Thursday, August 19, 2010

Of Mosques in Lower Manhattan

I posted on the "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy over at the Marquette University Law School Blog. Essentially, I think that the illegality of the state blocking an Islamic Center because it is Islamic is absolutely clear. I do believe that there are legitimate reasons to question the wisdom of placing the project so close to Ground Zero, but I worry about the "precedent" (cultural not legal) that would be set by withdrawal of the project in the face of public pressure. I am not comfortable with people being forced to back down from the exercise of their rights of free speech or religion as a result of public pressure and that applies to the Cordoba project as well as systematic efforts to, for example, ostracize supporters of California's Proposition 8 or boycott persons or organizations who contribute to the wrong candidate.

Perhaps the controversy could have been avoided had Mayor Bloomberg and other NYC officials recognized the potential problem earlier and engaged the sponsors on the issue or if the project's sponsors were more attuned to the legitimate concerns that the project raises and more willing to take steps to defuse them. But, as things stand now, whatever the resolution of this controversy turns out to be, it will be less than ideal.

My own sense is that, rather than call for the relocation of the project, the project's sponsors ought to be called upon to acknowledge its symbolic dangers and to take steps to diffuse them such as incorporating into the project a prominent condemnation of the concept of violent jihad (explicitly linked to 9-11) and a call for those who engage in it to repent.


Grant said...

a prominent condemnation of the concept of violent jihad

What's sauce for the goose...

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Nick said...

"a prominent condemnation of the concept of violent jihad"...

You mean like when he did this?

Rick Esenberg said...


I assume that you <a href="'>watched Sesame Street</a> as a child and understand why the analogy is not apt.

But, in case not, it is not apparent that Mr. Sharp committed his crime in the name of his religion creating a site that will be long regarded as a site of a unique national tragedy. Even if the did, it is not clear that that there is not an organized cadre of like minded people committed to similar acts of violence in the service of common geopolitical goals and that this cadre is supported by millions of his co-religionists. Beyond that, I didn't see where the writer is proposing a prominent monument to the Baptist faith in near proximity to that site that has the potential to be misinterpreted by both the supporters of Mr. Gray's violence or its victims.

Were these things true then, yes, I would say that sensitivity, common decency and the need to ensure that the broader and nonviolent Baptist faith is not misinterpreted might suggest some physical acknowledgement of what the new structure does and does not stand for.

Of course,this can only ever be a request. No one can force such an acknowledgement.

Nick, in fairness, he said a number of other things too. But I am more concerned here about what people will make of the Center and that is best addressed by something incorporated into the structure that distances Islam from the historic crime that was committed in his name so nearby; that makes clear that, in the view of those who pray or gather there, that this crime was against Islam as well.

I'd say the same thing if someone was building a German Lutheran Church across from Auschwitz even though the Nazis, unlike al Qaeda, did not act in the name of Christianity. Nevertheless, I think it would be wholly appropriate and decent for that Church to somewhere express dismay over the way in which centuries of misinterpretation of the Scripture lead to a climate of anti-semitism that contributed to an atmosphere in which such crimes might happen.

Display Name said...

You know, if certain people in that other religion don't take your religion's advisements under consideration and implement them in the construction of their building in an appropriately sensitive fashion, you and Julaine could always help pass an amendment or referendum that would prevent them from ever trying that again.

Anonymous said...

If you do things to restrict other peoples rights then own up to it don't hide or be cowardly.

If you want to deny marriage to gay people don't whine if people look at you personal life relative to divorce.

It's fine to set standards for others but then others will look at how the standard was set in your own life

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 12:41;

I have my concerns about some of Rick's posts, which I've expressed on other recent threads about same-sex marriage, but your comments here are not helpful.

I understand your frustration, I'm waiting for a response from Rick and have little faith it will ever come, but that's no excuse for going off the rails into the mud.

Much like this question about the Mosque proposed near Ground Zero; it is hard to be fair or tolerant when others are not, but if we all sink to the lowest common denominator, then Rick's faults (whatever you think they are) are no worse than everyone else's.

You cannot offend and persuade at the same time.

sean s.

Rick Esenberg said...

Sure, I'm not sure what response you are waiting for.

Anon 12:41

For the umpteenth time, I am not going to publicly discuss the circumstances of my divorce because it would involve discussion of the personal life of another person who has not interjected herself into the public debate. While I am perfectly capable of failing to meet the standards that I set for myself, that was not such an occasion.

sean s. said...


I have ZERO interest in your divorce, your marriage or any part of your personal life. Those things are irrelevant to the topics I participate in discussing on this site. I have some questions hanging on the threads regarding same-sex marriage and Perry. Regarding your personal life, it's not something I'd expect ANYONE to have to explain here. I apologize for not making that clear.

sean s.

sean s. said...

If I wanted to know about your personal life, I'd be obligated to buy you a beer first!

; )

sean s.

Dad29 said...

Or Rauf's Alternative Persona?

It is not helpful to think about Islam in Western terms--that is, there IS no 'separation' of church/state in Islam. They don't even have 'natural law' discussions, because since ~1000AD, the "reasonable" branch of Islam has been suppressed, sometimes violently, by the Sunni/Shia branch now dominant.

When we walk away from Iraq, we will have left an Islamic state.

On the other hand, the Islamics will never voluntarily leave a Christian or Jewish state behind them.

It took wars in the Balkans and in Spain, remember.

Anonymous said...

You know, Dad, that the Aristotelian natural law tradition came down to us through Arabic-speaking Islamic scholars. The works of Aristotle were lost to Western Europe after the fall of Rome. But Islamic scholars like Avicenna and Averroes studied them, and they were translated from Greek into Arabic. European scholars went to Spain in the twelfth century to study them and translate them from Arabic into Latin. That's how they came down to such as Thomas Aquinas.

Averroes was chief judge of Cordoba in the late twelfth century. The name of the proposed cultural center, the Cordoba Center, recalls that era -- when Christians, Jews, and Muslims learned from one another.

And Imam Rauf, by the way, is neither a Sunni nor a Shia (you know those are two different branches of Islam, right?), but a peace-loving Sufi.

May peace be upon you.

Dad29 said...

Yah, I've heard that Sunnis and Shi'ites are different.


You refer to the period of Caliph Al-Ma'mun's dominance when you talk about Greek philosophy.

Too bad Al-Ash'ari showed up.

Benedict XVI addressed the Muslim philosophy problem very clearly at Regensburg, and some Muslims were favorably responsive.

But not a lot--and certainly not the Islamists.

A Nonymouse said...

The condemnation and repentence you suggest as pre-conditions for acceptance of the mosque are so unlikely to occur that you must have proposed them knowing that either they won't happen, or that any expression of same would be untrustworthy (my view). And will you support the construction when the design inevitably contains a minaret, and the accompaning call to prayer that will be heard over Ground Zero? If not, why not?

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Anonymous said...

Dad: Al-Ma'mun was caliph of Baghdad from 786 to 833 A.D. The scholar al-Ash'ari lived from 874 to 936 A.D. Both of them were dead before Avicenna (981-1037 A.D.) was born. And Averroes (1126-1198 A.D.) was born almost two centuries after al-Ash'ari died. It was in the twelfth century A.D. when Greek philosophy was transmitted, in Spain, from Arabic-speaking Islamic scholars to Western European scholars.

Whatever Pope Benedict's quotation of Manuel II Paleolagus was intended to do, it did not "very clearly" address anything, and certainly not a "Muslim philosophy problem." The reaction to it in the Muslim world was, overwhelmingly, a feeling that they'd just been insulted. Which is unfortunate, because what the Pope did say very clearly in his speech is that a "genuine dialogue of cultures and religions" is "urgently needed today." That is part of what the Cordoba Center is intended to promote.

Dad29 said...

The reaction to it in the Muslim world was, overwhelmingly, a feeling that they'd just been insulted.

Yah, well, they get "insulted" a lot, you know, largely because the rabble is perfectly happy to take the propaganda of Hamas as fact. Perhaps they should do what some serious Muslim scholars/imams did and take B-16 seriously.

And although you gave very nice dates, you did evade the reality: Al-ash'ari's system has dominance of Islamic thought, and has had it since ~1500 AD.

Since the Muslims cannot bring themselves to do what the Church did with the convent at Oszwiecim, it is clear that the Muslims are merely insulting the Americans.

Get a clue.

Anonymous said...

It should not be overlooked that Islam is a theocracy and a Mosque is a political building.

John McAdams said...

I'm all for property rights, so I think you can do anything you want with property you own unless you cause palpable harm to somebody -- reducing their property values, for example.

But I can't help noting that if it was a Wal-Mart that somebody wanted to establish, liberals would be fighting it tooth and nail.

If somebody proposed a project that was claimed to be offensive to blacks, or gays, or "women" (meaning feminists) or indeed Muslims, nobody on the left would be lecturing anybody about "tolerance."

Or maybe they would be saying that "tolerance" requires you defer to the sensibilities of some politically correct group.

But the 9/11 victims don't seem to be a politically correct group.

Free Lunch said...

Calls for 'sensitivity' are calls for American Moslems to let themselves be painted with the brush the bigots are wielding. It's a shame that we have so many people who claim to be supporting the rights of Moslems while doing all they can to undermine them by covertly tying them to the murderers.

Should all Christians be tied to all murders done by those who say that they are Christians?