Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The "Ground Zero Mosque" and our constitutional rights

When I first saw an article about the "Ground Zero Mosque" when the whole thing was first hitting the airwaves, I skimmed the article and thought, "Wow, slow news day. They're trying to make something controversial out of something that is clearly not controversial." 

So much for that idea.

I think the traction this story is getting is ridiculous. It's all about a political battle now, and the original story is virtually impossible to see. This morning I heard some guy on conservative radio talking about how we can clearly see that this mosque is being funded by the VERY imam who planned the 9/11 attacks.


Okay, let's just review. We're talking about New York here. It's a city filled with refugees, immigrants, and internationals. It is is an international city. There are many Muslims there, just like in Chicago. There are already two mosques near ground zero - Masjid Manhattan four blocks away and Masjid Al-Farah ten blocks away. They are small one-room mosques, but the immigrant communities they serve are large, and there's a need for another mosque in the area. So, an imam from Al-Farah starts leading prayer in a vacant space that used to be a Burlington Coat Factory that is two blocks from Ground Zero. That community plans to turn their empty storefront into a community center and mosque.

I think a few points are important to note here.
1. It's their space. I believe they own it. It's private property, not government land.
2. It's not on Ground Zero.
3. There are already other mosques in the area.
4. There's a Muslim community looking for a place to worship. 

What is the issue here? It's not a mosque being built on Ground Zero in a twisted attempt to make a religious point. It's someone developing private property to meet a need in a local religious community.

It seems like we're reacting in a similar way to McCarthy during the Red Scare of the Cold War. Someone mentions socialism or communism and we're willing to undo the established rights and freedoms of our country because we're afraid of the current world political issue.

Some people say this is an intentional provocation. It seems like initially it was not meant to be a provocation, but I could be wrong. Regardless, now that the issue is politicized, if pressure forces them to build elsewhere, it will be making a point. If they choose to build right where they are, it'll seem like an in-your-face point as well. It's a lose-lose situation.

It's possible that they are being backed and funded by strong Muslim organizations (though I think that is jumping to conclusions that are against the evidence about the imam that can be seen from his own background).

Would it matter?

The constitution set in place our right to worship freely and build our own places of worship. Since this is a planned building of a private place of worship, they have the clear right to build it. That's just constitutional. We should be defending their constitutional rights if we want to keep ours.

If Israel threatened to shut down churches because of the history of the Crusades that put bad blood between Jews and Christians, we'd be mad, right? After all, we think Christians should have the right to build and worship in Israel. In Indonesia, where I grew up, I sure hope that they'll allow people to build churches in Ambon despite the religious riots that took place there a few years ago. So. I think a Muslim community should be allowed to build a mosque in New York, regardless of 9/11.

Actually, someone is building a Muslim Community Center literally right across the street from where I sit now.  It's big. It's in the heart of conservative Texas and the Bible Belt. I'm a Christian. Still, I absolutely defend their right to build there.

Article and Video News Report, KTLA: Landmark Status Denial Paves Way For Ground Zero Mosque
Article, New York Times: In Lower Manhattan, 2 Mosques have Firm Roots
Editorial, Economist: Build that Mosque
Article, Newsweek: War Over Ground Zero
Article, Wall Street Journal: Sides Dig In Over Ground Zero Mosque (this one has a photo of the space)


Jaimie said...

I agree completely. Even if they WERE trying to make a bold move, it's a constitutional one. It doesn't matter.

Lucian said...

A storm in a glass of water.