?
    I understand the reason behind the emotional outrage, but that doesn’t mean I think the reason is a good one. There wouldn’t be an emotional outrage if people understood that all muslims are not terrorists. American muslims died in the towers too and their families have every right to be a part of america’s mourning process.

  • I think we might be losing the forest in the trees a little bit. Building the mosque and the dialogue around it can both be useful in bits and pieces — I mean, if respected, establishment people can go around and spew bigoted rhetoric that is decidedly pro-Christian on tape, that does give us a lot more material to work with, and the more time people have to get riled up means fundamentalist Christianity just takes a harder hit when it does eventually get built.

    I think that here and in other cases, we shouldn’t worry about whether or not the mosque is a good thing to build (ideally, it’s not, but that’s not the world we live in) and we should focus on what does the greatest harm to the dominant religion in a given location, because there’s no reason we can’t focus on the destabilization of hegemonic Christianity here (by supporting Islam and etc) and likewise the destabilization of hegemonic Islam in the Middle East (by supporting Christianity or etc) or the destabilization of hegemonic Judaism in the Israel area (by supporting Palestine). I’m convinced it’s good for us as a movement if the mainstream religion in a given place is delegitimized, and if building this thing can make people doubt their assumptions of Christianity’s value to our society and disown it as an institution, we can chalk that up as a victory.

  • L.Long

    This is even more important then separation of church/state. Its about FEAR. People do not get all worked up like this because they think the religion is silly.

    But if we really want the IsLames to really win a big score then violate the constitution and prevent the culture center. Show the IsLames how absolutely terrified we are of them and that we are willing to let them kill the constitution along with the towers.

    There is a legal way (I think cuz I dont know the detail rules for NYC)to stop it and NO ONE will do it. Change the zoning rules through voting such that NO religious building is allowed in the area…No ‘mosque’, no fuss. Of course that means the other bigots will have to remove their WorshipinHuts too!! NEVER HAPPEN!!

  • Richard Wade

    I’m proud of, and impressed by atheists here who have integrity and who understand the principle and the genius of the First Amendment. They have the courage of their convictions.

    To those others, believers or non, who would stop this mosque, community center whatever you want to call it, I would only ask,

    HOW DO YOU PROPOSE TO STOP IT?

    Would you pass a local law that no mosques or any Islamic structure of any kind be built within X radius of your “hallowed ground”? How big is X? Then when that law is immediately declared unconstitutional, would you toss out the First Amendment? Don’t worry, it’s been done several times before, always by people consumed with fear, hatred and ignorance. We call them bigots. And bigots have always been led by opportunistic politicians who take advantage of their sheep-like nature. We call them demagogues. In other parts of the world, the most successful demagogues are also called dictators.

    Those who want to stop this mosque by waving the words “Sharia law” around like some scary Halloween paper spook should actually try thinking their ideas all the way out to their conclusion. If you have your way, we will have the American version of Sharia law. If this becomes a country where one religion can be banned from free expression, then it will be a country where another religion can be forced upon everyone. You’re naive, silly children if you think that you will somehow not be crushed by the very tyranny that you would wield against others.

    It doesn’t matter if the mosque is a good idea or not. It doesn’t matter if it’s “insensitive” or not. It doesn’t matter if it’s a good or a bad P.R. move. I, an atheist, don’t want to live in a country where a mosque cannot be built wherever the hell local zoning laws would permit any other house of worship, or an atheist lecture hall, or even a headquarters for demagogue-following sheep. I will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those superstitious Muslims, to help defend building their community center with the big room for worshiping their ridiculous Great No-Show, and then I will continue to encourage them and everybody else to lose interest in all of the Great No-Shows ever invented by man. After a few lifetimes, if that building is still standing, maybe it’ll be turned into a community center with a big room for aerobics and lectures on rational living. The point is that it will have been freely chosen rather than forced by bigotry-driven tyranny.

  • Marx

    This is one of the few atheist blogs/commentators I have heard who actually supports the building of the mosque. However, as with most atheists, he makes a major mistake in suggesting “there is undoubtedly a strong connection between the (9/11) and the terrorists really believed they were following the will of Allah.” What is the reference in support of this claim? Atheists tend to see ideas influencing behavior rather vice versa. In other words, they ignore the material conditions giving rise to ideas and actions. 9/11 was more a response to the suffering of people in the middle east at the hands of US terrorism and the terrorism of US allies, fully supported by the US. This is acknowledged even by those who support US terrorism, like the former CIA agent who authored Imperial Hubris; Pape similarly has found motivations for suicide attacks to be nonreligious. If atheists are to be the rational thinkers they claim to be, they must be willing to look at themselves and the actions of their own respective nations and allies and hold them culpable for their terrorism and the terrorism they bring upon themselves as a result.

  • Katie

    a new day

    you alone will know the word
    you alone be more than heard

    when the old is finally gone
    clear your voice will carry on

    add your mortar to the stone
    know this house won’t be undone

    a house of love, a house of stains
    they’ll argue on but what remains

    steady walls on steady ground
    a nation’s soul and spirit found

    those who walk a different path
    sewing seeds of poisoned wrath

    might circle back again this way
    and you alone, you’re free to say

    be gone, be lost, let hatred spew
    I’ll watch the darkness cling to you

    instead you welcome them to stay
    instead you started a new day

    instead we started a new day

  • @Erp

    The planned building is a community center, it will contain a theater, fitness center, basketball court, swimming pool and restaurants that will be available to the general community. You might not use it but I suspect some atheists and other non-Muslims in lower Manhattan might (it will probably be cheaper than a private club).

    You’re quite right. I haven’t put my point across well at all. That was that there is nothing inherently wrong with the building of a religious centre of any kind as part of an organisation. I think that such a focus on religion is wasteful and slightly silly and would not support it. That doesn’t mean that I would stand in the way of someone else who wants to waste their time and money on a faith. Given that there are activities that I like to waste my time and money on that others would see as a waste I think that this is the appropriate response.

    You’ve also explained how others could take advantage of the building without buying into the woo. I would probably still avoid it. I don’t want to support religious organisations.

  • Regarding the Mosque Near Ground Zero

    There are many who oppose the building of the Mosque near Ground Zero on absolute terms. They want to “prevent” it from being built and some even go so far as to say that they shouldn’t exist in the United States at all. I am not one of these . (I’ll reiterate: they have every legal and constitutional right to build the Mosque. I don’t want to prohibit the building of the Mosque. Got it?) My view is simply that it was a decision that lacked sensitivity and was in poor taste. Consequently, I’m now labeled a bigot by some of my fellow liberals. I have to wonder if those who immediately throw out the term bigot are doing so in order to flaunt their liberal credentials in the same way that conservatives use flag pins to flaunt their patriotism. In both cases, views are automatically reduced to a dumb dichotomy. You’re either a good Constitution-loving American or an Islamo-phobic bigot.

    Leaving aside the subjective nature regarding the sensitivity of the Mosque’s construction, I was hoping that we, as a society, could open up the conversation a little more about some of the problems with religion in general, problems that we ignore at our peril. But how can we even ask questions or raise criticism when every attempt is met with an immediate claim of oppression or appeal to special respect?

    For instance, the Catholic Church has a pedophile problem. This was a claim that was first met with much opposing anger, claims of oppression and bigotry, and excuses. Now, after a mountain of testimony and evidence, it has become a fact that makes those clinging to those excuses, look sad and irrational. Does it mean that every Catholic is a pedophile? No. Does it mean that most Catholics are pedophiles? No. I have little doubt that most are good people who despair over this issue. Nevertheless, the problem exists and for the sake of those who can’t defend themselves, we should figure out why and not shy away from the search in fear of being called a bigot.

    Baptists have problems with homosexuality. It varies according to each person and denomination but, by in large, they oppose it. There are many who oppose it so much so that they want to deny basic rights to anyone who is gay. There are some who disown their own children upon learning that they are gay or even send them to psychological abuse camps to “cure” them of their “disease.” However, I would venture to say, although I don’t know, that most are less militant about it and take the “we’re all sinners” approach and accommodate somehow, rather than turn on their own children. I was raised Baptist and can attest that most are good, moral, hard-working people in most regards, despite their fear and loathing of homosexuality. But I think it’s safe to say that as the civil rights of homosexuals progress, Baptists are going to have to accommodate a little more in order to get along in our society.

    Muslims have been known to commit incredibly violent acts in the name of Islam. Am I referring to all Muslims? No, of course not, but there have certainly been enough of these acts for one to sit-up and take notice. Beheadings, noses, ears, and limbs chopped off, stonings, female castration, beatings, and one notable incident in New York, have all been, and are being committed in the name of Islam, a specific religion. The majority of Muslims are indeed the good, peaceful people that they claim to be and regard such acts as deplorable misrepresentations of Islam. Nevertheless, some self-described Muslims commit brutal acts of violence. Some self-described Catholics rape children, and some self-described Baptists abhor the civil rights of gays. Some portion of their fellow-believers are either not on-message, or have gotten the message loud and clear. Maybe certain “bad apples” are attracted to certain religions. Maybe there’s a problem in the inherent structure of the religion. Maybe it happens for reasons we have yet to even consider. The point is that certain behaviors are clustering in certain religions and the results are too horrifying to not figure out and we can’t even begin to get answers if each question is met with the term “bigot.”

    I’ve read some of the excuses given for separating Islam from some of the horrible acts of Muslims, such as the fact that Muslims were themselves killed in the attack on 911 or that Muslim terrorists kill other Muslim and are therefore more “terrorist” than they are Muslim. I’m not swayed. Can you imagine a Catholic parent defending her religion by appealing to the fact that even her own Catholic children were raped by priests, so the priests must not have been true Catholics? Believe it, it happens. It’s a nice little shift of category but offers little consolation to the victim or future victims who will suffer from our lack of curiosity, concern and open investigation into the problem.

    So, build the Mosque (or multi-cultural center, if you prefer) but let’s make it one dedicated to the true study of Islam and other religions. Open the halls to the most open and honest debate about religion that we’ve ever seen. Conduct studies and inquiries into the nature of violence within Islam. Invite other faiths in to work on some of these problems together. Lead the way to solving these problems. What could be more American?

  • I appreciate this blog post. While I disagree with the building itself, I do agree that Rauf has a right to build it.

  • sweatyeti

    I don’t think any rational argument can be made that they should not be allowed to build the mosque. I would actually fight for their legal right to do so. However, I would also have to say that there can be no rational argument in favor of building a mosque at the proposed location other that it is legal to do so. I would fight equally as hard to voice my opposition to such a clearly insensitive act. Just because one has the legal right to do something does not mean that they are morally right in doing it.

    If the point of the community center is to promote interfaith understanding and cooperation, they should cooperate with and understand the majority of their neighbors and their country as a whole and build their center somewhere else. I don’t believe there is an American christian group that would have the audacity to build an “American Community Center” in Mecca unless they were extremist themselves.

  • TWR

    I agree, two blocks away is not the best place to build it. No, the best place to build it is directly across from Newt Gingrich’s house or right next to ground zero. Suddenly two blocks away will look really good.

    Hypocrites. If they don’t like it then buy it and turn it into a church.

  • j

    Wonders why Atheist feel okay with a 16 story Mosque on Ground Zero yet oppose with all of their hearts a nativity scene in Macys during the holidays……..Why you ask? Because they hate America. We have freedom of Religion not freedom from religion. At least be consistent with your religious opposition, and do not make it so obvious it is more about your feverish hatred of the Greatest Country known to man. The Mosque although absolutely TASTELESS…….is the right of Americans.

  • Baconsbud

    J lets see this article about the nativity scene that was being fought against by atheist. Most of the atheist that say it should be allowed to base their views on the US Constitution. The comments I have read seem to indicate some atheist are against it being built because it is tasteless to build it 2 blocks from where the World Trade Center was. You really need to be more accurate with its location. I believe there should be no religious structures within 10 blocks of it and any there should be moved.It was a religion based attack and all religions should pay for that attack the same.

  • Lynn

    We should immediately stop exporting Democracy if this mosque is not built. We have killed, maimed and created hundreds of thousands of refugees in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our soldiers were killed and also maimed in the name of Freedom and Democracy.
    When people say it is “tasteless” or “insensitive” to build a Islamic Center where Moslems, Christians and Jews can worship and exchange ideas then the age of enlightenment and the First Amendment are history.