Wednesday, August 18, 2010

that mosque

Plenty of controversy surrounds the possible construction of a $100 million Muslim community center, currently known as Park51 and previously known as Cordoba House, near the site of Ground Zero in New York City. My own perspective isn't all that special. Like everyone who understands the law, I agree there's no legal problem with constructing the mosque, but I also agree that it'd be nice for people to establish a Hooters on one side of it and a very large synagogue on the other. Hey, if it's only about legality, there's no problem, right?

I've found many conflicting and overlapping perspectives on the matter, just by perusing my blogroll.

1. My left-leaning, Obama-campaigning friend Paul, the Blue-eyed Buddhist, looks at the issue in terms of free exercise of religion, American tolerance, and constitutionality.

The Constitution of the United States is very clear. People have the right to practice whatever religion they damn well please. Part of that right is to have houses of worship.

So why on earth is the proposal, by a religious group, to build a community center which will include an area used for worship in dispute at all?

If it meets the local building and land-use codes, it not only should be allowed, but it MUST be allowed.

If you believe in religious freedom; if you want to have the right to choose your own religion; if you want to be able to gather with others and worship or pray together; and if you take an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States, then you should not be fighting any such proposal.

In fact, you should be supporting it against anyone who is trying to stop it. You should be saying “look, it’s their right, and more importantly it’s what separates us from oppressive governments like those in Saudi Arabia or Iran.”

I’m discussing this, of course, because of the hubbub around the proposal by a Muslim group to build a community center- which will include a mosque- a few blocks away from Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center towers used to stand, in lower Manhattan.

Whether you like Muslims (or Islam as a religion) or not should not be at issue here.

Whether you blame all Muslims for 9/11 or not (though if you do, you’re a idiot) shouldn’t matter.

What matters is that they have a right, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, to build that community center.

Every American who believes in our Constitution should be defending this proposal.

2. Right-leaning essayist and PJTV video commentator Bill Whittle, whose prose can be inspiring but also over the top, dispenses entirely with legality and frames the issue in stark terms of appeasement (Neville Chamberlain photo included).

3. My right-leaning buddy Mike affirms the legality of the construction and actively wants the mosque built, though he also wonders how long we will continue to "fetishize" the area of Lower Manhattan close to Ground Zero. Much of his post concentrates on Obama's unwise expenditure of political capital: the President may have nationalized (and radicalized) a debate that could have remained local. Mike writes:

Your Maximum Leader has changed his mind now. He wants the mosque built. He is willing to stand up for the principle involved. The principle involved is twofold. The first is a straight property rights issue. If you follow local laws you should be able to build what you want on property you own. If the landowners want to lease the space for a mosque, great! Let them do it. The mosque shouldn’t get any special treatment or concessions. If they can put a mosque there they should. The second issue is the religious issue. This site is a few blocks away from the World Trade Center site and was damaged in the attacks of September 11. But it wasn’t the object of the attack. The building in question wasn’t destroyed and rebuilt. How close is too close? From what your Maximum Leader reads there are some mosques in the general vicinity already. Why is this one a big problem? Would it be a big problem if it were a block further away? Two blocks further? 10 blocks further? Would “society” object to a Christian Church being put in the same building? A Buddhist temple? A meeting hall for the followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster?

4. My registered-Democrat-but-often-right-leaning friend Malcolm Pollack skews close to Bill Whittle in viewing the mosque's construction as a sign of the continued appeasement of a religion that is, in his view, inherently inimical to Western culture and values. (See here and here for a survey of Malcolm's views.)

5. Right-leaning philosopher Bill Vallicella argues that legality isn't the point: propriety is. His final two paragraphs:

Supposedly, a major motive behind the construction is to advance interfaith dialogue, to build a bridge between the Muslim and non-Muslim communities. But this reason is so patently bogus, so obviously insincere, that no intelligent person can credit it. For it is a well-known fact that a majority of the American people vehemently oppose the GZM [Ground Zero Mosque]. Given this fact, the construction cannot possibly achieve its stated end of advancing mutual understanding. So if Rauf and Co. were sincere, they would move to another site.

Here is a little analogy. Suppose you and I have a falling out, and then I make an attempt at conciliation. I extend my hand to you. But [you] have no desire for reconciliation and you refuse to shake hands with me. So I grab your hand and force you to shake hands with me. Have I thereby patched things up with you? Obviously not: I have made them worse. Same with the GZM. Once it became clear [that the] American people opposed the GZM, Rauf and Co. either should have nixed the project or else had the cojones to say: we have a legal right to build here and we will do so no matter what you say or how offended you are.

6. Skippy, classically conservative but anti-Republican, writes a long post-- which includes a comprehensive survey of online chatter-- in which he declares himself bored by the Cordoba House/Ground Zero mosque controversy. He notes early on in his post, contra those in Malcolm Pollack's camp, that he doesn't see Islam as an existential threat. I suppose the length of Skippy's post, which can't be a function of his boredom and Islam's unthreatening nature, is best explained by his fascination with Republican reactions to the mosque's possible construction. Skippy writes:

There are only two questions in this debate that are of any value whatsoever;

1. Do the developers enjoy religious freedom, expression and association rights under the First Amendment?
2. Do the developers have a Fifth Amendment right to do with their own private property whatever they wish?

If you agree that the answer to both is "yes," then the debate is pretty much over, isn't it?

The United States Constitution was primarily designed to protect the unpopular, and even obnoxious and repulsive, conduct and beliefs of the minority from the will of the majority. That's why the constant reference to polls showing that 70-some-odd percent of Americans opposing Park 51 couldn't be less relevant or more dishonest.

7. Regarding Islam, in its extreme and moderate versions, Dr. HJ Hodges wrote a post over a week ago that offered an interesting theory: in Islam, the radicals occupy the center while the unheard-from moderates are, if you will, Islam's lunatic fringe. It's an interesting theory:

We usually think of radicals as extremists, people on the extreme fringe of a movement. This isn't the case with Islamists. They draw on core texts in Islam and core doctrines. Radicals in the true sense of the term, they go back to Islam's roots in the Qur'an and Shariah. They are thus radicals at the core of Islam.

Your thoughts? Is a mosque near Ground Zero a poke in the eye of all Americans still stung by the tragedy of 9/11? Would the mosque's construction be like a group of Koreans establishing a Hitler bar near the site of the Auschwitz complex? Is this a question of appeasement? Legality/constitutionality/zoning? Religious practice? Gay bars (just thought I'd throw that in)?

And on that happy note...



Aaron said...

Person #3 (Mike) echoes my initial question: exactly what would be an acceptable distance? So 9/11 happened two blocks away - too close. Well, the 9/11 attacks happened in NYC, so perhaps no mosques should exist in the entire city. And the attacks happened in NY state, so no mosques there, either. And NY state is in the USA, so...Where would the logic end?

Surveys seem to indicate that most Americans (+/-60%) see this as a matter of property rights and religious liberty - and rightfully so. Legally, the owner of the land has the right to do with it as they please. Hell, I suppose they could build the Pol Pot Memorial Ice Rink if they were so inclined.

Now, Should they build their mosque on that spot? That's not really for anyone else to decide. Just like building a store in a certain area, the owner will have to decide whether the local environment will be conducive to successful operations. Speaking of which, I hope all the folks who are preaching about property rights and liberty on this issue will remember those principles the next time Wal-Mart wants to build a store in, say, Berkeley or suburban Maryland.

Anonymous said...

Sure, from a legal perspective they have the right to build it, if they can. Is it offensive to most of the US? Hell, yes. The problem in the whole thing is the goo-goo feel-good crap the liberals are pouring all over it.

If it had been simply a matter of Mayor Bloomberg saying, "Legally they can do it, even if I don't like it," there probably would not have been nearly the controversy.

I don't believe one word of the Muslim side. It is designed to be 1) a stick in the eye, 2) a base of operations for jihad, and 3) a permanent claim forever on a piece of New York City as belonging to Islam. When Hamas comes out for it, you know it is a stick in the eye.

The biggest problem is getting it built. I don't think any respectable contractor will touch it, and it is my understanding that Muslims are a bit short on construction trade skills.

It is being built in the perfect location to set of a nuclear bomb in the future. Not only that, but look at the claims of religious persecution that will occur with any attempts to prevent it. It would not be the first time a mosque has been used as an armory and base for fire power.

We are at war with Islam whether we want to be or not, and talking nice words and thinking nice thoughts won't change it. Talk is cheap and Muslims have plenty of it and most is insincere (taqqiyya).

Malcolm Pollack said...

I was struck by:

Whether you blame all Muslims for 9/11 or not (though if you do, you’re a idiot) shouldn’t matter.

Yes, I agree that if you blame all individual Muslims, you are an idiot. I doubt that very many people do.

It is quite another thing, though, to look askance at Islam itself.

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for the plug, which I just noticed because I've only recently returned from the Ozarks.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

John said...

A little late to the debate perhaps, but I'll chime in anyway.

The honest debate is not about the right to build or property rights in general, religious freedom, etc.

As other commenters have noted, the issue is about the "intent" behind exercising the right to build. The majority of Americans are calling bullshit on the "religious dialog" reasoning and are seeing this for what it truly is--a provocation.

It would be like the Japanese building a Shinto temple next to the Arizona memorial.

Time to take a stand. Like the French are doing.

Maven said...

Currently there are porn and smut shops, gentlemen's clubs, lingerie and adult novelty, as well as liquor stores in the vicinity of WTC. Hooters? That'd be a bit tame by comparison :)

Kevin Kim said...

Maven, you're doubtless right. I need to look to Google Earth so I can see where everything is in relation to everything else at or near Ground Zero.