The Insanity of the Ground Zero Mosque Debate

The proposed location of the “ground zero” mosque in lower Manhattan.

I saw a Facebook group today that took irony to a whole new level. It read “I’m flying this [American] flag to oppose the Muslim worship center at Ground Zero.” There were then options to deny or to support their position by adding an American flag icon to your profile. Unfortunately there was no “I can’t believe you’re serious” button because I would have clicked that. The great irony is that the American flag represents the very thing this Facebook group is against.

Of course the mosque in question is actually an Islamic community center, and it won’t be built at Ground Zero. It’s proposed to be developed two blocks away.  The developers are all American citizens, led by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who worked with the Bush Administration on Muslim outreach. But if proximity to the site is an issue, do critics of the mosque care that there is also a strip club two blocks away from Ground Zero? As for the actual Ground Zero site, and by that I mean literally the below-grade development in the existing footprint of the former World Trade Center towers, it’s going to be a huge 55,000 square foot retail center. A shopping mall. Is there a more offensive use of this tragic and hallowed spot than a giant profit center? And yet we hear a roaring silence about that.

Thankfully, we have a constitution to handle these kind of messes. The 1st Amendment seems pretty clear to me: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Some people will kick and scream about that. They already are. But if it was their faith being told to literally move away, would they go quietly into the night? I think part of the reason for all this protest is that people often want to distance, suppress and limit the things we don’t understand. But the truth is we can’t convert people through force, or pressure, or intimidation. It just doesn’t work. Those things only breed resentment and eventually retaliation.

Some folks would argue that a kind of force is exactly what the Islamic  Community center near Ground Zero represents. Seattle area (and my church’s) pastor Richard Dahlstrom phrased a portion of his concerns as follows:  “Why are you planning on doing this near the site where America’s greatest mainland catastrophe occurred at the hands of your religion’s worst fanaticism? If you’re trying to build bridges with the American people, this is an absurd strategy. It feels a bit, ‘in your face’, like running up the score when you’re already winning. Bad form.”

I couldn’t disagree with him more on that (though the rest of his post is not what you’re probably expecting, and I recommend it). Our decisions as Americans should derive from our greatest national values (liberty, intellectual curiosity and coexistence)  not our worst (suspicion, distrust and fear). We ought to take it as a compliment that the Islamic community center even wants to build there! Because by doing so, they are saying that they want to be understood, want to be seen, and want to be welcomed (and I’ll bet you, to welcome). They’re also saying to the rest of us that they believe in us, and believe that we can still bother to be a people of distinctions.  Because Islam did not attack us on 9/11, religious fanatics did. It’s the same reason why we don’t go demanding the closure of Christian churches in an area when a nutcase blows up an abortion clinic in the name of Jesus. You don’t have to agree or even support the Islamic religion to recognize their right to exist. Are we secure enough in our faith (regardless of what it is) to welcome the Muslim community rather than cast them out?

The most American thing we can do is to allow for this Islamic Community Center to be built right where it’s proposed. To know that just a decade after a devastating terrorist attack, we were still strong enough to make those distinctions, and welcomed an Islamic Community Center right near the spot that led to an unfathomable amount of grief, pain and loss by a few criminals claiming to represent Islam. That would be an impressive example of what makes us different from oppressive theocratic regimes.

60 thoughts on “The Insanity of the Ground Zero Mosque Debate

  1. Ian, I am so glad you posted this. I have been listening to the radio quite a bit the past two weeks or so, and I keep waiting for it to die down. A silly blip on the horizon of all the domestic topics we could and should be talking about (financial reform failure, spoiling of our coastline by BP and how to address that going forward, unemployment, etc.) It just seems to me that an essay answer is being written for a true or false question: they have the right in America to do this. Period, end of issue. Next.

    But blowhards with agendas like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin will throw gas on the fire every few days because it gets them attention and they seem to be protecting something that really isn’t under attack at all in this case. The backers are not criminals, the local zoning board has already approved it, and all laws are being followed. What’s to keep yelling about? I thought Newt and his ilk were all about ‘local government control’. This reminds me of the Terry Schiavo canard: lets go inflame a controversy with lies and distortions and score some easy political points!

    Have the 9/11 attacks made us abandon our core principles? Are we going to continue to be puppets on a string for our enemies? We seem to react with every imagined slight. These are NOT the people we’re fighting! We’re fighting a small group of dedicated fanatics who have declared they are protecting and representing an entire religion. Since when does declaring one’s self a representative for an entire religion make it so?! I even heard one lady today on a radio call-in show declare that she ‘speaks for ALL Christians in North Carolina’ when she opposes this “mosque” (in quotes because Ian hit it right on the nose: its NOT a mosque.) How dare she! Nobody elected her, nor paid her, nor begged her to defend the entire Christian religion. It’s a sham and should be identified as one. Luckily, the show host did just that.

    Gingrich is dead wrong when he suggests we don’t allow the building of any more mosques in the US until Saudi Arabia allows churches to be built in their country. If the point of this argument were a barn, it would have to fall on his head for him to get it: that’s exactly the point, Newt, this ISN’T Saudi Arabia you pontificating blowhard, WE allow people to practice what they will here! I don’t want to live in Saudi Arabia or have American Taliban like him tell me what the rules are. They’re very clear already.

  2. I don’t believe the focus debate for this is on the constitutionality of the Islamic center to be built in the neighborhood of Ground Zero. It seems to be an issue of propriety and sensitivity. We, as American Christians, are practically tarred and feathered if we disagree with Islam, or we are not politically sensitive enough to their beliefs. On the flip side, we sit back and turn the other cheek to the constant backhanding by almost every other religious community and a large portion of the political and media communities (“no church bells”, “no talking about Jesus in schools”, “no Ten Commandments on government buildings”,”no Nativity scenes”).

    Though not all Muslims are extremests (obviously), none can deny that the terrorists were Muslims. And if moderate Muslims want to be accepted by the American populous , they should show a little more sensitivity to the areas they are moving into. Of course, we should never treat Muslims as Christians are treated in Muslim countries. No one is saying “Don’t build an Islamic Center.” People are only asking that they show a little more sensitivity to the families and friends of the 3,000 people who died at the hands of Muslims (extremest or not). You must realize that the people of New York may view this building as a sign a triumph for extemest Islam over the area. Regardless of the reason this imam wants to build there, you must see this through the eyes of the effected New Yorkers – and so should the Muslims.

    In regard to the shopping mall: It is a silly argument to say, “Is there a more offensive use of this tragic and hallowed spot than a giant profit center? And yet we hear a roaring silence about that.” Of course it’s not more offensive than Muslims building a center in the area that Muslims killed so many people. The fact that you even make such an argument in order to further your point makes me question your whole motivation.

    Muslims try extremely hard to be accepted in American society, so why would this particular group go out of their way to be insensitive to the neighborhood? Once again, this is not a question of whether or not the center would be consititutional – it obviously would be – it’s a question of sensitivity and propriety. In fact, if this overbloated debate came to a judicial decision, I would hope the judge would declare it constitutional. However, if everyone is else is required to follow the unwritten rules of American civilization, why is this particular group – at this particular time – exempt?

    • “However, if everyone is else is required to follow the unwritten rules of American civilization, why is this particular group – at this particular time – exempt?”

      Anonymous, there are plenty of unwritten rules of American society that are/have been completely unfair and/or evil. Just because the majority feels a certain way about something doesn’t mean it’s right.

      Looking back through history there are many examples of where our society had to do something that was new and made many people uncomfortable in order to progress and we are better for it.

      I would think Christians would the strongest supporters of this, because if you support discrimination based on religion, it’s only a matter of time until your rights are targeted.

      You complain about (“no church bells”, “no talking about Jesus in schools”, “no Ten Commandments on government buildings”,”no Nativity scenes”). The difference here is that those are all things run by the government. A better example would be you being prevented from building a Christian church on private property, because the non-christian neighbors were uncomfortable with it.

      You can’t have it both ways…..

      • Mo,

        That is an interesting rebuttal, but I think you mistook what I was trying to say. This has nothing to do with religious discrimination. I’m not saying “Don’t do this.” I’m only asking the Muslims to see the other side of the coin. That city went through a lot on 9/11 and the potential site builders are failing to see the other side while expecting the whole world to see their side of moderate Islam when every day we see extreme Muslims as the reason for much of the world’s hatred and murder.

        I would agree that having a majority does not automatically make something right. This has been proven time and time again. This is a very delicate case, though.

        I’m not completely sure what ‘progress’ you’re talking about. I would agree, of course, with the obvious changes to our country and amendments to our Constitution have been beneficial to our country, even if a majority or minority disagreed with them at the time; however, it’s unwise not to be specific in this. There have been things done under the guise of ‘progress’ that have turned out to be complete disasters for this country.

    • exactly. your point with neighborhood and community intolerance is point on. Blend – but then again, our MUSLIM “President” was supposed to cross all those borders and stop all racism and religious intolerance! hmm.

  3. Ian thank you so much for writing this. I will admit that two days ago I would have clicked “like” and joined the facebook group you describe because I had listened to my morning news station and jumped right on the band wagon believing this was a horrific idea.
    However, this post opened my eyes to another viewpoint. It made me jump off the bandwagon and realize that there is possibly another side to this story.
    Thank you for risking controversy and writing this post. I really enjoyed it.

  4. A convincing and well presented argument, Ian. Although you haven’t changed my opinion on this particular subject, you’ve clearly demonstrated that your debating skills and powers of persuasion are still top tier.

    You may have even convinced a part of my tiny brain of the logic of your arguments. Unfortunately my heart remains unmoved, and steadfastly against this idea. I think what my heart is having problems with is believing that their motives are all good and right and pure, and this is all just about outreach and wanting to be understood. That this really isn’t a “victory mosque” being built as close as possible to the site of what they see as their greatest blow against the infidel. But if it’s not, then why would they want to build it there knowing that’s how we infidels perceive it?

    My tiny brain also almost bought your argument that the terrorists who perpetrated the great evil of 911 no more represent Islam, then the nut case who blows up an abortion clinic represents Christianity. But then my heart pointed out the fatal flaw in that argument, that Jesus Christ was a pacifist, who’s fundamental teaching was to “love your enemy” and who abhorred the use of violence and rebuked his followers (and miraculously healed their foes) the one time they tried to defend him by force. Whilst the writings of Mohammad (to my limited understanding) condone and even advocate violence against unbelievers, and the use of force to bring the whole world to Islam and under Shiria (sp?) law. So the 911 terrorists were actually acting within the fundamental teachings of their faith, whereas the abortion bomber’s actions are diametrically opposed to their purported faith.

    So my heart has a bit of trouble believing that they are not being just a little disingenuous when they publicly speak out about peace, love, and understanding and living in harmony, and yet violence against the infidel and world domination (by force if necessary) are fundamental tenants of their faith.

    But then I’m old and cynical.

    • You are completely right about the writings and history of Mohammad. I have studied the subject quite a bit. The Koran is very specific that taking a non-believers’ life is good in the site of their god. Not to mention the perversion of gaining 72 virgins in heaven if you martyr yourself taking many innocents with you. I bet the ones who ran the jets in the twin towers still have surprised looks on their faces.
      BTW, Mohammad’s first act as leader of his new religion was raiding, robbing, and killing members of caravans around Medina.

      • Speaking of the suicide bombers getting surprised in “heaven”, apparently when the first one arrived George Washington was there to smack him up side the head with his cane while shouting “how could you do that to my country?”, followed by Thomas Jefferson and John Adams and many others. The bomber cried out “why, god, why?” and a voice answered back, “hey, I promised you eternity with seventy two Virginians”.

    • cheers CHEERS.

      The ultimate difference between Christ and mohamed ( aside from Christ being the ONLY way to heaven. The Way, The Truth, The Light …. ) is the basis of teachings.

      Christ – love thy neighbor, turn the cheek, lead a servant life, give of what you have, …..

      mohomed – kill infidels, sexual slaves in heaven as payment for good deeds, women and children sacrificed as bomb, …..

    • Jordy- thanks for working through the post and being open to it despite your views. I appreciate that you tried to moderate between what I was saying and how you feel. Very cool, even if we disagree. To address your point (and to expand to what seems to be a theme by many people posting comments here):

      Jesus is someone YOU claim, so you are directed to love your enemies, are you not? You are using Christ’s command to put an expectation on others who do not follow him while exempting yourself from that very command in this instance.

      Jordy I see what you (and others especially) are doing here in the name of Christianity as the very same thing guys like Christopher Hitchens do in the name of atheism. He takes the excesses and abuses of faith and uses that to say “see- it’s all bad.” That’s lazy and intellectually hollow and since Christians don’t like being associated with creeps who are violent in Jesus name, I would bet you the large percentage of American muslims don’t like being associated with the 9/11 terrorists. Let’s “do unto others…” here. Because regardless of people’s faith, they are individuals first. They don’t become a mindless, violent Borg-collective the moment they enter a religion you happen to dislike or consider to be dangerous. It is cynical (as you acknowledged) to assume the worst in a huge group of people, people that are in no way associated with what happened (unless charges have been filed against all Muslims in the U.S. I must’ve missed that in the news).

      Being able to make distinctions about people vs. extremists does not mean you view their religion as equal to yours, that was never the point of the post. I wouldn’t be a follower of Jesus if I thought all religions were equal, or sufficient to redeem. The point is, we take a risk to love and share grace and compassion with those we distrust, or don’t fully understand, or have reservations about, and part of that is acceptance and welcoming them into the marketplace of ideas. Yes, we may get burned for extending the olive branch, but that’s because love is risky. Christ didn’t promise us easy returns. It was never supposed to be only for those who we understand and happen to like. And I dare anyone here to argue that telling Muslims to “just move it down the road” is an act of love. Sorry, but that’s an act of moral cowardice.

      • Hey Ian.

        Thanks for letting me play.

        Specifically, my point was not that “Christians don’t like being associated with creeps who are violent in Jesus name”, but rather that those creeps are acting in a way that is the opposite of the teachings of the Jesus they purport to follow, so disassociating ourselves from them is not counterintuitive, as are Muslims who try to disassociate from violence against non believers, when violence against non believers is a fundamental tenant of their faith.

        As to your comment “It is cynical to assume the worst in a huge group of people…” I’m not assuming anything, I’m just pointing out what their religion seems to be. All the worlds other great religions (Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism to name a few) seem to me to be built around what most would consider the best of the human experience: Love, Peace, Kindness, Justice, Giving to those in need, Helping others, etc., Whereas (again by my very limited knowledge of) Islam it seems to be all about the worst of the human experience: It seems to be all about hate, conquering the world by force, killing those who resist, treating woman as property, “honor” killings of one’s own family members, so many things that anyone with even a modicum of common decency would find repulsive. I mean my goodness, they not only hate us, they seem to hate each other and regularly kill each other in the name of their religion. All of which is condoned and encouraged by the teachings they follow. Is it wrong to notice that and point it out? Am I assuming again? Is the emperor not actually naked?

  5. Interesting…..

    Agreed in the mention of the Freedoms that this Country was founded on…. Agreed on the outreach of arms to others differing in base and religion … Agreed in the collaboration of a group or groups to promote education in the direction of a majority that obviously live in the fear of the unknown or misunderstood. NOT agreed on the moral and political standpoint that this mosque MOST LIKELY is being established on.

    I would have to say that this specific debate is not simply centered on one single mosque being planned close to Ground Zero. This debate strikes close to Americans in general who watched muslim counties shouting, cheering and burning American flags when they watched or heard of the Towers falling. This argument strikes close to Veterans who held brothers dying on foreign shores to strengthen the greatness that God has given this Country. This strikes close to all that watch the disgusting display that seeps from the White House on a daily basis that strips this great Country of the specific Freedom of choice that you have mentioned in your blog.

    Local building codes, permits, local communities, and municipalities are the only restrictions that should honestly dictate whether or not this mosque is to be built. Just as a Walmart, Christian church, community park and housing development will. If the community doesnt want a mosque to be built as a certain “slap in the face” blocks to Ground Zero,

    STAND UP.

    - GO TO your community meetings – every build as this has meetings regarding community impact and your voice CAN be heard.
    - WRITE your representatives ( as much as this doesnt mean what it did 30 years ago …. ) let them know your voice and opinion.
    - BE involved. Find out the money backing this project.
    - Find out WHO is backing this project.
    - CONTACT the developer and organize community meetings to make sure that the goal specifically is outreach and education.

    The problem with the entire atmosphere of this argument is that it may not be WRONG to build a mosque so close to Ground Zero ( or a ridiculous shopping mall for that matter ) but its is definitely a blatant slap in the face to America since the BASIS OF RELIGIOUS BELIEFS brought the towers to the ground.

    Muslims have been touting tolerance – they need to tolerate the thorn-in-side symbol that this mosque will represent to America.

    • I agree with your point of view!
      It always seems to be the ones who tout tolerance, who tolerate the least.
      You bring up a great point regarding our right as citizens to oppose not only this mosque, but other buildings as well. It reminds me of the big opposition that went on in my community when Walmart decided that they wanted to surround us with yet another of their big boxes. The opposition was so great that they backed down and the store did not get built.

    • Cornelson: It’s a thorn-in-side symbol only because some Americans refuse to make distinctions. Thankfully our Muslim neighbors are not insulting us by playing to our lowest common denominator: those of us who basically say “they’re ALL dangerous or some other kind of threat” or who seem to be out for revenge in subtle ways.

      And perhaps you could go first by tolerating them without checking the score to see who’s ahead and who’s behind. Peace and reconciliation is a process of people taking small steps towards one another, and they’re proposing to take another step toward us. Are the American people going to miss our chance to step closer to them, just because we were too busy slandering them for taking a step?

      • words never fail to amaze me. you can spin and word things into phrases and sentences that sound fantastic, fanciful and true but when you actually decode them or look at their true meaning – oops. they mean nothing!

        you have no way of knowing what our muslim “neighbors” are meaning or doing since you ( or I ) have no sincere grasp on their lives and history. actions are the only true proof of what someone or a group of someone(s) stands for. the worlds’ been witnessing for thousands of years what muslims stand for. The fact that Muslim leaders do NOT come out and denounce radical actions and radical sects proves that they on some level tolerate it.

        when someone advocates peace at all cost with no “score keeping” it always makes me cringe, or laugh depending on my mood…. Ian, you advocate Biblical basis and beliefs on your “blogging”. You then should know full well that God keeps “score” with his enemies and prepares defensive postures if not downright OFFENSIVE postures against them. David, Sodom and Gamorrah, Moses leading the Jews out of Egypt, Jesus in the temple ….. there are many stories.

        Simply labeling the villian to those who raise questions is unwise and imprudent. In laymens’ terms I suppose it would simply be called Defensive Driving.

      • “The fact that Muslim leaders do NOT come out and denounce radical actions and radical sects proves that they on some level tolerate it.”

        I posted this in response to Lamont, but here it is again:

        http://www.muhajabah.com/otherscondemn.php

        I think it’s worth bearing in mind that Muslims are a small minority in this country and, coming as they do from many countries and from different sects of Islam with different leadership structures, they have no centralized authority as does, say, the Catholic Church, to speak on their behalf. So even when various Muslims condemn terrorism, their statements won’t necessarily receive enough exposure that we’ll hear about them from ordinary media outlets.

  6. My take.
    That a strip club is in the vacinity of the community center (or mosque?) could be very convenient, since it is a known fact that (a couple different times) suicide bombers visited strip clubs the night before they went off to their eternal reward. Also, there is no contradiction there for the world, since no one flew a strip club in to the WTC.
    When a person claiming to be Christian blows up an abortion clinic in the name of Christ, he is acting contrary to the Christian religion.
    When a person who claims to be a Muslim blows up a couple buildings full of people, he is acting in accord with Koranic teachings. So, why call him a fanatic?
    The Christian abortion clinic bomber did not act according to his religion. The Moslem did.
    I think it was Augustine who said…. “One should judge a philosophy by it’s content, not it’s abuses.”

    • You are exactly right and so is Jordy! I think that anybody who is defending the building of the mosque, should spend some time reading the Koran. You may be surprised at the content, but it may help you to realize that not all religions are based on the golden rule and not all the people of the earth are embracing “love thy neighbor as thy self”. Once you are aware of that, it becomes a fine line between respecting religious freedom and defending the very core principles that this country was founded on.

    • Lamont: “Also, there is no contradiction there for the world, since no one flew a strip club in to the WTC.” is a hilarious line! Good point. I was arguing against those who affirmed the “hallowed ground” aspect of Ground Zero and that nothing impure should infringe on it.

      There is nuance and different conclusions among those in the Muslim faith just like in any faith. That’s why the majority of Muslims aren’t strapping themselves to bombs. You don’t have to like their faith to recognize that fact. And you probably don’t like it when people lump all Christians in with our most extreme “representations.” Give them the same break.

      Thanks for jumping in and for coming back to the site.

      • I’m struggling to have a Christ like attitude about muslims as a whole (I know what’s required of me), on an individual basis it’s easier. The problem I see with the majority that arn’t militant, is that they’re silent.
        I think to ignore the evil is to be part of it. Maybe they fear for their lives? But maybe they just want to see their religion advanced? After all. Who doesn’t (speaking of world domination) want to be “The Winner?”
        And “Hollowed ground?” Your point didn’t excape me. It escapes the world though.
        Take care.

  7. In a departure from my typical politics, I’m against it. Don’t like some of the things the imam said implying we were partially responsible for 9/11 and partly responsible for the presence of monsters like Bin Laden. The less religion in society, the better in my mind. Or, as I could ironically put it: God bless the Establishment Clause.

  8. barb you say:

    “but it may help you to realize that not all religions are based on the golden rule and not all the people of the earth are embracing “love thy neighbor as thy self”.

    but YOU are not embracing “love thy neighbor as thy self”?

    • I am unable to relate to what I think you are implying, which is that love and boundaries are not synonymous. I hope we don’t as individuals, or as a country, say yes to something that we feel is wrong or evil. Jesus never did that. He called a spade a spade and he was the most loving person who ever lived.
      Freedom goes hand in hand with responsibility! You can’t have one without the other and I’m tired of people acting like just because you live in the good ‘ole USA, you get freedom to do whatever you want. Wrong!

      Speaking of love,what about loving the families who lost loved ones from 911? How come no one is talking about the love and respect they deserve? Shouldn’t that come first, before respecting the “rights” of Muslims who for some reason refuse to respect the sensitivity of building a mosque near ground zero? Unfortunetly, in this society, too many have remained silent, not exercising their right to say “no” and we may lose our freedoms because of that.

      • The “911″ Families are just as divided as the rest of the country. So, they cannot be dragged in as a monolithic group either.

        I also find it odd that you put the word rights in quotation marks. Even if they are insensitive they still retain their rights as American citizens; the two things are not mutually exclusive.

        And remember — its NOT a mosque. Its akin to a YMCA (a YMMA?) with a prayer room. We really should keep the terms straight rather than misconstrue them over and over.

        Do you also find it odd that there have been NO outcries from the families or surviving co-workers who work at the Pentagon and have a prayer space that includes Muslims INSIDE of the Pentagon — along with places to store their prayer rugs? And, yes, this space was built AFTER 9/11.

        One last thing, Barb, what do you mean that by people ‘not exercising their right to say ‘no’ and we may lose freedoms because of that’? What specific freedoms will we lose if this center becomes reality?

      • barb-

        First of all, I will refer you to Brian’s comment. He made a lot of the same points I was going to make and he made them well.

        You refuse to distinguish between Muslim American people and radical terrorists. It’s absolutely insane thinking, I’m sorry. Wrong or evil?!?! Do you know how utterly cruel that is to say about millions of people?! You are actually saying that millions of Muslims worldwide that live a peaceable, normal life are wrong and evil. You don’t have to agree with Islam. I don’t think that Islam is the way. I believe that Jesus is the only way to salvation. Just like you. But I have no right to judge outside the church nor do I as an American have the right to tell them what to do or where to go.

        This country is not the Christian Camelot that you dream for it to be. The Republican (and Democratic for that matter) party is not some high holy moral compass. It’s corrupt, it’s full of fear tactics and in cases like Glen Beck it’s clinically insane. To believe that because some (not all) of our founders were Christian makes us a Christian nation for all eternity is archaic and outdated. And completely irrelevant in the long run because we aren’t looking to the President or congress or our representatives to save us.

        “Freedom goes hand in hand with responsibility! You can’t have one without the other and I’m tired of people acting like just because you live in the good ‘ole USA, you get freedom to do whatever you want. Wrong!”

        Re-read what you wrote. By “you” what you mean is “them”. Because so far you (white and Christian) have enjoyed all the freedom you want. Freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of RELIGION. You just don’t want all the “others” (the scary minorities, like Muslims and homosexuals and immigrants) to have that same freedom that you have. In that case, let’s just be some facist Christian regime.

        And as long as we’re being responsible with our freedom then I think we should limit Japanese American rights as well. I mean, come on, think of how the Pearl Harbor vets feel when they see an Asian Market!

        “How come no one is talking about the love and respect they deserve? Shouldn’t that come first, before respecting the “rights” of Muslims…”

        Shouldn’t that come first?!
        Seperate yourself from your nation Barb. We follow JESUS. The King of hope, love and reconciliation.

    • Brian,
      Even though it might not be a Mosque, per say, it holds the same connotations for people since it is a Muslim center. I do not think that it is a fair comparison to a prayer room at the Pentagon. We are talking about a 13 story building looming above smaller buildings. I’ve never seen a YMCA that big, have you?
      Even though we all as Americans have the same rights, I believe the debate here is whether or not some groups are right to be exercising their rights. Hence, the quotation marks.
      “What specific freedoms will we lose if this center becomes reality?”
      I think that if the Muslim religion had it’s way, we would all become Muslim. The religion makes it pretty clear that anyone who is not a Muslim, is an infidel and an enemy. I can’t speak for individual Muslims, but that is what the Koran says. I guess I hope that the millions of Muslims who live in the US do not take most of the Koran literally.

      Lauren,

      WOW! I don’t know where to start as far as you putting words in my mouth! Obviously, I hit a nerve and you have turned this into a personal attack. I don’t think that is fair, or consistant with your words of equality for all. How come that doesn’t apply to me?
      “You refuse to distinguish between Muslim American people and radical terrorists. It’s absolutely insane thinking, I’m sorry. Wrong or evil?!?! Do you know how utterly cruel that is to say about millions of people?!”

      Where did I say this?

      Actually, we do have the right to say how we want to see things happen. We have the right to say, write, protest, preach, etc, etc. here in America! Contrary to your opinion, I believe, as citizens,we should be standing up for what we believe is right! Will our opinions be influenced by our faith? I sure hope so. I believe we should get out of our safe little Christian communities and be bold enough to stand up, and maybe not be so PC, and say “NO”, we don’t agree with a certain activity. It doesn’t mean that groups or individuals don’t have the right to enjoy freedoms, but I have just as much of a right to say it’s not ok to build a community Muslim center as they do proposing the building!!

      Speaking of minorities, I have yet to see the largest minority of all, women, receive equal treatment, whether it’s via a paycheck, in the Muslim community, or receiving respect in the workplace.

      Yes, I do have the right to judge outside the church. I think you are getting confused with judging a person’s salvation or actions, rather than judging a certain activity, or in this case a proposed building.
      “This country is not the Christian Camelot that you dream for it to be. The Republican (and Democratic for that matter) party is not some high holy moral compass “.
      I never said, or even insinuated, that it was. But I find it interesting that you think someone who would stand up for something possibly conservative, is automatically a Republican with notions of a perfect world! Newsflash…I’m not a member of the Republican party! ( I’m also not a member of any church nor have I attended church in over a year or two ..)

      As a Christian, not a citizen, if this country, or world, were perfect, where would salvation come in?
      “By “you” what you mean is “them”. Because so far you (white and Christian) have enjoyed all the freedom you want. Freedom of association, freedom of speech, freedom of RELIGION. You just don’t want all the “others” (the scary minorities, like Muslims and homosexuals and immigrants) to have that same freedom that you have. In that case, let’s just be some facist Christian regime”.

      Yah, you’re right, minorities don’t have any freedoms, especially here in Seattle!!! That’s laughable!! Let’s see…we just had hempfest, where tons of people got to smoke pot and not get arrested…then didn’t we just have a gay parade? And maybe even more protests for gay marriage? And then what about all the naked people around riding bikes or something, especially on capital hill? Come on!! It seems as though the pendulum has swung so far so fast, that you are still standing where it was when it first started the swing!!

      Actually, what I don’t want is for those scary minorities, to tell me that I can’t have the right of freedom of religion, association, speech, etc. That’s what this is really all about for me. I could care less what anyone does as long as they don’t start telling me that I need to change. If someone’s freedom of religion involves telling others that they have to believe the same way, than that freedom carries with it the responsiblility of those actions.
      As a Christian I respect the free will of everyone. Everyone has the right to accept or refuse the love of God. I do not believe the Muslim religion embraces the free will of man when it comes to choice of religion.
      A Christian should never separate themselves from their nation! That does not mean that all the laws of Christ are relevant to our non-Christian nation. But it does mean that we have a responsiblity to reflect the principles we believe in when it pertains to our country, not just when in church or with other Christians. I might not be of this world, but I live in this world and I am just as responsible for speaking out as a citizen as any other citizen.

      I fail to see how standing up for respecting the 911 families, is not separating myself from my nation? I have no idea what you are referring to here……

      I think it is you who needs to understand the differences between church and state, and your responsibilities therein. You probably will by the time you’re 54, like me :)

      • “Even though it might not be a Mosque, per say, it holds the same connotations for people since it is a Muslim center. I do not think that it is a fair comparison to a prayer room at the Pentagon. We are talking about a 13 story building looming above smaller buildings. ”

        Barb, have you ever been to New York? 13 stories in that neighborhood will loom over nothing. All of the surrounding buildings are skyscrapers. It probably won’t even be visible from a block away (or two).

        “Even though we all as Americans have the same rights, I believe the debate here is whether or not some groups are right to be exercising their rights. Hence, the quotation marks.”

        If your exercise of your rights offends someone else, then are you right or wrong? Can you say you’ve never offended anyone by exercising your rights? Would you stop exercising them if you did? I would hesitate to start that debate if I were you, because the First Amendment is useless if it doesn’t protect speech or worship that might offend or disturb someone else.

        “I think that if the Muslim religion had it’s way, we would all become Muslim. The religion makes it pretty clear that anyone who is not a Muslim, is an infidel and an enemy. I can’t speak for individual Muslims, but that is what the Koran says. I guess I hope that the millions of Muslims who live in the US do not take most of the Koran literally. ”

        Barb, let me ask you a question: whose interpretation of the Bible do you trust, some random person who picks it up and reads it and finds in it what reinforces their preconceived ideas of Christianity, or an actual Christian’s interpretation? You should not be *hoping* that the millions of Muslims who live in the U.S. don’t interpret the Koran literally (who said interpretations of any holy book have to be literal? Does every Christian interpret the Bible literally? Do you?) – you should find out from actual Muslims what they believe. If you live in Seattle, you have plenty of Muslim neighbors and no excuse not to learn what they believe from them directly. If there really are millions of Muslims in the U.S. and the vast majority of them have left you so undisturbed so as not to confirm your ideas of what they believe (since you’re getting these ideas from the Koran and not Muslims directly), then maybe they don’t believe what you think they do. Your idea of what Muslims believe doesn’t really seem to conform to the reality of millions of Muslims who live harmoniously with their non-Muslim neighbors. How do you explain that?

        Ian, since I am new here, thank you for your blog entry and for hosting this discussion.

      • Barb, I have to say that Juliet says it all and says it well.

        Although, I do have to inquire about the size of the center and why that offends you so (although, like Juliet pointed out in that neighborhood it will dwarf almost nothing; the smallest building I have ever seen in that part of town was a tavern that George Washington — or some such luminary — slept in overnight).

        Is this really an argument about how big a building is?

        I find it endlessly curious that you see the small chapel that houses Islamic prayers inside of the building that was also attacked on 9/11 as inoffensive, but a bigger building blocks away from the WTC site being more offensive because, it seems, it’s too big. While its apparently part of the reasons some people seem so angry about the whole thing, it’s a strange stance to take. Is it because the space in the Pentagon also allows other faiths to use the space? Well, I would suspect it would as its on government property. This center isn’t. Although, the right usually seems to really support and underline the right of private entities (especially religions) to do whatever they like on their legally acquired property. Until its somebody they don’t care for, I guess.

        Not that I think anyone should be upset by the Pentagon set up, I just find it intellectually inconsistent to raise hell over the NYC situation but sit on one’s hands about that other location. NEITHER place is a mosque, no matter how many times it’s echoed in the media sound chamber. And because the NYC site is bigger than the other doesn’t make it so.

        And, lastly, I am not afraid of Muslims having their way with everyone in our country. I don’t expect ANY one religion to ‘take us over’ in the middle of the night. I am not afraid.

      • hi Barbo! Others like Lauren, Juliet (great comments Juliet and welcome) and Brian are making specific points in response to what you’re arguing so I’m not going to pile on.

        I do wonder generally though if a worldview, which Christians credit as having been shaped by our faith, is increasing or decreasing our compassion? Because I’d argue that if compassion has decreased, then maybe one’s worldview has departed from what Christ intended for us. tolerance and compassion do not mean we throw out conviction and standards in favor of a mushy, spineless, unnamed “everything is good” spiritualism, it means we recognize boundaries of where we end and other people begin. otherwise we are going to be inevitably oppressive and I just don’t see that in Christ, even while acknowledging how outspoken and bold he was and is (thankfully). by inviting people into community and conversation out of respect (as humans), we stand a much better chance of sharing our story and maybe our convictions, rather than just hammering standards and requirements home (like the pharisees), or arguing that basic human rights be suspended because they have offensive implications to some.

      • Barb- yikes, this is exhaustive. The bottom line for me is you are offended by something that I am not offended by. I hope that the building is built and in doing so we can start to reach out to our fellow Americans that are Muslim instead of continue to push them away in fear.

        My comments were never meant to be a personal attack. I was simply responding to the words and attitude you have presented throughout this debate. I think you are a perfectly nice person and I’ve always enjoyed seeing you. But I fundementally do not agree with your opinions (as you don’t with mine). With that being said you (just like I) have the right to express them!

        I do not have an allegiance to my country. I have an allegiance to God.

        I hope at 54 I am a woman of discernment; open to seeking change and to what is just and true.

  9. A few points from my perspective:

    1. As a veteran of four combat tours (not “hang out in the Green Zone” tours), having experienced a significant amount of American blood shed at the hands of our enemies, the proposed community center is an affirmation of everything for which my buddies and I have fought: the victory of freedom and equality over tyranny and oppression.

    2. Please stop conflating Islamist extremism (violent POLITICAL movement) with the Muslim faith. The two are not equal and are completely separate. To break it down: AQ and associated movements = Islamist extremists who are being rooted out around the world; 1.2 billion Muslims world-wide = religious faithful who are welcome here in the USA any time.

    3. Our demonstrated ignorance and vitriolic debate only play into the hands of Islamist extremists worldwide (the protests in Wisconsin, Tennessee, and California over proposed mosques don’t help much either). Debate is healthy (ie. Is this appropriate?), ignorance and exclusiveness are not (ie. conflating AQ with all Muslims). See the NYT for some insights on this: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/21/world/21muslim.html

    4. Finally, this debate is a bit of a red herring, and we have bigger fish to fry: http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_id=12063

    That is all. Have a good one.

  10. Juliet, Brian, Lauren, Ian~

    I read an article that said that the proposed building was taller than anything else in that neighborhood. I’ve never been there so maybe that was false, I don’t know.
    I will refer you back to previous comments made since they represent my feelings on the subject.
    Anonymous wrote:
    “if moderate Muslims want to be accepted by the American populous , they should show a little more sensitivity to the areas they are moving into”

    “You must realize that the people of New York may view this building as a sign a triumph for extemest Islam over the area. Regardless of the reason this imam wants to build there, you must see this through the eyes of the effected New Yorkers ”

    I would also refer you back to Jordy’s comments since I agree with everything he said, and there is no reason to say the same things again.

    In response to Juliet’s comments on judging a group of people based only on the writings of the belief’s they say they support. I do not jump to conclusions. I have a person very close to me who believes everything she’s told from certain conservative media outlets. It drives me crazy! I really try to research things and judge for myself if something is what it appears to be, as presented to me through media, etc. A year ago, I probably would not have objected to the Muslim center being built, except for the location, which for me is a completely separate argument.
    Based on the facts I have read and seen, I have a huge problem with the percieved motives of the Muslim religion. Based on this, I find it hard to believe that somewhere down the road, followers of this religion (who appear to be living a peaceful, harmonious life), are going to have to make a choice between that peaceful, harmonious life, and what the teachings they submit to, are saying.
    I am sure that to most people this sounds crazy! If I hadn’t educated myself at least somewhat, I would think I was crazy! One of the things that compelled me to become more aware, was a documentary I watched called, “The Third Jihad” (It is available through Netflix). It was very well done in what I thought was an unbiased way, and left me in almost disbelief. I couldn’t believe the extent of the radical Muslim “activity” here in the US. And it isn’t just people of Islam, it’s American’s who are joining this radical movement, and it’s huge! And contrary to what you may believe, I believe they do teach radical things at these community centers. If that’s ok with you, then you also need to be ok with what the future may hold for you, your children and generations to come.
    Ian, I embrace the choices others make and am clearly aware of where they end and I start. That is a fundamental belief of mine. In fact, many of my friends are liberal and one claims to be a Budhist. We discuss things at length (and party together!) even though I doubt either of us will ever change our views. (Although I know he is not happy with Obama!)
    My whole argument is actually based on that. I don’t want to support a belief system that says other people can “punish” people who don’t believe the way they do. That will interfere with those boundaries that we believe are part of being a human being. The obligation to allow others to believe what they want and our right to believe what we want.
    For me, this goes way beyond compassion as Ian pointed out. Compassion should be shown to those who need or are asking for compassion. Why would we show compassion to people who don’t need compassion? I’m not being heartless here, I really don’t understand why you would say that. I have always thought of compassion as being given to people who are hurting or who need a hand up in life. I support children in other countries because they are so needy and I have the ability to have compassion on them through my support. Muslims as a people seem to be doing ok. I actually think they should be showing compassion to us since fanatic’s of their religion committed the worst terrorist act in the US, ever! Don’t you ever wonder why they don’t reach out to us?
    I don’t put them in the same category. I think you and others think that in showing tolerance to them we are showing the love of Christ. I know that Ian pointed this out, but I think that if you do not combine tolerance with wisdom, you are missing the mark. I do think wisdom and knowledge needs to be foremost in our minds as we move forward with whatever opinion we may have on the subject of this community center or any other Muslim activity.
    I don’t think that opposing this community center is taking from their basic human rights! But I do believe that the teachings they are taught could potentially take away from our basic human rights.

    Brian, I am not scared either and I don’t think anyone should be. I just think being aware and being educated, is smart. I guess there are a lot of intellectualy inconsistant people out there, because I know me, Jordy, and Anonymous are not in the minority.

    • Barb, I still have one question for you, and I’ll make it simple: Do you know any Muslims? I don’t think you can be as well informed about Islam as you think you are if you haven’t gotten at least some of your information directly from Muslims. It is, as I said, like trying to learn about Christianity without talking to any Christians.

      “Based on the facts I have read and seen, I have a huge problem with the percieved motives of the Muslim religion. Based on this, I find it hard to believe that somewhere down the road, followers of this religion (who appear to be living a peaceful, harmonious life), are going to have to make a choice between that peaceful, harmonious life, and what the teachings they submit to, are saying.”

      Two questions. 1. What on earth are “perceived” motives? To me they sound like motives you make up when you don’t want to ask people directly what their motives are. “Perceived motives” don’t motivate anyone; real motives do. 2. What are the motives of the Christian religion? It depends on whether you’re asking a Catholic, an Orthodox Christian (Russian or Greek?), a Protestant (Episcopal or Baptist?), a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness (if they’re even Christian at all, and does an outsider really care if other Christians think they are?), etc. etc. Islam is just as diverse. I’ve read, for example, that the people who are building this Islamic center are from a sect that’s anathema to Wahhabi Muslims, which sounds like just the kind of Islam we’d want to encourage! Which leads to my next point:

      “And contrary to what you may believe, I believe they do teach radical things at these community centers. If that’s ok with you, then you also need to be ok with what the future may hold for you, your children and generations to come.”

      Your second sentence doesn’t follow from the first because I don’t believe they teach radical things at “these community centers.” Not all Muslim community centers are the same because not all Muslims are the same. (Straight from The Third Jihad’s website: “Only a small percentage of the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims are radical. This film is about them.” If it’s only about a small percentage of Muslims, what do you know about the rest?) And I believe that if we choose to remain ignorant about Islam, if we don’t have enough respect for Muslims even to talk to them and learn from them what they believe, to realize that they are individuals just as we are and don’t all believe the same thing – if we call them all radicals because we are too lazy to distinguish well-meaning Muslims from a few extremists, and therefore refer to all Muslims as pejoratively as we refer to the radicals who alone deserve our scorn – then Muslims around the world are going to react defensively to our hatred.

      Islam is a religion of more than a billion adherents. It’s not going away. If we’re in a war against Islam, we can’t win, at least not without spilling a lot of blood. There’s an alternative: we can be the kind of country that fosters true freedom of religion and lets different sects of Islam present their validity and their coherence with the American way of life openly, thereby appealing to the millions of Muslims around the world who would like to practice their faith freely and peacefully in a free society. Or we can shut down their mosques wherever they try to build them (I would be less worried if people weren’t trying to prevent Muslims from building houses of worship everywhere in the country, not just in such a sensitive location as two blocks from Ground Zero) and make them think we hate them all indiscriminately. This will only intensify the process of radicalization. I’m not okay with that.

      “Compassion should be shown to those who need or are asking for compassion. Why would we show compassion to people who don’t need compassion?”

      It sounds to me like you’re making every excuse you can think of to avoid being compassionate instead of just being compassionate. Jesus said you should love your enemies. It’s like what I was saying about the First Amendment – the rules aren’t there to make you do what you want to do; they’re there to make you do what you wouldn’t do otherwise. So it is with love. Do you think Muslims are your enemy? Then Jesus says you should love them. Maybe compassion is not the same as love, but maybe debating semantics (compassion vs. tolerance vs. love) is just a convenient distraction from doing what Jesus calls us to do.

      “Don’t you ever wonder why they don’t reach out to us?”

      That’s the whole point of Cordoba House! In case you haven’t read their website (I try not to jump to conclusions but this seems like a fair one), here it is:

      http://www.park51.org/cordoba.htm

      I think they’re reaching out just fine, you’re just not listening. There is a mosque in Seattle at 15th and Northgate Way. You can visit it. Here are the guidelines for visiting:

      http://www.idrismosque.com/visitor/visitmosque.html

      I challenge you to go. I’ve never been there, so I have no idea what will happen. Maybe they will confirm all your preconceptions and help you prove me wrong. Maybe they will surprise you. But if you don’t accept the invitation, you will never know.

  11. I read about Cordoba house. I find it so incredibly hypocritical, that it describes it’s mission as one that brings all people together, of all faiths, and yet goes on to talk only about the Muslim faith and the opportunities therein. I read nothing about the Christian faith. Seems a little weird since the majority of US citizens claim to be Christian, don’t you think? How will that help bring us together? What I read does not sound like reaching out, but it does sound like a way to learn all about Islam!
    I have a question for you? Do you think they would let me bring a Bible to that house? I doubt it!

    “Women shall modestly be dressed; e.g. loose dress ( covering the whole body), scarf covering the head and neck; abstention from makeup and perfume.”

    This is one of the requirements for visiting the mosque. I would never visit a place where I was not free to be myself. I do not think that is the definition of reaching out. I think that is discriminatory and sexist. I do not know a Christian church around, who would require a muslim women to take her scarf off before entering a Christian church.
    All are welcome, as long as you fit their mold! Maybe you should visit before defending them, and see how you like being treated like a second class citizen.

    “Purification of the soul, Islamic etiquettes and character building in order to reshape one’s personality into the ideal muslimah”

    This was a quote listed under “women’s programs” at the mosque. No thanks, I would not support a ministry or want to know more about it, that told women that they need to “reshape” their personality!! I would go to try to get women to leave the muslim faith, not join!!!

    ” their coherence with the American way of life openly, thereby appealing to the millions of Muslims around the world who would like to practice their faith freely and peacefully in a free society.”

    I do not think that Muslims cohere to the American way of life. If they did, they would not treat women like chattel, they would accept us as we are when visiting their mosque’s,

    To answer your question regarding if I know about Islam since I don’t know any Muslims..unless they do NOT practice what these websites say about marriage, etc…I know as much as I want to know and I doubt I could ever be close friends with one of these women, much less a muslim man, after reading (what I already knew, by the way), some of the crap on these links. I could never watch someone being treated that way and not say something. If they want to, and obviously they do, practice the muslim faith, that’s their choice. I do not have to accept it, however.

    You asked what are my perceived motives? That means that that is MY perception of what the muslim faith teaches. Things like taking over the world, killing all infidels is fine and pleasing to Allah (that is who god is to them). That ANYONE, yes that means you, who is not a true muslim, is their ENEMY! Hope that answers your questions.

    What are the motives of the Christian religion? I completely disagree with you on this! Anyone from any denomination who claims to be a Christian would answer the same thing, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

    “And I believe that if we choose to remain ignorant about Islam, if we don’t have enough respect for Muslims even to talk to them and learn from them what they believe, to realize that they are individuals just as we are and don’t all believe the same thing – if we call them all radicals because we are too lazy to distinguish well-meaning Muslims from a few extremists, and therefore refer to all Muslims as pejoratively as we refer to the radicals who alone deserve our scorn – then Muslims around the world are going to react defensively to our hatred ”

    My whole point was to NOT remain ignorant about Islam!! Like I said above, do you or don’t you believe that they believe what it says in the links YOU SENT? If you do not believe it, then yes, you need to ask muslim women or men, if they follow these guidelines or not. If you do believe that they DO follow these rules/laws, then how do you not know them? Do they have different personalities? Are they nice people? Do they like to go shopping? Yes, to all of the above! Do I want to know them? No! I would have nothing in common with them! You are dead wrong when you say they don’t believe the same things. I believe that fundamentally they all believe the same things unless you’re talking about someone who says they are a muslim, but don’t wear a burqua, go to the mosque, etc.
    I differentiated between radicals and mainstream muslims in my email. I am not lazy, it is you who refuses to understand what I am trying to say. Instead of criticizing me, maybe you should look into the muslim faith and find out about the religion you are so quick to defend. Or is it that you are defending their right to worship as they please? If so, then we are in agreement! Like I said before, everyone has the right to worship and believe whatever they want. That was never the point of my comments!
    You really need to be able to logically separate the disagreement of a religion with the hatred of a people! As a Christian, I respect and love all people. Do I need to unconditionally accept all religions as true? NO! That doesn’t make me a hateful person!

    “It sounds to me like you’re making every excuse you can think of to avoid being compassionate instead of just being compassionate”.

    From the Random House dictionary: Compassion-A feeling of deep sympathy for another’s suffering or misfortune”.

    How have the muslims suffered (except from killing each other, as Jordy eluded to)? How have American’s suffered at the hands of people who shared the same religion as mainstream muslims? So please think again about who should recieve compassion from who.

    ” Jesus said you should love your enemies. It’s like what I was saying about the First Amendment – the rules aren’t there to make you do what you want to do; they’re there to make you do what you wouldn’t do otherwise. So it is with love.”

    Yes, you’re right, the law is there for those who do not know how to love so they have to be told. Or to protect us from nuts who want to murder us. Actually, for those born again, we don’t live under the law, we live under grace. When living in the spirit of Christ, we do want to love, we don’t need to be told to love.
    Love under a law is not really love at all!

    • So, I suppose you are against restaurants & bars with dress codes, churches that require women to cover bare shoulders, people that don’t allow smoking in their houses and beaches that require people to wear bathing suits….

      From what I can gather, you don’t respect rules of decorum, dress or conduct. I can only reasonably assume you are a wild animal.

      Tell me, how do you type with your paws?

  12. Barb, there is much I could say and I remain firm in my convictions, but this discussion, if it was ever constructive, has degenerated entirely, so I won’t continue it. I apologize for anything I said that was unjust, and specifically my implication that you are lazy.

  13. Great post Ian – very timely and appropriate.

    After reading some of the posts and watching the protesters on the news, I find it amazing how many citizens in this country believe that emotions, feelings or sensitivities should over rule legal and Constitutional rights. Did anyone take an American History class? Are you familiar with the Pilgrims? Does the Constitution ring a bell?

    Besides the right to remain silent, we also have the right to not be unfairly discriminated against, and that’s a biggie. So, if you want to build a Christian, Jewish or a Scientology Center next to that Islamic Center 2 blocks from WTC, you can! You can also build next to the existing Islamic mosque 4 blocks from the WTC…and guess what? That mosque pre-dates the Twin Towers by 40 YEARS.

    There are a lot of Muslims in the world and a majority of them don’t want to kill anyone – in spite of the tragic 9/11 event perpetrated by a small group of extremists. Most Christians have no interest in killing Muslims for their religion, in spite of the Crusades and the Inquisition that killed thousands of Muslims.

    It’s ridiculous to make every religious person responsible for the heinous acts of the minority – just because they share the same religion.

    A legally zoned, Islamic Center is NOT a slap in the face of Americans or New Yorkers. If anything, it is a testament to our long held American beliefs that all men are created equal and have the right to peacefully exist, side by side, without prejudice.

    As a country, are we bigger (and better) than our fears and hatreds…especially if directed at people, many of them Americans, that had nothing to do with 9/11?

    Can we discard the mantle of the victim for a while and step up to a more powerful view of ourselves as Americans?

    Granted, rolling around in self-pity and intolerance is undeniably satisfying – for people that like to think of themselves as helpless…

    But, if we can pull ourselves away long enough to embrace dignity, tolerance & freedom for everyone – we might actually reveal our country’s true strength.

    • Kris, you forget one thing though:

      “Actually, for those born again, we don’t live under the law, we live under grace.”

      I am trying this the next time I get pulled over at a traffic stop. I can tell the officer, I live in ‘America 2′ and not the same country you appear to…I have decided the rules don’t apply to me when they are uncomfortable for my way of thinking.

      • Brian – it’s funny you should write that – I was going to mention that I have never been able to “feel” my way out of a ticket. “I don’t FEEL I deserve your speeding ticket officer, so shove off!” I’m going to have to try that next time and see how far I get.

        While I’m at it, I’m going to tell the IRS I live under “grace” so I only have to pay taxes to her.

        It’s amazing the amount of self-centeredness and outright anger for people, that a small group of vocal hate-mongers are spouting these days. All for me and none for all!

        Quite unAmerican and hypocritical if you ask me… I wonder if they even realize how badly they are trashing the Golden Rule (It’s in the Bible, look it up!) due to their closed minds and stereotyping. I find it hilarious that people that say they are “respectful and tolerant” say and do things that prove the exact opposite.

        I don’t think being accepting of existing laws, rights and respectful of other people’s religions is too much to ask – especially when the people in question include other AMERICANS.

        That said, if someone wants to make a fool out of themselves and protest an Islamic community center, go ahead, it’s your American right to act like an idiot.

  14. Thank you, Mr. Ian Ebright. Since your article seems to have been spurred by your reaction to the post on Facebook, I would like to share with you my reaction to the very same post. I will refrain from taking up space sharing my reasons for support of the issue, it would be redundant as it appears our logic is in direct alignment.

    I saw the very same Flag post yesterday. I was moved to find an opposition post with a flag to fly in support of the Islamic center; strangely, I could not find one. I did eventually find an “I support the Mosque/Muslim Community Center near Ground Zero” FB group -

    http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/pages/I-support-the-MosqueMuslim-Community-Center-near-Ground-Zero/130340767008757?ref=mf

    - which I “Liked” and “Shared” with this personal message:

    “I feel, a lot of times people will show support against things they do not want or like, but not often enough do we show support for things we would support should it affect us personally, but happens to not. I think it is because feelings of rage, shock, dislike are much stronger than feelings of tolerance, empathy and simple indifference.

    (and as the first comment to my post)
    And so here is my support for a debate that is unfortunately going on in America in 2010, which originally I did not feel directly affected me considering I am not Muslim, a resident of NYC near Ground Zero, nor a politician; however, any time a fellow group of Americans’ constitutional rights are at risk, especially the First Amendment, I realize it does in fact affect all of us, even me.”

    I think FB group/page “wars” are silly, but find it interesting to note that at the time my friend flew her American Flag in opposition on August 27th, it stated she was the the 353,640th person to fly it. As of today, August 29th, the FB group “I support the Mosque/Muslim Community Center near Ground Zero” has only 2,057 people that “Like” it. Maybe there is another FB page or group in support of the mosque, but this was the best I was able to hunt out.

    We can only hope many other people speak out with reason and logic such as you have done here, when they see or hear such a threat to our great nation. I am happy to have found this article and will share it as well.

    • S. Sparks- you said “I feel, a lot of times people will show support against things they do not want or like, but not often enough do we show support for things we would support should it affect us personally, but happens to not. I think it is because feelings of rage, shock, dislike are much stronger than feelings of tolerance, empathy and simple indifference.”

      That is really true and I’m not sure I’ve thought of it like that before. Like you I also think the facebook wars are generally silly, because they usually follow issues where people are no longer listening to the each other unless they happen to agree. But the point you made about the difference in support between the “for” and “against” side is telling and in my opinion, a concern.

      You also said “any time a fellow group of Americans’ constitutional rights are at risk, especially the First Amendment, I realize it does in fact affect all of us, even me.”

      Bingo. I enjoyed reading your perspective and was inspired by it. Hope to hear from you again.

  15. @ Lamont and Barb, sorry to have to reply to you two all the way down here; it’s annoying how replies max out under our current design (something we hope to fix soon). I hope you find this.

    Lamont I appreciate your honesty in admitting your struggles with Muslims. An admirable step in the right direction. I’ve thought about what you and Barb are saying, which I think can be distilled down to you two not wanting to affirm something that you see as repressive. I like Juliet’s responses, but I also want to recognize that I see where you’re coming from in part. However, I would say you, like me, have quite a bit to learn about the Muslim faith before we’re qualified to speak so firmly about it. One movie on Netflix is not a proper education. That’s why (in part) I and others here are advocating tolerance and compassion towards Muslims, and steps towards their community vs. stepping away. It’s a bad rule of thumb to claim intolerance in a large group of people and then respond with intolerance. Meaning, even if you are right, your proposed response is just continuing the very thing you condemn them for.

    • Ian,

      Thank you for your response and for getting the gist of what my comments were all about. It’s too bad others were not able to do that (or maybe wouldn’t admit it), even if they disagreed.

      Barb

    • Barb, just because I disagree with you doesn’t mean I don’t understand where you’re coming from. I’m sorry if I was too harsh toward you, and I want to be very clear that I read and understood everything you said, within (of course) the limits of my frail human capacities. I just felt there was very little I could affirm, or even respond to it with the appropriate degree of charity, so I bowed out as graciously as I could, which may not have been graciously enough. I am also very concerned about radical Islam; it is simply that my understanding of who the radicals are, and how we should respond, is quite different from yours. This is based on what I have learned and what I have experienced as a student, teacher, and colleague of Muslims, and especially the interfaith dialogue I witnessed and participated in during the immediate aftermath of 9/11. These have been very valuable experiences to me and have transformed the way I see the world. It may well be that my insular experience in academia has made me unable to talk to anyone else about Islam or understand where others with different experiences are coming from. If that is so, I am at fault, and I thank you for bringing that fault to my attention. I retract nothing I said other than what I have already apologized for, but I hope you can forgive me for being deliberately obtuse where I might have been more open to your perspective, if not necessarily your conclusions.

      • Juliet,

        Thank you for your apology, and I also apologize if I in any way hurt your feelings or did not communicate respectfully.
        I guess when it gets right down to it, we all just want to be understood, even if others don’t agree with our viewpoint. I understand other’s points of view, especially as they pertain to our constitutional rights, even if I disagree on other points.
        I wish you had mentioned your experiences earlier, it might have helped to understand where you are coming from. Knowing that, I can see how you have formulated your opinion.
        All is well, I hold no ill feelings toward anyone and I was ready to bow out also, since we had exhausted everything we could disagree about! I do appreciate your love and your ability to separate debating a difference of opinion, from making fun of someone’s opinion. I really wish everyone could be as mature as you!
        Thank you and God Bless!

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