Monday, August 09, 2010

Groundless Zero Intolerance

We went down the take a closer look at the site of the mosque next to Ground Zero the other day and were struck by just how close the building is to the sacred site-you really have to see it to get the full picture of the proximity. As we walked by the building, we were forced to run a gauntlet of around fifty bearded Muslim men and, as images of Borough Park misogyny ran through our heads, the Better Half turned and said in a quite loud voice, "Where are all of the women?"

But, let's take a step back for a second and examine the unfairness of the analogy. Living with a woman who consciously fled male dominated orthodoxy has given us a keener understanding of how narrow minded and bigoted that mindset can be-but there's still a big difference between Borough Park and Medina. Orthodox Jews, by and large, keep to themselves, and proselytizing actively, not to mention actual bomb throwing, is discouraged. As Wikepedia points out: "Orthodox Judaism discourages converts; further, those seeking to covert must be turned away at least three times. Other branches of Judaism are more receptive to converts and frequently do not turn prospective converts away; however, Judaism has never been a missionary religion and has not historically condoned or engaged in proselytizing."

Fundamentalism with an Islamic face is an altogether different story-as you can find out, here, here, here and here. And, as we have said before, mosques-many of which have been funded by the strict Wahabbist movement out of Saudi Arabia-have been frequently used as recruiting grounds for Islamist terrorists. And that has happened right here in New York City.

So the effort by Mike Bloomberg to conflate the mosque fight with some grand crusade for religious tolerance-while at the same time labeling all opponents of the idea as bigots-is both risible and a disgrace. It obviates the fact that, unlike almost all current variants of religious practice, Islam has exhibited a violent streak in the name of a politicized version of the faith's basic tenets. But that's not all. In addition, there is a complementary version of Islamic practice that, while outwardly abjuring violence and jihad, seeks to convert the non-believers and usher in a new society based on sharia law.

What would this mean? It would inevitably mean the abolition of the very separation of church and state that the mayor has elevated to a passionate principle in the fight over the mosque. And guess what? It is this strain of Islam, a strain that disdains the basic democratic, enlightenment principles, that Iman Rauf believes fervently in-as Debra Burlingame so eloquently informed us on, "Religion on the Line," yesterday (after reading thoroughly the imam's book).

All of which makes the question of the mosque's funding of compelling social interest-and reduces the Bloomberg comparison of this questioning, he has said that no one would be concerned about where money in the church plate was coming from-with other forms of religious donation absurd.

So, if Burlingame is correct and the imam advocates the eventual triumph of sharia law, what does it then mean about his decision to build a mosque right at Ground Zero? And if Burlingame is also correct that the imam has said that he wants to, "change the narrative about 9/11," what do you think it means that he has chosen this particular site for a 13 story mosque?

So, while legally the imam may well be within his rights to build on the site, it is instructive that he chooses here-especially when expressing a goal of increasing tolerance of the Muslim faith. Too many Americans-no matter how badly Bloomberg seeks to discredit them-are upset about his choice of locations; and see it as confrontational and sacrilegious. This, it appears is true even for some Muslims-and in yesterday's Washington Post one Muslim daughter of a 9/11 victim did voice her own outrage-discrediting the narrative of those who want to use Muslim victims as a rationale for the mosque.

Neda Bolourchi  writes: "But a mosque near Ground Zero will not move this conversation forward. There were many mosques in the United States before Sept. 11; their mere existence did not bring cross-cultural understanding. The proposed center in New York may be heralded as a peace offering -- may genuinely seek to focus on "promoting integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion through arts and culture," as its Web site declares -- but I fear that over time, it will cultivate a fundamentalist version of the Muslim faith, embracing those who share such beliefs and hating those who do not...I do not like harboring resentment or anger, but I do not want the death of my mother -- my best friend, my hero, my strength, my love -- to become even more politicized than it already is. To the supporters of this new Islamic cultural center, I must ask: Build your ideological monument somewhere else, far from my mother's grave, and let her rest."

But in Mike Bloomberg's self congratulatory bubble, Bolourchi's voice is simply added to the bigoted chorus-while he preens with an air of self righteous superiority. In our view, Bloomberg's grand crusade for religious tolerance is misdirected-as are most of the mayor's crusades-and it masks the manner in which the cry for tolerance masks its polar opposite-in as good an example of useful idiocy as we have ever seen.