Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"Not a Mosque"? "Not at Ground Zero"? Oh really?

The latest "progressive" meme making the rounds on teh interwebs is that opponents of the Ground Zero Mosque are silly because (1) it's not really a Mosque, and (2) it's not really at Ground Zero.

Thomas Knapp has even gone so far as to claim that "Ground Zero Mosque" is a "phrase fraudulently coined" by the Mosque's opponents. While Clyde Haberman, writing in Monday's New York Times ("In Islamic Center Fight, Lessons in Prepositions and Fear-Mongering"), claims that it is "debatable" whether or not the proposed building "may even be called a Mosque," while also quibbling over whether or not the Mosque, or whatever it is, will really be "at" Ground Zero.

Here are some quotes from supporters of the Ground Zero Mosque:

Michael Bloomberg:
“I happen to think this is a very appropriate place for somebody who wants to build a mosque, because it tells the world that America, and New York City, which is what I’m responsible for, really believes in what we preach."

Robert Wright:
"When I first heard about the plan to build a mosque and community center two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks, I didn’t envision any real opposition to it."

Kamran Pasha, from his blog post "The Mosque by Ground Zero":
"the very presence of a progressive, peaceful mosque near Ground Zero invalidates the claim by both the Muslim fanatics and their mirror images among the anti-Muslim bigots that America and Islam are enemies."

Harris Zafar, Senior Writer, Muslim Writer's Guild of America, in his piece "Ground Zero Mosque: A Muslim's Perspective":
"Should a Muslim group be allowed to build an Islamic prayer center two blocks away from Ground Zero? .... Muslims in America need to be sensitive to the fears and the mistrust that have infiltrated the minds of many of their fellow citizens. Patience and perseverance are needed in order to help our fellow Americans understand that a Muslim and a Mosque are nothing to be afraid of.

"It appears that the Cordoba House's organizers sought to avoid early publicity around the proposed construction project and apparently waited months before seeking public comment. The ensuing firestorm from the local neighborhoods and communities does not, therefore, appear to be all too surprising. A better and potentially more palatable approach would have been to conduct broad community outreach and enlist broad community support before pushing the Center's plan through local government channels. Given the sensitivities surrounding the Ground Zero site and the general ignorance of Islam, this approach may have averted the nasty debate we have now. Ultimately, I am in the favor of the construction of a mosque, but I am not happy with the way the organizers have appeared to have pursued it."

Andy Ostroy in his piece "Why the Ground Zero Mosque Should Be Built":
"The proposed building of a Muslim mosque two blocks from Ground Zero has created a firestorm of anger and emotion not just in Lower Manhattan, but all over the country .... Yes, Ground Zero is sacred ground. No one should or would ever dispute that. But that can mean different things to different people. Perhaps in the interest of healing we should honor it and those killed by not using it as monument for more bias and vitriol. Wouldn't religious tolerance and acceptance be a far greater legacy for that site than one that perpetuates the kind of wholesale hatred and intolerance that was at the root of the very attacks themselves?"

A Moratorium (my proposed answer to the Ground Zero Mosque)

Of course it is very tempting to reflexively be in favor of anything that Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin loudly oppose. But there is nothing inherently "progressive" about the building of Mosques -- whether at Ground Zero or anywhere else. Nor is there anything intrinsically "right-wing" about being opposed to the building of a particular Mosque.

My solution to the Ground Zero Mosque controversy is this: (1) a moratorium on all foreign funding of Mosques in the US, including money for the operating costs of already existing Mosques, combined with, (2) a moratorium on all US funding, public and private, of Christian "missionary" work outside the US.

Let American Muslims have exactly as many Mosques as they themselves are willing to pay for. No more, no less.

And let American Christians donate as much money as they please to secular schools, hospitals, etc, around the world -- but let's stop the unconscionable practice of buying converts to Christianity in exchange for food, medicine, basic social services, etc.

Let the Christians and Muslims pray all they want, worship all they want, believe whatever they want, say whatever they want. But let's limit the transnational monetary influence of these two aggressive, intolerant ideologies. Such limitations would violate no one's right to believe and practice exactly as they choose.

Such a moratorium is unlikely to happen any time soon. In the meantime there are specific issues, like (1) opposing the foreign funded $100 million dollar Ground Zero Mosque, and (2) opposing all use of US taxpayer money for Christian missionary work, whether at home ("faith based initiatives") or abroad (a significant portion of "foreign aid" goes to Christian missionary groups).

We can use the Ground Zero Mosque issue to shine a light on the pernicious role of money in spreading ideologies of hatred and intolerance around the world. It also provides a golden opportunity to expose the hypocrisy of Palin, Gingrich and other spokesmodels of the most medieval and intolerant varieties of Christianity.