First, it’s not at Ground Zero but nearby. Small exaggerations make conservatives lose credibility. That’s what the other guys do. We must refrain. Second, there is no way to forbid the proposed mosque from being built that is both constitutional and legitimate. Conservatives protest rightly when any level of government abuses zoning laws. Let’s be consistent here.
The issue is not one of permission by civil authorities but one of a debate that should be taking place within the American Muslim community but is not.
American Muslims and their spokespersons are being judged, probably for a long time to come. Rational and moderate Muslims should be the most loud voices opposing the “Córdoba” Center. Here is why.
Its designated imam does not want to condemn Hamas. Hamas is a terrorist group. I think it is. The US State Department has officially designated Hamas a terrorist group. My opinion does not matter much (but it should matter some to Muslims). However, when it comes to terrorism, freedom of speech should be self-limiting. There is no constitutional guarantee to express the belief that murdering Jews – or anyone – is a sacred duty. This is one of these cases where if you are not with me, you are against me. The imam is an enemy of the US irrespective of what services he may have given to US governments in the past. He should be treated as an enemy.
The imam also said that this country should be ruled to a greater extent by Sharia, Islamic law. In several parts of the world, adulterous women are stoned to death in the name of Sharia. Others merely receive one hundred lashes of a whip, enough to kill a frail woman. By the way, under some or all interpretations of Sharia, an adulterous woman is a woman who has sex with someone to whom she is not married. That would be nearly all the single women in my town of Santa Cruz. In some cases, still under Sharia, some victims of rape are further punished for adultery. I am not making any of this up nor am I generalizing unduly. That’s one interpretation of Sharia. If the imam does not squarely denounce that particular interpretation of Sharia as barbaric and criminal, he is the enemy of most Americans. There is no ground for reconciliation at all. Hating such an imam is not intolerant, it’s a moral duty. It’s a moral duty for Muslims as much as it is for me. If they don’t, they are my enemies too and they don’t deserve any tolerance.
The leader of the group of developers involved is on the record stating that he doesn’t rule out accepting Saudi money for the project. That’s wrong. Egyptian, Syrian, Lebanese, Iraqi, Malaysian, Indonesian funds are fine. Saudi money is unacceptable until there is an official Christian church somewhere in Saudi Arabia to serve the tens of thousands of Christians who work there, and until there is a synagogue. The synagogue could be tiny, it could be an oversized, glorified closet somewhere; it would have to be called a synagogue though. Until the Saudis do the obvious, those who accept money from them to erect their own place of cult show disrespect for our values. I have no obligation to like them or to respect them. Neither do American Muslims who are very well located to observe and to appreciate the benefits of religious freedom.
So, it’s fine for any American to take sides and to denounce the Islamic cultural center planned near the site of the 9/11 mass murders by Muslims.
American Muslims have an even greater obligation to take sides and to denounce because each of their voices counts for two or three in this case. If they don’t, they will bring upon themselves the enmity of their fellow-citizens and a big wave of what they stubbornly persist in calling “intolerance.”
As to what rank-and-file conservatives can do, here is the best proposal I have heard: Set up a large gay nightclub as close as possible to the planned Islamic Center. If there were a public subscription to facilitate such a project, I would gladly contribute. I would also like to see a charcuterie on the other side. That’s a French-style butcher shop specialized in pork products.
I defy anyone to raise arguments against these two small, private, peaceful proposals that do not also destroy the rationale for an Islamic center within blocks of Ground Zero.
For more opinion on this topic see on this blog:
“Declaration on Ground Zero by Two Muslim Intellectuals,” posted 8/16/10.