There has been a lot of media attention on this, so it may be appropriate to make a couple of observations.
First, lets start with a few facts and dispel the popular emotive myths
- Its not a mosque, its actually an Islamic community center that just happens to have a prayer room. So you need to abandon all visions of some Islamic cleric standing aloft in some tall minaret beckoning the delusional to come have a chat with their imaginary friend.
- Its not at ground zero. If you start at ground zero, then you need to walk several blocks to get there. In fact, its not even on a main street. To get to it, you have to go a bit off the beaten track and meander down a side street.
OK, now that we have established a couple of facts to work with, lets ask a couple of questions and check a couple of generic principles …
“Do you personally believe in Freedom of Thought?”
I would hope that you do. To put that into more specific words, is it OK to let people believe whatever they want to believe, or should we start to impose restrictions? The problem with putting constraints on what people think is obvious. Clearly the sky is blue, but if some wish to believe its pink and deny the evidence, then so be it, as long as they do not impose their beliefs on others or cause harm. If we start creating restrictions, you quickly find yourself slipping into a place we really should not go (Ah but that’s a separate discussion, lets just stick to the basics and assume you do embrace the concept of Freedom of Thought)
Now, lets try another question:
“Do you believe in freedom of speech?”
Once again the answer is obvious, most reasonable sane people do, but then it is often a bit of a sticky point for believers. You might find a response such as “deeply offended” or even “Blasphemer, so death to you” if you even drop a hint that you do not adhere to their rigid archaic beliefs, but even in the face of such insanity, Freedom of Speech is a vitally important right that we need to stand up for.
OK, so with all this in mind, should we ban a community center several blocks from ground zero? Perhaps several blocks is too close, shall we go for 3, 4, 5 or more blocks around ground zero as a community center no-go zone? Where do you draw the line and who gets to decide? As more time passes, do we then more the line a bit closer? Should we also prohibit any passing Muslims from praying near ground zero within our Islamic prayer exclusion zone, and who exactly would police that? If there is then a breach of such a rule, do we then start locking up Muslims from attempting to pray? Just where do you stop if you start down this road?
Generally speaking, I cannot see how any such ban is reasonably possible. I have to say that I support their right to believe whatever they want and to build a community center wherever they want. Yes indeed, I, as an unbeliever that considers their beliefs to be complete and utter nonsense, support it because I believe in freedom of thought.
9/11 was not an Islamic victory and never can be, it was a human tragedy inflicted upon us all by extreme far right Islamic fanatics. To put that in context, the repugnant regime in Saudi Arabia is a far right Islamic dictatorship (woman should not be permitted to drive and should be wrapped up in bags). Osama and his fanatics were way beyond that and make the Saudis look quite left wing (from Osama’s extreme viewpoint, women should not even leave the house). However, taring all Islamic believers with the same brush would be a huge mistake. They may indeed be all embracing crazy beliefs, but those that do not threaten harm or violence need to be free to believe whatever they want.
Disagree? … thats OK. Feel free to drop a comment (anonymous if you prefer) to explain why
Update 15:42 (GMT) : Bruce Hood has made a couple of interesting additional observations on his blog …
The big hallabahoo over the planned Muslim centre two blocks from Ground Zero that I blogged about a couple of days ago appears to be heating up. Charlie Brooker wrote a hilarious piece on this in today’s Guardian that pulled no punches. People who object to the planned centre in New York, believe that Ground Zero is sacred and I believe their belief. But as commentors and some of my Twitter followers (most notably @EvilEyeMonster – follow him -he is good value) have pointed out, double standards appear to be operating. For example, within the same two block distance there are strip-joints, fast food chains and a whole bunch of dodgy businesses that you would not find on other sacred sites (maybe I am wrong here too!). But what is really double standards when it comes to objecting to the presence and activity of a Muslim Centre, is the report in today’s Washington Post that Muslims have been praying at the Pentagon’s chapel since 2002, gathering every day at 2 p.m. around the time of the second of five prayers Muslims are supposed to offer daily. People seem to have forgotten that the Pentagon was also attacked on 9/11 with the death of 125 people. Admittedly, it is a non-denominational chapel were the Muslims pray but it is remarkable how objectors have overlooked this anomaly.
You can jump over to his blog here …
Update 2 16:00 (GMT) Just checked todays Guardian writeup on all this … I just love this quote from it …
To get to the Cordoba Centre from Ground Zero, you’d have to walk in the opposite direction for two blocks, before turning a corner and walking a bit more. The journey should take roughly two minutes, or possibly slightly longer if you’re heading an angry mob who can’t hear your directions over the sound of their own enraged bellowing.
Perhaps spatial reality functions differently on the other side of the Atlantic, but here in London, something that is “two minutes’ walk and round a corner” from something else isn’t actually “in” the same place at all. I once had a poo in a pub about two minutes’ walk from Buckingham Palace. I was not subsequently arrested and charged with crapping directly onto the Queen’s pillow. That’s how “distance” works in Britain. It’s also how distance works in America, of course, but some people are currently pretending it doesn’t, for daft political ends.
Full Guardian article here … (its worth a read, he totally take the piss about all this)