Sam Harris offers his thoughts about what Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf should be saying right now about the (close to) Ground Zero Mosque (and community center) — really, it’s a chance for him to speak out against Islam in general:
“… While the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity also contain terrible passages, it has been many centuries since they truly informed the mainstream faith. Hence, we do not tend to see vast numbers of Jews and Christians calling for the murder of apostates today. This is not true of Islam, and there is simply no honest way of denying this shocking disparity. We are members of a faith community that appears more concerned about harmless cartoons than about the daily atrocities committed in its name — and no one suffers from this stupidity and barbarism more than our fellow Muslims. Islam must grow up. And Muslim moderates like ourselves must be the first to defend the rights of novelists, cartoonists, and public intellectuals to criticize all religious faiths, including our own.”
Harris is right about a big problem with Islam — there are not enough moderate Muslims speaking out against the extremists — but I’m not holding my breath about the Imam saying anything close to it.
Meanwhile, Christopher Hitchens weighs in on the controversy itself:
As for the gorgeous mosaic of religious pluralism, it’s easy enough to find mosque Web sites and DVDs that peddle the most disgusting attacks on Jews, Hindus, Christians, unbelievers, and other Muslims — to say nothing of insane diatribes about women and homosexuals. This is why the fake term Islamophobia is so dangerous: It insinuates that any reservations about Islam must ipso facto be “phobic.” A phobia is an irrational fear or dislike. Islamic preaching very often manifests precisely this feature, which is why suspicion of it is by no means irrational.
They both have problems with Islam… but not so much with this mosque specifically. I’m having a hard time understanding people who oppose it. It would at least make sense to me to hear people say we shouldn’t build mosques at all because it supports a theology that lacks redeeming quality. (I don’t agree with that, but it would make sense to me.)
It would make sense if people said we should allow this mosque just as we would allow mosques anywhere else (I agree with that).
But the arguments that this is too close to Ground Zero, or too insensitive to relatives of the victims of 9/11, or a slap in the face to America — those are overblown and underwhelming. Muslims died in the attacks as did people of other faiths and no faith. To those who think it’s too close, I have yet to hear how far away a mosque would have to be to be considered “ok.” And the people building this mosque are hardly friendly with Al Qaida.
Go all in or all out. There’s nothing overly special about this mosque, though.