Posts Tagged ‘ Cordoba House ’

More on the “mosque”

I don’t normally like posting straight op-ed pieces, but this one from Frank Rich of the New York Times is too good not to pass along.

As alluded to in my last post, and noted by the Reverend Dr. Michael Kinnamon, spiteful anti-Islamic attitudes in the U.S. do have repercussions around the globe:

So virulent is the Islamophobic hysteria of the neocon and Fox News right — abetted by the useful idiocy of the Anti-Defamation League, Harry Reid and other cowed Democrats — that it has also rendered Gen. David Petraeus’s last-ditch counterinsurgency strategy for fighting the war inoperative. How do you win Muslim hearts and minds in Kandahar when you are calling Muslims every filthy name in the book in New York?

For those politicians (Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, etc …) who have been the most vocal on the subject:

The ginned-up rage over the “ground zero mosque” was not motivated by a serious desire to protect America from the real threat of terrorists lurking at home and abroad — a threat this furor has in all likelihood exacerbated — but by the potential short-term rewards of winning votes by pandering to fear during an election season.

A hefty dose of hypocrisy and a solid jab across Rupert Murdoch’s chin:

A recent Wall Street Journal editorial darkly cited unspecified “reports” that Park51 has “money coming from Saudi charities or Gulf princes that also fund Wahabi madrassas.” As Jon Stewart observed, this brand of innuendo could also be applied to News Corp., whose second largest shareholder after the Murdoch family is a member of the Saudi royal family.

A loyal soldier’s lonely battle:

Poor General Petraeus. Over the last week he has been ubiquitous in the major newspapers and on television as he pursues a publicity tour to pitch the war he’s inherited. But have you heard any buzz about what he had to say? Any debate? Any anything? No one was listening and no one cared. Everyone was too busy yelling about the mosque.

It’s poignant, really. Even as America’s most venerable soldier returned from the front to valiantly assume the role of Willy Loman, the product he was selling was being discredited and discontinued by his own self-proclaimed allies at home.

Let them build the damn community center and quit being so goddamn xenophobic. America, you’re acting like children. You’re better than this. Don’t let the fear-mongering of opportunistic charlatans cloud your judgment.

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Due diligence, then build both

As the issue of the proposed Muslim Community Center (mosque) two blocks from Ground Zero is roiling public opinion across the country – and lead to an explosive disagreement at a recent family gathering with someone whom I have always liked – it’s time to add a little moderation to the cacophony (and hopefully bolster other, more prominent voices, who also wish to apprehend the situation thoughtfully and intelligently).

As noted – and I think rightly so – in a series of interviews with American religious leaders conducted by Time, the uproar surrounding the Park51/Cordoba House project is being catalyzed more by political figures than religious ones. Though some on the right have come out against their brethren who are deliberately fanning the flames, their criticism was directed towards the party, rather than the American public. As the Time polls show, anti-Muslim sentiment (ranging from distrust to outright hatred) is still very prevalent in this country, so it makes sense that opportunistic politicians would take advantage of Americans’ ignorance of other cultures. So often people clamor for moderate Muslims to speak out, and I think the small cadre of Arab and Muslim Republicans described above could do more good by showing their constituents, not their colleagues, that they, too, share their values.

Now, I fully understand the sentiment that building such a prominent symbol of Islam so close to Ground Zero smacks of insensitivity towards those families who lost loved ones on that horrible day. Their grief is still very real, and those who argue for the mosque on the grounds of religious freedom would do well to be cognizant of those powerful emotions. However, there comes a time when we must let go of the past so that we can focus our attention on building a brighter tomorrow. We must not let the ignorance and hatred which lead to the tragedy of 9/11 be repeated in this country. If we reject the placement of the mosque out-of-hand, without thoughfully considering all perspectives on the issue, then we are no better than those who despise us, and even give some legitimacy to their criticisms of our culture.

The most legitimate criticism I see in this issue is the prospect for rebuilding the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox church, which was flattened when the towers fell and has yet to be rebuilt. Unfortunately, it’s not a simple question of New York allowing the mosque and disallowing the church. The final approval for the mosque came from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, whereas the church is negotiating with the Port Authority. It appears that several near-agreements have been reached between church and Port Authority officials over the years, but that they have also broken-down several times. What is most important to note here is that the city is not favoring the establishment of a house of worship and community for one religion over another, but that there are other issues which are preventing the timely rebuilding of the church.

So, how do we go forward? What is most important is that the respective sides try to recognize the legitimate concerns of one another. Those who seek to build the mosque should reveal their funding sources in order to show that it is indeed being built in good faith. Perhaps including some sort of nondenominational monument to honor those who perished in the attacks would further signify the goodwill the mosque is meant to epitomize. And those who oppose its building must recognize that there are in fact good people of all religions who truly do want to coexist in harmony, not spit in the faces of others; and they must be allowed to express their beliefs the same as everyone else in this country. Finally, Mayor Bloomberg should use his significant influence to push through a deal between the St. Nicholas Church and the Port Authority and get reconstruction started, the same way he has adamantly supported the building of the mosque.

If due diligence is made by all parties in trying to understand one another’s perspectives, then I see no reason why we can’t have both religious freedom and respect for emotional sensitivities: a church and a mosque, standing side-by-side, at the site of the most poignant display of hatred and ignorance, as a testament to the enduring effort for peace and harmony between all men.