Friday, August 20, 2010

In Favor of Park51

Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago, "Are you going to write about the 'Ground Zero Mosque' on your blog?" I said, “Probably not.” But because of the very widespread coverage in the news media and the strong opposition to the project in Manhattan that is officially known as Park51, I decided to write about this controversial issue.
The tipping point came when I read “Building Mosque at Ground Zero is Distasteful.” That op-ed piece, which appeared in last Sunday’s Kansas City Star, is by E. Thomas McClanahan, a member of the Star’s editorial board.
McClanahan wrote that “3,000 Americans were incinerated by Islamic jihadists,” but he did not mention that some of those Americans were also Muslims. And he did not mention that most American Muslims are as dismayed by the crimes of the 9/11 terrorists as are non-Muslim Americans. Nor did he mention that the vast majority of those who will worship at the Manhattan mosque are also anti-terrorist Americans.
McClanahan (gleefully?) points out that there are Muslims opposed to the construction of the “Ground Zero Mosque.” That is but to be expected. When was the last time Christians gave 100% support to any social or political matter? But he failed to point out that the September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a nationwide group founded by family members of those killed on 9/11, issued a statement back on May 20 strongly supporting the plans to build the Islamic Cultural Center near the Ground Zero site.
On August 11 at the regular meeting of the Vital Conversations discussion group, we had the privilege of hearing comments by Dr. Abdul Rauf Mir, a medical doctor from Kashmir who has practiced in the Kansas City area for decades and is a naturalized U.S. citizen as well as a devout Muslim.
Dr. Mir (b. 1945) personally knows Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam who is behind the construction of Park51. (I have no explanation for the similarity of their names.) When the sensitivity issue was brought up, Dr. Mir insisted that we should not cater to people’s sensitivities that are based on prejudices. That comment is in line with an August 3 article in Time magazine that referred to the opposition to Park51 as being based “ignorance, bigotry and politics.”
Jim Wallis, leader of the Sojourners community, often says that the answer to bad religion is not “no religion” but “good religion.” Accordingly, can’t we say that the answer to the insidious crimes committed by a few terrorists identified with Islam is a peaceful, tolerant Islamic presence such as is being proposed for Park51?
Jeffrey Goldberg, an American-Israeli journalist who writes for The Atlantic says,
I know Feisal Abdul Rauf. . . . He represents what Bin Laden fears most: a Muslim who believes that it is possible to remain true to the values of Islam and, at the same time, to be a loyal citizen of a Western, non-Muslim country. Bin Laden wants a clash of civilizations; the opponents of the mosque project are giving him what he wants.
Those are words well worth heeding.


  1. Thanks for the post, Leroy. I refer your TFs to one op-ed piece in the Star this past week, that of Charles Krauthammer. And then you should read Vern Barnett's piece in Wednesday's Star this past week. Krauthammer disagrees with the building of the mosque on the view that somehow ground zero is "hallowed ground," like Gettysburg and other battlefields where Americans lost life. Krauthammer did not mention, as Barnett does, that 1. there has been a mosque within a few blocks of that area for some 20 years; 2. a Greek Orthodox Church is desiring to rebuild in the same area and no one is objecting to that.

    I am afraid that the objectors are simply voicing their prejudices and cannot put forward any compelling argument for why this is either harmful or distasteful. I support building the mosque in the area.

  2. MPH, thanks for your prompt posting of helpful comments. I also read, and disagreed with, Krauthammer's op-ed piece and also Vern Barnet's article, which I agreed with. Vern was at the Vital Conversations meeting I mentioned above. I thought his question, "When does sensitivity to others’ feelings become prejudice?" missed the point somewhat. To me the question is How sensitive should be to people's feelings that are based primarily on prejudice and ignorance?

    There are those who bring up the Greek Orthodox Church, which is in a dispute with the Port Authority over rebuilding. Some are even saying that the "government" is in favor of building the mosque but opposed to the rebuilding of the church. But the latter issue seems to be primarily a conflict about money, and it has nothing to do with the federal government, of course.

  3. I have yet to figure out why this is even an issue. I agree with MPH, it seems that this is more a result of prejudice than actual legitimate argument.

  4. I was pleased to receive the following brief comment from the pastor of a Christian church in Kansas City Northland:

    "Nicely rendered, Leroy"

  5. Also, earlier this morning I was happy to receive the following comments from Bill Tammeus, who is well known in the Kansas City area as the "Faith Matters" blogger for the "Kansas City Star" (and I post this with his permission):


    "Thanks for this. And in case you missed it, my blog yesterday was devoted to making a case for locating the Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero. See:"

  6. At best, with Ramadhan, 9/11 and elections upon us, the timing of consideration is poor. Prominent politicians on all sides are stepping into the morass, adding to the polarity. Feelings are certainly not homogeneous among 9/11 victims families either.

    Eboo Patel and Jim Wallis should have been out front on this one.

  7. Here is a link to a piece by Eboo Patel in the "Washington Post" on August 13:,

    And here is a link to what Jim Wallis wrote for the "Washington Post" on August 3:

  8. As someone who grew up in one of the Mormon churches (RLDS), I have an appreciation for just how worked up Americans can get over different religions, or "peculiar," as Mormons called themselves. In the 1830s the Governor of Missouri issued an extermination order against Mormons that was not officially rescinded until a few years ago, by then Governor Kit Bond. The same governor ordered the summary execution of Joseph Smith, Jr. while he was held in jail in Missouri. The order only failed in its objective because Alexander Doniphan refused the direct order, describing the order as a call to simple murder.

    If we want to honor the best in our American tradition, if we want to guide Islam into a path of peaceful engagement, if we want to protect our own strategic interests, we need to find the graciousness to welcome the development in New York. Once that center has its place in the sun, hold it to the same public accountability as any other religious organization. Do not, however, denigrate the people involved without reason.

    We should be publicizing, to all concerned, not the differences between east and west, but the deep bounds that tie our history and cultures together. The western science so frequently denigrated in both cultures does its basic calculations using Arabic numerals. Can you imagine sending a man to the moon using Roman numerals? From the Arabs we received the zero, one of the greatest inventions in history. Of course, the Arabs did not invent the zero. Those great meditators on nothingness in India did that. The Arabs, however, brought the zero to the west. Our students struggle to learn algebra, and our computers crunch algorithms. Our chemistry has its roots in alchemy. All with Arab roots. From Shriners' hats to Arabian horses in the Kentucky derby, Arab roots are all over the western world. And the modern Arabic and Muslim culture is just as unthinkable without comparable western influences. As the late President Lyndon Johnson would often say, let us reason together.

  9. Here are comments which a local Thinking Friend sent by e-mail yesterday"

    "Leroy, my point all week about the Mosque is the same one posted in the Star today by a young man who lives and works in NY. Anyone who has been to NYC knows that two blocks away from Ground Zero and comprises a zillions stories of building and is hardly a drop in the bucket and no big deal, even if you do hate the folk who frequent Mosques. The whole thing is preposterous and just makes me tired. When will our people grow up!"

  10. I too read, and appreciated that op-ed piece in yesterday's "Star." Here is the first part of that article:

    How far must I walk before I may offer my prayers?

    By SAMEER AHMED (Special to The Star)

    There is no “ground zero mosque.”

    Despite widespread hysteria from politicians and the media, there is no mosque being built at ground zero. I should know; I work a few blocks away. What is being built is called Park51, a Muslim community center located on Park Place, a busy street in lower Manhattan blocks away from ground zero. Park51 is modeled after the YMCA, and will have a gym, swimming pool, auditorium, culinary school, and yes, a prayer room. It will be open to members of all faiths who live, work, and visit lower Manhattan.

    Read more:

  11. "Muslim," "Christian," "Jewish," "Buddhist," "terrorist"... All it takes is three calories and a wag of the tongue to slap a label on yourself or another. Huston Smith, in his book "The World's Religions," identifies the four commandments common to all respectable faiths as, "don't lie, don't steal, don't murder and don't commit adultery" (which I take to mean, "don't be a hypocrite"). Hitler and Bush were both "Christian" (according to themselves), but their lying, thieving, murdering ways clearly exposes their hypocrisy. The fact that Obama had the gall to justify American (and "Coalition of the Willing") warmongering in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech marks him as the same. He is therefore neither Muslim nor Christian, if you ask me. If he ever calls for a real investigation into the events/lies of 9/11, I will reconsider.

  12. Religious Leaders for 9/11 Truth

    Political Leaders for 9/11 Truth