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Manhattan Mosque Madness

September 15, 2010
GZ Mosque Cartoon


First of all, WTF?!

Despite all my studying of American politics, this uproar over the proposed Muslim community center is still shocking to me. I assume anybody reading this is already familiar with the situation.

I started drafting this post a week and a half ago, and every time I sit down to write it I get so overwhelmed and frustrated that I find myself deleting everything and giving up.

I’ve decided it’s stupid to argue with racists. Eventually we all just boil down to what we consider axioms and we get nowhere, and gain nothing except for a lot of anger.

Suffice it to say that I believe that at the bottom of this we are seeing the latest incarnation of the ignorant hatred that has poisoned mass American thought for our entire national history (consider our historical treatment of: African-Americans, Native Americans, women, Catholics, Irish, Jews, Communists, Japanese, LGBT, etc).

Instead of ranting uselessly about xenophobia, I’ll try to discuss this logically.

Why the “Ground Zero Mosque” isn’t a threat

Now, I’ve heard the argument that there are already plenty of Sunni and Shia mosques in lower Manhattan, so they don’t need another one. Well, if you did your research you’d find that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is actually Sufi – a smaller branch of Islam that is very mystical, and doesn’t have as large a representation among mosques in NYC. And since when is putting a cap on total number of places of worship constitutional?

I’ve also heard arguments that he supported the terrorist reasoning behind 9/11. His actual quote was:

“I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened [on 9/11], but United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened… We have been accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA.” (CBS 60 Minutes, Sept. 30, 2001)

Sure, it may be a bit clumsy to say this politically, but (and now I brace for the wrath of all 2 readers…) he is completely correct. (If I get comments about this I’ll explain fully, but for now this post is already too long).

Yet, he is by no means anti-American. I mean, the guy just finished a tour for the State Department! Many Middle Eastern Muslims consider him too pro-American (NYTimes)!

The argument that Park51 has received terrorist funding is comically ignorant, because they haven’t received any funding yet.

I’ve had a couple of friends tell me that they don’t think the center should be built at the proposed location because worshipers will face extreme stigma and possible attacks when they try to attend. This might be a good argument if you’re also in favor of school segregation and similar practices. I’m sure that this will happen, but it should be the choice of the worshipers, not anybody else, whether they want to stand up for their rights in the face of intolerance.

Why it SHOULD be built

First of all, I’m gonna stress that this whole ordeal makes it “look like” Americans in general are attacking Islam in general. This feeds extremist propaganda, and risks increased insurgent violence in the GWOT.

Imam Rauf is far from an extremist… TIME reports:

And yet Park51’s main movers, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan, are actually the kind of Muslim leaders right-wing commentators fantasize about: modernists and moderates who openly condemn the death cult of al-Qaeda and its adherents — ironically, just the kind of “peaceful Muslims” whom Sarah Palin, in her now infamous tweet, asked to “refudiate” the mosque. Rauf is a Sufi, which is Islam’s most mystical and accommodating denomination.

In fact, Rauf is a man who has committed his life (Cordoba House) to combatting extremism and providing a path to cross-cultural understanding between the Islamic world and the West.

On another note, I get the distinct feeling that the interests who are calling for investigation without cause and unconstitutional government intervention, are the very same interests who want “Big Government” to stay out of our lives. But that’s an unfounded hunch.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. September 15, 2010 4:45 pm

    I agree with you that this is outrageous. I don’t understand why just because the terrorists decided to come in the name of Islam, that other muslims want to be lumped into the same group. What if a protestant went and detroyed the Vatican and said that they were trying to make a point in the name of protestants everywhere? I would be sitting here (a protestant) embarrassed of what I was, and enraged about what this person did. Not only because it was wrong, but now the media spotlight would be put on Protestants everywhere, and we would now have a bad name. Absulutely rediculous.
    The attacks on 9/11 should not have created an unwritten subtext to the constitution that says that we all have freedom of religion, except if you are muslim and want to put a mosque where it is inconvenient for others.

    Please visit my blog and comment back!

  2. chaimss permalink
    September 20, 2010 5:19 pm

    As I myself am still torn about this issue, I’d like to explain the other side to you, not argue for it.

    The other side (at least the sane, logical one) is not based on racism, legalism, or narrow-mindness, but on basic common sense and decency. Yes, the radicals don’t speak for all Muslims, yes, the average Muslim on the street has no interest in seeing Americans killed, but the bottom line is, these atrocities were committed in the name of Islam. To put a Mosque there- no matter how peaceful- is just not right because it’s a constant reminder of who perpetrated these attacks. A parallel may be putting up a German flag next to a holocaust or World War II memorial. Even though most Germans today are not anti-Semites or anti-American, it would still illicit uncomfortable feelings.

    The idea of having a Muslim-outreach center is a good one, just not here. Somewhere else, where there’s no controversy and they can do their work without having picket lines and protests right out there front door would be a better idea.

    They have the legal right to put up whatever worship center they want wherever they want, that’s not the question. It’s a question of what they should be doing, what the right thing to do would be.

  3. September 24, 2010 2:44 pm

    @codyj203, thanks for stubling on my blog. I’ll check yours out for sure.

    @chiamss: alright…

    I personally am reminded of 9/11 every day when I look out my living room window and no longer see the towers there. I’m reminded of it every time I think about my many friends in the military. I’m reminded of it every time I take my shoes off in an airport, or put my 2oz shampoo bottle into a ziploc bag. I’m reminded of 9/11 every time I ride a train through the Cortlandt St station, which is only NOW beginning to be partially re-opened – Or riding the PATH train through the huge hole in the ground that still marks the mass grave of the WTC.

    I think about 9/11 every single day.

    I believe it’s a bit naive to think that anybody walking 2 blocks from ground zero won’t be thinking about that day to begin with.

    And I still find it intolerant that the existence of a peaceful mosque that champions cross-cultural understanding and community outreach should remind people an of extreme violent fringe group that the mosque’s community itself is threatened by. The existence of centers like those of Cordoba House serve to combat the intolerance and absolutism of Al Queda.

    Further, if anybody who can possibly be loosely associated with a bad event or group should be ashamed to show themselves in certain public places for fear of lacking “common sense and decency”… well, then we would find ourselves in a VERY unfortunate, undiverse, and boring society. And there currently exist MANY such groups that would remove themselves from the public eye.

    And PS – a German flag 2 blocks away from a WWII or Holocaust memorial would not offend me in the slightest – I’m sure that this can be found in many places in Germany.
    Nor would I oppose a church being built 3 blocks from the Clinic that was firebombed by Christian extremists 3 weeks ago ( – I’m sure you could find that too.

  4. Joseph permalink
    November 21, 2010 3:44 pm

    [shortened for length by the blog administrator]

    Hi Clair. A few things to clear up.

    First of all it is not a Mosque…

    Second it was started by a Sufi…

    Third and most important. The US Constitution…

    For those that are educationally challenged and are therefore clueless as to the proper definition of reactionary maybe Websters van help…

  5. November 21, 2010 4:29 pm


    First of all, thank you VERY much for your comment. I really appreciate when people take the time and let me know what they’re thinking.

    I think that maybe you didn’t catch my point. I believe the center should be built, and I disapprove of bigotry and reactionary policy.

    You bring up the point that Park51 is a community center, not a mosque. I had meant to discuss that but decided that 700 words was long enough for a blog.

    And yes, as a Poli-Sci major with concentration in the Middle East and Islam I’m familiar with Sufiism, Reactionary, and the Constitution. Thanks for making sure.

    I have shortened your comment (it was almost 600 words). If you’d like to reiterate these points again, feel free to just post a link to your own blog next time.


  6. Joseph permalink
    November 21, 2010 4:35 pm

    [edited for length by the blog administrator]

    You are absolutely correct that the US is absolutely responsible for creating Bin Laden, It actually is much worse then that.

    During the cold war…

    The problem was that most of these countries live in a near feudal society…

    The socialists, regardless of what you may think about them politically, had at least held out a promise for a better life, and in Iran actually did. The US crushed them.

    That only left all these people with their religion as a means of hope….

    In the words of FDR…

    One of the problems with fundamentalism is that…

  7. November 21, 2010 5:45 pm


    You should really start your own blog. That way you can discuss all of these things in their own forum. Feel free to post a quick link here once you do.

    Thanks for posting.


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