Of Mosques and Muslims

HELLOOO, this is a free country. Newt Gingrich says there shouldn’t be a mosque near Ground Zero till there are churches in Saudi Arabia. Isn’t the point here, precisely, that America differs from Saudi Arabia?

Some say Muslims have the right to build the mosque, but it would be offensive to the memory of 9/11. Well, any church is offensive to atheists, and I suppose a humanist institute is offensive to the eyes of Christians. But we tolerate such thumbs in our eyes because we recognize the greater importance of living in a free country.

Some also try to connect this mosque-cum-community-center project with terrorism. They say the imam has nebulous “ties” to entities with ties to terrorism. Well, so do you, probably. Meantime, right now, Imam Rauf is traveling in the Middle East – sponsored by the U.S. State Department, as a sort of goodwill ambassador to promote moderation there (where it’s sorely lacking, partly because those nations do not foster the kind of pluralism that flourishes in America).

But even if Imam Rauf were some kind of bad guy, we should still permit the mosque. Because we don’t want government deciding that certain expressions of belief are OK, and others are not – even if they are heinous. So (to invoke another Gingrich analogy) if some jerk wants to build a Nazi memorial near the Holocaust Museum, I say let him.

Even though I lost family in the Holocaust. A Nazi memorial would in no way undermine proper sentiments about that event; if anything, it should intensify our commitment to oppose the evil it exemplifies.

Banning this mosque will not make us safer against terrorism. Even if this were the “terrorist command center” of fevered fantasy, the location would be immaterial; 9/11 was plotted in Hamburg. And banning the mosque would actually play right into Al Qaeda’s hands, feeding its narrative of America as Islam’s enemy.

This whole mosque issue is a synthetic one, cynically ginned up just to score political points. Mosque opponents are entitled to be heard, but sensible people recognize this for what it is.

There is also talk that Muslims can’t be good Americans. My local humanist newsletter even printed such a piece, itemizing Muslim dogmas supposedly incompatible with American values. Well, there is plenty in the Bible likewise incompatible – like approval of slavery, the death penalty for children talking back to their parents, not to mention slaughter of innocents at God’s behest. American Christians ignore these things; most Muslims similarly ignore much in the Koran. But the great thing about America is that you can believe and even preach whatever craziness you like, as long as you harm no one, and you will not be harmed. We have taken the lesson of other places lacking this ethos of tolerance, with bloody results.

The last thing we want is to start deeming certain religious viewpoints un-American. If we go down that road, the first ones kicked out will be humanists.

4 Responses to “Of Mosques and Muslims”

  1. Timberati Says:

    Oh I don’t know. These two stories from the Book of Numbers in the Bible seem pretty tame and consistent with Newt’s values:

    After a battle with the Mideanites in which the Israelites killed all the enemies warriors , Moses told his commanders, ‘Kill all the male children! And kill all the women who have had sex with a man!’ said Moses. ‘But spare the lives of the young girls who have never had sex with a man. Keep them for yourselves.’


    ‘While the Israelites were in the desert, a man was caught gathering wood on the Sabbath day…And (outside the camp) they stoned him with stones until he was dead.

    I’m sure Newt has no problem with either of those stories.

    FSR COMMENT: In fairness, I do not believe Mr. Gingrich would approve of these things. While obviously I think he’s very wrong on this mosque issue, he is not an idiot, and in fact I have found much to admire in him.

  2. Timberati Says:

    Probably not, the point was that of course holy texts have teachings that we find abhorrent today. The Bible and the Koran share such inconsistencies with what we now soft peddle (or worse, that many do not realize are even in the text, esp. of the Hebrew’s sacred writings).

    I agree Mr Gingrich is intelligent. I simply dislike him.

  3. Lee Says:

    What’s worse is that it is not just racism, but it appears to be racism about a strawman. Maybe I have fallen prey to an evil trick of Keith Olbermann’s, but he says: you can’t see the proposed building from ground zero, it is mostly not a mosque, and there are already two churches and a mosque near ground zero.

    Lazio appears to be focusing his gubernatorial campaign around this issue, but I’d be scared to do that, even if I were the same sort of racist, because I don’t see that there is any there there. Won’t the voters, even the racist ones, figure this out by November?

  4. bruce ryan Says:

    Sure it has a right to be where ever the city allows it. I just question the taste and judgment of the proponents.

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