Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Me and the Mosque

My first reaction is always wrong. This is not a theory, it’s a fact borne out by years of living and an untold number of bad experiences. If I really want to behave in a sane and wise manner, I have to let my first reaction go, and wait for a better one to replace it. This may take time. More often than not, my second, third, tenth reaction are wrong too.
I bring this up because my first reaction, when hearing of a proposal to build a mosque near ground zero in New York, was wrong. I thought, yes, what a wonderful idea! And while we’re at it, let’s also build a monument to the Third Reich on the Trocadero in Paris, near the Eiffel Tower. Or perhaps an amusement park in Poland, Disney-Treblinka... Because the very idea, a mosque near Ground Zero, seemed so downright ludicrous it belonged to the realm of comedy. Saturday Night Live would have a field day with this one.

Then I read a bit more about it. Although projected to be financed, designed and built by Muslim money, the center would not be a mosque per se, more like a non-denominational community hub. There would be offices, worship areas, a pool, a daycare center and exhibition spaces. It would not even have a view of Ground Zero.

No, that still didn’t make it right. If a Muslim organization wanted to help with the healing, let it use its money for anti-terrorist education in the nations that foster and endorse radical Islam. Let them apply sujch funds to foster change in—or eliminate altogether—the governments that allow training camps, arm trade and recruitment in their countries. Yes, it’s a tall order, but who is better suited to work with Islamics than other Islamics?

This is, of course, a question of perception, but perceptions rule the world. When a group of Carmelite nuns established a convent near Auschwitz to pray for the souls of those murdered there, Jewish groups the world over protested that the sisters were trying to Christianize the Holocaust and hijack the memories of the dead. Eventually, Pope John Paul II ordered the nuns to move.

 But we’re not in Poland, we’re in America, a nation that has long prided itself on showing the rest of the world what freedom really is. Wouldn’t such a display of forgiveness and tolerance really give the finger to the bad guys? And would they not realize that, armed with such benevolence and righteousness, God is indeed on our side?

Nah. That doesn’t work for me either. Plus, the other guys really aren’t disposed to having philosophical discussions on the benefits of tolerance.

In fact, the only reason I can see for building the center is that Newt Gingrich is opposed to it.

Let me explain that statement. 

Gingrich is a neighbor—not next door but he lives about a mile away—way too close for comfort—and I run into him from time to time in a favorite restaurant.
I believe the former Speaker of the House is a malevolent troll. Everything about him is despicable, including his opinions and his ambitions to become our next President. Remember, this is the politician who was screwing a Hill staffer while giving speeches on family values, the very same man who was fined $300,000  for lying to the House Ethics Committee.  The very fact that Gingrich is against building the mosque gives me pause.

But no. It’s a bad idea to build there and the fact that Newt is milking the crisis for all it’s worth won’t change my opinion.

So after many thoughts, for once I’ll honor my first reaction. Don’t do it.

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