The Proposed Lower Manhattan Mosque

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The so called “Ground Zero Mosque” (the real name of the project is Park 51) is proposed as a 15-story Islamic Community Center containing a mosque, a swimming pool, and a 500-seat auditorium. Detractors first called the project the “WTC Mosque” but then someone came up with the name “Ground Zero Mosque” because that name stirred up a more emotional response. It certainly worked!

The proposed Park 51 complex is NOT intended to be located on the site where the World Trade Center stood; if built, Park 51 will be 2 blocks away from there. This begs the question: How much distance is an appropriate “comfort zone” for those that do not want the Community Center/Mosque built “near” ground zero.

There are 600,000 Moslems who reside in New York — this number is growing rapidly — but compared to the entire population of New York City (Approx 8.4 million) that’s not a large percentage of Muslims to non-Muslims. This population of Muslims is now served by well over 100 mosques.

Supporters of the Community Center are loudly proclaiming their “right” to build a mosque at the planned location and calling those who oppose the mosque: “bigots” (and other things) but the fact is, no one in a leadership position who opposes the project is saying that the project planners do not have a “right” to build the mosque. The “right” that has been proclaimed by the supporters of Park 51 is NOT being contested and is, in fact, supported by our Constitution.

Opponents to Park 51 feel that a mosque that near the site of what is being called the largest terrorist attack in history is insensitive to those who lost friends and family members on 9/11/2001 — mainly because it a religious structure that celebrates the religion of the terrorists who carried out the attack. Furthermore, opponents assume that this Islamic Center, that close to the former WTC site, is not just an Islamic Center but a monument being constructed to celebrate Islam’s supposed “victory” over American “infidels” on 9/11. On top of that, the man who is leading the effort to build this mosque on this site (Muslim cleric Feisal Abdul Rauf) refuses to acknowledge the fact that the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas (classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department) is a terrorist organization and also went on the “60 Minutes” television show shortly after 9/11 and made the statement that U.S. foreign policy could be considered an “accessory” to the 9/11 attacks.

Rauf’s supporters are quick to point out that, on the same 60 Minutes telecast Rauf made the statement that “Fanaticism and terrorism have no place in Islam.”

The co-founder of Hamas, Mahmoud al-Zahar, recently made the statement on a New York radio show that Muslims “have to build” a mosque near ground zero, they “have to build everywhere” so that followers can pray, just like Christians and Jews build their places of worship. In spite of the only slightly controversial nature of this statement, Immam Rauf’s organization (the Cordoba Initiative) would not respond. This suggests that even though Rauf will not call a terrorist a terrorist, he wants to, at least publicly, distance himself from terrorists.

(Note: The Cordoba Initiative promotes itself as an “advocacy group” that promotes improved relations between Islam and the West.)

Interestingly, Imam Rauf’s most powerful supporter is the U.S. State Department. According to State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley, “He (Rauf) is a distinguished Muslim cleric,” who’s work on tolerance and religious diversity is well-known. Crowley said that Rauf brings a moderate perspective to foreign audiences on what it’s like to be a practicing Muslim in the United States. The U.S. has been using Rauf to do just that since 2007 (yes, during the Bush presidency) by sending him to many Arab nations through their Educational and Cultural Affairs Bureau.

Right now Rauf is touring many European and Arab nations (a trip wholly funded by our tax dollars) to promote his Park 51 project and raise funds to complete that project.

Another perhaps not directly related factor in this controversy surrounds St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. This beautiful four-story church was destroyed when WTC Tower 2 collapsed on it on 9/11. Church officials have been negotiating with the NY Port Authority to be allowed to rebuild the church but after nine years of negotiations it looks like the church will not be rebuilt. In the words of the Rev. George Economou, the pastor of St. Spyridon Greek Orthodox Church in Newport: “I am puzzled as to why the Muslims would be allowed to build a center so close to Ground Zero while a church that stood at that site many years, even before the World Trade Center, would get such a run-around.” Hmmmm!

Whatever position you take on the Lower Manhatten Mosque controversy and whatever your feelings about Imam Rauf or about Muslims in general, you have hopefully relied on facts as well as judgement and emotions. What I have written above is, to the best of my knowledge, fact based and I have tried to leave my personal feelings out — there is much, much more you can read to arm yourself with facts. Though facts are sometimes hard to deal with (as are personal feelings) — they are always a necessary ingredient if you really want to understand an issue.

References:

New York Times: Islamic Center Exposes Mixed Feelings Locally and Muslim Community Center in Lower Manhattan (Park51)

WKBT.COM: Hamas leader: Ground zero mosque must be built

FOXNews.com: Group: State Department Is Wrong to Sponsor Imam Trip

The Providence Journal: Plan to rebuild Greek Orthodox church at ground zero remains puzzle to R.I., N.Y. clergy

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Ground Zero Mosque: Religious Freedom is Not An Issue

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ALT TITLE Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite, a former president of Chicago Theological Seminary and current senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, writes in the Washington Post today that fighting against the mosque in “Lower Manhattan” translates into an attempt to deny American Moslems the basic religious freedoms guaranteed in our Constitution.

“It is crucial that Americans show the world that we have the courage of that conviction, especially when it comes to a plan to build an Islamic Center in lower Manhattan.”

Ms. Thistlethwaite, your tour guide on this guilt trip through the Constitutional intricacies of religious freedom, is twisting the facts to make her point; just as President Obama did in his speech last week.

Fundamental religious liberties are not even an issue in the “Ground Zero” Mosque controversy. Moslems have built mosques all over this great and free country and have practiced their religion without prohibition for many years.

The largest issues in the “Ground Zero” Mosque controversy are: 1) the FACT that the Imam and financial backers of the mosque have proven ties to established Islamic terrorist organizations and 2) the obvious assumptions that can be, and have been, extracted from that fact. Those, not religious liberty, are the primary issues (but obviously not the only issues) behind the opposition to the “Ground Zero” Mosque.

I personally have no doubt whatsoever that the “Ground Zero” Mosque is intended as a “victory dance” on the graves of the “infidels” who lost their lives on 9/11. The “Ground Zero” Mosque is clearly a political statement, not an expression of religious liberty. We must remember that in the Moslem world, religion does not exist outside of or separate from politics.

Here in the United States Moslems have their religious freedoms — more so than they would have in Moslem controlled theocracies — and no one is trying to take those freedoms away from them. A slap in the face, however, is not an acceptable expression of religious faith.

Contentious Prop 8: A Decision Today

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“Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples.”

Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker

With that ruling California’s Proposition 8 was put into legal limbo. A “temporary stay” (a legal order to stop the execution of a legal judgement) was quickly issued on Judge Walker’s decision — a stay that allowed the state’s ban on same-sex marriages to continue. That stay MAY be lifted today (Read about it: HERE) by a federal court in California; if lifted, Proposition 8 will, at least temporarily be lifted and same-sex couples will be granted marriage licenses — if the federal court does lift the stay, that decision, you can be sure, will quickly be appealed to a higher court and, perhaps, once again a stay order will be issued until that higher court acts.

The “flaming” gay people who celebrated Judge Walker’s original ruling with parades and speeches are the “squeaky wheels” who get all of the public attention and they turn a lot of people off; but we must remember that these high-profile gays are hardly representative of the majority of gay people and outrageous public behavior certainly does no favors for the majority. The majority of gay people are the people you meet every day — your friends and co-workers — who’s sexual orientation you either know or suspect but realize that whatever that orientation is, it has no impact on your life.

The above quote from Juge Walker’s original order, declaring Proposition 8 unconstitutional, is based on pure logic and IMO that is the way the law needs to work. The original Proposition 8 was based on theology and on tradition; neither theology or an ill-conceived tradition such as that should ever take the place of calm logic.

Breaking News: Bogata Car Bomb

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Reuters and CNN are reporting on a powerful car bomb exploding just hours ago on a main thoroughfare in Bogata Colombia, outside of an office building that housed Radio Caracol, one of the largest radio stations in that country.

Terrorism — obviously, but you can probably eliminate Islamic terrorism — Islamic terrorists target people – this bombing was staged in the early morning when few people were expected to be in the area (except for Caracol Radio broadcasters and radio station engineers). This bombing was, no doubt, a political “message” from one of the many Colombian fringe political groups.

Read more at CNN.COM

(Note to Fox News: While your morning crew was focused on political humor, CNN was on the scene with live video and a reporter.)

Same-Sex Marriage Changes Nothing

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A popular argument in favor of same sex marriage is: ‘everyone else is doing it so we should too.’

Does that make sense to you?

This is a social issue confronting a society that is basically democratic in nature and in tradition and what Argentina and Mexico , among others, are doing is hardly relevant.

The bottom line is: this is another place where the Federal Government has taken away Constitutionally mandated states rights; however it happened so long ago and is so entrenched in Federal law that the fact that marriage should be decided by the community or by the state is now moot. So let’s ignore that!

Personally, I think that any two adults should be allowed to wed, without regard to their race, gender, religious or political beliefs and I believe this will soon be the accepted norm in the U.S.

The Federal Government certainly wants to maintain it’s investment in the business of controlling marriage through tax law, Social Security and etc. and there is no legal basis for rejecting same-sex marriage.

Some marriages will be “blessed” by both the state and by various religious entities and others will be purely civil marriages — other’s will be considered common law marriages authorized by neither church or state (but, in the end, regulated by the state). That’s the way it is now — the only difference is that once this legal challange has been resolved, some of those marriages will be male-male and some female-female.

The only opponents to same sex marriage are those who oppose it based on their religious convictions — they will continue to oppose it until the end of time, and it is their right to do so, and they will continue to issue legal challanges but they will be (and should be) quickly struck down.

This country is known for religious freedom but it will never be a theocracy.