Why the Mosque is a Good Thing

I used the above picture during my week-long summer history institutes, as well as in my US history classes to illustrate the notion of American terrorism, religion, and white supremacy during Reconstruction. It seems that many believe the KKK existed before Reconstruction — but that is simply not the case. Whites seeking to recapture the South in the name of God and white supremacy sought to terrorize blacks and sympathetic whites. If you look at the image carefully, it portrays a change of the guard. At one point, blacks were enslaved thus controlled by environmental factors that worked against them. After the 13th Amendment, blacks were legally emancipated.

I am very careful in my class to illustrate to students that the KKK took on this role and act of terrorism in the name of Christianity; however, the reality regardless of their justifications is one that does not speak towards Christianity. The United States consist of a number of hate groups. Many of them claim to be doing the will of God. In truth, we as Americans know this is not the case. Moreover, Americans recognize that said groups only undermine the mission and faith of many loyal followers of Jesus Christ. Before 9/11, the worst act of terrorism to take hold on American soil was that of the Oklahoma City bombing; it was here that Timothy McVeigh invoked an act of terrorism on innocent Americans. Later, he will claim that he was driven to do so because it was God’s will. In a 2001 Time Magazine interview, he states:

Time: Are you religious?

McVeigh: I was raised Catholic. I was confirmed Catholic (received the sacrament of confirmation). Through my military years, I sort of lost touch with the religion. I never really picked it up, however I do maintain core beliefs.

Time: Do you believe in God?

McVeigh: I do believe in a God, yes. But that’s as far as I want to discuss. If I get too detailed on some things that are personal like that, it gives people an easier way [to] alienate themselves from me and that’s all they are looking for now.

I use the above examples to state that it would seem asinine for non-Christians to protest against a group of Christians wanting to build a church a block from where the old federal building once stood, simply because McVeigh was an American terrorist and Christian. I suspect that non-Christians realize the acts of McVeigh and other hate groups do not reflect the Christian community. So, if that is the case, then why are so many non-Muslims against the Manhattan mosque? I am sure such Americans realize that this center will be a showcase of hope and freedom.

By allowing Muslims to construct an Islamic center in Manhattan, Americans will be showing the world that we do stand behind the 1st Amendment of the Constitution and its values. The United States is not Iran…a state that would never allow a Christian center.  Also, Americans might just weaken radical Islamic terrorist groups by allowing such a center to teach what is good and virtuous about the  Qu’ ran and its 1 billion followers. I do believe this center is a good thing for both the Muslim and non-Muslim community. This is not an Obama matter; it is not a liberal or conservative matter; it is both a moral and Constitutional matter.

A number of independent schools and colleges are now offering “studies” courses in areas such as Islamic studies. This academic endeavour along with cultural centers, such as the Islamic mosque, are necessary in a world made up of highly devout Muslims.


13 thoughts on “Why the Mosque is a Good Thing

  1. Disallowing this construction of this community center (in whatever way it gets disallowed) is playing right into the hands of the extremists (you know, the people those who oppose this mosque claim are behind its construction in the first place?). It will be another example of “See? They hate Islam and all it represents. They are hypocrites who are not-so-secretly out to destroy Islam.”

    I am disgusted by some of the people I’ve heard (and read) spouting their self-righteous, completely ignorant bullsh*t out loud about this. At what point does the “sacred ground” end? Do we draw a circle around the Ground Zero site and declare it holy? How far away is it? Do we close down the retail shops (because, you know, they might sell lacy underwear or dirty magazines, and that would desecrate the memory…)? I’ve heard that there is a strip club closer to GZ than this community center would be; how is THAT okay? Are we going to acknowledge that this tragedy did not differentiate between faiths, and that ALL KINDS of people died that day? Would the protesters be kicking up a fight about a new church, or a shul? The blatant arrogance, blind hatred, and stupidity of these people boggles my mind.

  2. Chili: You pointed out this silly double standard well. I get a “sense” that we as Americans are sending a mix message to the world. We are coming across as being a highly conservative and intolerant society. Of course, not like some middle eastern nations. But, we have Americans talking about amending the 14th Amendment so that the US has grounds to throw babies back over a wall if they are born here. And, that if one wants to be an American they must hold some universal belief that.

  3. I do not think Americans are anti mosque so much as they are anti location. Lots of emotions here. But your point on McVeigh is really good. I had not considered that. You really got me rethinking my position on this matter.

  4. Too soon, my friends. Too soon.

    The McVeigh analogy is somewhat tenuous. Even if his actions were motivated by religion, Christianity does not have a recent track record of terrorism against the United States. If McVeigh was a member of religion X and religion X had a public reputation for terrorist bombings, then there would absolutely be blow-back if religion X tried to build a church near the Oklahoma Federal Building. And it would be justified.

    Let’s suppose Suzie has a very bad break-up with Bob Smith (who turned out to be a guy who beats women). Not long after, Bob’s brother Joe Smith decides to purchase the house next door to Suzie. It is well within Joe’s Constitutional rights to buy the house…but is it a decent thing to do? Joe looks a little like a boor here, does he not? To say so publicly is not a call for his rights to be revoked, but to shame unseemly behavior. Are we really going to fight for “innocent Joe’s” feelings more than what Suzie will have to go through? If Bob says, “Look! Everyone is against the Smiths!”….well, whose fault is that, BOB???!!!!

    The Japanese did not rush to build a cultural center at Pearl Harbor right after the war ended. After a time, they are now one of our allies and friends in the world. It was too raw then, as the wounds are still too fresh here. If Muslims want to mend fences and prove they are fellow Americans who care about how they are perceived, the exact opposite way to show that is to rip off the band-aid and insist on building right there*, right now.

    (*I believe the property in question is about two blocks from Ground Zero. Whether that classifies as too close may differ between individuals.)

    So…if we refuse to allow the mosque to be built the terrorists score a win against our liberties, and if we allow a mosque for their religion of choice to be built near the site of the buildings they demolished, the terrorist win. No, there are plenty of other places in New York City to build a mosque—and New Yorkers would welcome it! That close to Ground Zero makes Muslims look insensitive and Americans look weak.

    Location and timing are TERRIBLE. Sorry, no. Come back in 10-15 years and we’ll see, Joe. Our wounds will have healed up and perhaps you were able to use that time to talk some sense into Bob.

  5. Christianity has been connected to the lynchings of blacks — right? It has never been used against a country, but to ignore Carson’s examples would be a mistake. The McVeigh point makes a great sense. I have heard the argument with 9/11 and the Japaneses, but why would they build a monument? Manhattan is such a diverse city; it is in many ways a cultural center. Constructing such a center makes sense. Plus, I think it is already a mosque. I could me incorrect here.

  6. Again, the McVeigh thing makes little sense to me as I’ve not heard that his church is trying to build near the site of the bombing. I trust that if they had, Americans would have lambasted them. A muscle will be pulled trying reach for that as an example of a double-standard.

    So if a white church lynched a few black men, then a couple years later built a church or cultural center at the site it should be cool with the minorities in the area? LOL (Sharpton press conference in 3…2…1…)

    Um…there is no argument about building a mosque in New York City. What does that tell you about Islam, though, that they want to build a mosque that close to Ground Zero? If they want to show peace, compassion, or respect, the play is to NOT build there. This is a no-brainer, like choosing to punt on fourth-and-thirteen.

  7. Matt S:

    I do not see how or why you fail to see the similarities between McVeigh and the mosque. The point is that Americans are making this a matter of religion from one point but not from the other.

  8. McVeigh believed in “a god”, and that (besides some ties to the Catholic faith early in his youth) was the extent of his ties to Christianity. There is little double-standard to be had, as few Americans even associate him with a faith.

    August 17 poll of New Yorkers about the mosque:

    52% = oppose
    17% = undecided
    31% = favor

    Almost 70% have at least a weird vibe about it. Only 20% of New Yorkers in that poll believe that Islam is a religion of violence, so this is not a knee-jerk reaction to lump all Muslims into the same group that flew the planes into the World Trade Center.

    So why the high discomfort with the mosque? Ladies, do you wear a white dress to another woman’s wedding? No, because it is tacky. Should a religion build a church on the site of a massacre done in its name? No, because it is tacky. This seems like common sense. When people are dealing with an important or traumatic event, we learn to defer and show compassion toward their needs. Going back to my earlier analogy, Joe could have bought a house anywhere in town but chose one right next to the woman who was beaten by his brother. Joe could be the nicest guy in the state, but in this case he became the rudest one—and this time it was by his choice, not Bob’s.

    Seriously…WHY THERE? Think about that for a moment. If you were a Muslim, would this give you pause? (I have heard interviews with Muslims who indeed think this is inappropriate).

    From a public relations standpoint, it is a fiasco for the faith of Islam. Domestically, it’s a land mine as the President found out trying to walk the tightrope. (Imagine if the President tried to defend the right of a wedding guest to wear a white dress regardless of what the bride’s feelings are on the matter. It’s a lose-lose situation.) Internationally, there are pros and cons. Does an impressive show of tolerance outweigh the appearance of weakness toward those that would strike at us? It seems like a much better play all around to say “no” to a Ground Zero build and “yes” to a New York build.

  9. Matt S made many of the points that I was thinking of in his various statements, but I would like to bring up one that I thought of with regards to the Ku Klux Klan and one that was brought up by Charles Krauthammer a while ago.

    First, we can all agree that the Ku Klux Klan is viewed with a large amount of uncertainty (and rightfully so) as it has grown from an organization focused on violence towards Blacks, Hispanics, Jews, et. al into a religion that worships and rewards such racial hatred. Now imagine that the KKK were to overtly mobilize one of its chapters into Memphis, Tennessee. This chapter decides that it is well within its rights to create a temple (or whatever it is they call their meeting places) two blocks from the Lorraine Hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King was killed. Would this be socially unacceptable? Most people would think so. What could the KKK’s argument be in said situation? I would like to think that they would first ask others if it was a KKK member who killed Dr. King on the balcony of the Lorraine. The answer is no, it was James Earl Ray, an escaped convict who pleaded guilty to the crime and had no affiliation with the Ku Klux Klan. Thus, people are getting their panties all tied in a knot for no reason because, though both the Klan and Ray had similar ideologies, it was not under Klan jurisdiction that the assassination plot was carried out and thus they should be allowed to actively recruit in the area despite the fact that their actions completely contradict what Dr. King stood for. It would be asinine for me to think that there would not be public outrage at the proposition of such a place being built and, if it were built, ensuing violence and chaos in the area afterward.

    Second was a short analogy made by Charles Krauthammer in an article on August 13. “And why Pope John Paul II ordered the Carmelite nuns to leave the convent they had established at Auschwitz. He was in no way devaluing their heartfelt mission to pray for the souls of the dead. He was teaching them a lesson in respect: This is not your place; it belongs to others. However pure your voice, better to let silence reign.”

  10. To the big problem here is that we have no clear definition of what “church” or “religion” means. To have a legal separation of church and state implies that we know what those words actually mean.

    We DO have a clear definition of State. But, arguments like the one about the KKK are only valid if we allow them Religious status (separate from Christianity proper).

    We could be truly narrow and only allow the “big 5” religions any rights in this regard – Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. But, even then we’d be opening up the door to defining which interpretations of those religions are “valid”.

    Becoming a recognized religion in America is rather easy. And it affords you a substantial number of rights that are not available to other organizations – even if these other non-religious organizations have the same moral and ethical teachings.

    So, (to get back to the point) if we want to do a comparison check between the new Mosque and a similar situation – Oklahoma, KKK, etc – then we’re stuck in murky water. Is it a proper analogy to link the KKK to Islam? Is the KKK a religion, or even a proper subset of Christianity?

    If so, then we can make the analogy and be fine. If not, then the analogy is invalid. Similarly with McVeigh. Is he a Christian, was he representing Christianity?

    Are Muslims who blow up buildings REALLY Muslims? If McVeigh isn’t really a Christian, then we can certainly make the case that Terrorist Muslims may not be REAL Muslims … can’t we?

    Murky water.

    For my part, I’m all for the Mosque. I think there’s a clear distinction that has to be made between terrorists who USE religion as a post-hoc justification for political violence and the religions practitioners at large.

    The percentages just don’t add up. Only the tiniest fraction of “Muslims” go around blowing themselves up. And a very reasoned argument can be made (and has been made by many Muslims) that these nuts are not at all really Muslims.

    Building the mosque is like putting the word out that those maniacs are NOT a part of “our” group – the group of reasonable people who DON’T go around blowing people up. Those nuts may use “our” religions to justify themselves, but they are wrong, they are not “us”, and we won’t aid them in their insanity by allowing them to continue to do so.

    Just because you call yourself something does not make you that something.

  11. Good thoughts, saij.

    Still…building that close to Ground Zero is unnecessary to accomplish evangelism and bridge-building. While we should try not to judge all Muslims by the acts of a few, we can certainly get the measure of each by their own actions. In this case, the desire of the mosque group to build there and now tells me something about how much that group really cares about others, and it is not positive. No one is arguing Constitutional rights. It’s simple manners, and the mosque group is not showing any.

    Also, there is no guarantee this mosque will be the bastion of peace and goodness everyone claims it to be. What will be their policy on women? Jews? Gays? Israel? Christians? Freedom of speech? Where is their funding coming from? Just sayin’ we should not assume it’s the Vulcans building an embassy on earth.

    Impress Americans: don’t build there…build a great facility elsewhere in New York City…then be a VOCAL bastion of peaceful Islam. Their credibility and reputation would skyrocket.

  12. Pingback: The Sunday Stack Up #1 | Sapien Games

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