Thursday, July 15, 2010

Let them Build the 9/11 Mosque at Ground Zero


No doubt the group funding the proposed "Cordoba House" mosque and Islamic cultural center two blocks from the sacred 9/11 Ground Zero site are being intentionally provocative and disingenuous regarding their main motivation.

There are a thousand more suitable sites in Manhattan that would be just as convenient for promotion of Islamic worship and culture.

Currently, we don't know if the funding comes from a foreign source and what the real interests and policies are behind this poke in the eye for New Yorkers in general and victims of 9/11 and their families and friends in particular.

Yes, all the 9/11 hijackers were Muslims. Yes, they used Islamic religious principles to justify their actions. Yes, some Muslims in the US and many worldwide cheered as the World Trade Center Towers came tumbling down, killing some 3000 innocent civilians at the New York site, along with many others at the Pentagon and in the other 9/11 aircraft.

Yes, our righteous indignation over this terrorist attack on the US mainland justified our military response, resulting in the deaths of additional thousands of our best and bravest young men and women as well as those of our allies. Yes, nearly all terrorists worldwide are Muslims who use their religion to justify their actions. They martyr themselves in the belief they will ascend immediately to paradise for all sorts of rewards their religion denies them here on Earth.

I have received many e-mails from relatives and friends with links to websites that are in opposition to the buillding of this 9/11 mosque. Most, while understandably passionate, are well-reasoned in their arguments. Unfortunately, some cross the line into outright religious bigotry, even trivializing the Holocaust by violating Godwin's Law. (I favor Dennis Miller's version: Don't call someone a Nazi unless they have croaked at least a million people.)


Some of the 9/11 victims were innocent Muslims at work in the World Trade Towers. Nearly all American Muslims were and are as enraged as you and me about the attack.

I personally hope the backers of the new mosque and Islamic cultural center find a more appropriate location. But, I do not support those who would twist the "historic building" laws to prevent the former Burlington Coat Factory from being torn down. Official permitting and other government oversight must be neutral to religion unless it can be shown that the new facility will be involved in recruiting additional terrorists. Freedom of religion is part of what makes the US the greatest country in the world and makes me proud to be a citizen.

Let us not battle darkness with more darkness, but rather with light!

Here is a good CNN video on the topic.

Here is what New York's Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, said in a recent radio address:

“If somebody wants to build a religious house of worship, they should do it and we shouldn’t be in the business of picking which religions can and which religions can’t. I think it’s fair to say if somebody was going to try to on that piece of property build a church or a synagogue, nobody would be yelling and screaming. And the fact of the matter is that Muslims have a right to do it too. What is great about America and particularly New York is we welcome everybody and I just- you know, if we are so afraid of something like this, what does it say about us? Democracy is stronger than this. You know, the ability to practice your religion is the- was one of the real reasons America was founded. And for us to say no is just, I think, not appropriate is a nice way to phrase it.”
Here is a link to the site run by backers of Cordoba House, where they say, in part:

"Why the Cordoba House?

"Cordoba House is a Muslim-led project which will build a world-class facility that promotes tolerance, reflecting the rich diversity of New York City. The center will be community-driven, serving as a platform for inter-community gatherings and cooperation at all levels, providing a space for all New Yorkers to enjoy.

"This proposed project is about promoting integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion through arts and culture. Cordoba House will provide a place where individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, will find a center of learning, art and culture; and most importantly, a center guided by universal values in their truest form - compassion, generosity, and respect for all.

"The site will contain tremendous amounts of resources that otherwise would not exist in Lower Manhattan; a 500-seat auditorium, swimming pool, art exhibition spaces, bookstores, restaurants - all these services would form a cultural nexus for a region of New York City that, as it continues to grow, requires the sort of hub that Cordoba House will provide."
Yes, of course I know in many Islamic countries it is currently illegal to build a church or synagogue in certain locations, and, if you do build one it must not be higher that any nearby mosque, and must not display a cross or a star of David, etc. Not too long ago (and perhaps even today) there were similar restrictions on the design and permission for building synagogues in parts of Christian Europe. All the more reason to demonstrate American Exceptionalism! If the backers of Cordoba House insist on their right to build what they want where they want, LET THEM DO IT so long as the design and construction meets the same standards applied to any other similar building in New York City.

Ira Glickstein


joel said...

Washington said: The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for giving to Mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support…

Joel respond: Thanks for the interesting post, Ira. Washington's letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, Aug. 18, 1790 gives us a clue to the ideas concerning civic freedom. For one expect something above and beyond mere "tolerance." Note also the last line which expects support for the nation in return.
Washington's ideas carry6 no legal weight, but they do represent a philosophy. One could argue that the right to equal treatment before the law is absolute until one militates against the rights of others or is subversive to the principles that represent the nation. What do we do when a religion requires that its members overthrow the constitution and substitute a religious counsel following religious law to govern all?

Ira Glickstein said...

Thanks Joel for quoting President Washingon's famous letter to the Newport Hebrew Congregation.

Yes, in return for equal treatment, "...the Government of the United States "...requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support…"

Joel asks the pithy question: "What do we do when a religion requires that its members overthrow the constitution and substitute a religious counsel following religious law to govern all?"

OK, for the sake of the argument, assume all Muslims favor a religious counsel system and would prefer US law to follow Islamic Law. (Most likely a majority of US Muslims prefer secular law, but a substantial minority favor Islamic Law, given a choice.) Does that mean Muslims forfeit their right to equal treatment when it comes to building a religious center?

I don't think so. A substantial minority of Catholics favor Vatican Law. Many fundamentalist Christians favor Bible-based Law. Some Orthodox Jews would prefer Rabbinic Law, etc. Outside the realm of formal religion, the folks at NRDC and PETA and other activist pressure groups favor changes to the law that most of us would oppose. Some members of each of these groups have used violence to push their views, but most operate through peaceful political action.

The bottom line to me is whether these groups actually engage in violent or illegal covert means to undermine our system of government. So long as they pay their taxes, serve in the military, and participate peacefully in our political and economic system, I believe they meet the requirement set down by Washington.

If you read Wikipedia about Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam behind the 9/11 mosque, you will find many areas of profound disagreement, but, IMHO, nothing that disqualifies him and his Cordoba Initiative from President Washington's requirements for equal treatment.

Ira Glickstein

joel said...

I'm not sure that there isn't a precedent for discrimination against those who seek to subvert our democracy. It's not a question of how people worship but their acts. Let's look at I think there is some similarity. As Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson said, "The Constitution is not a suicide pact."

Features of the Act
The act begins by setting forth a finding of facts about the nature of the Communist Party of the United States that distinguishes it from other political parties and justifies its being outlawed. Congress found that the party presents itself as a political party like any other political party but in fact "constitutes an authoritarian dictatorship within a republic, demanding for itself the rights and privileges accorded to political parties, but denying to all others the liberties guaranteed by the Constitution." It is "the agency of a hostile foreign power" controlled by the world Communist movement and an instrument of "a conspiracy to overthrow the government of the United States" by "any available means, including resort to force and violence." Therefore, the party's existence presents "a clear and present danger to the security of the United States" and "should be outlawed." These findings were confirmed by evidence in the archives of the former Soviet Union that the Communist Party was involved in Soviet espionage in the United States.

Ira Glickstein said...

I agree Joel that the CPUSA was a wholly-owned subsidiary funded by the USSR, lock, stock, and barrel! It was not a genuine political party and therefore was rightly outlawed. On the other hand, the Socialist Party and others that pushed policies quite different from the mainstream were and are allowed to operate with full freedom, as they should.

So, the question is, is the Cordoba Initiative, as compared to a church or synagogue, more like the CPUSA or the Socialist Party as compared to the Democrats or Republicans?

I think it is the latter. Unless it turns out that their funding is secretly being supplied by the Taliban or Al Queda. Is there any evidence of that that you know of?

Ira Glickstein

joel said...

Ira said: I think it is the latter. Unless it turns out that their funding is secretly being supplied by the Taliban or Al Queda. Is there any evidence of that that you know of?

Joel responds: I have not researched the matter. I'm just saying that it is valid to do so.

joel said...

Here's an interesting point of view.

I checked out the Great Mosque of Cordoba in Wikipedia and this is what I found.

The (Great) Mezquita (of Córdoba or Cordova), now known as Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción (English: Cathedral of Our Lady of the Assumption) is a Roman Catholic Cathedral originally built as a Mosque on the place (and partly with materials) of what previously had been a Christian Visigothic Church[1] in the Andalusian city of Córdoba, Spain. It is regarded as perhaps the most accomplished monument of the Umayyad dynasty of Córdoba. After the Spanish Reconquista, it was turned into a church, with a Gothic cathedral inserted into the center of the large Moorish building. Today the entire building is used to house the Cathedral of the diocese of Córdoba in Spain.

It would be a shame to use buildings as a symbol of religious or military conquest, but such is the history of the world and the history of architecture.

Ira Glickstein said...

I first saw the video at your link a few weeks ago. I had to stop it at 2:59 when he violated Godwin's Law.

The speaker is also factually wrong. The World Trade Center was NOT "attacked by a religion", as he claims. It was attacked by 19 Muslims who were members of Al Queda. Yes, they misused the Islamic religion to justify their murderous and destructive actions. But many things have been done in the name of good principles by bad people. IMHO, it is a classic mistake to think that such bad actions change the value of those good principles. The humiliation and torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraibe jail in Iraq were done by American military police officers in the name of American principles. Does that invalidate those principles?

Islam, a great world religion, had about as much to do with 9/11 as Christianity, another great world religion, had to with the Federal Building bombing by a militia member who was Christain or as Judaism, the mother of great world religions had to do with the attack on the King David Hotel in Jerusalem by Zionists acting in the name of Judaism.

Ira Glickstein

joel said...

On of the things that Ira's wikipedia reference says about Godwin's Law is as follows:

"However, Godwin's law itself can be abused, as a distraction, diversion or even censorship, that fallaciously miscasts an opponent's argument as hyperbole, especially if the comparisons made by the argument are actually appropriate. A 2005 Reason magazine article argued that Godwin's law is often misused to ridicule even valid comparisons.[7]

Joel continues: To the extent that Muslims are not fundamentalists, their religion is innocuous. (The same being true for Judaism and Christianity.) Intolerance is a principle of the Koran and Muslim nations. To the extent that Muslims and Muslim nations want to oust free nations and wish to impose sharia law, they are like nations that we fought in WWII. I cannot find anything in Judaism or Christianity that requires that apostates be executed. Nor can I find an instance in which citizens of another nation are threatened with death for their disrespectful writings. I don't think that comparison with Nazism is inappropriate or should be dismissed out of hand. Salmon Rushdie made an interesting argument in a TV presentation that even mainstream Islam must be reformed, if we are all to live in peace.

Ira Glickstein said...

Joel wrote, in part:

"Intolerance is a principle of the Koran and Muslim nations."

From the BBC:
The Golden Age — The Jews in Spain

The years either side of 1000 CE were the golden age of the Jews in Spain.

Co-existing happily with the country’s Islamic rulers the Jews developed a flourishing study of Science, Hebrew literature and the Talmud.

Despite an attempt to forcibly convert all Jews to Islam in 1086 CE, this golden age continued.

At around this time the first Jews are recorded in Britain.

Joel also wrote, in part:

"I cannot find anything in Judaism or Christianity that requires that apostates be executed."

As far back in Judaism as our patriarch Jacob, his daughter Dinah was raped by a pagan prince, Shalem, who then decided he loved her and wanted her for his wife. These earliest Hebrews deceitfully agreed with Shalem's father, Hamor, to the wedding on the condition all males of the city be circumcised, which was done. But "on the third day, when they [Hamor and all his men] were sore [from their freshly circumcised privates], two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brothers, took their swords and came upon the city unawares, and killed all the males. They slew Hamor and his son Shalem with the sword, and took Dinah out of Shalem's house, and went away." And the sons of Jacob plundered whatever was in the city and in the field, "all their wealth, all their little ones and their wives, all that was in the houses."

After the Egyptian bondage, the Hebrews, under Joshua invaded and conquered Canaan, killing or displacing the inhabitants in what is now Israel and surrounding lands.

The above principles of Judaism are in the Hebrew Bible.

Christians are infamous for the Crusades against the Muslim infidels in the Holy Land as well as for the Inquisition against Jews and apostate Christians in Spain and other parts of Europe.

These invasions and killings were coordinated and approved of by the highest authorities of the Church.

Compared to Judaism and Christianity, Islam is a young religion. Like all great world religions and belief systems, it is capable of great destruction as well as great construction. Let us help Islam mature and become more like its parents, Judaism and Christianity.

Ira Glickstein

joel said...

Ira said: Let us help Islam mature and become more like its parents, Judaism and Christianity.

Joel responds: This is Salman Rushdie's very point. Islam as it exists will be a problem. Wise men from the Islamic community need to rewrite or reinterpret Islam much as the rabbis did with the Talmud thereby softening what supposed to be God dictated strictures. "We" cannot help Islam mature except by vanquishing the fundamentalists in order to allow the rational mullahs to come forward.
American Muslims and their Mullahs are moving in this direction
however, the fact that the West has been timid in condemning barbaric fatwahs issued against western citizens has not contributed to progress. In fact, it could be that a tolerant attitude toward the "Cordoba Project" undermines those mullahs who are seeking reform.

joel said...

P.S. I was referring to apples and apples i.e. comparing religions as they exist in the here and now, not in the dim dark past.

Ira Glickstein said...

Both foes and supporters of the 9/11 Mosque at Ground Zero agree President Barack Obama really stepped in it when he addressed a gathering at the White House this past Friday evening to observe the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

"As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable."

Yes, of course, as I said in the Topic that started this thread, Muslims and any other religion have the absolute right to build a house of worship and community center on private property. As I wrote "... LET THEM DO IT so long as the design and construction meets the same standards applied to any other similar building in New York City."

But, I was clear that "There are a thousand more suitable sites in Manhattan that would be just as convenient for promotion of Islamic worship and culture" and that selection of a site so close to 9/11 Ground Zero is a "... poke in the eye for New Yorkers in general and victims of 9/11 and their families and friends in particular."

Obama failed to mention the second point during his Ramadan observation meeting. The next day, he stepped in it again when he reiterated his statement, saying "In this country we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion. ... 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."

It seems to me Obama is tone deaf on this issue and out of touch with the American people. By a substantial majority, polls say Americans SUPPORT the RIGHT to build the Mosque near Ground Zero, but, ... BUT, by an equally substantial majority, Americans OPPOSE building it on that site.

The President, an outstanding academic, stated the obvious (Muslims have the same right to build) but he said he would not comment on the more important issue (the wisdom of doing so).

Ira Glickstein

Ira Glickstein said...

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf was interviewed for an hour on Larry King Live this evening. (King, who is Jewish, introduced and concluded the program, but he took no part in the substance, leaving the interview to Soledad Obrien, a Christian).

Imam Rauf took a very moderate stance. He says he has dedicated his life to "building bridges" between Muslims and believers in other religions. He framed the battle as between moderates of all religions versus extremists on all sides, and vowed not to let the extremists win.

Had he known, a year ago, the controversy that would arise, he would have selected a location further than two blocks from Ground Zero. But, with the location chosen and plans made, he said, he cannot back away because, to do so would reward the extremists and inflame Muslims worldwide. That, he warned, would endanger US security and investments in Muslim countries.

SAY WHAT??? If the security of US interests in Muslim countries worldwide is endangered by moving a planned Mosque several blocks, imagine their reaction if that minister in Florida goes ahead with his crazy scheme to burn the Quran on 9/11!

Indeed, if a pipsqueak preacher who represents a few dozen yahoos can so easily upset US security in the Muslim world, there is absolutely no hope for "building bridges" to the Muslims!

Imam Rauf characterizes as extremists the majority of Americans who say, while there is a right to build the Mosque, it would be wise to change the location to less sensitive land!

Imam Rauf even played the sex club card, saying the area around Ground Zero is not sacred because there are immoral busineses there. True, there is a sex club nearby. Had the World Trade Center been attacked by radical call girls in the name of prostitution, I would agree to ban them from the area. But it was not. It was attacked by radical Muslims in the name of Islam.

How insensitive can this self-proclaimed "bridge builder" be? How tone deaf to public opinion can so many politicians and media who support this Mosque location be? And they think (like Bill Maher) that the majority of Americans are stupid? I take this as further proof that the media elite have been educated beyond their intelligence!

Ira Glickstein