Tag Archives: Mosque

The Back-to-School Five-Posts-in-One Sale

8 Sep

A few articles for you to take a look at and consider:

1. Chris Collins is a plucky, stubborn sort who likes to “run government like a business that tells everyone to go fuck themselves and take me to court if you don’t like it.”  The Buffalo News scores his head-butting so far.  I suspect that the Collins administration acts as a sort of real-life example of what a Paladino governorship might look like.  A lot of tough, obnoxious talk – a lot of demonization of enemies both real and imagined – efforts to change things through confrontation and litigation, rather than compromise – and in the end, not very much really ends up changing.  We’d not be changing the game – just the way we play it.

2. NYPA is to keep in WNY more money from energy generated in WNY. This is a good thing. Specifically, the proceeds of NYPA’s sale of unused hydro power would go into a fund to help economic development in Erie and Niagara Counties.  Predictably, there is disagreement as to how much money we’re really talking about.  The consensus seems to be that it’s “a lot”.

3.  In Artvoice, Bruce Fisher wonders why it is that the Buffalo Niagara Partnership – what passes for our local “chamber of commerce” and is charged with, among other things, attracting businesses to this region – talks about how badly it sucks here with such regularity.  His conclusion:

If neutral outside observers praise our cultural, architectural, and landscape fabric, and also praise our cost-effectiveness, and note that there is positive economic growth even as our population shrinks, and that there could be more if we clean up our water, then why is the messaging from our business community so relentlessly negative?

The answer, simply, is that there are two economies here. There is real economy of the producer, the consumer, the merchant, and the much-maligned public sector; the latter, all told, constitutes about one-fifth of the workforce and the payroll. That’s the economy that seems to work positively.

And then there is the economy of those in the business world here who live by the big public project—the bankers and their various support personnel, the engineering and construction firms, and about 3,000 workers (out of a regional workforce of over 550,000) whose leading voices tell this community that massive, disruptive change is needed, or else, as the Partnership’s bow-tied leader recently said, we should all move to Florida, which is the home of America’s most enormous object lesson in what happens when you turn the economy over to real-estate developers and bankers.

I don’t agree with everything Fisher says in his piece, nor with his breakdown of, essentially “good” and “bad” development in Buffalo, and I think he’s ignoring the pervasive and disproportionately strong influence that the big-money foundations have in this community and what gets done here, but it’s a thought-provoking piece, nonetheless.

4. While the commander of American forces in Afghanistan practically begs some asshat in Florida to not hold “burn a Koran day” on September 11th because it’s sort of pissing off the 100% Muslim population of American-occupied Afghanistan, Feisel Abdul Rauf writes in the New York Times in defense of the Park51 community center planned for a site a few blocks away from New York’s World Trade Center site.  The protestations against Park51 stink like an anti-Muslim Kristallnacht more and more each day.

5. The New York Times conducts an “analysis” into Carl Paladino’s status as a big-time Albany insider who likes to play a game of make-believe about being an apolitical tea party activist rich guy.  Seems similar to the analysis done by writers at WNYMedia.net back in March and April.

Michael Bloomberg on Freedom

3 Aug
World trade center new york city from hudson c...
Image via Wikipedia

Neither puking hatred or semi-informed emotion – it is words like these that remind us what it means to be an American.

“We have come here to Governors Island to stand where the earliest settlers first set foot in New Amsterdam, and where the seeds of religious tolerance were first planted. We’ve come here to see the inspiring symbol of liberty that, more than 250 years later, would greet millions of immigrants in the harbor, and we come here to state as strongly as ever – this is the freest City in the world. That’s what makes New York special and different and strong.

“Our doors are open to everyone – everyone with a dream and a willingness to work hard and play by the rules. New York City was built by immigrants, and it is sustained by immigrants – by people from more than a hundred different countries speaking more than two hundred different languages and professing every faith. And whether your parents were born here, or you came yesterday, you are a New Yorker.

“We may not always agree with every one of our neighbors. That’s life and it’s part of living in such a diverse and dense city. But we also recognize that part of being a New Yorker is living with your neighbors in mutual respect and tolerance. It was exactly that spirit of openness and acceptance that was attacked on 9/11.

“On that day, 3,000 people were killed because some murderous fanatics didn’t want us to enjoy the freedom to profess our own faiths, to speak our own minds, to follow our own dreams and to live our own lives.

“Of all our precious freedoms, the most important may be the freedom to worship as we wish. And it is a freedom that, even here in a City that is rooted in Dutch tolerance, was hard-won over many years. In the mid-1650s, the small Jewish community living in Lower Manhattan petitioned Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant for the right to build a synagogue – and they were turned down.

“In 1657, when Stuyvesant also prohibited Quakers from holding meetings, a group of non-Quakers in Queens signed the Flushing Remonstrance, a petition in defense of the right of Quakers and others to freely practice their religion. It was perhaps the first formal, political petition for religious freedom in the American colonies – and the organizer was thrown in jail and then banished from New Amsterdam.

“In the 1700s, even as religious freedom took hold in America, Catholics in New York were effectively prohibited from practicing their religion – and priests could be arrested. Largely as a result, the first Catholic parish in New York City was not established until the 1780’s – St. Peter’s on Barclay Street, which still stands just one block north of the World Trade Center site and one block south of the proposed mosque and community center.

“This morning, the City’s Landmark Preservation Commission unanimously voted not to extend landmark status to the building on Park Place where the mosque and community center are planned. The decision was based solely on the fact that there was little architectural significance to the building. But with or without landmark designation, there is nothing in the law that would prevent the owners from opening a mosque within the existing building. The simple fact is this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship.

“The government has no right whatsoever to deny that right – and if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question – should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here. This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions, or favor one over another.

The World Trade Center Site will forever hold a special place in our City, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves – and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans – if we said ‘no’ to a mosque in Lower Manhattan.

“Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11 and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values – and play into our enemies’ hands – if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists – and we should not stand for that.

“For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetime – as important a test – and it is critically important that we get it right.

“On September 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked ‘What God do you pray to?’ ‘What beliefs do you hold?’

“The attack was an act of war – and our first responders defended not only our City but also our country and our Constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very Constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights – and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.

“Of course, it is fair to ask the organizers of the mosque to show some special sensitivity to the situation – and in fact, their plan envisions reaching beyond their walls and building an interfaith community. By doing so, it is my hope that the mosque will help to bring our City even closer together and help repudiate the false and repugnant idea that the attacks of 9/11 were in any way consistent with Islam. Muslims are as much a part of our City and our country as the people of any faith and they are as welcome to worship in Lower Manhattan as any other group. In fact, they have been worshipping at the site for the better part of a year, as is their right.

“The local community board in Lower Manhattan voted overwhelming to support the proposal and if it moves forward, I expect the community center and mosque will add to the life and vitality of the neighborhood and the entire City.

“Political controversies come and go, but our values and our traditions endure – and there is no neighborhood in this City that is off limits to God’s love and mercy, as the religious leaders here with us today can attest.”

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Facts are Fun

30 Jul

Courtesy of Andrew Sullivan:

As a Jewish American, I am offended by Newt Gingrich’s suggestion that use the name of Córdoba by Muslims is insulting to non-Muslims. The height of Muslim rule the Iberian Peninsula, the rule of the Caliphate of Córdoba, was also the height of Jewish culture in Spain. It was the decline of the Caliphate of Córdoba that began the end of tolerance of Jews in the Muslim-ruled parts of the Iberian Peninsula. Nevertheless, it was not until Christian rule was established over the entire Iberian Peninsula in 1492 that there was a concerted effort to eliminate the existence of Jews and Judaism in every part of Spain.

Gingrich seems most offended by the fact that the Mosque of Córdoba was established on the grounds of a former church. He failed to mention that the church in question was purchased for the purpose of constructing a mosque on the site. Those who later converted the mosque into a cathedral were not so kind as to offer payment.

I agree with Gingrich that churches and synagogues should be allowed to operate from within Saudia Arabia. However, I am of the opinion that this should not be a pre-requisite for religious freedom in the United States. I was under the impression that the United States considered democracy and freedom of religion to be core principles, not privileges to be used as bargaining chips.

You’re entitled to your opinion.

You’re not entitled to your own facts.

Deep Thought: Muezzin Edition

28 Jul

The Park51 “Mosque” nontroversy is a convenient distraction, enabling Rick Lazio and Carl Paladino to out-demagogue each other on how much they hate the killer Moslems. In the meantime, upstate New York loses people by the truckload and has endured a decades-long malaise thanks to a lack of vision and leadership.

Hatred has become only thing separating New York Republicans from New York Democrats.

Hatred of All Muslims: A Fringe Republican Platform Plank, On the Air in Buffalo

27 Jul

Yesterday, a rabid Islamophobe appeared on a local Islamophobe’s radio show. We all know this guy – his name in German means, perhaps appropriately enough, “little peasant”. He enjoys his cats and gardening. He hates Obama, thinks all liberals are insane, thinks that the government ought to be overthrown, and hates nothing more than the second-largest religion in the world. His guest yesterday is just as stupid.

He hates that religion and its adherents because a very small minority of people who practice it are terrorists and seek to murder Westerners, especially Jews in the West and also in Israel. He also enjoys pointing out that liberals who stand up for things that he considers to be quaint anachronisms – things like “freedom” and the “Constitution” – don’t criticize some of the Islamic customs and laws that subjugate women. The little peasant, however, ignores that Sharia law is not applicable to non-Muslims, and cannot be imposed upon them, either, unless one lives in an Islamic theocracy. Luckily, we live in a secular democratic republic – not a theocracy. So no religion’s laws can involuntarily control anyone’s life.

The little peasant and his guest went on and on about how the proposed Cordoba House community center/mosque set to be built two blocks from Ground Zero – a project that is overwhelmingly supported by the Mayor of New York City and the surrounding residents – is a criminal “triumphal” mosque and and affront to decency, democracy, etc. Their point of view is supported and echoed by the two Republican candidates for Governor of the State of New York, who are tripping over each other to see who can use stronger language to heap scorn and hatred upon not just that project, but Islam generally.

The “mosque” nontroversy is emblematic of a recent rise in Islamophobia. Thanks to 9/11, it is socially acceptable in certain circle to say things about Muslims that are not dissimilar to the race-baiting lies spread during 1930s Germany about Jews. There are a billion and a half Muslims on this planet, and a miniscule number of them advocate for any kind of holy war against Christians, Jews, or the West.

We can easily demonize the governments of places like Iran, but anyone who recalls last year’s green revolution also recalls the overwhelming desire that the participants in that revolution had for a normal life in a normal country. Because that’s what most people want – a normal life in a normal place.

Why is it that this rise in Islamophobia has occurred, and become more vocal and prevalent in recent weeks or months? TPM’s Josh Marshall originally wrote that it might be war fatigue, but I don’t buy that.

Instead, I agree what a TPM reader wrote here – that George W. Bush was very careful not to demonize all of Islam in the wake of 9/11 and during the Iraq war. The war was against al Qaeda and Islamic terrorism. Against Saddam Hussein and the insurgency. He always was responsible enough to maintain that Islam as a religion, as a culture, was not our enemy and would not be made to be.

Now that George W. Bush is gone from office, gone from politics, the radical hate wing of the Republican Party is free to spew the most vicious anti-Muslim lies it wants with impunity. Anyone who dares oppose these shriekers is labeled an apologist for terrorism and misogyny.

The weak, feckless excuse for “leadership” in the Republican Party / Tea Party has enabled the vicious Muslim-baiters to spew whatever reckless hatred they want, and there’s no one to stop them. The little peasant – who doesn’t understand the irony inherent in criticizing the “mainstream media” on the most-listened-to talk radio show on the biggest AM station in the Buffalo-Niagara region – is at the forefront of the local effort to paint all Muslims as al Qaeda sleeper agents, machetes at the ready to kill your family, and burqa on hand to cover your women.

Yesterday’s cavalcade of hate spewed on the little peasant’s show was not just factually ignorant, but ultimately irresponsible. In a normal world, the community would come to the defense of the overwhelmingly normal, law-abiding Muslim community living and working among us in Western New York. In this world, we get Cheektowaga septuagenarians calling in to see if they can out-hate the octogenarian Muslim hater who just called in from Tonawanda.

Feelings.

20 Jul

Brian responds disapprovingly to my post about the anti-Muslim bigotry that seems to be more important to Rick Lazio and Carl Paladino than the Bill of Rights to the Constitution. He says that the Cordoba House “can” be built, but disagrees over whether it “should”.

Pundit starts with a fabulous quote from lightning rod Sarah Palin, and continues with a list of “bigot” politicians. Choosing to start a discussion with a list of the hot-button politicians who support (or refudiate) something is an excellent tactic for missing the point. It gets everyone riled up (39 comments and counting), instantly dividing everyone into camps who can safely retreat to their talking points and name calling, but never gets to the heart of issue. Lazio! Palin! Paladino! Horse Sex! Please. Labeling everyone who opposes the building a Islamic prayer center at that site a bigot or hater of the Constitution is just lazy. Let’s see if we can all take a breath for a second.

Commenting about politics and politicians is what I do. I don’t really care if Joey the longshoreman shows up to the public hearing to rail against Muslims. I do care when people angling to be the leader of all New Yorkers do so. The heart of the issue is the fact that there are, in this day and age, politicians who still feel comfortable exploiting ethnic, racial, or religious differences for political gain. I call it bigotry because if not that, it’s just opportunistic cynicism. Finally, I didn’t mention horse sex, and I didn’t “label everyone who opposes the building … a bigot or hater of the Constitution.” So, who’s calling whom lazy?

Can Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf and his Sufi organization (a very very different form of Islam from even mainstream Islam, much less the hate-filled brand practiced by Al Qaeda and jihadist groups in Pakistan) build a mosque/cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero? Of course it can. But should it? That’s a different question.

In America we focus on the Can and not the Should. The Constitution and (specifically) the Bill of Rights provide us a sturdy six sided box of protections. Within the box, you are free to do as you choose. You can say what you want, be what religion you want, get what job you want, and build what you want, on your own land, within building codes. But why must we thrash about in the box, with no regard for others, as violently as possible? Some say we are our most American when we constantly test the limits of the box. Perhaps, but not the parts we should be most proud of. Let me argue for a bit of temperance, empathy, and taste.

Realizing that Brian isn’t your typical mouth-breathing right-winger, I’ll exclude him from my observation that right-wingers are the first to mock political correctness as bleeding heart liberalism run amok. I don’t understand the objection to what amounts to an Islamic YMCA. As I pointed out in my post, there are myriad religious structures and organizations within a few blocks of what used to be the World Trade Center site. Manhattan isn’t a place that enjoys Buffalo’s sprawl – where you can just get Benderson to cut down some cornfields and build you a brand-new plaza.

If the organization wanted a location in lower Manhattan, which is shaped like an arrowhead, it’s somewhat unavoidable that it will be near the World Trade Center. How many blocks would be acceptable, Brian? If two blocks is too much, would four blocks do? Five? Six? What arbitrary and capricious line shall we draw in terms of not trampling on people’s feelings?

Furthermore, while Brian admits that the Islamic group that wants to build this project isn’t even remotely close to the ideology of the expansionist al Qaeda terrorists who committed 9/11, he backhandedly equates them by stating that it would be better to succumb to ignorance, and choose a different spot out of a concern for others’ feelings. Since when did people’s feelings trump Constitutional freedoms, anyway? Apart from the fact that these people pray to a different God, in a different way, in a different direction, read a different book, and follow different religious rules, what possible objection is there to this?

If we’re talking about showing due respect to 9/11, then I answer (1) Muslims died in 9/11 – why is their faith excluded from any discussion of that tragedy, except as scapegoats? (2) There are several strip clubs within a couple of blocks of 9/11. Shall we close those, too? Is the World Trade Center site to become a downtown Vatican City? Purity cleansing New York’s density and diversity?

What is in bad taste about just another building in a city full of buildings? An Islamic cultural center in a city full of Muslims?

Simply because it is legal and allowable to do something, doesn’t mean it is sensitive to do so. In a civilized society we should be able to empathize with the whole and not just concentrate on what I am able to do now. Placing a symbol of the motivating force behind a terrible act of violence at the scene of that violence is legal, but distasteful. Protestants should not build a new church (even a Unitarian Universalist one) at the site of the Bloody Sunday Massacre in Northern Ireland, or on top of the ex-home of a killed abortion provider. The Japanese should not put it’s consulate near Pearl Harbor. Confederate flags should not be flown near sites of lynchings of African-Americans in the South. This project’s organizer’s tin ear is Constitutional, but unfortunate. Someday it would be wonderful if the Carnegie Center for Peace wanted to establish a center for communion and understanding in Baghdad . . . but maybe it shouldn’t be in Abu Ghraib. Such decisions, while not legally binding, show a sensitivity this project lacks.

You see this as a religious provocation. In all of your examples, it represents rubbing one’s nose in. Why didn’t you include a neo-Nazi rally at Auschwitz, or al Qaeda opening up a murder stand in Battery Park City?

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that there are probably tens of thousands of Muslims who live or work within walking distance of this Cordoba House – the group that is proposing to build a cultural center / YMCA two blocks from what used to be the World Trade Center. Do they insult the sanctity of the World Trade Center site by having the constitutional audacity of living their lives nearby? You treat this as if al Qaeda was proposing to build a monument of grenades in the shape of an extended middle finger on the site of the World Trade Center mass murder. Yet you already acknowledged that this group is nothing at all like al Qaeda, except that they all call themselves Muslims.

I protest this development not out of bigotry, and the whole Islamic faith is not a scapegoat here. The 19 hijackers were Arab, but this is not a protest against an Arab cultural center. The 19 hijackers were men, but there is not a protest against the men’s portion of the health club. This is not the cudgel of ignorance seeking a target. Let’s be honest here – could President Bush even spell “jihad” before 9/11? The Islamic faith is the sticking point because the 19 hijackers not only self-identified as Muslim, but they used that faith as sole justification of their horrific actions. They did not attack for money, race, or politics, particularly (though the line between faith and politics is not at all clear in orthodox Islam). Simply calling all terrorists crazy, or extremists, and sticking one’s head in the sand, out of a misguided sense of acceptance or understanding, to ignore that basic truth does a disservice to our understanding of history, and removes a key relevant fact from the story of what happened at Ground Zero to all victims of all faiths. The brand of Islam that motivated the hijackers may bear little resemblance to the Sufi version of the Cordoba House organizers. But a whitewash serves no one. This is why an Islamic Cultural Center stirs such emotion, when other projects would not.

One could argue that the 19 hijackers attacked out of a retarded bastardization of the Muslim faith – one where all Jews and Christians must be eliminated to make way for the next Caliphate. That’s not religion, that’s political. And protest as much as you want, but by making this plea for “empathy” you do equate the Cordoba House with al Qaeda solely because the former is a Muslim human enrichment organization, and the latter is a Muslim terrorist organization.

You don’t link the thread between:

I protest this development not out of bigotry, and the whole Islamic faith is not a scapegoat here … The brand of Islam that motivated the hijackers may bear little resemblance to the Sufi version of the Cordoba House organizers. But a whitewash serves no one. This is why an Islamic Cultural Center stirs such emotion, when other projects would not.

and this:

The Islamic faith is the sticking point because the 19 hijackers not only self-identified as Muslim, but they used that faith as sole justification of their horrific actions.

In other words, even though you’re enlightened enough to realize that the Cordoba House isn’t even remotely the same thing as al Qaeda, and even though all Muslims shouldn’t be relegated to second-class citizen status thanks to al Qaeda, in this particular instance you’re going to lump them all together and make them second-class citizens because people more ignorant than you will be offended, their feelings hurt.

Maybe – just maybe – it’s time for people who aren’t ignorant to stand up for not being ignorant. Maybe it’s time to explain to our less informed brethren that no, not all Muslims are terrorists and Islam didn’t attack the US on 9/11 (neither did Saddam Hussein), but al Qaeda did. And al Qaeda isn’t Cordoba House, regardless of which direction they pray in, or how many times per day.

I protest this development out of a sense of the liberal (small “l”) ideals of tolerance, empathy to the victims and families, decency, and taste. I’m sure there are many Muslims in downtown Manhattan in need of this center. Those Muslims are not to blame, from their faith alone, for 9/11. They did nothing wrong. But that doesn’t mean the new center has to be two blocks from Ground Zero. Build it somewhere else.

There is nothing indecent or distasteful about a religious organization in a dense and diverse city choosing a location for a non-confrontational, non-terroristic cultural/sports facility in that city’s financial district. Part of the beauty of New York and New Yorkers is that they all live side-by-side, not really giving a crap whether so-and-so is Muslim or Jewish or Christian, because the city welcomes everyone from everywhere.

To oppose this project because of the organizers’ faith is to equate them with al Qaeda, your protestations to the contrary notwithstanding. When ignorant politicians rile up the ignorant to score political points, I’m not being lazy. What’s lazy is to argue that we should succumb to the prejudices of the ignorant, rather than making the effort to educate and inform them.

Here’s a video that was produced to inflame the passions and feelings of the ignorant. It includes the line that this “13-story mosque” “on Ground Zero” and that “that mosque is a monument to their victory, and an invitation to war”. It’s got 244 thousand views, and was featured by Andrew Breitbart.

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Now tell me that this isn’t about ignorance and bigotry.

The Difference Between Can and Should

19 Jul

Alan wrote today on the controversy surrounding the building of a mosque/prayer site/learning center/conference hall near Ground Zero in downtown Manhattan, beating me to the punch. Consider our views dissimilar.

Pundit starts with a fabulous quote from lightning rod Sarah Palin, and continues with a list of “bigot” politicians. Choosing to start a discussion with a list of the hot-button politicians who support (or refudiate) something is an excellent tactic for missing the point. It gets everyone riled up (39 comments and counting), instantly dividing everyone into camps who can safely retreat to their talking points and name calling, but never gets to the heart of issue. Lazio! Palin! Paladino! Horse Sex! Please. Labeling everyone who opposes the building a Islamic prayer center at that site a bigot or hater of the Constitution is just lazy. Let’s see if we can all take a breath for a second.

Can Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf and his Sufi organization (a very very different form of Islam from even mainstream Islam, much less the hate-filled brand practiced by Al Qaeda and jihadist groups in Pakistan) build a mosque/cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero? Of course it can. But should it? That’s a different question.

In America we focus on the Can and not the Should. The Constitution and (specifically) the Bill of Rights provide us a sturdy six sided box of protections. Within the box, you are free to do as you choose. You can say what you want, be what religion you want, get what job you want, and build what you want, on your own land, within building codes. But why must we thrash about in the box, with no regard for others, as violently as possible? Some say we are our most American when we constantly test the limits of the box. Perhaps, but not the parts we should be most proud of. Let me argue for a bit of temperance, empathy, and taste.

Simply because it is legal and allowable to do something, doesn’t mean it is sensitive to do so. In a civilized society we should be able to empathize with the whole and not just concentrate on what I am able to do now. Placing a symbol of the motivating force behind a terrible act of violence at the scene of that violence is legal, but distasteful. Protestants should not build a new church (even a Unitarian Universalist one) at the site of the Bloody Sunday Massacre in Northern Ireland, or on top of the ex-home of a killed abortion provider. The Japanese should not put it’s consulate near Pearl Harbor. Confederate flags should not be flown near sites of lynchings of African-Americans in the South. This project’s organizer’s tin ear is Constitutional, but unfortunate. Someday it would be wonderful if the Carnegie Center for Peace wanted to establish a center for communion and understanding in Baghdad . . . but maybe it shouldn’t be in Abu Ghraib. Such decisions, while not legally binding, show a sensitivity this project lacks.

I protest this development not out of bigotry, and the whole Islamic faith is not a scapegoat here. The 19 hijackers were Arab, but this is not a protest against an Arab cultural center. The 19 hijackers were men, but there is not a protest against the men’s portion of the health club. This is not the cudgel of ignorance seeking a target. Let’s be honest here – could President Bush even spell “jihad” before 9/11? The Islamic faith is the sticking point because the 19 hijackers not only self-identified as Muslim, but they used that faith as sole justification of their horrific actions. They did not attack for money, race, or politics, particularly (though the line between faith and politics is not at all clear in orthodox Islam). Simply calling all terrorists crazy, or extremists, and sticking one’s head in the sand, out of a misguided sense of acceptance or understanding, to ignore that basic truth does a disservice to our understanding of history, and removes a key relevant fact from the story of what happened at Ground Zero to all victims of all faiths. The brand of Islam that motivated the hijackers may bear little resemblance to the Sufi version of the Cordoba House organizers. But a whitewash serves no one. This is why an Islamic Cultural Center stirs such emotion, when other projects would not.

I protest this development out of a sense of the liberal (small “l”) ideals of tolerance, empathy to the victims and families, decency, and taste. I’m sure there are many Muslims in downtown Manhattan in need of this center. Those Muslims are not to blame, from their faith alone, for 9/11. They did nothing wrong. But that doesn’t mean the new center has to be two blocks from Ground Zero. Build it somewhere else.

When Bigotry Trumps the Constitution

19 Jul

Under the Establishment Clause, if a government bans the construction of a mosque – it’s really not any more a mosque than the YMCA or YWCA or the JCC are churches or temples – at 51 Park Place because of its supposed proximity to the World Trade Center site in New York City, then there can be no religious structures or monuments of any kind within that same radius. (That means you, St Paul’s & St. Nicholas! Bye-bye, Y! And other Y!) That prohibition, however, would be violative of the Free Exercise clause.

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Therefore, Rick Lazio and Carl Paladino think that anti-Muslim bigotry is more important than the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Put another way, to Rick Lazio and Carl Paladino, being a bigot is more important than being an American. It’s good to know that an unemployed woman from Wasilla, Alaska knows what’s best for Manhattan. Refudiate!