Monday, August 16, 2010

America...You're Better Than This

Over the course of the last few weeks, I have been extremely disappointed with the tone of the "debate" over the Cordoba House (dubbed by conservatives as the "Ground Zero mosque"). There seems to be some sort of confusion over just what happened on September 11, 2001. The Pentagon and the World Trade Center were not attacked by Islam, they were attacked by Al Qeada terrorists (a small group of extremists whose perverted views about Islam put them at odds with the vast majority of their faith). These same terrorists were the ones targeted by the "War on Terror" (note the title, it's pretty clear) in Afghanistan.

President Bush and his neo-cons, who were the architects of the terror policy, always went out of their way to point out that the war was against extremists and not against an entire religion. That notion seems to have been all but forgotten by current terror war supporters. For example, Newt Gingrich recently compared Muslims to Nazis.

But the blatant islamophobia is not limited to the right, unfortunately. While the American right is declaring war on Islam itself with inflammatory rhetoric and nonsensical arguments that claim Islam is not really a religion (and therefore not deserving of 1st Amendment protection), the American left is making a less threatening, though equally nonsensical argument. The argument says something like, "Of course, Muslims have the right to build a mosque in New York City, but we just think they should exercise that right somewhere else" or they fret over the perceived "insensitivity" to victims of 9/11 (which casts a collective guilt over all Muslims), even though many Muslims were also victims.

Rights are not negotiable. You either have them or you don't. Freedom of religion is a right in this country, and there are no "insensitivity" clauses in the Constitution. This Cordoba House project is being built on private property with private money - the same as any Jewish or Christian community center. There is already a mosque inside the Pentagon (the other target on 9/11) and I don't seem to remember anyone attacking that as insensitive or engaging in any protests. The anti-Cordoba House demonstrations are among the ugliest displays I have ever seen, and to me, they hearken back to the darkest days of the 1950s and 60s and the pro-segregation rallies that frequently took place in the South.

No one collectively blames all Christians for the century of terrorist violence carried out in the name of their religion by the Ku Klux Klan. Reasonable people understood that though the KKK claimed it was acting in the name of Christianity, they were a disgusting perversion from the faith. How do critics of the "ground zero mosque" not see the parallel between Al Qeada and the KKK?

Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic Magazine has a post up today at The Daily Dish where he tries to make a different argument to persuade critics of the mosque to see where they are wrong. At the risk of legal action, I am going to print the entire post here, as I think it is a good argument.

Grappling with the 9/11 Families
"In a debate about the so-called Ground Zero mosque at a family dinner, I hit upon an analogy that seemed to persuade my interlocutors just a little bit. We were talking about the 9/11 families, some of whom are upset and offended by the project.

Here's the analogy I want to try out. Imagine a suburban street where three kids in a single family were molested by a Catholic priest, who was subsequently transferred by the archbishop to a faraway parish, and never prosecuted. Nine years later, a devout Catholic woman who lives five or six doors down decides that she's going to start a prayer group for orthodox Catholics -- they'll meet once a week in her living room, and occasionally a local priest, recently graduated from a far away seminary, will attend.

Even if we believe that it is irrational for the mother of the molested kids to be upset by this prayer group on her street, it's easy enough to understand her reaction. Had she joined an activist group critical of the Catholic Church in the aftermath of the molestation, it's easy to imagine that group backing the mother. As evident is the fact that the devout Catholic woman isn't culpable for molestations in the Catholic church -- in fact, even though we understand why her prayer group upsets the neighbor, it is perfectly plausible that the prayer group organizers never imagined that their plan would be upsetting or controversial. In their minds (and in fact), they're as opposed to child molestation as anyone, and it's easy to see why they'd be offended by any implication to the contrary.

Presented with that situation, how should the other people on the street react? Should they try to get city officials to prevent the prayer meetings from happening because they perhaps violate some technicality in the neighborhood zoning laws? Should they hold press conferences denouncing the devout woman? Should they investigate the priest who plans to attend? What if he once said, "Child molestation is a terrible sin, it is always wrong, and I am working to prevent it from ever happening again. I feel compelled to add that America's over-sexualized culture is an accessory to this crime." Does that change anything?

I'd certainly side with the woman who wants to hold the prayer group, and her fellow orthodox Catholics. I'd presume without investigating that almost all if not every last one of them is very much against the widespread abuse problems in the Catholic church. And I'd look with disdain on anyone who publicly speculated without evidence that these Catholics were molestation apologists. I suspect that far more than 30 percent of Americans -- the percentage that support the mosque -- would agree with my approach. I wonder if anyone else finds this to be a useful analogy.

If so, I encourage its use!"


T. Paine said...

The analogy is accurate if there are no ties to extremism with the founders or fund-raisers for this mosque. If such were the case and that were the only facts to the situation, I would support the building of the mosque.

I am not certain that this is completely the case though. One imam associated with the Cordoba House is on a Middle East tour as an ambassador to "explain and build bridges between Western society and Islam". Unfortunately he is do so via tax payer money through our State department.

Further, he may not be as squeaky clean of a moderate as he has been portrayed in the media. Lastly, do you honestly think he is not going to be fund-raising in Saudi Arabia and his other venues we paid to send him to in order to get money to build this mosque?

This is NOT something that should be done on the tax-payers' dime... EVER, but particularly during Obama's recession.

You would be furious if this was a Catholic priest sent over seas on tax payer money to raise money to build a cathedral, and justifiably so!

The double standard here is amazing in its audacity!

Dave Splash said...

There is no double standard at all. Equality is hardly a double standard.

The Bush Administration sent the same imam all over the world, and no one complained about it then. It is only unseemly now that Obama is utilizing him (I wish I could say there is no pattern here).

Since you are casting aspersions on the founders of the center (as are Fox News and the right wing blogs), where is the proof? How do you know that "he may not be as squeaky clean of a moderate"? Based on what? You wouldn't accept such a vague attack on virtually anyone else (except the president, where you believe anything anyone makes up j/k). Why is simply claiming he "may not be" anything a basis to tie someone to 9/11?

Hell, last December Laura Ingraham praised the mosque's founder, and now just a few months later, is calling him a terrorist. Has anything changed except that it is election season?

"You would be furious if this was a Catholic priest sent over seas on tax payer money to raise money to build a cathedral, and justifiably so!" Actually, we already do. He's called the ambassador to the Vatican.

T. Paine said...

No, it was unseemly that Bush did this during his tenure too, Splash.

As for support for my assertion as to the Imam's less than stellar character:

Lastly, if you don't understand the difference between sending a U.S. state department ambassador to an actual sovereign nation such as Vactican City and the Imam traveling all over the Middle East as an unappointed "representative bridge builder" than I am certainly not going to bother wasting my time on the issue with you, sir.

Dave Splash said...

Those examples simply make the accusations and show little actual proof. It's a lot of guilt by association. The United States is a member of the UN, and Iran's Ahmenidinijad spoke there and said some horrible things. Does that make everyone in the room engaged in a conspiracy with him? This seems to be the standard applied to this man.

My point regarding the Vatican is that it is beyond ridiculous that the Vatican is considered a country and has diplomatic standing. To my knowledge, there is no other religion which gets to act like a country (there are states, like Israel, formed around a religion, but they have secular governments and are actual nations). We pay how many millions to have an embassy there (when we already have one in Italy), and a staff? How is this not special treatment (which conservatives always oppose unless they get the special treatment) for a religion?

How is having an embassy there beneficial to our foreign policy? How does it advance the American agenda? Can we count on the Vatican to send troops next time we have a war?

Sorry, but I see much more relevance to having a "good will ambassador" traveling to unfriendly countries than having an ambassador to the Vatican.

In one instance - the Vatican - we are directly endorsing an individual religion without any apparent benefit to the nation; and in the other, a private citizen gets public travel to go to hostile parts of the world and serve as an example to those folks that America is not what they have been taught to believe.

The Catholic Church does a great job with recruitment and promoting itself all over the world. It does a lot of good. But it is not a nation. In this particular example, I think what the Imam is doing is more beneficial to the country.