You might have noticed that I have, so far, not weighed in on the debate about the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque". Those who follow this blog certainly know that I am not afraid of controversy, nor have I been shy about speaking out on the various issues which surround this topic. I have not spoken on this specific subject because I'm afraid I don't have anything helpful to say. I believe that both sides are wrong, but I am certain that this is a case where no one is going to have even the slightest interest in listening to sense.
I sincerely hope that I am not alone in believing both sides to be wrong, but watching the news coverage on this topic is discouraging, to say the least. Does no one else notice that there are two distinct levels to this argument or that the two levels are not inherently tied together?
It boils down to this: There are those who say that building a mosque at the site of the 9-11 attacks is the epitome of offensive and disrespectful and there are those who say that America's ideal of religious freedom does not allow for prohibiting this building. Does no one else notice that these two statements do not answer each other?
To make matters worse, there are those on one side saying that this building should be legally blocked and there are those on the other side saying it isn't disrespectful because "it isn't a mosque and it isn't at Ground Zero."
In other words, the whole thing is muddled almost beyond repair because no one can even agree on what it is that is being argued.
Let's be absolutely clear here.
There is no legal recourse for blocking this building, nor should there be. Creating such a recourse would be diminishing our ideals of freedom and thus giving in to the very creatures who attacked us in the first place. That is unacceptable. Don't give me the "we're at war" answer either. Go back through my blog and see that I am well aware of that fact. Religious freedom is religious freedom and we, as the first nation to enshrine that freedom, cannot go against it without betraying our very existence. Unless and until that building is used to actively promote or engage in treason, the building cannot be legally blocked simply because it is of a certain religion. The location does not magically make the religion illegal!
Now that I have angered the very people who are usually on my side, I hope you will continue reading.
Erecting that building on that location is a slap in the face of every American who died on 9-11, every American who lost loved ones on 9-11, and every American who felt the pain of 9-11. Claiming to use that building to bridge the gap or create peace is a lie, whether intentional or not. That building will not bridge the gap nor create peace and it is utterly impossible to honestly argue otherwise.
It does not matter that the building will not actually be a mosque. It will contain a mosque, it will be built with Muslim funds, and it will be named for a Muslim holy site. No matter how many multi-faith uses it also contains, you cannot connect those dots in any way that doesn't say it will be a primarily Muslim-use building.
It doesn't matter that the building is not at absolute Ground Zero. The location was specifically chosen for its proximity to Ground Zero. Even those who are trying to erect this building refer to the location as a part of Ground Zero. Claiming that two blocks away makes it not Ground Zero is splitting hairs in the worst and most useless way.
We are not at war with Islam. That argument is accurate and valid. Muslims died in the 9-11 attack. Even dismissing the creatures who performed the attack, that argument is also accurate and valid. These arguments, however, do not change the fact that the creatures who performed the attack did so in the name of Islam. It is not the fact that they were Muslim that makes this disrespectful. It is the fact that they attacked because they were Muslim and believed that the attack was upholding and honoring their religion.
A Muslim cannot erect a Muslim-use building without using that building to glorify Islam. There is nothing wrong with that. A Christian cannot erect a Christian-use building without using that building to glorify Christianity, a Hindu cannot erect a Hindu-use building without using that building to glorify Hinduism, etc etc, round and round we go. A person who truly believes in a certain faith is going to at least attempt to glorify that faith in everything he or she does. That is a no-brainer. You cannot, however, attempt to bridge the gap or create peace between a religion and people who - whether right or wrong - believe they were attacked by that religion by erecting a building which glorifies that religion on the site of the attack. That, too, is a no-brainer.
I have a difficult time believing in Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's sincerity. He does not strike me as a stupid individual and yet he is bent on performing what appears to be a stupid action. He claims that he wants to erect this building to foster peace when it is plainly obvious that it is doing anything but fostering peace. There is a contradiction here, and I do not believe in contradictions. Either the man is an idiot or he is lying. Neither answer is exactly flattering.
If Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf chooses to go forward with this disrespectful act then he must be allowed to do so. No other action is fitting to the American ideal. That does not, however, mean that anyone has to like it or quietly accept it. It is also within the American ideal that we speak out against what we believe to be wrong. No one else should help him pretend that this is a respectful act. We cannot legally stop him from being offensive, but we can let him know that we are offended. If your neighbor is offensive, you do not seek to legally stop him from being so (assuming, of course, that his behavior is merely boorish and not actually illegal), but you don't reward him for his behavior either. You do not attend his gatherings, you do not associate with him, and you do not claim that he is a good person. If Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf insists on being a boorish neighbor then he should be shunned as any other boorish neighbor would. Let him have his building, then let him try to claim his high ideals when no one uses his building except for those who are as offensive as he is.