Be careful what you post on your Facebook page! I wrote a brief status update (they can’t be much longer than a twitter post) this morning about the Ground Zero Mosque. Here it is in full:
Why do people say Ground Zero Mosque issue is “complicated?” It’s simple: while Muslims may have a legal right to build there (I say “may” because I’m not familiar with NYC zoning), it is astounding that they would try, and I’m going to exercise MY constitutional rights to protest. Memo to Mosque builders: practice tolerance before you demand it.
Because I’ve got a diverse group of FB friends (I love ‘em all . . . they keep me on my toes), I got some immediate and thoughtful negative feedback. So I responded, at length. My main point? You cannot evaluate the proposed mosque without understanding key historical facts:
I appreciate all the comments. First, I understand the desire amongst the Mosque’s defenders to minimize the significance of the location, but we’re talking about a building actually damaged in the 9/11 attacks, that is 600 feet away from the WTC site. It was CHOSEN for its proximity to Ground Zero, so to diminish its proximity now actually flies in the face of the intent of the founders of the Cordoba House.
Second, the initial proposed name of the place is significant. Cordoba was a Spanish city conquered by Islam during its first great Jihad, which swept much of Christian civilization out of the Middle East, and pushed Christians back into what is now modern France. Muslims claim that the conquered city of Cordoba became a model of interfaith cooperation. Christians disagreed, mounting a centuries long campaign to retake Spain, which didn’t fully succeed until the late 15th Century. This Christian “Reconquista” still angers many Muslims, including Osama bin Laden himself, who cited the Reconquista in his famous post 9/11 victory speech as one of the motivating factors for the 9/11 attacks.
Third, Islam has a long history of building “victory mosques.” From Damascus to Vienna to Syria to Afghanistan, victorious Muslim armies erected Mosques to symbolize their triumph. Perhaps the worst example of this is the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul (formerly Constantinople). The greatest church in Orthodox Christianity, it was converted to a mosque following the Ottoman Muslim conquest of the city. Its priceless icons were covered with plaster and allowed to degrade. It was used as a mosque for hundreds of years until the secularizing Kemalist Turks converted it to a museum. It has not been returned to the Orthodox Church despite the fact that the church maintains a presence in Istanbul.
Fourth, the construction of this mosque is not universally popular in the Muslim world. Hamas certainly supports it (unsurprisingly), but others have even called it a “Zionist conspiracy” (don’t you love how some Muslims always find a way to blame the Jews?) because it brings Islam into disrepute. Many Muslims recognize that it is disrespectful to place a massive Muslim center 600 feet away from the site of the largest mass murder in American history — a mass murder committed in the name of Allah. They take the imminently sensible view that a large Muslim community center can and should be built in Manhattan, but not there . . . and not with that name.
Fifth, the Imam who is proposing the center is . . . a bit controversial himself. He refuses to condemn Hamas (a designated terrorist organization with a genocidal purpose), blames America in part for the 9/11 attacks (said our policies were “accessories to the crime”) and notes that “Osama bin Laden is made in the USA.” No one serious is alleging that he’s a terrorist, but he’s certainly not the bridge-builder he claims to be.
Sixth, the Imam is concealing the sources of funding for the Mosque. This is a quite important factor . . . especially since he won’t rule out Saudi or Iranian funding. The Saudi dollars typically come with strings attached, strings that include perpetuation of Wahabbist Islam, the violent form of Sunni Islam that animates the Muslim Brotherhood, al Qaeda, and the Taliban. Iranian funding would come from the state that is the single largest sponsor of terrorism in the world.
Seventh, comparing a massive mosque — especially given the history outlined above — to pizza places or bank branches is a bit off-point. On 9/11 we weren’t attacked by 19 pizza chefs. If we were, and then someone wanted to build a $100 million dollar ode to pizzas in a building damaged by the attacks, then people would be similarly offended.
Finally, I appreciate good intentions regarding loving our fellow man. In fact, many of my facebook friends have risked their lives defending Muslims in Iraq. I’ve spent more than a few days outside the wire myself (though I can’t compare to the real heros in 2/3 ACR). I can’t think of many things more empirically loving than risking your life to defend another human being. I have friends who died defending others. We were fighting al Qaeda and the Sadr Militia, not “Muslims.” It is not too much for us to ask for Muslims to respect the place where their co-religionists killed 2,750 of our fellow citizens and not build a $100 million Mosque 600 feet away . . . especially not one named after a city they conquered through Jihad.
There are plenty of places to worship in Manhattan, and that building has even been previously used for Islamic prayer, but there is a world of difference between a pre-existing modest house of prayer and a massive Islamic center built by a man who flirts with Islamic radicalism, courts Saudi and Iranian money, and proposes to name it after one of Islam’s greatest conquests.
I’d love to hear some EFM reader feedback. Oh, and I should point out that a certain former Massachusetts Governor has issued his own statement. (Hat tip to our friends at Mitt Romney Central.) Governor Romney is a bit more succinct than I am, and he comes to the same conclusion.