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The controversy over building a mosque and Islamic center within two blocks of Ground Zero has brought out the worst in our ritualized confrontations between “conservatives” and “liberals.” Listening to Fox News one gets the impression that Muslim terrorists are about to violate the most sacred site on this continent.

Supposedly this is a national issue that cannot be left to a zoning board or to a city council but must be taken into every home with cable TV. Recently I learned in the New York Post that the Imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, who has been raising funds for the project, favors a “one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem, an outcome that some say could lead to the disappearance of Israel.” One was also reminded for several weeks by Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, that Rauf views the U.S. blockade of Iraq as a contributing factor to al-Qaeda’s assault on the Twin Towers. Although Rauf’s attribution of blame may be overblown, I’m not sure that by itself it should disallow him and his friends from putting up a house of worship, even near Ground Zero.

A faulty historical comparison that I’ve encountered in National Review and on Fox is that the Muslims should behave like the Carmelite nuns, who in 1990 obligingly moved a convent from the grounds of Ausschwitz somewhere else. This situation had nothing to do with what is now being debated. The Carmelites, who were praying for the souls of Nazi victims, had a moral right to be where they were. They were praying for Jewish and Catholic victims alike, and the Carmelites belonged to a nation that had lost more than 2.6 million Catholics to the Nazi occupation.

In a flagrant act of bullying, the New York Times editorial page, the Anti-Defamation League and other forces allied with the left attacked the Carmelites, the Catholic Church and Poland as co-perpetrators of the Nazi Holocaust. Rather than addressing these charges frontally and standing their ground, the ecclesiastical authorities chose discretion or withdrawal as the better part of valor.

I suspect, although I can’t prove it, that some of those who participated in this campaign of vilification are now happily supporting the imam and his plan to put a mosque near Ground Zero. Such people don’t dislike religions in general; they just can’t stand the Western ones. But those who cite the Carmelite incident as an example of a mutually satisfactory settlement have either weak historical memories or exceedingly poor debating skills.

The “liberal” side has exploited the mosque issue just as shamelessly and stupidly. One learns daily from its commentators that those who question the appropriateness of putting the Islamic project so close to Ground Zero are religious bigots, and if the government urges the fundraisers to move their buildings even a few blocks further from Ground Zero, we are showing ourselves to be at least as religiously intolerant as Saudi Arabia, which is contributing funds for the project.

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There is of course the usual blather from academics that Islam, unlike Christianity, is a “religion of peace.” Although all world religions seek to convert non-believers and sometimes do so by force, that practice has been generally far more belligerently pursued in the Islamic than in the Christian world. And if religious founders tell us anything about particular religions, then one should contrast Jesus, who urged forgiving one’s enemies and shunning violence, to the warlike conversionary career of Mohammed.

It is also hard to ignore the double standard that I continue to see on the social-cultural Left. The same people who would force practitioners of Western religions to accept gay lifestyles and to cooperate in providing abortion services, become champions of traditional religion once they move over to the non-Western world. These tolerance experts don’t even complain about non-Western religion that abuses women and executes gays, providing that religion is non-Western. Their tolerance has squat to do with Islamic theology or with any particular sensitivity for religious traditionalists. It is an expression of the anti-Western attitude that thrives on the contemporary Left.

There is a solution to this controversy. Let the elected officials in New York City decide. If the local population is unhappy with their mayor’s commitment to the project, let them vote him out of office. And if the zoning board changes its collective mind and votes against the imam, then so be it. Where houses of worship are placed should be subject to local control. By the way: although it’s not my call and New York is not my place of residence, I am personally against putting the project anywhere near Ground Zero. I am appalled by the hypocrisy of those who are funding this enterprise and who claim to be standing for “interfaith understanding.” Let them put their buildings in Saudi Arabia, where both visitors and residents are forbidden to keep or read Bibles.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Islam 
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  1. Reader says:

    It bears repeating: Islam didn’t cause 9/11; American and Israeli policy in the Middle East caused 9/11.

  2. This article gets the policy right but the causation wrong, by indulging in obsolete cliches and ignoring history, including contemporary events.

    Fox and Murdoch are motivated by three things: money, money, and money. Adrenalized audiences remember commercials better. Oversexualized, bleached blonde newsbunnies keep the cranky old men tuned in. A right wing government will, almost by definition, take a laissez-faire approach to big business and media consolidation, allowing Murdoch and his heirs to accumulate prior to the dynasty’s inevitable dissolution in the third generation. They will create if needed, and promote automatically, any ‘controversy’ that supports these aims. Follow the money.

    Institutional ‘Christianity’ had its heyday as a result of a corporate merger with the Roman Empire in the era of Constantine. It dominated local and imperial politics for centuries, and was essentially as amoral and tyrannical as prior ‘pagan’ approaches, adapting the latter’s rituals and holidays with ruthless pragmatism. Incompetent and corrupt leadership, and picking the wrong side in some imperial battles, eventually dethroned the Church from its central role, but only after centuries of bloodshed. The connection between this and the supposed teachings of Jesus, conveyed in translation from documents selected by a committee at Nicaea, is peripheral at best, and more likely an inverse correlation.

    If one were to reciprocally indulge in capitalized cliches of ideological ‘handedness,’ one of the characteristics of the Right is, generally, to take the statements of radical Islam literally when it serves an imperial interest, and ignore or dispute them when it does not. Ahmadinejad’s words about Israel are taken seriously, but bin Laden’s about US foreign policy are not. Multidimensional events like the 9/11 attacks are subject to reductionism unsupported by anything other than ideological bias. Whatever serves the power agenda, the excitement agenda, and the more spending on guns and less on butter agenda is taken to be ‘causation.’

    It is a certainty that a higher percentage of Catholicism was involved in pedophilia than of Islam in the 9-11 attacks. And, for example, that more Christians were involved in the British, French, and American imperial adventures in the Mideast from 1916 or so till the present day. If one asks the question, ‘what would Jesus do?’ about all this, it is tragic to note that the last person capable of providing that answer would be, generally speaking, anyone who calls themselves a Christian and identifies with the ‘Right.’

  3. Cfountain72 says: • Website

    While I may disagree with much of what was said here, I think the most important statement was at the beginning of the last paragraph. Even though Mr. Gottfried disagrees with the placement of this facility, he wisely accepts that this is a local decision for those who are impacted the most. This is one of the seminal concepts of liberty: I may not agree with your actions, but I still accept your right to act. I fear that too many of the sunshine patriots have forgotten this (or never learned it to begin with?)
    Peace be with you.

  4. TomT says:

    Paul Gottfried and Greg Panfile, great stuff. I enjoyed the basic article, and Mr Panfile’s caveats and holding these up to the reality of common sense.

    But Mr Panfile, you end with, “it is tragic to note that the last person capable of providing that answer would be, generally speaking, anyone who calls themselves a Christian and identifies with the ‘Right.’” That’s just dumb. That sounds something like Rod Dreher might have said when way back when he first discovered he was crunchier than normal people.

  5. Evan says:

    @ Reader

    It bears repeating: Islam didn’t cause 9/11; American and Israeli policy in the Middle East caused 9/11.

    The truth in what you say is harmed by the lack of nuance in your statement. One can look into the mislaid quality of American activity in the Middle East, but analytically it won’t do to invert responsibility 100%. It turns out there are situations in which inquiries into one’s patriotism are objectively justified, and if you’re in the habit of speaking like this unreflectively, it would be one of those situations.

  6. petey says:

    “In a flagrant act of bullying, the New York Times editorial page, the Anti-Defamation League and other forces allied with the left attacked…

    I suspect, although I can’t prove it, that some of those who participated in this campaign of vilification are now happily supporting the imam and his plan to put a mosque near Ground Zero.”

    like the ADL?

  7. dB says:

    The reason people denigrate the anti-mosque faction as bigots is because the argument itself relies on the tenuous notion that Islam is somehow connected to the September 11th attacks. There’s a lot of reasons to reject this argument, not the least of which is because it takes the blame off of the actual perpetrators.

    While I’m glad you’ve pointed out that the ADL is staying ideologically consistent, rather than abandoning first principles. I wish that conservatives, who I came to admire for their willingness to stand up to manufactured controversies, would do the same.

  8. Petey,

    Right on the money, Petey. Gottfried so relies on the liberal/conservative dichotomy in formulating his Carmelite/Mosque analogy that it causes him to step rather clumsily into soft do-do. The unifying motif here isn’t right/left passions, its the ADL. And here, given his final remarks, Gottfried’s got himself allied squarely with the ADL! Sorry, Paul, your attempt to position yourself somewhere between partisan extremes just falls flat. Not to wory, we’ll take you at your anti-Muslim word.

  9. Mr Gottfried has it just about right. A friend who lives in a small town in NJ has a mosque directly behind his house. If Islam as such was responsible for 9/11 this mosque should no more be there than the mosque proposed for the cultural center in downtown Manhattan. This appeal to sensitivities is a lot of hokum. Sensitivities are to be gotten over if they fly in the face of reason. This whole mess is a direct result of a panicked national defense apparatus casting 19 jackoffs as the second coming of the Wehrmacht. Ridiculous, but poisoning the body politic to this day.

  10. Matt says:

    Such people don’t dislike religions in general; they just can’t stand the Western ones.

    Of course, and one in particular. Anything is to be supported by the left so long as it is against the hated Christianity. The left loves Islam because a) Muslims often hate Christianity too and b) Muslims currently aren’t a political threat. This may not always be the case. I once told an English leftist that if his country keeps importing Muslims, it will eventually become a Muslim country. Pretty obvious reasoning, but he seemed convinced that the universe would somehow align to prevent it from ever happening. It doesn’t matter though, in the end the left can find anything tolerable as long as the scourge of Christianity is stamped out.

  11. Pamela Geller is the one who lit up the fire on this issue.

    GOD I love Jewish racists! They are living proof of the adage that mankind learns nothing from history.

  12. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I’ve only heard Islam is a religion of peace from liberals who know nothing, and never from Muslims. I think calling Islam a “religion of peace” is a failed marketing gimmick and should not be included in intelligent articles.

  13. Amazing how our Sinister Pols and their accomplice media have us side-tracked on this bogus mosque debate, while the War-for-Oil agenda is implicitly validated.. Ha. Ha!

  14. Rob in CT says:

    This whole “lefties love Islam” thing is really ridiculous. I know a lot of liberals. None of them like Islam much. Most of them are very secular and loathe the idea of theocracy.

    They simply find themselves having to defend Muslims at times, because Muslims are constantly being blamed for this that or the other thing. Muslims are the convenient boogeyman of our times. Seems to me that some folks really really really really want a new Enemy to replace the commies. “Islamofacism” will do nicely, apparently.

  15. Psych 101 teaches that all challenged humans need a tangible boogeyman to alleviate their in-tangible pain. The war is going bad, our economy is NOT on the mend, crime is steadily soaring, the unions and govt. workers are under critical scrutiny (and rightly so), so the mosque-islamo-crap serves Psych 101.

    Unfortunately, in the end, owing to our fundamentally benevolent spirit, Muslims will come out as the saintly underdog heros. And this may not necessarily augur good times for America, for the last thing a growingly-aethist populace needs is bull-crap Islam anti-women, anti-logic theocracy.

    thats how the Nazis, the Bolsheviks and the Maoist got into tyrannical power — for up to three generations…

  16. Canadian says:

    “Although all world religions seek to convert non-believers and sometimes do so by force, that practice has been generally far more belligerently pursued in the Islamic than in the Christian world.”

    Really.Did you check your facts with the Jews of Spain, the natives of the Americas? how many generations of jews exist today in Spain? How about the religions of the Native americans?
    Last time I checked christianity was born and continue to exist in the middle east uninterrupted, and the Jews of Spain who escaped the “Christian Tolerance” could find refuge only in the “Conversion prone” islamic land of Marocco

  17. BSuden says:

    Canadian,
    There are exceptions to the rule.
    The essential rule
    in Christianity and Islam respectively is love your enemies and kill the infidel.
    You make the call.

  18. Canadian says:

    No you do
    The moslem could have killed every last “Infidel” in the middle east during their reign.They did not
    The “exceptions” you talk about are entire populations.Now a day,we would call that a genocide.
    What matter is the end result. Christianity still exist in the land of Islam, no other religion survived the Christian Jesuits.

  19. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Nope, the ADL came out against the Mosque, so the statement “I suspect, although I can’t prove it, that some of those who participated in this campaign of vilification are now happily supporting the imam and his plan to put a mosque near Ground Zero.” is moot, in fact it is possible to prove the opposite jsut by visiting their homepage.

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