Musings About The Not Quite Ground Zero Not Quite Mosque

While anyone likely to stumble upon my humble offerings in this blog will likely know that I’m generally an antitheist, the “debate” happening around Cordoba House, a proposed Muslim “community centre” in Lower Manhattan, is driving me slightly around the bend.

The problem in my view is the abject stupidity of the arguments, which to me is not really a surprise given the general inability of social conservatives (read: Christian extremist wingnuts) to argue their way out of really anything.

Now to be fair, I’m building my own arguments around a set of assumptions based on what I have read about the project, and as per my (non-existent) editorial policy, I welcome anyone to call me on anything demonstrably false or incorrect.

I am the sort of person who feels quite happy when I see a church up for sale and about to be turned into some sort of eccentric residence because I opine very strongly that the last thing anyone needs in their life is the silly myths of any currently common religion. Notwithstanding that opinion, I do however uphold the basic idea enshrined in the Constitutions or founding documents of any truly free society or country that all people have the freedom to believe whatever they want, no matter how abjectly stupid I may consider it. Further to that I’ve got a pretty strong belief in freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, and free enterprise. All of these things tie into the subject at hand.

As I understand it, the proponents of Cordoba House already own the property in question and have for some time. The controversy seems to have arisen when some group found out what they wanted to do with it an launched a quixotic attempt to have the building declared a heritage property.

It has been stirred up mainly because of a variety of the usual right wing nutters who have moved it to the actual “Ground Zero” – I didn’t fall for this ruse having actually been there. That was, I’ll add, quite an experience. It also, from the sounds of things, isn’t exactly a mosque, but the brainchild of a moderate imam who wants to build links with the community by building the space to be inviting to other faiths to foster dialogue and friendly relations. Even the hardened antitheist in me can understand that there is value in this approach.

The arguments laid against the Cordoba House project lay bare the xenophobic tinge of the American right that starts with their equating the actions of a small number of extremists with an entire religion. I will not hesitate to say that I find much of the ideas of Islam disgusting and abhorrent, even with the benefit of understanding the context of many of the ideas behind Shariah which were specific to a specific time period in history in a specific region.

I also, however, know the few Muslims embrace such ideas in the modern era, adept as most people are to suiting their particular set of beliefs and myths to the context in which they live. I understand why many of them (and many non-Muslims, I suspect) cheered when the USA got its nose severely bloodied by the atrocity of the 9/11 attacks, and yet know that I’ve met and talked with many Muslims who realized that those attacks were not made by Islam, not consonant with Islam, not in any way sanctionable or excusable thereby.

At the end of the day their are millions of adherents of Islam in America and the overwhelming majority thereof share the same ideals as their neighbours of whatever faith – tolerance, humanity, love of their homeland, a desire for peace in their time and for their children to grow up in. These are the people behind the Cordoba House project, not the insane extremists of Al Qaeda.

The debate however reflects to me the great character flaw Americans have in dealing with their enemies, real or perceived. When you have the opportunity to engage those you might see as an enemy, you may actually disarm the threat to you by doing so. The American failure to get rid of Hugo Chavez or Fidel Castro or Mahmoud Ahmedinejad strikes me as an excellent illustration of this idea. By being standoffish toward these tyrants, the US provides them with an enemy to point at for domestic consumption, to say, “you’re lucky to have my to keep Uncle Sam at bay”. Without the ability to unite their subjects against such a common enemy what do these tyrants have? Nothing.

Cordoba House isn’t a monument to the “success” of 9/11. It in fact probably has little or no connection to that day – but it stands to serve instead as a monument to the tolerance that was supposed to have defined the nascent United States of America when the Constitution and Bill of Rights were crafted. Its completion will reflect the exercise of a number of the fundamental freedoms I mentioned above, as well. Most importantly, it will deny to extremists one more opportunity to point at the oppression of the USA against their faith.

I have noticed lately that the right relies on hollow and fallacious arguments out of a lack of ability to posit an actual workable argument, and on this matter no exception applies. All arguments I have seen against the plan basically amount to senseless appeals to emotion that have no meat whatsoever. For that reason one I can find no reason to oppose the project.

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2 comments so far

  1. D.S. on

    No rational argument can persuade someone who is taken in by fear, emotional appeals, religious mythology, and bigotry– a combination right wingers love to exploit.

    • warriorbanker on

      I don’t think I could have said it better than that. They are playing on the fear factor which is really their best tool. And frustratingly no one will really notice.


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