It’s been a while since I wrote. I’ve been occupied with other things. I’ve been able to kick the blogging software in the pants so that others can register and post comments. If you register and don’t post a comment within three days, your registration will be deleted.
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The big issue this summer has been the proposed mosque and community center about two blocks north of the World Trade Center site. An Islamic group bought a distressed building, damaged when the landing gear of one of the planes hijacked on 11 September hit it, and is currently using it for prayer services. There is now a plan to build a shiny new mosque and community center on the site. It used to be called ‘Cordoba House,’ but the developers of the plan are now calling it ‘Park51.’ No matter: I’ll stick with the former name, as I believe it’s more honest.
My first thought is if the local Islamic community is pooling their dollars to build this facility, we in the larger community have no rational basis to oppose it. It’s their building and their land.
And the First Amendment to the Constitution begins ‘Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;’ which seems fairly straightforward. We don’t have to like Cordoba House; we don’t have to support it; but we must grant its right to be there.
Opponents of Cordoba House make three points:
- Funding for the mosque is currently unclear: it may be coming from Saudi Arabia, and not the local community.
- Islam, in addition to providing moral and spiritual guidance, posits a political and legal system. Cordoba House, consistent with history, represents the political aspect of Islam ‘planting the flag’ in New York City.
- Since the 11 September terrorists were followers of Islam, it’s disrespectful to have an Islamic center so close to the death and destruction of the World Trade Center site.
While all these points may be true, none of them represent a valid exception to a basic First Amendment right. The First Amendment says nothing about what a religion is, or how it may be funded, a requirement to be ‘respectful.’ Islam may have its political aspects, but it would be a major effort (and probably not realistic) to establish that it is not actually a religion.
Still, people seize on the last argument to suggest, ‘perhaps it could be built somewhere else.’ If Islam is really the dark, powerful force that some imagine it to be, such moaning would only make us look weak and stupid.
What really bothers me about Cordoba House, more than its funding or its imagined political intent, is that when it is finished, the World Trade Center site will still be a hole in the ground.