Reale Simple

The world is more than what they tell you. Listen up. It's not complex. It's Reale Simple.


Former USCHO writer, former writer at a Midwestern broadsheet, occassional CHN blogger.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Playing the Bigotry Card

My friend Ellie Burhans wrote an article on her blog today in regards to the 13-story mosque being planned in Lower Manhattan, less than 600 feet away from the former location of the World Trade Center. She referred to opposition to the project as "hate, pure and simple." It's an argument that those who are opposed to the project have been hearing for a couple of weeks now.

This isn't a response to Ellie per se, but it is a venting of frustration for being repeatedly called a bigot without any established basis for it. I'm not a bigot. I simply believe that the concerns of all groups involved should be considered, not just the concerns of one group.

I don't deal with emotional arguments. I deal with facts. Brutal, undeniable, plain truths. And in case you doubt these facts, I've provided links to reputable sources, national and international, backing them.

Fact: The 19 perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks were Islamic, and were using their faith as justification for their attack. Whether the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful or not (the body of evidence suggests that they are), this cannot be avoided.

Fact: Terrorists using Islam as a justification continue to attempt attacks on the United States and on New York City, most recently on December 25, 2009 in Detroit and May 1, 2010 in Times Square. Both attacks were narrowly avoided, but there were 290 people aboard Flight 253, and the Times Square bomb, had it not been thwarted, would likely have been worse than the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. We are still at war with radicalized Islam, whether we like it or not, because they are attacking us.

Fact: The imam behind the project, Faisal Abdul Rauf, has refused to categorize Hamas (whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel, and who has been firing rockets at Israeli citizens from their Gaza stronghold for six years) as a terrorist organization. He also called the United States an "accessory" to 9/11 on 60 Minutes after the attack.

Fact: Sources of funding for the project are fairly unknown. Rauf has said that the funds would be raised entirely within the Muslim-American community, but he also told an Arabic-language newspaper in London that funding would also come from Arab countries. Saudi Arabia, for instance, has frequently funded mosque projects abroad to support Wahhabism (the strain of Islam practiced by Osama bin Laden), especially in Great Britain and Southeast Asia, which have been sources of extremist rhetoric and the growth of domestic terrorism in those areas.

Fact: The project is known as the "Cordoba Initiative," named for the vanquished Spanish capital conquered by invading Muslims in the 8th Century. Following the conquest, the massive Great Mosque of Cordoba was built, symbolizing the victory and the conquerors' power. (The building itself has been renamed from "Cordoba House" to "Park 51," the building's location, but the project's name is unchanged.)

Fact: Construction is due to begin on September 11, 2011, the tenth anniversary of the attacks. September 11, 2011 is a Sunday, which is an awfully strange day to begin construction.

These are the collective reasons why I oppose the building of a mega-mosque two blocks away from Ground Zero. I'm sorry, what's hateful about all of this? Is it hateful to point out the facts?

As of 2002, there were over 100 mosques in New York City, including 17 in Manhattan. That number no doubt has increased since then. If this were truly an issue of freedom of religion, an issue of hate, why wouldn't this be one of the things brought up as a major concern of those who oppose the Cordoba House? Muslims in New York are not lacking for places to worship.

Another mosque already exists near Ground Zero, and has been there for 30 years. They are seeking a new location nearby. Why has there been no controversy? Because they aren't trying to be ostentatious with a grand monument and have been exceptionally gracious with the 9/11 families.

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, built in 1832, was destroyed in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks when the South Tower fell on it. Despite promises from the City of New York, it has yet to be rebuilt due to miles of red tape. There's outrage over private citizens voicing their preference to holding back an Islamic mosque near Ground Zero. Where's the outrage over government actually holding back a previously existing Christian church near Ground Zero. Are they hateful, too? (Answer: No, of course not. The government can't possibly be hateful)

Imagine the outcry if an evangelical Christian church decided to build a mission just outside an abortion hospital where an abortion doctor had been killed. It would be ear-shattering, and the people behind the outcry would have a point. They wouldn't be called hateful.

Hey, I've got a great idea! Let's allow Fred Phelps to move forward with his plans to build a monument in Cheyenne, Wyoming celebrating Matthew Shepard's killing! Why not? Fred Phelps is a religious figure, aren't you just full of hate for opposing his freedom of religion?

Gonna get outraged over the blocking of a "super mosque" in London near the site of the Olympics? Nah, Europeans aren't bigots.

I'm not opposed to mosques. I'm not opposed to the free practice of religion. I'm not opposed to Islam. I'd have no problem with this mega-mosque being built near Central Park or uptown. I just have a problem with it being built THERE, at a location that was heavily damaged and ultimately abandoned after the 9/11 attacks, which may not have even become available for sale if not for the 9/11 attacks. They can't find a place more than 600 feet away from the place where almost 3,000 people from all walks of life and from multiple religions were murdered in the name of Islam? Seriously?

But ultimately, the bigger problem isn't whether there's a mosque near Ground Zero or not. The use of charges of bigotry or racism is reaching epidemic proportions in the modern political discourse, and it is to the detriment of said discourse.

Bigotry and racism are more and more routinely being used as blunt instruments, without basis in reality, as a method for seeking to silence opposition. The method has a double effect for the person using it. First, it allows them to lay claim to the moral high ground while casting doubt on the motivations of those in opposition, seeking to delegitimize relevant arguments. Second, it acts as a threat to those who would oppose - the message becomes clear; support our position or be labeled a bigot or a racist. I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who will look at the facts I have laid out, understand them, even agree with them, but will still support this mosque lest they be called a hateful bigot.

What does that do? It spikes real political conversation and dumbs it down to the lowest common denominator. Are there some bigots out there who oppose the mosque? Of course, but that's because there are some bigots in society. Are there racists in the tea party movement? Yes, but that's because racists exist in society. That doesn't make ALL opposition to the mosque inherently bigoted (pure OR simple), and it doesn't make the tea party movement inherently racist.

I'm not afraid to be called a bigot (since I know I'm not one), but it does get tiring to hear it constantly.