Saturday, August 21, 2010

Off topic - Everything mosque go

I'm going to venture off-topic a bit here in this Saturday post. This post has nothing to do with screenwriting, filmmaking or any of the reasons you usually come to this blog. I wonder if a political topic will be anywhere near as volatile as my stand on secondary headings or capitalizing and underlining too many words in your script, but I've go something to say about this whole Mosque mess that's been going on for the past week.

The controversy boils down to the proposal that a mosque be built within a few blocks of Ground Zero. Several voices from the Right, including Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, have argued that that area amounts to hallowed ground and other voices like Dick Morris have raised paranoia that to do so would essentially put a terrorist training facility in the shadow of Ground Zero.

A lot of ink has been spilt on this issue, and I urge everyone to go to Peter David's excellent blog on the subject where he takes Palin to task and essentially calls her position unconstitutional (because it is.) Sleezeball/Republican Newt Gingrich has been making the rounds arguing that no one's saying that they can't build a mosque, just that they can't do it there.

Oh, is that all? Thanks, Newt. I didn't realize that you're actually being pretty reasonab.... HEY! You can't do that, any more than the Jews of the Fairfax district in LA could petition to get all the damn churches out of their sight.

It's really disgusting to see these positions taken by those who are among the first to complain about Christian rights being trampled when the separation of church and state is enforced. It's disgusting to see them equate the entire Muslim religion with Al Queada as if they are the one and the same. That's like saying that there's zero distinction between practicing Christians and active members of the KKK, and if we were to deny Christians their freedom to practice under the defense that rogue elements like the KKK would take advantage, we would be in the wrong.

Worse, we would have destroyed our principles and become the very enemy we claim to fight.

The depths to which the Republican party exploits 9/11 never fails to sicken me. They don't believe in the principles of the Constitution, for if they did, this would not be a debate. They have beliefs that happen to coincide with the Framers, and they hold the Framers words sacred when it comes to things like the Second Amendment. Yet somehow when it comes to Amendments like the First and the Fourteenth Amendment, they manage to find massive amounts of grey areas in the words of the Framers and those who followed in their footsteps.

Those on the right arguing against the establishment of a mosque - be it in the shadow of the former Twin Towers or anywhere else - have no principles. They use fear and rhetoric to inflame the passions of those scared of the terrorist bogeymen and the sad truth is that a lot of people fall for it.

Worse, they're uninformed about the very issues of which they speak - as many pointed out that there has already been a mosque in that very area long before 9/11.

But those pounding on the table are only interested in making more noise and in being more divisive. They're just out to win an argument, even if they don't know what that argument is about. Newt, Sarah, it's not about being right. It's about doing right.

But the real reason I'm writing this is that I want to share this Daily Show segment with all of you. There's a lot of good stuff in there, but for me it was most notable because Jon Stewart draws a comparison between the current cries for sensitivity and the way that many reacted when the NRA was going to hold a rally near Columbine soon after the school shooting there in 1999. He runs clips from a Charlton Heston speech decrying those protests.

In the clip below, the Heston material starts at about 7:20, so if you don't want to sit through all of it, just skip there and watch the rest.

"America must stop this terrible pattern of reaction," Heston says. "When a terrible tragedy occurs, our phones ring, demanding the NRA explain the inexplicable. Why us? Because this story needs a villain. That is not our role in American society and we will not be forced to play it. If you disagree, that's your right. I respect that, but we will not relinquish it, or be silenced about it, or be told 'Do not come here. You are unwelcome in your own land.'"

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
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Here's the remarkable thing. Jon Stewart admits that in 1999 he probably would have been one of those voices calling for sensitivity. Yet unlike those whom he often demonstrates have changed their positions via old clip demonstrations, he confesses he would have been in the wrong. You never see that from sub-human vermin like Sean Hannity.

"I was wrong and Heston was right!" Stewart mea culpas, "And if you replace 'NRA' with 'Muslim community' and 'Second Amendment' with 'First Amendment,' he's still right."

I too would have been with those shouting at the NRA for sensitivity. And I too would have been wrong. It's a scary thing to realize, but I'm glad that the mirror has been held up this way because I don't to be Sarah Palin, I don't want to be Newt Gingrich and I certainly don't want to be Dick Morris.

The time has come to stop the fear-mongering, and the time has come to stop rewarding those who depend on our worst instincts and prejudices to remain in power.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog.


  1. Just for the sake of argument, read this. It's by Sam Harris, a liberal and an atheist (and therefore about as far from Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich as you can get)...

  2. As a long time reader this is my first comment - I love this post and love your stance on this!

    The main problem with this mosque situation is that most people consider all Muslims members of Al-Qaeda, which is absurd. But when a good percentage of Americans still believe our president is a Muslim, I suppose I really shouldn't be that surprised. Ignorance in this country is a huge problem.

    Thanks for a great post!

  3. The "ground zero" mosque has as much to do with 9/11 as the tea party movement has to do with fiscal conservatism. It's about Christian identity, and using sleight of hand to take theocracy and mask it with patriotism.

    Unfortunately, tough times have a tendency to bring out people's true character, and demonizing minorities during an economic downturn is one of the oldest tricks in the political playbook. Fortunately for us, it also alienates the group of people you're lashing out against. In the last 9 months, the Republicans have attacked blacks, gays, muslims, and latinos, which aren't small in terms of voting blocks. They're also politically active, and growing in numbers.

    The Republican slime machine may win this battle but they're defintely not going to have much of a base by the end of this war.

  4. I used to live in a town where there were no Muslims. Like, at all. Heck, even Catholics were a rarity. The people who lived there only know that Muslims are terrorists who hate Jesus.

    Maybe if next season, 24 had a Muslim president...

  5. I agree with you - I got in a facebook argument over the whole islamic community center, which it is, it's not a mosque.... there are two mosques in that area already but I digress. What one of my argumenters said that Saudi Arabia would never have a christian church - well, they are right, but SA doesn't have the same freedoms as we do. I really wanted to see people accept this because in my mind, we're pushing more people into that radicalism. If I was a muslim, and I saw the reaction that this community center has brought, well I would feel mad that people were lumping me into one group: al-queda. America had a chance to show the world that we would recognize everybody's right to freedom of religion but then the politicians and pundits got involved, and have whipped everyone into a muslim-hating frenzy. It's another sad day for America but I will continue to voice my support for it, and hope that they (Park 51 owners) don't cave to the pressure and move it. Good post and I am glad to see that I am not the only one that supports this center. THX

  6. The problem I have with the Mosque is that it's being hailed as an "interfaith" community center, yet it being built in location specifically chosen because it will cause confrontation with local residents.

    Furthermore, the Imam behind the mosque has stated on 60 min. that he thought that we (The United States) were partially responsible for the 9/11 attacks and that Osama Bin Laden was "Made in the USA."

    Lastly, I would have no problem with the mosque if it were being built by a rich DOMESTIC Musilm with BUSINESS TIES to the local community. However, this is not the case. The Imam is on a state department paid tour of the middle east to solicit funds for the mosque/"YMCA" with the explicit instructions to NOT solicit funds for the mosque (Wink, wink.)

    The Imam has stated that he would not rule out the possibility of accepting funds from Libya, Saudi Arabia, and IRAN.

    The sad truth is the rest of the Muslim world, the TRUE ISLAM, not the "Miller lite" Muslims we have here in the USA, already view the mosque/"YMCA" as a victory.

    Another question to ask is how can anyone NOT think that a $100 million dollar mosque, built with foreign funds, 600ft. from Ground Zero would not be a MAGNET for all of the extremists around the world?

    The problem America is facing is that we have the "Miller Lite" Musilms here in the USA, that want to integrate and be AMERICANS. Unfortunately, most of the rest of the world that's not the case. In England there is even implementation of Sharia Law in some cities.

    Sure, we say, "That'll never happen here! This is 'Merica!" But tell that to Europe.

    There have been almost SIXTEEN THOUSAND terror attacks worldwide since 9/11 perpetrated by Muslims in the name of Jihad. There were "only" 65 terror attacks during Ramadan, with "only 285 people killed this year: All Muslim on Muslim violence.

    The biggest problem with Islam is that it's like the "Two Face" of religions. Right now we've got the "Miller Lite" version in the USA and Europe's got "Guinness Stout."

  7. Your greatest weakness is in your kindness.

  8. "Those on the right arguing against the establishment of a mosque - be it in the shadow of the former Twin Towers or anywhere else - have no principles. They use fear and rhetoric to inflame the passions of those scared of the terrorist bogeymen and the sad truth is that a lot of people fall for it."

    Agreed, and that's one of the reasons why - despite increasing misgivings, I continue to be a registered Democrat. But, even though both sides may have ruined the chance for a reasoned debate, a case can be made not so much for OPPOSING the mosque as NOT SUPPORTING it.

    An argument for supporting the building of the mosque (pre-?)supposes that the authorities in charge of issuing a zoning permit are not swayed by petty considerations of financing and political connection, that they have full knowledge of the motives and intentions of the people who want to build the mosque, and that, foremost in their consideration is the issue of religious freedom.

    But from what I've seen so far, it's far from clear that any of the above is true. I'd be interested in hearing from the commissioners in charge of authorizing a zoning permit why the Greek Orthodox Church that was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks was not allowed to be rebuilt. I'd also like to know the source of financing for the proposed mosque, where the builders are going to come up with a hundred million dollars from when they currently barely have thousands in their account.

    Two questions, but answering them satisfactorily would go a long way toward easing the minds of alot of those opposed to the mosque.

    But there's more to it than that. The fact that most Muslims are peace-loving, life-fostering, thoughtful people doesn't change the facts of 9/11, that it was someone acting in the name of fundamentalist Islam that brought down the Twin Towers.

    The charge of ignorance goes a long way toward discrediting those who would cast suspicion on Islam because of 9/11, but that doesn't mean that - not suspicion, but - a reasoned skepticism isn't called for. Anyone with even a cursory knowledge of history knows that Islam has a shadow side - just as other religions do, but it appears that Islam's shadow side is on the ascendancy at the present time. In a world that is not heavily interconnected with the Web and airline companies, this might not be a major problem, but it could very well be a huge problem if present trends continue.

    The fact that the people behind the mosque don't want to talk about these issues - indeed, refuse to talk about them - is enough to sway my own vote, at this time, against building the mosque.

  9. Let's just make a deal with Palin and Newt that no mosques can be built within 100 miles of Ground Zero as long as no Christian churches can be built within 100 miles of any location a cross was burnt in front of a black person's house. Done deal.

  10. James - I can at least address the Greek Orthodox Church issue, because when I heard that, my first thought was, "There has to be more to this story than just 'they got it, they unfairly didn't.'" And there is.

    Basically it comes down the this. The mosque is being built NEAR Ground Zero, the Church is actually DIRECTLY NEXT TO Ground Zero. As this article shows, that means the Church is subject to all the complications and delays that affect any and all reconstruction on that site.

    They quote the New York Times: "The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency overseeing reconstruction, has not finalized the exchange of land needed to provide the congregation with a new home near ground zero. Until that deal is completed, the authority cannot proceed with building the southern foundation wall for the entire site, and cannot draw up designs for a bomb screening center for buses and trucks that would go under the new church. And because security is crucial, delays in the vehicle security center mean delays in other parts of the site."

    This other article says that "Park51 [the Islamic community center] is being privately funded and is working in an area blocks away from Ground Zero, whereas St. Nicholas' Church is being constructed on Ground Zero and is working with the government to settle on terms for public funding. Park51 had to pass one landmark commission ruling, whereas St. Nicholas' Church has to deal with all of the complications involved in building at Ground Zero, including working out a new bus security center underneath the area the church is planning on rebuilding."

    This whole "denial" story is a complete fabrication from Fox News. It's not coming from complaining church officials - it's coming from yellow journalists. And that's what I find really repugnent about Fox. As this article traces, they are Patient Zero for this whole half-truth, and if you'll do a Google search on "New York Mosque Greek Orthodox Church denial" you'll find a lot of ugly, bigoted sentiments in the first several pages of results. A lot of mistruths and no reporting, no facts. Just regurgitiations of the same paranoia. And I don't believe for a minute that Fox did that by accident.

    Hearst (and Charles Foster Kane) once said, "You supply the pictures, I'll supply the war." Fox News's motto seems to be, "You supply the bigotry, we'll supply the manufactured justification."

    It used to be all you had to do to avoid Fox's lies is just not watch them. Now you have to be onguard for when they go viral. Here's a tip, when a story sounds too outrageous to be possible, do some digging. You might be surprised by what you find.

  11. I did a little digging between posts and found out that there is indeed more to the story. The Greek Orthodox community is apparently having trouble putting funds together to build on what will likely be some very pricey real estate in the future. Nothing sinister about that, of course. It's life, particularly in today's economy.

    Another aspect of this to consider is that, almost ten years after the Towers fell, and what now stands at Ground Zero? A light show? Yet supposedly this community center will be up and running in 2014.

    Of course, that's not the fault of Imam Rauf. But New Yorkers who after almost ten years see something like the ashpit I glimpsed from a Providence-bound 737 in December 2001, may be forgiven for being aggravated beyond words by the local authorities' lackadaisical approach to rebuilding. And it's easy for aggro toward someone-you-know to translate to rage toward somebody-you-don't.

    As for Fox - you're preaching to the choir on that one. I watch CNN which seems to have the highest quotient of unbiased news stories, and I follow news stories more in-depth through Yahoo. My take on the current political debacle in this country is that it's a system-wide failure implicating the Republicans if anything more deeply than the Fox-worthy "worst" Democrats - but everybody is going to have to answer for what comes next if things continue the downward direction they're headed.

  12. Yeah, of course, audio just came out today proving that the Imam isn't an Angel and supports extremists. The Imam actually said that we in the USA have more Muslim blood on our hands than Al-Queda. Screw him and his mosque.

    And this guy is supposed to be a "bridge builder."

    Oh, and it makes me want to puke that all of the hardcore libs are coming out of the woodwork to defend this mosque when they know damn well that if it were a church, they wouldn't say one damn thing. But since "Miller Lite" Islam is the new hotness and it isn't Christianity, all of a sudden the hardcore libs are all for religious freedom.

    I find it disingenuous, especially when they've fought tooth and nail against all religions, especially Christianity, for over sixty years.

    Oh, and New Yorkers should be given a free pass to be as "Islamophobic" as they want after 9/11. Like I said in my previous post, there has been almost 16,000 terror attacks done in the name of Islam since 2001. TRUE Islam around the world is more violent than ever, yet New Yorkers are supposed to take this Imam's word that the mosque is being built in good faith, especially after the Imam said that WE were responsible for the smoldering hole at ground zero. Why is everyone on the left glossing over this?

  13. This is a First Amendment issue. Give that the mosque/community center has cleared ALL bureocracies standing in its way, there is no basis for blocking its construction that doesn't violate Constitutional protections. Period.

    This is the price we pay for freedom of speech. It's the reason that neo-Nazis were able to argue for their right to assemble in Skokie, Illinois in 1977 and actually win the case in a judgement upheld by the Supreme Court. Believe me, I hate the Nazis too but the far greater crime would have been for a precident to be set by denying them that right of assembly just because they were part of a group whose views we don't agree with.

    The people arguing for the right for the mosque to be constructed are no more followers of Islam than those who argued for the neo-Nazis were necessarily they themselves followers of Hitler. (In fact, the attorney for the Nazis in that case was himself a Jew.)

    The Right wing is really good at arguing for the absolutism of the Second Amendment whenever any sort of gun restrictions are suggested. Yet amazingly they keep trying to find all these footnotes and gray areas in the First.

    As for the rest of it, take your Christian persecution complex and get the hell out. Hyperbole like "they've fought tooth and nail against all religions, especially Christianity" is just grossly inaccurate. Separation of church and state is not an impingement on religious freedoms, nor is saying "school prayer isn't allowed" an attack on Christian values. And find me one example where a government body said, "You can't build a church here because we don't like what Christian values represent."

  14. Bitter, why don't you look up the number of court cases that the ACLU has argued AGAINST Christianity and look up the number of cases it has supported Islam? HUGE difference there, buddy.

    Or why don't you look at the brand new report from the DOD regarding the Ft. Hood Massacre?

    Mentions of ISLAM: 0
    Mentions of MUSLIM: 0
    Mentions of JIHAD (IST): 0
    Mentions of TERROR (IST): 0
    Mentions of EXTREMIST: 0
    Mentions of ANWAR AL-AWLAKI: 0

    I don't view the mosque as a freedom of religion/speech issue. I view it from a security standpoint. Having a megamosque 600ft. from the WTC site is 100% going to be draw for extremists from around the world.

    In the rest of the world, Islam is a violent and dangerous religion. Here we have only been exposed to just a TASTE of what the rest of the world deals with on a daily basis from Islam.

    How many more attacks is it going to take for people to realize that Islam does not come in peace? Or where "Islamophobia" crosses over from right to left? It's like that movie, "I come in peace," where the alien drug-dealing bad guy says, "I come in peace," right before he shoots someone or lasers them.

    Once again, the Imam has stated explicitly that we were responsible for the 9/11 attacks and that the United States has killed more Muslims than Al Queda.

    He is soliciting FOREIGN funds (and a lot of them) from countries THAT ARE OUR ENEMIES.

    He's now on record supporting Muslim extremists and extremist ideology.

    Are New Yorkers going to feel safer with a new ultramosque, especially just after another Jihadist attempted to detonate a bomb in Times Square?

  15. I think it's better to keep reservations about the mosque to a narrow focus, one that's aimed squarely at the people who apparently need some illumination: the city officials and bureaucrats in charge of zoning restrictions who approved the construction in the first place.

    The "security issue" is bogus, and has been since George W. decided to leave the borders wide open even in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and as drug violence was spinning out of control down south. If somebody wants to do something about security, the border's a good place to start and at least Obama seems to be making a gesture in that direction.

    It will be 2012 before the community center/mosque is up and running, and I'm sure the "anti-mosque" activists will be keeping an eagle eye on it for the forseeable future. Anyway, the last place any terrorist with surviving brain cells wd. use as a launch platform is that place.

    The complaints about Imam Rauf's (mis-?)statements are likewise on shaky ground, or at least have an element of deniability to them. His wife now says that what the Imam was referring to, in saying the U.S. was complicit in 9/11, is the fact that the CIA and various members of Congress supported the Taliban in the Soviet-Afghan debacle. This is a well-documented
    fact (see "Charlie Wilson's War"). Other statements he's made likewise have wiggle room vis a vis a sinister interpretation of his involvment with the mosque.

    Lastly, the business of the "dangers of" Islam. Like I said earlier, every religion has its shadow side. Right now, it seems to be Jews and Muslims who are getting a bad rap (amongst different constituencies) for putative willingness to resort to violence to settle issues. But Hindus have a radical fringe that in the past has resorted to mass violence (the "thugee" cult, and the post-partition Indian riots of the 1940s). Tibetan Buddhists, of all people, were infamous throughout the nineteenth century for moral turpitude up to and including assassination of rival religious leaders (see "The Bloody White Baron," by James Palmer, if you want a glimpse into the dark netherworld of Buddhism!), and of course Christians of various stripe have taken their lumps for heavy-handed oppression throughout history (even the Mennonites! - whose pacifism has its roots in the annihilation of the Protestant community of Munster in the (violent) uprising led by John of Leyden.)

    This is not to excuse Islamic terrorism, which is all the more dangerous in a world of high explosives, nuclear weapons, and viral warfare, but a little perspective would be helpful. All religions have been there, done that, and if we owe the Islamics anything, a minimum attempt to help guide the Islamic majority out of the backwaters of intolerance that lead to violence would seem to be in order.

    To sum up, if there's any blame to be parcelled out, it should be directed first to our elected officials who have allowed this issue to get out of hand, and secondly to the bureaucrats that work for them.

  16. If somebody wants to do something about security, the border's a good place to start and at least Obama seems to be making a gesture in that direction.

    Whaaaaaaaat?! He's as much of an idiot on this issue as the buffoon before him!

    But I will agree with the sentiment that I find nauseating any discussion of national security that chooses to ignore the borders - or, worse, actively wants to do nothing about the borders and/or persecutes/prosecutes those who are trying to enforce the Federal laws that the Federal government refuses to enforce.

  17. James - I'm swamped this morning with emails and coverage that needs to be done, so thanks for your post, which more or less covers my sentiments, if not in the precise way I would have replied. In particular, your first paragraph and the rejection of the "security" issue as valid justification for what is transpiring are both in line with my views.

  18. To all the most atheist and liberal commenters on this topic--

    Would you be so vigilant in your defense of Christianity and churches? Why do you run to the defense of Muslims all of the sudden? From what I see day after day, liberal groups like the ACLU do whatever they can do remove religious symbols from our buildings, government and society at every turn. Yet now you stand up for Muslim rights? Hypocrisy much?

    Now, it is in your right to bash Christianity and uphold Muslim beliefs (for some strange reason), but be mindful of the country you are building.

  19. Dearest Robert,
    Last time I checked, schools are a function of the government, and are, constitutionally, supposed to be free of religious leanings. America is not a Christian country. I'm sure if Muslims tried to add Islamic symbols to the government and society, even more people would be up in arms. Literally.

    The people who would allow the building of the Park 51 thing do so on the grounds of the First Amendment. That is not representative of "Muslim beliefs" or any beliefs, except the rights given by the COUNTRY. To ALL of its citizens. Not just you, or Christians, or those you deem worthy. EVERYONE has the right to their religious freedom equally, which includes building religious buildings. Or is the first amendment not as important as the second?

    The government cannot and will not legislate differently based on the religious affiliations of the building. It should make no difference to anyone.
    - Sincerely, A Concerned Atheist Liberal Canadian