Zakaria misses the point on the mosque at Ground Zero

Editor’s note, April 2017: I’ve thought many times about deleting this post, which I fundamentally no longer agree with. But I’ve decided to let it stand, as a point-in-time reflection on how things appeared at the time.

Since that time, the Muslim world has certainly distanced itself from bin Laden and his followers, and from other Islamic hate groups, terrorist organizations, etc. In addition, I’ve done more reading on Islam, and have come to appreciate on my own, that even without said repudiation, it is clear that Islam suffers at the hands of its less-enlightened splinter groups and particularly vocal individuals, who use the banner of Islam to proclaim negative and hateful ideas as Islamic “truths,” in the same way that Christianity, for example, is brought down by the Westboro Baptist Churches of the Christian world.

I believe that any religion is troublesome when it attempts to serve as a basis for a government. In the modern age, it appears to be generally Islam where we see this. But those aspects of the U.S. government that seem to be driven by Christian fundamentalism are perhaps just as troublesome.

In short, we have to take what we read and hear with a grain of salt. We have to be a little more circumspect with regard to what constitutes “proof” of a hypothesis. And we have to be a little more forgiving when it comes to alternative viewpoints. In saying “we,” of course, I vigorously include myself.


I recently posted a comment on Huffington Post, in response to comments by a Mr. “Research.” He (I assume it’s a “he”) had asserted, “There is no doubt that Muslims should be able to purchase land and build a masque and community center “in the shadow of 9/11″, over 20 Muslims were victims of the 9/111 attacks…”

Yes, I agree that Muslims should be allowed to build a “masque” (sic) anywhere they want. I believe that the radical followers of Islam have proven themselves very capable of building and wearing “masques” of all types.

Building a mosque, however, is another matter entirely. If mosques as we have come to know them particularly in the time since 2001 were in fact houses of worship, it would not be an issue. But for them to be houses of discord, of distortion, of false education, of hatred, of violence, of fatwah – that is another issue entirely.

Since the Islamic world has not come out in universal and unequivocal repudiation of Osama bin Laden and his followers, it necessarily follows that they do not WISH to distance themseves from him. Therefore they are comfortable with him speaking for the world of Islam.

To the extent that that is true, we, the United States, are at war with Islam. We must not permit Islam to erect its “victory flag” on our hallowed ground at Ground Zero. We must fight our natural tendency toward laziness, and get off our butts and stake our claim. That land is ours. It will not be given away; if it is to go to anyone else, they will have to come here and take it. This time, let’s hope we are ready for them.

No major modern religion is without its tawdry history; mine (Christianity, and specifically the Anglican/Episcopal Church) included. But in ours, most of our worst “errors” are matters of conscience, convenience, duplicity. They are not matters of murder, terrorism and destruction. If not different in kind (though I think they are), they are certainly different in degree. So the things we have done in the name of our God, pale in response to the things they have done in the name of theirs.

The behavior of the entire Islamic world in the shadow of what was done in New York since September 11, 2001, has been reprehensible. You can’t eat your cake and still have it. If you’re not going to say that bin Laden was wrong, and be willing to die for that belief, you can’t have a fucking mosque at Ground Zero. It’s as simple as that.

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6 thoughts on “Zakaria misses the point on the mosque at Ground Zero

  1. Personally, I think telling someone they cannot purchase land and build what they want to build because it’s affiliated with a certain religion is dangerous to all religions and free people. I don’t think there would be any arguments if this was a Catholic community center. The Catholic church has been responsible for countless murders, outright genocide (Crusades), and other atrocities against humanity. The same goes with most major religions – you will find evil people and acts within every religion.

    • If the Vatican were to bomb, say, the Wailing Wall, you can be pretty damned certain that Israel wouldn’t let them build a Catholic church right there. I’ve got nothing against Islam as a religion, but it’s obviously not just that, is it? It’s a political system. And it’s the islamic politics that declared war on the West. So that’s who we’re fighting.

      • No, Islam is not just a religion. In traditional Islamic countries, Islamic law is government law. However, Islamic extremists (terrorists) don’t represent Islam anymore than Christian extremists like the KKK, the Army of God, or most recently, the Hutaree, who the FBI claims “planned to murder law enforcement officials and then follow up their initial attacks with a separate attack on the fallen officers’ funeral(s), where a large number of law enforcement personnel would no doubt be gathered.” represent Christianity.

  2. Justin, I believe you are missing my point.

    But first, I’d like to amend something I said in the original post. In speaking of what various religions do in the name of their God, I was speaking mostly of current events. Obviously the Crusades occurred, and obviously they were horrendous. At the time, they couldn’t be stopped because they (the Holy Roman Empire) had the religious mandate and the political and economic power to carry it out. Had there been anyone strong enough to stop them, they would have done so. There is nothing we can do today to correct the wrongs of that time.

    The point I am trying to make is that today, the people who are generally identified as Islamic extremists are NOT being repudiated or reviled by the rest of the Islamic community. Maybe at a “nice” mosque, in the suburbs of the U.S. But in Pakistan? Afghanistan? Iran? Iraq? They are certainly not being rejected. They are being held up as examples. Martyrs. Heroes.

    For the record, all of the Christians I know completely repudiate and disavow any connection whatsoever with the KKK, the Army of God, the Hutaree. We do so publicly and privately. They clearly do not represent Christian thought.

    It is not clear that the distinction between Islamic religious thought and Islamic political/military action, however, is well defined, or even acknowledged. Yes, this was true of Christianity a thousand years ago, but not so today.

    Anyway, again, my point is that it is highly unlikely that the Hutaree would be allowed to build a Hutaree community center at the site of the funeral procession ambush, had they managed to succeed with their plan. Or do you think they should be able to? Or that the KKK should be allowed to build an outreach center near the site of 1979’s Greensboro Massacre? I don’t think so.

    • Thanks for the response. If your talking strictly current events, then the Hutaree still apply, but you are right when you claim that Christians are far more outspoken against such extremists when compared to their Islamic counterparts worldwide.

      As unpopular as is is and as sure I am that you disagree, yes I think that any person who legally owns property should be allowed to build whatever they want there – assuming that everything is legal when they do it. You cannot prevent someone from building a building simply because you think that they MIGHT do something illegal there. If you allow that, then you would allow the same discrimination against another group of people or religion that you fear later on.

  3. As I reread my own post above, I am reminded what a hot and hotly-contested issue this is, even in my own mind. From day to day, I alternately agree and disagree with myself.

    One thing I remain (heretofore, pending further comments from the Imam later today or tomorrow) clear on is that building a mosque at this location would be a mistake. Whether there is truth to the belief that it is tantamount to planting an Islamic victory flag on this site, or whether it is merely the perception of an Islamic presence where so much pain and suffering and loss was wrought by those claiming to represent Islam, in some sense doesn’t matter. It’s still appearing as an invitation to future acts of hostility, which will likely cost more lives, money, time, energy.

    That being said, I wish to also correct a grossly illogical statement I made in my last comment above; the supposition about the fringe Christian groups not being allowed to build an outreach center near the site of their own attempted or realized terrorist activities. Obviously we are not talking about al Qaeda or the Taliban planning to build a community center near Ground Zero. We are talking about an authentic Islamic [representative] group (note that I did not say “moderate!) wanting to build a center here.

    This correction significantly weakens my posturing in the argument, but does not destroy the argument. There are always two realities to consider: reality, and perception of reality. As the saying goes, “Hell [or the road to it, if you prefer] is paved with good intentions.” Don’t invite further disaster by rubbing salt into the wounds. Don’t build the mosque at Ground Zero.

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