Saturday, September 25, 2010

Holy War at Ground Zero

Much has been said about the controversial mosque to be built two blocks from Ground Zero and much more will be said.  Misinformation will swarm about.  Fear, hate, outrage and xenophobia will descend upon the financial district in a cloud that will cast New Yorkers in the most unflattering of lights.

And so the debate will continue…sides will be chosen, lines drawn in the sand, soap boxes perched upon and shouted from…and so I thought I’d weigh in on the discussion with a tactic that can occasionally get lost in such tepid crossfire…pragmatism.

reaction to the Mosque at Ground Zero
Being an agnostic, I don’t tend to get swept up in the ‘My God’s better than your God’ tumult that has catalyzed every Holy War since the dawn of weaponry.  So my cynical if not spiteful perception of organized religion does, to an extent, inoculate me from that element of the discussion.  And perhaps both the city of New York and the Nation of Islam would be best served to do the same.  Faith with the volume turned up too high quickly escalates into let’s all, just as a little experiment, leave our faith in God out of the conversation.

Constitutionally speaking, this is a cut and dry case of religious freedom and Imam Feisal Rauf (the spiritual leader behind the project) and his cohorts have every right to build this mosque…which in actuality is not the erection of a new mosque but the refurbishing of an already existing Muslim structure into a thirteen-story Islamic Community Center called the Cordoba House originally; a name that was later changed to Park 51.  Although the Center would include a prayer space, it would also include a 500-seat performing arts center, a culinary school, a swimming pool, a basketball court, a restaurant and other amenities.

So let's be honest, this is probably not a potential breading ground or training camp for terrorists unless they are planning on waging war on America by improving their jumpshots, battering us to death with a ferocious butterfly stroke or numbing our brains with offensive performance art. 

So despite all these purposes, we are still calling it a mosque because, well, ‘refurbished Islamic Community Center with prayer space, basketball court, swimming pool, etc.’ does not instill the same outrage that ‘Mosque at Ground Zero’ does, am I right?  So when interpreting the First Amendment of the Constitution, which clearly and indisputably states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,” one would have no choice but to conclude that the Center can and should be built.

And the Nation of Islam has every right to wave around printed copies of the First Amendment anytime anyone has the temerity to say otherwise.  Yes, most Muslims are not suicidal terrorists like the motherfuckers that flew planes into buildings in my fucking city nine years ago.  And Muslims the world over have unfairly been grouped in with these same motherfuckers ever since and that is a shame.  But this predicament is an opportunity for the Nation of opportunity to show compassion and put sympathy above principle.  If the Imam agreed to move the center, say…ten blocks further away, it would show the world that Muslims are of peace.  That not only do they care about practicing their faith but also about the sensitivity of a city and a country and this gaping wound that has not quite healed.

I have not been to Pearl Harbor since I was ten years old but I would wager that you will not find a Benihana or a karate dojo within two blocks of it.  I have never been to Auschwitz or Buchenwald either but I would also wager that you will not find a German cultural center or a Mercedes Benz dealer within two blocks of them.

There is a time and a place to battle over principles and religious rights.  And although the time may be now, the place is not and should not be two blocks from what is unequivocally the darkest stain on this city’s history. 


  1. Excellent point, they have every right but it's just not right

  2. That's pretty much what I said. I also pointed out that it doesn't help when Bloomberg & particular liberals in town are branding people who say the location is insensitive as "Islamophobic", "intolerant", "bigoted", etc. Nor did I appreciate a bar association I belong to that is located right near there proclaiming that exact sentiment & purporting to speak for individual members (such as me) when it does not. I also know a few Muslims & have found them to be far better people than the many judgmental Christians I've encountered (I grew up in a Baptist household but don't follow organized religion).