There are so many issues surrounding the proposed Community Center/Mosque, called “Cordoba House” near Ground Zero that I don’t know where to start. A list seems like a good idea, as the issues pop to mind:
- It’s very close to Ground Zero – only two blocks. Some estimates place it at around 600 feet; the group refused an offer to move to state-owned land offered by Mayor Bloomberg
- Mayor Bloomberg offered state-owned land for a distinctly religious building
- Imam Rauf, leader of the Cordoba Initiative, has made charged and insensitive statements regarding the United States and 9/11; he refuses to condemn Hamas for human rights violations, or to classify it as a terrorist organization
- The Imam has stated that he will consider funding provided by Muslim countries, including both Iran and Saudi Arabia
- Those who campaign against it are called ‘racist’, ‘xenophobe’, ‘intolerant’ and other hateful names
- Nancy Pelosi has called for investigation into the “funding” of those opposing the mosque, while Mayor Bloomberg has said that investigating funding for the mosque is “un-American”
- Permits for this project appear to have come easily, yet St. Nicholas Church, a Greek Orthodox Church (Christian) which sat in the shadow of the World Trade Center and was destroyed on 9/11, has been unable to secure the proper permits to rebuild
I’m sure there are other points, but those were the first that came to mind. And here is my take on the whole shootin’ match.
The community center itself isn’t the problem. It never has been. I don’t think placing a mosque in that space would be a problem. But the way it came about, and the Cordoba Initiative’s basic ignorance of the “good neighbor policy” that so many of us live by… THESE are the problems.
Legally the mosque can be built wherever the zoning laws permit, and the Imam and his group have apparently secured the necessary permits to do so. Whether rules were bent or not is still up for debate – some who support the rebuilding of St. Nicholas Cathedral have alleged a double standard. The cynic in me tends to agree that palms were greased here, along with a concerted effort by officials to “not offend” the Muslim Community. Ironically, that ‘don’t offend’ stance has backfired most spectacularly. The part of me that is trying to only consider the facts simply doesn’t know who to believe.
Constitutionally, the Imam and his group have a right to worship in any way, and anywhere they please, according to the First Amendment, which guarantees not only the ability speak and to practice religion freely, but also the right to organize a peaceful assembly of followers.
But there is an unspoken policy, a tradition if you will, in our country, and that’s the “good neighbor policy”. In a simple example, let’s say that I’m a truck driver and I own my rig. It’s a big rig, a noisy diesel that spews that nasty smelling exhaust. It’s how I make my living – I drive over the road, and am gone for days at a time. I also own a tidy little house in a suburban or small-town neighborhood. I have a driveway, a front and back yard; plenty of space in which to park that truck. It is also legal for me to do so. But I don’t park it there. I leave it at the freight yard where I pick up most of my loads, and drive my little puddle-jumper home. Why? Because that big rig tractor, while completely allowed in my neighborhood, would be an annoyance to my neighbors. The noise of the rumbling engine as I’m coming down the street, or warming it up for an hour on winter mornings before I can drive it, is deafening. The smell of the exhaust will irritate the little girl next door who suffers from asthma. So, out of consideration for my neighbors and because I like being a good neighbor, I don’t bring the truck around.
This mosque has become a “big deal” NOT because we don’t want Muslims to have a place to gather, to worship, to hang out. The mosque has become a “big deal” because the Imam who is putting it there seems to be thumbing his nose at those who are intimately connected to the site where members of his own religion carried out the mass murder of three thousand people, nine years ago. We’ve had problems with “sleeper cells” hiding in mosques – remember the one outside Buffalo, NY? Yes, it was several years ago, but should we not learn from that incident? Why shouldn’t we ask questions?
Does it make me “racist” or an “Islamophobe” to oppose this mosque? Does this make me “intolerant”? I don’t think so, and here’s why: Islam has a dual identity. On one hand, it is made out to be a ‘peaceful religion’, and those who practice the moderate form of the religion eschew Shariah Law. But on the other hand, Islam IS Shariah Law. The two are inextricably intertwined in places like Afghanistan, where an 18-year old girl had her nose cut off for fleeing abusive relatives, and Iran, where women are sentenced to death by stoning because they have been accused of adultery. One of the goals of Shariah Law is to take over, to “kill the infidels” – and anyone who is not a Muslim is an “infidel”. Within Shariah Law, even Muslims can be an infidel, subject to death if you violate one of the many laws outlined within Shariah and the Koran. Imam Rauf’s own words: “In America, we have a Constitution that created a three-branch form of government – legislative, executive and judiciary. The role of the judiciary is to ensure that the other two branches comply with the Constitution. What Muslims want is a judiciary that ensures that the laws are not in conflict with the Quran and the Hadith.” Questioning the intent of this Imam and this group does not make me intolerant, it makes me a realist.
To date, all calls for official investigation into the funding of this Mosque have been denied. Mayor Bloomberg even called them “un-American”. But Nancy Pelosi has no problem saying that those who oppose the Mosque should be investigated. Why? Because the concept of “tolerance” has become so perverted as to not be recognizable. It has come to mean “you shall not offend”. And in this case, the Powers that Be will not investigate this Imam because they do not want to offend him or Islam.
But here’s the thing… it’s a quote from Gilbert K. Chesterton, a prolific writer who lived at the turn of the 20th Century. He said, “Tolerance is the virtue of someone without conviction.” All of those who stand behind this project with no investigation whatsoever are acting without conviction. They are acting out of fear. They don’t want to offend, so they turn a blind eye to the many realities of the situation. Those of us who question this mosque are not “intolerant”. We are standing on our convictions.
We’ve been hit before by the bullying side of Islam. Why is it so offensive to be sure that those bullies aren’t the ones at the core of this community center?