Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Ground Zero Mosque

I was reading through this week's Economist magazine (8/7-8/13) and came upon one of my favorite sections: Lexington (though I think the obituaries are the best written pieces in the whole mag). Lexington is an article that highlights an important topic that's prowling through the American scene. This week the title of the piece is Build that Mosque. We all know the mosque they are talking about - the Ground Zero Mosque. I read through the article (and I suggest everyone do so) and my opinion has shifted a bit.

First, I want clarify our terms. There has been some discussion whether the building is a mosque or a community center. There is a mosque in the building. Muslims will be worshipping there. Is it a monster mosque? No. Godzilla would not confuse the building for Mothra or King Ghidorah. Here are some other facilities that will be in the building.

•fitness facilities (swimming pool, gym, basketball court)
•a 500-seat auditorium
•a restaurant and culinary school
•cultural amenities including exhibitions
•education programs
•a library and art studios
•childcare services
•dedicated meditation rooms

Here is a link to the Park51 site.

To the right is a diagram of Park51 in relation to neighboring buildings. It does not tower over them. Also the map shows where the mosque will be placed in relation to the World Trade Center (here is the link to the New York Times piece).

In the beginning (sorry for the Goddy sounding lingo) I had a negative visceral reaction to the idea of a mosque going up on Ground Zero. Hell, in Andy's perfect world there wouldn't be any new mosques, churches, or synagogues.  We obviously don't live in such a divine place. Placing a mosque there just seemed insensitive and... well stupid. In terms of insensitivity, placing a mosque there would be like the US placing a Yay! America Kicks Ass! monument that plays the Star Spangled Banner several times a day at Ground Zero in Hiroshima, Japan. I was also trying to see the issue from the point of view of  moderate US Muslims.  Should members of our faith go about provoking the majority of Americans for no good reason? Why would moderate Muslims support more bad PR (I know I cringe when an Atheist makes the news by doing something imprudent).

However, at no point did I think that the building of the mosque should be stopped.

I'm an American and I think part of the job description is that I'm in the rights business. No, not the political right rather human rights. Though not being a Constitutional scholar, I am pretty sure people do not have a right to be free from irritation. Nope there is no amendment guaranteeing the right not to be peeved.  Do gay people give you the heebie-geebies? Too bad. Don't like my Atheist bumper sticker? Suck it up. That mosque two blocks away from Ground Zero? Sorry.

After reading the article my thoughts have changed. The writer stresses that America has done a good job (basically) with incorporating its Muslim population. By doing such a good job the Muslim extremists are marginalized. Bush the Younger (please keep your boos to a minimum) did state over and over again that the US is at war with extremists and not with Islam itself. By allowing Park51 (the mosque) to be built the government continues that message. The pragmatic side of me agrees with this point. When in a fight a person (or country) should get as many friends as possible while peeling as many potential enemies into a neutral corner. Don't get me wrong Islam is a violent faith (like Christianity and Judaism) but we would all agree that it is wrong to lump all Muslims into one category. Not all Muslims want to fly airplanes into our buildings. Building the mosque near Ground Zero will increase American security and not undermine it by reinforcing our key value: E pluribus unum (Out of many one).

The unfortunate aspect of this discussion is that we are about to enter the full blown election season - cool heads and rational thought are typically the first casualties.

But you already know that.

You live...

in Purgatory.


  1. Am I the only one who thinks this is a big brouhaha over "nothing"?

  2. Trace, no you are not. There was a discussion on NPR about this when the issue was first brought up. They talked about all the things said above and that was when my position, that it's silly to stop this construction, was solidified. We have to be careful about the whole freedoms and rights vs. using those for hate. Now, if this was going to be an extreme training camp for terrorists, then of course they have no right to build it. But it simply isn't that. Go ahead, build it. It sounds like a nice place to be honest!

    Andy, I'm not sure if you did this on purpose or not: "Hell, in Andy's perfect world there wouldn't be any new mosques, churches, or synagogues. We obviously don't live in such a DIVINE* place." (emphasis mine). A place without traditional divinity, divine, lol ;p

  3. "But you already that."

    I just accidentally my ass off. :P

  4. Ditto that. Initially I had the same gut reaction as all the fear-mongers. But now I support it for pragmatic reasons as well as in keeping with the fundamental right to worship (or not worship) however one pleases.

  5. I would say stop building any new mosques, churches, synagogues and etc until all of them come up with empirical evidence about what they claim. In the meantime, they can be persecuted for mass indoctrinations.

    But for your argument, I do not know how laws work over there but usually in a civil society these kinds of decisions made in town hall with participation of society. at the end of the day, they have to live by their decisions. If they make a decision against the law, of ocurse courts will reverse the decision.

    Btw, an Iranian American Muslim victim of 9/11 attack wrote this article about it.

  6. This is Newsweek's cover story this week, and I've been having a hard time even forming an opinion on the issue because, like you say, in an ideal world there wouldn't even be any mosques (or churhces, synagogues, etc.) I think your post has helped me gain some perspective on the issue though...


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