Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Aug/10

14

About That Mosque

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When Barack Obama says this, he is, of course, quite right:

But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.

Fair enough. It’s also worth adding that while the decision to build that (intriguingly-named) mosque in that particular place is, to say the least, insensitive, the tattered battered principle that there is no right not to be offended is one worth defending (even if that was not the tack that the president himself seemed prepared to take). It’s not the first time that ideologues have trampled over common courtesy, and it won’t be the last. If the builders of Cordoba House wish to build a mosque on their own property and if they do so in accordance with local rules then they should be allowed to go ahead. If they have taken any funding from countries where the construction of non-Islamic religious building is restricted (and so far there is no indication that they have) their hypocrisy will be revolting, but even that should not disqualify them from the right to put up their mosque.

Unfortunately, Obama being Obama he could not leave it at that. Let’s take a close look at something else the president said in the same speech:

Our enemies respect no freedom of religion. Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam – it is a gross distortion of Islam. These are not religious leaders – these are terrorists who murder innocent men, women and children. In fact, al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion – and that list of victims includes innocent Muslims who were killed on 9/11.

The president is, of course, correct to say that Al Qaeda does not respect religious freedom, and it’s important to make the point (as he does) that Al Qaeda has (so far, I’d add) killed more Muslims than people of any other religion (including those Muslims murdered by the Atta gang on 9/11), but the argument that bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and the rest of them are not “religious” leaders is nonsense, born partly (and perfectly reasonably) out of the needs of propaganda (it’s a useful line to peddle to a Muslim audience), born partly out the intellectual mush of multiculturalism, and born partly out of a very American unwillingness to accept the reality of religious terror, an unwillingness that owes much to this country’s late birth, good system of government and fortunate history.

The philosophy of Al Qaeda is indeed not representative of mainstream Islam, but it is nevertheless an extreme expression of one not insignificant strand of Islamic thought. To argue that Al Qaeda’s commanders are not “religious” leaders is in reality somewhat akin to saying the same, say, about the terrorists who ran the Inquisition. In terms of Realpolitik, Obama’s attempt to deny Al Qaeda the designation of “religious” may have been a sensible thing to say, but intellectually it simply does not stand up.

All that said, while I would like to believe that Realpolitik does indeed explain that particular strand of presidential rhetoric, I also have to look at Obama’s unfortunate record of blinkered ignorance, hopeless naivete, cringing PC piety and, even, (via NRO’s Andy McCarthy) at some of the people invited to hear what Obama had to say and then I begin to wonder….

Update

I should have made clear that the project as a whole has now been given the name Park51. The name “Cordoba House” lives on (according to the Park51 website) “as a center for multifaith dialogue and engagement within Park51′s broader range of programs and activities.”

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5 comments

  • Le Mur · August 15, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    When Barack Obama says this, he is, of course, quite right:

    If true, it would’ve been a first. It’d be quite legal and easy to prevent the building of this monument by officially recognizing Islam as the criminal organization that it is, and applying RICO laws. Instead, the US State Department illegally helped fund it: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/38653657/ns/politics-more_politics/

    Obamanoid: But let me be clear: as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country

    That’s pure nonsense. It won’t be nonsense when the gov’t stops persecuting Rastafarians and allows Aztecs to sacrifice children.

  • pangloss · August 17, 2010 at 2:53 am

    Then again, there has been a mosque just 4 blocks away from the WTC site for over 30 years (yawn).

    And Cordoba has been Catholic for how many past years nigh of 1000?

  • Rich Rostrom · August 18, 2010 at 6:21 am

    Hmm. The Inquisitors were officially designated of a religious body. The 9/11 terrorists were laymen acting as self-appointed champions of their creed.

    OTOH, the Inquisitors operated under fairly strict rules of evidence and did not kill large numbers of people at random just to make an impression. Spain was largely spared the witch-hunting hysteria because the Inquisitors demanded actual evidence.

  • Author comment by Andrew Stuttaford · August 19, 2010 at 2:51 am

    Rich, the problem with your argument (if I may say so) is (1) that rule-making authority within Islam is far more widely dispersed than within Roman Catholicism and (2) that the distinction between layman and cleric is of far less importance. I just don’t see that it’s possible to deny that the Al-Qaeda is in some sense run by a religious leadership.

    On your second point, it’s certainly true that the Inquisition operated on a more “formal” basis than does Al Qaeda, but terror is terror – with or without a rule book.

  • m.d. · August 19, 2010 at 7:51 pm

    I’d a thought I’d see more sensible commentary on this controversy here.

    true, the attackers did it in the name of islam so it can kinda piss you off that there’s going to be a mosque nearby. But I’ve had it with all the hacks getting their milage out of what should be a minor issue at the very most.

    From soon after the attacks, the site became a tourist attraction where you’d find huge groups of people visiting, guidbeooks and cameras in hand and you bet you would see them taking photos of each other in their shorts and fanny packs with the site in the backround. There was that viewing area, where they would wait on line for their turn to walk up the plank to get a nice view and take better pictures. There were all manner of souvenirs- WTC posters, 9-11 t-shirts, pirated NYPD baseball hats. guided tours, busses, 9-11 coffee table books. This has diminished but its still there to an extent.

    I have to go around there quite a bit for work, and was in the area that day, but I’ve never made a visit to gawk at the site and I still try to avoid getting too close, mostly because I just don’t want to, but partly because I don’t want to see all the cheesy exploitation.

    Hallowed ground? But there’s nothing to be gained politically by having a problem with the exploitation of the mass murder. There is something to be gained by exploiting it yourself though.

    I’m sure many of the politicians throwing a fit over the mosque are honestly offended, but mostly they and the cable news pundits from whom they take their cue are exploiting 9-11 for political gain.

    so the mosque can piss you off but the pundits going nuts about it should maybe piss you off more.

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