Archive for September, 2010

On Park51

I’m posting this email from a reader with the idea of initiating some discussion from both sides, not of the extreme but of the in-between. –HD

Dear Hope Dascher,

In watching this whole brouhaha about the Islamic Center down near Ground Zero, what strikes me about it is the way so much of the media seems determined to portray supporters for the Center as morally superior and those opposed to it as hateful and/or bigoted. There doesn’t seem to be any room for all the many ideas in between those two extremes. Recently Imam Faisal Rauf, of the proposed Center, said something that bothered me in an interview on CBS “This Week.” He said that while he hasn’t closed the door on moving the project, he fears that moving it will cause a big uproar in the Muslim world. He said:

“My major concern with moving it is that the headline in the Muslim world will be Islam is under attack in America, this will strengthen the radicals in the Muslim world, help their recruitment, this will put our people — our soldiers, our troops, our embassies, our citizens — under attack in the Muslim world and we have expanded and given and fueled terrorism.”

If that is his main concern about whether or not to move the location of the Center, it would mean that we’re held hostage to building it there out of fear that people elsewhere might be offended and therefore might cause us harm. I find that very depressing. I find hearing the word “hatred” used so easily and copiously by people in favor of the location also very depressing. Because while there’s plenty of hatred to be found in the world, I think most people who oppose the location are not doing it out of hatred at all. On the news, we see truly hateful people featured on one side, people insisting that opposing it equals religious intolerance on the other, and absolutely nothing in between. I’ve read some articles recently by Muslims on the subject, which I think are worth reading, one by Irshad Manji, director of the Moral Courage Project at NYU, in which she states that both sides have it wrong.

A Muslim Reformer on the Mosque

Another one is by Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, in which he offers compelling reasons from a Muslim point of view for why the location is a mistake.

Muslim Scholar: Don’t Build Islamic Center

I wonder why so many writers on “The Left” (And I consider myself an essentially left-wing thinker) want to write off any opposition as bigotry, which is a kind of bigotry in itself. I can’t imagine that anyone wanting to use the Islamic Center and all the altruistic amenities it proposes would be made to feel terrible if it were built, for example, on an empty lot I’ve passed for years on East 13th Street. By contrast, I have heard many family members of Sept. 11th victims saying it would cause them pain to have it built there, and I don’t see how allowing for that by compromising on the location is in any way indicative of the U.S. being intolerant to religious freedom. Being opposed to the building of  “a mosque” on any site would indeed be intolerance in action, but the majority of New Yorkers, according to polls, just feel that it would be preferable to not build it there. What bothers me most is the relentless campaign from the left to brand any opposition as hatred. It makes me so sad, and to me the hatred feels palpable almost, but it’s coming from “my” side.

These are some of my thoughts. I thought you might like to post the enclosed links for your Ethical Realist readers.

– Genevieve