Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Ground Zero Mosque


Before we begin any discussion of a sensitive subject, it is necessary to “condense the nonsense” thereby insuring that our opinions are formed around actual information and not you cousin’s Facebook status or the e-mail forward from Frank in Accounting.
1. The “ground zero mosque” is actually called Park51 (based on the address) and at no time was ever named or going to be named “The Victory Mosque,” “The Dead Infidel Complex,” or any other such nonsense. Also, there have been no credible reports that the blood of Jews, Christians, or Hindus will be utilized in the building’s construction.            
2. Park51 is currently operational as a Muslim prayer room and has been for some time. The new plans would add a community center, swimming pool, gym, basketball court, culinary school, child care facilities, an official mosque area, and a September 11th memorial. There are currently no plans for an Al-Qaeda training facility.
3. Park51 is actually located several blocks from ground zero and even when the proposed structure is built it will not have any views of the September 11th memorial from anywhere in the complex.
4. Park51 will be funded entirely by private donations and will not receive taxpayer money. They claim that all donors will be screened by public and private security firms and no money will be accepted from any organizations flagged by the United States government.
5. The proposed structure does not violate any existing local, state, or federal zoning ordinances or statutes. In fact, there is an operational mosque just 4 blocks from the World Trade Center that has been in the area since the 70’s.
The “Hallowed Ground” Argument
There is certainly some merit to the idea that the site (and by extension, surrounding community) should be held to more a stringent standard when it comes to the types of establishments allowed a presence in the area. Two-thousand Nine Hundred and Seventy Six people lost their lives as a result of the World Trade Center attacks, and if New York had an ongoing zoning ordinance that catered to sensitivity in the area then perhaps a case could be made. However, the same “hallowed” area is home to a strip club, a peep show house, and off-track betting facility. See map below:

When this information is taken into account, I have trouble believing that a mosque / community center on the site of an abandoned building would diminish the “reverence “of the surrounding community. Any dissenting opinions would need to be based on more than the preservation of a non-existent sacred zoning area. And if New York Dolls is holding a weekly September 11th prayer vigil in the VIP room, I sincerely apologize.
The “Evil Imam” Argument
Many have raised objection to the mosque based on the leadership of the congregation. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, 52, was born in Kuwait and is married to Indian-born Daisy Khan who is an architect. He is widely considered to be a moderate Muslim leader and has penned several books (one is entitled What's Right with Islam Is What's Right with America) that further his agenda of peace and reconciliation. Imam Rauf is a regular contributor to the Washington Post’s Religion Blog, has openly condemned the cult of Al-Qaeda, and currently leads a Muslim congregation in the Tribeca area of New York City.
If the claims that he might have ties to a terrorist organization had any merit, I can only assume that action against him would have been taken years ago when he first began teaching in New York. This leads me to one of two conclusions:
1.       His credibility and motives have been called into question simply because he is associated with a controversial project.
2.       We actually believe that moving a few blocks into a new building will cause a dramatic shift in his entire theology transforming him into a violent extremist.
The “Why Can’t They Just Put It Somewhere Else If They Don’t Want To Offend Anyone” Argument
This is an interesting angle that has a modern parallel. On Tuesday April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Colorado’s Columbine High School and executed twelve fellow students and one teacher using a variety of firearms. As it happened, the National Rifle Association (N.R.A) had planned to hold its annual meeting in Denver, Colorado just miles from (and a few weeks after) the massacre. The NRA, and its then president Charlton Heston, was relentlessly criticized and vilified by the government officials, victim’s families, and the media. Students formed a human chain around the conference’s hotel, Denver’s mayor publicly told the group “We don’t want you here,” and Michael Moore skewered the organization for its callous stance in his documentary Bowling For Columbine.
The group agreed to cancel the gun show that it had scheduled, but staunchly refused to be forced to a new location because of the tragedy. For their refusal to relocate, they were called senseless, heartless, and evil. People could not understand how a group associated with weapons could be so insensitive as to hold a meeting so close to a tragedy. The NRA was (unfairly) associated with the young terrorists who chose to gun down their classmates and teachers simply because they promoted freedom and enforcement of constitutional rights. Heston refused to allow public emotion and sensitivity to be utilized to chip away at the freedoms this country has fought so hard to preserve.
So why don’t they just move somewhere else less offensive? The answer, I believe, is because they have the privilege of living in a country where they do not have to.
 Let me say that I, personally, would not have chosen to place a new Islamic complex so close to the World Trade Center site; but to be fair, I would have never refused to cancel an NRA meeting so close (in both time and proximity) to one of the worst school shootings in US history. The argument, however, is not whether or not they should build the complex, but whether or not they have the constitutional right to do so. I have not heard a legitimate, legal argument that would convince me that we have the responsibility or the right to dispense freedoms based on our emotions.

3 comments:

  1. the thing is, it is there right if they own the property to do what they want to. That is the end of the debate. If I don't like that my neighbor hangs a Nazi flag up in his front yard because i am Jewish it is unfortunate, but it is also what is called tough titty milk. The real blame game that should be pointed is not on the New York Governance but on the person that sold the property. American capitalism....I really do love it, and love that everyone else gets pissed they we have gotten so good at it.

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  2. Exceptional MediocritySeptember 1, 2010 at 10:28 PM

    Anonymous 1 - Thank you

    Anonymous 2 - You make a good point, and as long as they obey the law they have every right to open a Mosque (or a Dairy Queen) if they so desire. Perhaps by putting this controversy to bed, we can focus on more important things; like how Paris Hilton can mistake chewing gum for cocaine...

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