Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Mosque

I can't get away from this issue.  Its on the daily show, its on the front page of google news, its on the news every other day.  So lets think about it some.

There seems to be a two groups of people talking past each other, and then there's President Obama.  One group, wants to emphasize that this is insensitive to New Yorkers, Americans, and survivors of the 9/11 attack.  The other group wants to emphasize that there is a right to freedom of religion, and that to deny the building of the Mosque/cultural center would be in violation of the Constitution, which New Yorkers, Americans, and the survivors of 9/11 attack think make America so great in the first place. 

President Obama recently came out and said... well... Both.  In one press conference he said that he supports the legal right to build the cultural center/mosque, but in another interview, he said that it wasn't terribly well thought out. 

Now this might sound like political double-talk to save face, minimize the impact it might have on future elections for Democrats, etc.  but I actually think it may encapsulate the issue quite nicely.

Neither group are holding a position that is mutually exclusive.  I can believe that group X has a right Y, but the exercise of right Y in instance Z would be offensive.    A right doesn't mean that the exercise of the right wouldn't be offensive. 

I might have every right to speak my mind, but doing so may offend some people that I care about very dearly.  So I might hold my tongue, and doing so, doesn't destroy my right, or weaken my right to free speech, but rather emphasizes my care and sensitivity towards others. 

I think there is a secondary concern here.  Islam and Muslim culture in general has already been demonized in American culture, since 9/11.  Generally, Muslims are treated with suspicion and caution, or at least it seems like it.  They're the new Communist.  Undeservedly, of course, since this is a broad generalization of a particular group, based upon the most extreme members of that group.  Every group is filled with lunatics, but to paint all Christians as abortion clinic bombers or invading crusaders, would be unfair. 

Marginalized groups in a sense, need to work extra hard to be accepted.  This isn't fair, but its the way it is.  We've seen this before with racially oppressed groups, particularly African Americans.  For an African American to participate in the normal walks of life, initially, they had to be head and shoulders better than everyone else.  They needed to be Jackie Robinson, instead of some very good baseball player.  They had to go above and beyond the "minimum qualifications" to be able to participate.  Fair?  No. 

So either we can change the culture of America (unlikely), and make it more fair for Muslim and those of the Islamic faith, or they have to tread more carefully than others.    Personally, I wish we could change the culture of America.  Reiterate equality, tolerance, and understanding.  But I also have a practical side of me too.  I think the Mosque should be built, and nobody would complain about it at all.  Of course, that won't happen.

I think Feisal Abdul Rauf should really think carefully about how this would impact how Americans view Muslim and Islamic culture.  There is a risk that they may become more marginalized because of the perceived insensitivity of the act of building the Mosque/cultural center, which wouldn't be beneficial for anyone really.  But on the other hand, it may bring to the forefront the real Muslim and Islamic culture.  It may force people to reconsider their prejudices.  But I have a feeling that would be wishful thinking.  Those who are vehemently against the project, are unlikely to visit the Mosque/cultural center with an open mind, trying to learn about the those that they have already made a private demonizing judgment.


  1. While I think every religious group has the right to practice and build worship facility "in accordance to ordinance" as Obama said, I don't think that the mosque should be built.

    1. Although the proposal for the mosque (or to be politically precise, an Islamic center which includes a pool, gym and other grandiosity) is an attempt to massage the sore spot in American ideology regarding Muslims. However, before the plan can solidify, we're already witnessing extreme divisiveness. Repercussions rippled almost immediately after the announcement: arson at a Tennessee mosque, five teenagers arrested for shooting up in a NY mosque, New Yorkers (who were once united by the tragedy of 9/11) began lunging at each others' throats.

    2. Are we really helping Muslims from across the world? While it is true that the U.S. opposition certainly makes us look like the intolerant superpower to the rest of the globe, it's more detrimental for the youth who are growing up and happen to be Muslims. There's a sense of guilt and inferiority being programmed into your very own religious fiber. Reportedly, the Taliban is actually GLAD that the U.S. refuses the mosque proposal:

    "Newsweek is reporting that Taliban operatives in Afghanistan say the backlash against the construction of an Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan has been a boost for the militant group. An operative named Zabihullah told the magazine, "By preventing this mosque from being built, America is doing us a big favor...It’s providing us with more recruits, donations, and popular support." Zabihullah’s comments mirror what many US terrorism analysts have been saying about the rise in anti-Muslim rhetoric in America."
    Evan Kohlmann recently said, "We are handing al-Qaeda a propaganda coup, an absolute propaganda coup."

    3. Are we being frivolous and distracted by what's really at stake? Danny Schechter (Plunder: The Crime Of Our Time" is right, this whole mosque business serves as the perfect distraction from issue that HAS ACTUALLY HAPPENED TO ALMOST EVERY ONE OF US which is the big bank's reprehensible practices and the lack of accountability (no media coverage, no criminal prosecution whatsoever). The mosque debate serves as the perfect tactic to promote disintegration, more conflict, more separatism, more partisanship (oh look, what perfect timing too, right around the corner from the midterm election).


  2. While I think your first point is a good one, I'm not sure about the second or third...

    I'm not sure what the Taliban or Al-Qaeda approves or disapproves of should dictate what we do. Even if we're doing the opposite of what they want us to do, doesn't necessarily mean its the right thing to do.

    Your third point, although true, really just changes the subject. There's tons of things out there that we should be concerned about, from Katrina victims that are still without homes, to big banks and such. Although there is a political cost to publicly talking about this issue over another, I think all of them are important issues that should be thought about and not ignored. To say that we should be thinking about big banks is a red herring.