Minarets in the Sand, the "Ground Zero" mosque and religious freedom
08/16/2010 - 10:31
James Besser

I've stayed out of the ugly debate over the “ground zero mosque” that's not really at Ground Zero and not exactly a mosque, in part because I don't understand all the vast complexity of issue, in part because it's summer and I'm at the beach and not in the mood for all this indignation.

But one of the comments I keep hearing from opponents is driving me crazy.

There are actually several variants, but they all come down to the same thing:

Islam can "build the mosque when Saudi Arabia allows a shul in Mecca," they say.

Wow; I get it. Saudi Arabia is a place where religious freedom is nonexistent. The answer to our current, enormously complex dilemma: let's become just like them. Nice thinking, guys.

It seems to me this issue is being deftly manipulated by two groups with intersecting agendas.

Many politicians are abandoning former President Bush's wariness about portraying Islam as an evil, warlike religion in the interests of scoring demagogic points just before critical congressional elections. (And President Obama stumbled right into their obvious trap with his vacillating statements on the mosque. What is this guy thinking?)

And many conservative Jews and Christians are using the issue as fodder for their longstanding effort to convince us this isn't a fight against a radical Islamic minority, but a clash of civilizations – Islamic, which is evil, versus Judeo-Christian civilization, which is under siege. Religious war on a planetary scale, that's what it's about.

Back to the beach. I'll report back if I see any sand castles with minarets.


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This situation is complex and I don't believe that governing principles apply only to one side of the equation. This is not just an "emotional" issue. There are consequences to be considered either way. Any honorable and knowledgeable Imam would certainly know to not fuel Radical Islamic fervor and feelings of triumph over the West which would inevitably happen, with the erection of a grande structure containing a Mosque, next to the virtual burial site of murdered Americans at the hands of Radical Islam, at Ground Zero. There is a long standing tradition among the warring element of Islam to erect Monuments of Conquest at the site of their enemies' defeat. To allow that at Ground Zero would embolden the Radicals and encourage them to persist with their Jihad. We know for a fact that radical Islamists rejoiced at the event of 9/11 and we know without a doubt that if this Mosque is erected by the Ground Zero site that radical Islamists will once again rejoice on the date of its completion, on none other than 9/11! When the families of the perished and Americans at large will see the celebration of the Radicals on that day and the reference to their Monument of Conquest in the media and on the internet from that day forward, it will be a constant symbol of hurt to them and the American people. The fact that Imam Raul and the team of the Mosque developers do not want to take this into consideration unquestionably casts this whole project in a negative light. The rational of its proximity to "build bridges between East and West" is a canard because if the majority of Americans are not positively oriented, rightly or wrongly, to this Mosque and "bridge builder", the continued pursuit of the erection of the Mosque can not be in good faith and it should not be foisted upon the American people and the families of the perished. Furthermore, reasonable Muslims will understand that America freely tolerates all religions but objects to the erection of a Mosque next to our virtual grave site at Ground Zero, which would serve as a symbol to the radicals of their Jihad. The constitutional rights that we have, such as freedom of religion or freedom of commerce, are not absolutes. Local ordinances and community standards determine whether a property or activity is appropriate for a given locality. Political commentator, Noel Nikpour gives the example; "you wouldn't allow a liquor store to be built next to a Betty Ford Clinic or a strip joint next to Disney world". Likewise it is not useful to discuss this matter of the Mosque with broad generalities of constitutional rights without specific applications to local conditions and community standards. The proximity of the Mosque to Ground Zero and its concomitant symbolism to Radical Islam of being a Monument of Conquest is undeniable and the feelings of hurt to the community of Ground Zero render such a project not in keeping with the harmony and community standards to merit the permit to build it.
Bogus comparison Mr. Besser! With over 100 mosques in New York already, and mosques all across the country (there are areas of Michigan that are dominated by muslims) there's no comparison between rejecting ONE mosque at a very sensitive location when there are NO churches or synagoges anywhere in the whole country of Saudi Arabia. It's a mystery why we have to keep proving our "tolerance" when that's all we've ever been while at the same time islamic countries show their intolerance and hatred of any other religion or non-religion on a daily basis. Try carrying your Tora into Riyad sometime and then you can lecture us about our intolerance from a Saudi jail cell.
Well said. Direct and to the exact point. Rare these days.