Ground Zero Mosque Controversy

For those who have not had access to news sources for the past few months there has been a great deal of controversy of the proposed building of a mosque next to Ground Zero in New York. The exact location is a block away from where the World Trade Center stood and houses at the moment an abandoned coat factory. One of the planes’ engines fell through the roof of this building and is apparently still lying down there in the basement.

Enter a guy called Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan who just happen to have a lot of money that they would like to build a mosque with. He will call it the Cordoba Mosque.

The project is supported by guys such as this one who refuses to see a pattern in the incessant religious justifications for acts of terrorism and, furthermore, denies the role of emotions in politics. He even claims that it is the moral duty of every man who is right in his head to support the creation of this Islamic center. I’m guessing he is either ignorant of Islamic teachings or just not a strong feminist.

Cordoba refers of course to the Spanish city where the conquering Muslims built a famous mosque on a site where there had been a Christian Visigothic church. Critics of the Ground Zero Mosque point out the tendency in Islamic history for the building of mosques on sites where they signify a conquest. The Al-Aqsa Mosque built on the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, in Jerusalem is often pulled forward as a prominent example.

Another cause of concern is that Feisal Rauf denies giving any details on where his funding comes from. Since he is apparently, personally and through his family, connected to Muslim Brotherhood schools in Malaysia, that may be a possible source.

The imam claims that the purpose of building a mosque on this particular location is an attempt to foster dialogue between faiths. Comparing translations of what he says in English and what he says in Arabic, however, there has been raised some doubts about the sincerity of that assertion.

Faced with polls showing a 60+% opposition to his project he stills specifically rejects moving it to a different location. Something about that site must be really important to him…

Personally I think it is extremely distasteful to build it there. As Jon Stewart of the Daily Show put it: there is a difference between ‘can’ and ‘should’.  Rauf is perfectly in his right to build it. But should he?

Lots of Japanese go to Hawaii on holiday and, particularly, they go there to get married. Furthermore, plenty of Japanese servicemen died in the attack on Pearl Harbor. I can imagine several reasons for putting up a Shinto Shrine overlooking that site. However, I personally think that no Japanese would be so stupid and stubborn as to actually do it. And rightly so.

A Palestinian researcher at Cambridge University, Dr. Khaled Al-Haroub, recently wrote a comment on this issue in the PA daily Al-Ayyam. Please a read a longer excerpt at MEMRI.org. (Bonus info: he has the details of the Danish bus driver incident slightly wrong. See the video here.)

Taking legal action in pursuit of interests is a natural and usual option in the West, where the judiciary system is usually fair and is not controlled by the government. Nevertheless, it is not wise to take every issue, large or small, to the courts, and it is certainly [unwise] in the case of a marginal issue. A short-term victory in the legal arena will lead in the long run to a defeat in the cultural and political arenas. Provoking the other side will eventually create public opinion that will undermine the very laws that the Muslims evoke today. How do the Muslims benefit… from the legal victory of a nurse who does not wish work with her arms exposed, and therefore forces the health ministry to pass a new regulation [permitting her to wear disposable sleeves], when a Christian nurse loses the legal battle over the right to wear a crucifix to work…? The battle over [our] image, [namely] the cultural and political battle, is much more important [than the legal battle], for it concerns worrying phenomena like the increasing provocations, the widening circle of [our] rivals, and the growing hatred. Sometimes, the racism and xenophobia experienced by Muslims increases in exact proportion to the legal victories they achieve over marginal issues…”

The controversy over the Ground Zero Mosque has gotten both sides up in arms. Evan Kohlmann, an independent terror expert at globalterroralarm.com, which monitors Islamic web-sites says “We are handing al Qaeda a propaganda coup, an absolute propaganda coup”.

If Feisal Abdul Rauf  was really all about dialogue and understanding he would start by showing moderation and move his mosque. By rejecting even to discuss moving the location somewhere else he is stirring up more controversy and indeed giving al-Qaeda something to feed into their propaganda machine.

Now I ask: what way to start a dialogue is that?

2 thoughts on “Ground Zero Mosque Controversy”

  1. Hi Jonas, it is me, your nemesis in all matters Muslim! 🙂

    As you most likely already know, I'm on the other side of the fence. I like some of your arguments, but I have some counter points. But my main idea here is not to haggle over the small points, but instead I have one large ideal, "The Big Picture" as some say.

    So, let's do it that way, start with the large point and work down to the small.

    America is a leader in tolerance. The one great empire which can be all things to all people so long as they respect each other. I wish for this 'Cultural Center' to be built to show the world that even though some elements try to hurt us, America will never abandon its greatest ideals, which is freedom for all, religious tolerance and an example for the rest of the world to follow.

    That is my grand statement, now I'll get down into all the various arguments and thoughts on the matter.

    1. The Spanish 'Cordoba' example does not work here. The Cordoba Mosque was more of a middle finger at the Muslims across the sea, not so much at Christianity. This argument is laid out by "Got Medieval" – http://gotmedieval.blogspot.com/2010/08/professor

    Further, I studied in Toledo (different city, I know) and was surprised to learn that it was known as the City of Three Religions when under Muslim rule. The Muslims allowed for Judaism and Christianity to be practiced unhindered. (Of course they were not the ruling class so they were not favored either, but to be allowed to practice at all during that time was groundbreaking.) Unfortunately, the Christians when they retook the rest of Spain did not return the favor. Inquisition and mass expulsion of both Jews and Muslims

    2. The root of this issue is intolerance.
    – They did not protest banning churches when McVeigh downed the Oklahoma Federal Building
    – Even Fox news gave their blessing on this when it was first announced. Politicians are hopping on this for short term gain to exacerbate intolerance for political votes.

    3. Terrorism
    – I feel this would weaken the terrorists much more than dropping bombs will. It will undermine the argument that America is against Islam. As even George W pointed out, ""All of us here today understand this: We do not fight Islam, we fight against evil." In letting this Cultural Center be built, I feel it shows a way towards peace for other countries to follow. By banning the mosque the leaders of the Islamic countries will be justified in banning churches (even though they already do). Again, it shows America is tolerant and unshakable in its ideas, unlike in many Islamic countries.

    4. Islam
    – You and I will disagree on the aspects of Islam. You will say it is a religion of hate, and I will say that at its core it is a religion of peace. You will point out the bad aspects and I will point out the good. Then we will go around in circles until the cows come home. Just as Christianity has become (in some quarters) more tolerant, I feel Islam will do the same. Unfortunately, many countries have not progressed and perverted Islam.

    5. Moving the location
    – There is a betting house and a nude bar right a couple of buildings down from the proposed site. Muslims also died in the attacks by the terrorists. I feel the best thing that could happen is for the Cultural Center to be built and for them to bend over backwards to show how "American" they are and that they do not support terrorism in any way. Instead, guide Islam towards a more moderate, "American" path.

    To wrap up and use two quotes from Jesus, I feel the best way forward is to "Turn the other cheek" and "Love thy neighbor." If we can do this, we will be moving forward and towards peace, not backwards.

  2. You will notice that I do not place the criticisms lodged against the project in my own mouth. I merely reference them. I do not know who this person Mr. Rauf is and what he actually preaches. At the same time I have little regard for most of the arguments for this project. Especially the argument that, allowing it will somehow create credit with Muslims that can come in handy later. Don’t expect reciprocation.
    You will also notice that I do not advocate banning the whole thing. I encourage Mr. Rauf to reconsider the location and at the very minimum to be transparent about his sponsors. For the intense focus there has been on his person over the last few months, surprisingly little worth spending time on has actually surfaced. His dad was apparently buddy-buddy with the Muslim Brotherhood but that does not necessarily implicate himself.
    About McVeigh: Did he bomb the building in the name of any particular religion? There is a big difference between having a religion and acting on behalf of its perceived commandments. To my knowledge McVeigh was a red-neck against Big Government.
    About terrorism: “It will undermine the argument that America is against Islam.” Islamist terrorists do not use that argument. They have no need for it as they have plenty of other justifications for targeting the US.
    “it shows America is tolerant and unshakable in its ideas, unlike in many Islamic countries.” Agreed.
    About moving the location: “I feel the best thing that could happen is for the Cultural Center to be built and for them to bend over backwards to show how "American" they are and that they do not support terrorism in any way.” Agreed. It would also be the first…

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