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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cordoba Center Conclusion: Five Pillars of the Debate

This post will be shorter, or at least my last on this particular hot button topic, since like Pontius Pilate I am washing my hands of this fad and letting things go as they will. If some maniac bombs the place, then the terrorists win, not if the Cordoba House/Park51/Etc is built about 5 blocks from the center of “Ground Zero”.

I find there are five points, much like the five pillars of Islam (Pilgrimage, Prayers, Charity, Fasting and Monotheistic Belief (?)) which are integral to this debate. But on the other hand, these foundational talking points should be systematically broken down and destroyed, since they are ruining what is otherwise the equivalent of a Muslim YMCA.

1-The center isn’t at Ground Zero, since I imagine there are already plans in mind as to what is to be done at Ground Zero for appropriate memorials or otherwise. To be exact, from the center of Ground Zero, the center is around 5 blocks, over 1000 feet from the collapsed foundations of the WTC. Not to mention Ground Zero and the area surrounding it are pretty dead in terms of new businesses appearing, so anything appearing in the general vicinity, especially with the intent of building bridges of understanding between Americans of different faiths and ethnicities, should be viewed positively, not with distrust.

2-Cordoba Center is not a mosque and it wouldn’t matter even if it were, since there are multiple mosques in New York area already. A prayer center for Muslims isn’t even the focal point of what is primarily a center for people to come together. Out of 13 stories, the top 2 will be a prayer space, so overall, the “mosque” aspect is barely a sixth of the building’s areas, including a basketball court and a culinary school, among other sections for cultural education and leisure. No different than saying a hospital is a church because it has a chapel inside, you have no logical grounds to call the Cordoba House a mosque just because it has a prayer center for Muslims planned.

The building already has Muslims praying in it since they purchased it, so does that make it a mosque? Again, no, since like a church, it doesn’t matter whether it’s called it or not, it’s about the activity performed. So the building is more like a mosque now then when it will be primarily a cultural community center, like the YMCA. So why not welcome what is a change for the better instead of opposing it because of people pulling your heartstrings like a marionette?

3-Arguing that people have the constitutional right to build the center on private property and then arguing against it because it offends your sensitivities is groundless since 1) the law doesn’t bend to the whims and caprices of people who can’t get over a grudge they hold towards Islam and 2) you can’t say people have a right to build whatever they decide to build on private property and then say the government should suppress that right because it offends you. That’d be no different than censoring Neo Nazis and the KKK just because some minorities can’t stand their message. I don’t agree with Islam or Christianity, but do I object to churches and mosques existing in America? No.

And saying the mosque is an insult to the victims of 9/11 doesn’t hold water either because the people building the center are making it open to everyone and as noted before, it won’t be a big flashing neon sign saying, “Ha, you lost loved ones in a Muslim terrorist attack, suck it!”, it will be an expansion to a pre existing Muslim community in New York and an attempt to show that American Muslims do not condone the 9/11 attacks, and in fact, wish to make amends by creating a peaceful Muslim presence near the site of an event they find reprehensible.

4-Accusing the imam of being a radical Muslim to try to discredit the center is an ad hominem tactic that hardly even holds a candle to real evidenced claims. The guy was a consultant for the army after 9/11 to educate about Islam, because he’s a Sufi, probably the most moderate Muslim subgroup you can imagine. If you think a Sufi Muslim, whose most dangerous activity is spinning in circles to go into a religious trance, is trying to infiltrate America and train suicide bombers, you’re not just paranoid, you’re stupid.

Not to mention people are on President Obama’s back about alleged backsliding on the issue. He was right to focus on legality and not whether it was a “wise decision” to choose the spot near Ground Zero to build the center. Like the judge who granted the Westboro Baptist Church some modicum of free speech protection for their protests at funerals, however cold hearted and myopic their message is, legally they are granted protection under the Constitution. Like the KKK example, you don’t have to agree or even pay attention to them, but by any stretch of interpretation of the 1st Amendment, tolerance of viewpoints you don’tagree with is integral to a civil society’s continued existence. Free speech doesn’t stop at someone being offended, it stops at people’s genuine rights to privacy being violated, which the “Ground Zero Mosque” and WBC’s protests don’t do.

5-Claiming that if the center goes up, the terrorists win, makes no sense. First off, Muslims by nature are not opposed to being Americans and living here, and building a mosque doesn’t glorify terrorist attacks. Islam is not our enemy, as former President Bush Jr. said, it is terrorism.

And more importantly, if we bend to a majority’s argument with no substance in it just because it offends them, then the terrorists would win, since we’d be surrendering a basic liberty of private ownership as well as freedom of worship and religion to satisfy the masses that are offended in some way. Which is no different than suppressing and censoring free speech in the majority of the Middle East because it offends theocratic and theonomic sensitivities of a Muslim majority stuck in the Crusade period when every non Muslim was a potential enemy and even fellow Muslims who didn’t adhere to strict legalistic standards were enemies, not unlike how Shia and Sunni Muslims have treated Sufis in their own countries.

In conclusion, any offense you take at this is understandable, but it does not mean you should call for the cancellation of what is a peaceful project meant to heal wounds, not reopen them. There are people on both sides of the 9/11 tragedy, some opposing and some supporting the project. Who is right, since both of them have lost loved ones in that attack almost 10 years ago? What about the Muslims that perished? Do their families oppose this building, a veritable stand against the terrorists, not a support of their ideology? Why should the pain and suffering of some trump the rights of others to construct something that in this case has no ill will behind it? It shouldn’t, because the law does not favor feelings or sensitivities, it is impartial for that very reason. Until next time, Namaste and Aloha.

1 comment:

  1. While Chris Hitchens and Sam Harris seemed to be missing the point on this (I think their quotes are at, I really liked what Hemant Mehta and and Jen McCreight had to say on the subject. If we refuse to stand up for other people's rights, what happens when our own rights come under siege? This whole furor is pissing me off: both the crazy Christians and the frothing-at-the-mouth atheists.