Sunday, August 1, 2010

Mosque Near Ground Zero: "If We're Afraid Of This, What Does That Say About Us?"

The statement by the Anti-Defamation League, under the leadership of national director Abraham Foxman (left), opposing the proposed Islamic Center near ground zero is cause for dismay. The ADL, after all, is an influential Jewish organization that has led the fight for tolerance and equal rights. After stating that all faiths have the right "to build community centers and houses of worship" and condemning "those whose a manifestation of...bigotry," the group comes to the crux of its argument:

Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right.

Isn't associating those Muslims who committed a crime against humanity on 9/11 with the proposed Islamic center an expression of bigotry? Regarding the causing of pain, Paul Krugman asked pointed questions:

So let’s try some comparable cases, OK? It causes some people pain to see Jews operating small businesses in non-Jewish neighborhoods; it causes some people pain to see Jews writing for national publications (as I learn from my mailbox most weeks); it causes some people pain to see Jews on the Supreme Court. So would ADL agree that we should ban Jews from these activities, so as to spare these people pain? No? What’s the difference?

It isn't just the ADL that is opposed; a number of Republicans have made demagogic statements. Sarah Palin has asked "peace-seeking Muslims" to come out against this "unnecessary provocation"; Newt Gingrich said, "It’s not about religion, and is clearly an aggressive act that is offensive.” There are others, though, who see this center as a statement of America's religious freedom and tolerance. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “What is great about America, and particularly New York, is we welcome everybody, and if we are so afraid of something like this, what does that say about us?” Rabbi Irwin Kula, president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, said, “The ADL should be ashamed of itself.” In reference to the imam behind the center, Feisal Abdul Rauf, Kula said, “Here, we ask the moderate leaders of the Muslim community to step forward, and when one of them does, he is treated with suspicion.”

Kula touches on a larger point: What is the effect of this suspicion on the Muslim-American community, particularly its youth? Do we want to send a message of intolerance that results in alienation or a message of tolerance that results in assimilation?


Chris said...

There are a million sides to this issue. I 100% believe in freedom of religion. But at the same time you have to ask yourself is this the right thing to do putting a mosque next to ground zero, alot of Americans see this as a slap in the face. Its a very sensitive area for all Americans and the bottom line yes its legal you can do what ever you like in this country. But the man building this mosque knows exactly what hes doing and he knew there would be out cry over this mosque but hes doing it anyway does that not bother anyone?

Jeff Tone said...

Chris, I don't view it as a slap in the face since I don't associate all Muslims with the mass murderers of 9/11. Some Muslims, in fact, were victims on that day. I also don't assume that the imam behind the center is just doing it to stick it to America.

Tim Gunter said...

It's near Ground Zero; not at it. I have no problem with it. I remember reading the newspaper about Muslims who worked at the WTC and also who were killed that day. I am sharing this.

Jeff Tone said...

Clyde Haberman of the NYT comments on this use of "at" instead of "near" ground zero:

"But back to prepositions. There’s that “at.” For a two-letter word, it packs quite a wallop. It has been tossed around in a manner both cavalier and disingenuous, with an intention by some to inflame passions. Nobody, regardless of political leanings, would tolerate a mosque at ground zero. “Near” is not the same, as anyone who paid attention back in the fourth grade should know."

Chris said...

Why did he chose that spot? the Imam knew it would tick people off whether he wanted to or not. I believe the imam could have picked a better spot I am very tolerant to Muslim views and way of life, but they could be more sensitive to how we view this situation. I understand both sides of the story and could argue either way but it still bugs me alittle.