Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Laying to rest the Ground Zero temple

Flurries of discussion on the proposed Islamic Temple near ground zero are sweeping through families, radio, and cyberspace, prompting me to lay the issue to rest with a series of brilliant remarks.

First, as a proponent of freedom and protector of property rights, I hope that the mosque builders are given the same freedoms to use their private land as they choose as much as any other landowner in that neighborhood is given. This is my political position, and I'm guessing that America's future will be stronger if Obama and Bloomberg stick to their guns on this point.

Next, consider the following points:
  1. By many reports, a majority of Americans are in favor of prohibiting the planned mosque.
  2. Most of those Americans opposed to the mosque would view the mosque as some kind of monument to terrorism.
  3. Building the mosque will make those who oppose it even more angry and prejudiced towards Muslims. America learns at its own pace.
  4. Building the mosque may quell some of the hate that much of the Middle East feels towards America, but this effect is insignificant compared to the hate generated by ongoing American military operations in the Middle East.
  5. Americans who already understand that not all Muslims are terrorists will not be made more convinced of this fact by the presence of a Muslim temple.
These points, and especially point 3, lead me to think that is disingenuous at best for the Muslim leaders to using the Temple to win greater acceptance by society.

Another way to look at the situation is to imagine that a muslim mosque is a gay marriage. The marriage, however dignified it may be, stokes anger among its opponents. Does this mean that the gays who want to marry could hasten the coming of a broad societal acceptance of gay marriage by waiting to do gay marriage?

For both marriages and mosques, I think that the answer depends on the extent to which the act (conducting a marriage, building a mosque) is at heart a symbolic act versus a sustained way of being. If a gay couple can achieve most of the benefits of marriage with an informal commitment understood among a circle of friends rather than a bold public proclamation, they may well be doing more good for their cause. If Manhatten Muslims can find a way to worship together without building a highly visible monument to their religion in hostile territory, they might come out stronger in the end.


Blogger Rose McDougall said...

I completely disagree. No movement in American history was successful by waiting until the bigoted masses felt like accepting justice. That's not how it works - never has.

And is it really, "bold" for a couple who loves each other to want to marry?

12:49 PM  
Blogger Yohannes said...

I think it'd be terrible precedent if this level of mass idiocy actually resulted in a reversal of the plans to build this place. But leaving aside emotional satisfaction and considering only strategy:

On point 3 - I would say that going ahead with the plans to build would indeed make the people opposed angrier, but I don't think it'd make them any more prejudiced. Maybe their opinions of Muslims would change from "Terrorist" to "Insensitive Mean Terrorist".

My guess(but not hope): the likely-to-come attempted bombing of this "monument to terrorism" by some jingoist will serve the Cordoba center's goals much better than backing out would...

7:54 PM  
Anonymous Brian said...

I could not disagree more. How is the old Burlington Coat Factory in lower Manhattan "enemy territory" for Muslims? Republican talking heads decide to go for broke with a hateful fear-mongering political ploy and they suddenly possess land in Manhattan?

Are your points meant to be construed as facts? Because I'm afraid I have to disagree with all of them, except #2. In point #1, which reports are we talking about? Please tell me you're not referring to the CNN "poll". I think I voted about 45 times once in one of those.

In points 3 and 4 you seem to be arguing that intolerant Americans can only become more intolerant and hateful Muslims will never love the US. What's the basis for this? Why can't more exposure to a moderate, peaceful practice of Islam influence intolerant Americans for the better? Why couldn't a strong show of religious tolerance win brownie points with Muslims living in the Middle East?

The bottom line is that the only reason we're talking about this is because there haven't been enough shark attacks this summer to wean the media off the Republican party's talking points tit.

9:40 PM  
Blogger My Freakwentness said...

Rose, I look forward to the day when gay marriage does not seem bold and Muslims can practice Islam anywhere without raising eyebrows. I'd like to learn more about how such societal changes occur; it's still not clear to me whether symbolic judicial/political victories on these fronts are agents of change rather than reflections of change.

Yohannes, I mostly agree, except on point 3: for people who are wary of Islam but not ready to call all Muslims terrorists, the temple confirms a lurking suspicion in their minds that "insensitivity" is defining characteristic of Islam. I think that prior to deeper understanding of Muslims, any act that can be construed as "overly assertive" by Muslims does in fact contribute to prejudice.

Brian, I may be wrong in point 1. Regardless of the exact size of the opposition, the rest of the arguments could hold independently. Regarding "enemy territory," right, I don't know the geographic contours of the resistance, but the presence of hostility is unmistakable. As Yohannes pointed out, it seems like the temple could become a bombing target. Let's hope not.

1:18 PM  
Blogger Yohannes said...

I like your point by point argument system - helps with clarity for any followup conversation.

6:10 PM  
Blogger My Freakwentness said...

thanks, Yohannes, I'm proud of it!

6:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not "tit." How would you feel if somebody started throwing around "scrotum"?

5:28 AM  

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