I have tried to come to a conclusion for myself, whether I should oppose or support the building of a mosque not far from Ground Zero, and whether I should even have an opinion; but I couldn't figure it out. I still don't have an opinion (other than that building the mosque would be legal and must not be opposed violently).
But I thought it would be interesting to weigh in three opinions; two by friends of mine, a gay Christian Palestinian who grew up in an Arab country and now lives in the diaspora and a Manhattanite of Jewish-Albanian background who works for Commentary magazine; and one by Abdul Rahman Al-Rashid, general manager of Al-Arabiya television.
It's not "wrong or extremist" but it's an unnecessary provocation. They can built it elsewhere, but they choose to play with fire and provoke. What are they gaining by doing this? Why are they pushing people's buttons?
I applaud you [...], and your ability to rise above the intolerance and to appeal to the humanistic ideals.
On the other hand, I grew up in a Muslim land where our church had to be built out of sight in the desert, it had to be under 2 stories high, and with no markers that it's a church on the outside, i.e no crosses or visible bells. To add insult to injury, a massive mosque was built next to it with the Allahu Akbars drowning out our sermons. The nearby mosque didn't have a congregation at all, it was always empty. It was merely built to overpower and dominate. Then there are stories of Copts in Egypt who can't change a church's faucet without the permission of Husni Mubarak or perhaps Allah himself, or my relatives in Nazareth, Israel who tell me of Muslim provocations there. And what about the Christians living in Saudi Arabia who have to pray in secret while the Saudi King, the son of a thousand whores, finances mosques in Christian countries?
Forgive me when I have a chip on my shoulder, or baggage, but I would like to see those barking and baying for tolerance of Muslim centres in North America to dedicate at least part of their energy to asking the Muslims for the same tolerance in Muslim countries. Some reciprocity can't hurt.
Again, You want to preach for tolerance, nobody is stopping you. I would like to see some reciprocity, that's all.
I myself have yet to see support among Arabs for the mosque, apartfrom knee-jerk reactions.
And the Manhattanite writes:
If built at all, the Cordoba House, or Park51, as it’s now being called, will be an Islamic cultural center hosting a library, auditorium, gym, swimming pool, day-care center, and culinary school—out of which some space for an indoor mosque shall be carved, true. But what a far cry from a mega-mosque of towering minarets, blaring out the calls of muezzins five times a day, summoning the faithful to prayer! And it wouldn’t stand on Ground Zero or even overlook it. As to the sources of the funds, the developers have so far raised only enough money to buy the old building on Park Place, which they intend to demolish. The rest, an estimated $100 million needed to actually build, furnish, and staff the 13-story Islamic complex, remains to be vouched for. No terror-tainted sources have been tied to the developers’ financing, nor any irregularities found with their assets. At this point, none are likely to surface either, at least not before more funds can be raised and their sources scrutinized.
So there is no arguing on whose side the law is. As for decency, well, I wish I could say that decency, at least, were squarely on the side of Cordoba’s opponents, but their cause has been hijacked by the likes of Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, bottom-feeding activists who, collectively, allege that Barack Obama is the love child of Malcolm X and extol Serbian war criminals indicted by the Hague Tribunal as valiant paladins of our civilization (for having slaughtered thousands of Muslims in the Balkans). Another leader of the opposition to Cordoba, John Joseph Jay, considers every single Muslim a legitimate target for murder. These three have founded the American Freedom Defense Initiative, which sponsors the anti-Cordoba ads now plastered over New York buses, and work closely with the aforementioned American Center for Law and Justice. Suffice it to say, such people do not represent me and should not represent anyone who understands what they are up to. But leaving these anti-Muslim fanatics aside, the sane opponents of Cordoba—most of them staunch conservatives and champions of individual liberties—must still account for the unprincipled ease with which they propose to infringe the property rights of private developers. Hypocrisy, however, is a plague on both houses, liberal and conservative.
She also points out that the imam of the mosque is a character who deserves some scrutiny to say the least.
And finally, Al-Rashid argues:
This reminds us of another principled stance Obama took when he insisted on putting the Guantanamo prisoners accused of belonging to Al-Qaeda on trial before civilian courts, and on closing down the military prison. It is true that this stance deserves appreciation. However, the fact is that he fought a battle that does not concern Muslims across the world, because there are tens of thousands of Muslims - similar to those accused of extremism - who are imprisoned in worse conditions in Muslim countries.
Muslims do not aspire for a mosque next to the 11 September cemetery, and are not bothered with Bin Ladin's cook being put on trial in a civilian court. Muslims have issues that encroach upon the destinies of nations; these issues are the cause of isolation and calamity, such as the establishment of the State of Palestine. For Obama to focus his energy and efforts, and fight for the establishment of peace in the Middle East is more important and more valuable than a mosque in New York.
The fact is that building a mosque next to the site of the World Trade Center Twin Towers, which were destroyed during the 11 September attacks, is a strange story. This is because the mosque is not an issue for Muslims, and they have not heard of it until the shouting became loud between the supporters and the objectors, which is mostly an argument between non-Muslim US citizens!
Neither did the Muslims ask for a single building, nor do the angry Muslims want the mosque. This is one of the few times when the two opposing sides are in agreement. Nevertheless, the dispute has escalated, and has reached the front pages of the press and the major television programs, demonstrations have been staged in the streets, and large posters have been hung on buses roaming the streets of New York calling for preventing the building of the mosque and reminding the people of the 11 September crime. It really is a strange battle!
I cannot imagine that Muslims want a mosque on this particular site, because it will be turned into an arena for promoters of hatred, and a symbol of those who committed the crime. At the same time, there are no practicing Muslims in the district who need a place of worship, because it is indeed a commercial district.
I do think that Mr Rashid is showing a sense of realism that is rare among western journalists.
So there you have it. Arguments for and against the mosque and explanations for why the entire discussion is useless. Have fun!