Tuesday, August 31, 2010


With everyone continuing to talk about the Islamic center better known as the “Ground Zero Mosque,” it wouldn’t seem right to let this month pass without weighing in on the topic. However, with so many angles from which to approach it, figuring out which one to take presents a dilemma.

There is the always bountiful “liberals are hypocrites” angle, as in: Have you ever found it strange that liberals, who are openly hostile to the free exercise of religion when it comes to Christianity and Judaism, are quick to embrace it when it comes to Islam?

Then there is the “President has no balls” angle, which notes that only an intellectual coward would do what Obama recently did: Make comments that every listener interpreted to be an unmistakable endorsement for building this specific center, only to change his tune the very next morning after learning that the comments were not popular.

But then again, most people know that double-talking politicians would do precisely what Obama did, and many people see Obama doing it as proof that a double-talking pol is all he is. Thus, there is the “President can’t be trusted” angle.

And then there is the “has the media lost its flippin’ mind?” angle. This one exists because our newspapers and newscasts refer to the GZM’s main organizer, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, as “a moderate” without bothering to report that he has: 1) described America as an accessory to 9/11; 2) refused to condemn the actions of Hamas, which include the intentional killing of civilians by suicide bombings and missile attacks; and 3) said he can not comment on what counts as terrorism because he is “not a politician.”

Ultimately, however, these are just angles. The main question -- should the GZM be built, or not? -- is very simple, and answering it is also simple. According to me and two-thirds of my fellow Americans, it should not. There are many reasons for this opinion, some of which are touched on in the last angle I mentioned above. Another reason is that Rauf supports sharia law and has argued that Muslims in the United States should be allowed to enforce it amongst themselves. That would not be a big deal if allowing sharia was like allowing Navajo Indians to use peyote, but there is no such similarity -- to give just one example, sharia’s penalty for being homosexual is death by stoning. Given Rauf’s support for allowing such a thing on American soil, and his refusal to speak out against terrorism, and his refusal to answer questions about whether the money to build the GZM is coming from terrorist states, we would be fools if we didn't question what will be taught there.

Basic historical knowledge provides another reason for believing the GZM should not be built. Islam has used violence rather than persuasion to advance itself across the globe, and Muslims have a centuries-old practice of erecting mosques at sites important to the people they have conquered or are in the process of conquering. Considering that fundamentalist Muslims consider America “The Great Satan,” and that Ground Zero is the site of their most murderous blow against America, and that the mosque within the GZM would overlook Ground Zero, we would be fools not to question whether Islamic terrorists consider the GZM to be a link in their symbolic chain.

Another reason for saying the GZM should not be built is the simple, but crucially important, matter of respect and decorum. America has a long-established tradition of treating hallowed ground as, well, hallowed -- meaning we treat it differently than other ground because of the transcendent understanding that it belongs to the people who died or suffered there, and to their loved ones. Erecting an Islamic center overlooking the spot where thousands of innocents were murdered in the name of Islam would violate this tradition to the Nth degree.

Of course, saying the GZM should not be built is a far cry from saying it can not be built. Do Muslims have a legal right to build a mosque or Islamic center wherever they want, including the spot where they plan to build the GZM, so long as they do not violate zoning ordinances or other laws? Absolutely they do...and from the beginning, those who speak out against the GZM have made it clear that they are not disputing that right. What they have said is that the GZM's backers should not exercise that right in this instance, at this location; and that the American people should not countenance the building without exercising their right to protest it.

All along, criticism of the GZM has been about its propriety, not its legality. It is worth noting that its critics deal with both issues while its supporters focus only on the latter. Arguably, the strongest evidence that the GZM should not be built is that even its proponents will not defend its propriety.

Do I feel bad that innocent, peace-loving Muslims are caught between a rock and a hard place because of their co-religionists? Yes. Should I let that change my position on the big picture? No.

1 comment:

Betsy from Tennessee said...

Hi John, I totally agree with every word you have said ---and you have said it beautifully. The bottom line: they legally CAN build it--BUT they should not, out of respect for others.

I have never been a very political person --and have voted both Republican and Democratic in past. But --I am very upset at what is happening in Washington DC this past year and a half. Just because I do not agree with Obama's policies AT ALL makes those Liberals call ME a RACIST now. Can you believe it? I'm a gal who grew up with a black family across the street. I have never ever been a Racist.... BUT--now, I guess I am. What in heck is happening to our country?????

Great post from an old woman ---who feels like we are losing our freedoms with each passing day.
P.S. Thanks for your thoughts about Cades Cove. Many people do walk the loop now --and they also let bikes have their turn... It's a great place.