Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Ground Zero Islamic Community Center: It's just a land-use issue...

I'd rather not write too much on this issue. Much like the Blagojevich trial, it's a media event I'd much rather just disappear. Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, and all the House candidates making this an important election issue just seem desperate to me. I see no reason why an Islamic community center cannot site itself several blocks from ground zero, or anywhere it doesn't interfere with the health, safety, and welfare of the area. Blocking its establishment (which can probably only be done by NYC officials anyway) solely because it's a Muslim establishment has no legal all. The moral argument that it will "offend" the mourners of 9/11 and our post-9/11 nation is, well, absolutely racist. I can fathom no other justification. I think I can demonstrate this with a pretty simple analogy.

The United States suffered terrorist attacks on its soil before 9/11. Tragic as it was, 9/11 was novel only in its enormity. On April 9, 1995 the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed to the ground by Timothy McVeigh, a militia movement sympathizer, who requested a Catholic chaplain when he was executed years later. The attack killed 168 people and injured close to 700. So, should Oklahoma City ban the construction of a Catholic community center blocks away from the federal building site in Oklahoma? The mere idea would be ridiculed. It would be ripped apart by political conservatives and property rights advocates everywhere. Why?Because it's a ridiculous idea.

Of course, there are those that might argue that Muslim fundamentalists are very different from Timothy McVeigh because they were motived by their religion, Islam. True. I think Palin et al. would have an easy case if the proprietors of the "Mosque" in question were supplying weapons or aid to terrorists. But no one, including Palin et al. are claiming this. Islam is an enormous religion with 1.5 billion adherents, the vast majority of whom are as innocent as the rest of us. What about its practice would cause pain to the mourners of 9/11? I'm confused. The only conclusion I can reach is that certain Americans are conflating terrorism (i.e. the attacks 9/11) with all adherents of Islam- a concept which is factually and ethically incorrect.

I think Michael Bloomberg, NYC Mayor, makes the case most eloquently:

“Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.”

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