I say that the Right Thing to do is to build the mosque at “Ground Zero”. And come out and support the Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf who wants to build it there.
This stupid ongoing argument is the latest –and one of the very worst– examples of how low we have sunk in our public –and very political– discourse. (In fact, let’s dispense with the words DISCOURSE, DIALOGUE and DEBATE. If we want a “D”-word, let’s stick to Demagogue. And Diatribe.
And, of course, our favorite: Duh!
By way of “full disclosure” (to use that currently popular media phrase that is mostly trotted out to give the apparency, the illusion of one’s Utter Fairness), let me say that I am a universalist from way back. (I even ran my own universalist ministry in New York back in the seventies. Which, like my later, some say “lowered sights”, efforts to teach America How To Make A Decent Cup OF Tea (see my book), ended in Utter (but Glorious) Failure. (How hard could it be –to BOIL WATER ! And for God’s sake, America, can you WAIT FIVE MINUTES for it to brew!
There! By God, I’ve narrowed it down to a single sentence, in my distemper. There is hope for America yet!
At least, on the Tea front.
Back to the Mosque, which, I believe, should be built. Here’s how I got to that: As a universalist I would generally be “for” rather than “against”.
But a few months ago I had serious second thoughts about that. I saw interviewed on CSpan a reasonable looking man –unknown to me– making a cogent sounding argument about the mosque being a propaganda exercise funded by wealthy Wahabist (sp?)Fundamentalist Saudi Arabians who had pretensive ideas about the Ultimate Triumph of Islam Across The World, and took as an extra “icing on the cake” appeal that they would especially enjoy having a mosque at Ground Zero, to “rub it in” –so to speak.
That disturbed me.
I had no doubt that that kind of stupid, destructive extremist Muslim existed –just as we have more than our share of stupid, destructive, extremist Christians ( some with an extra dollop of hypocrisy in their DNA) right here, and Israeli/Jews have their stupid, destructive, extremist Israeli/Jews (some with that intriguing paranoia flavor added) that frequently pop up in Israel. And elsewhere.
What disturbed me was the prospect of having a mosque at Ground Zero run by extremists, and funded by them, backed by an extremist ideology. That –to my mind– would be utterly wrong! Utterly Unacceptable! This is not a First Amendment thing, it’s not a Constitution of the United States Thing. It would, of itself, simply BE UTTERLY WRONG.
I could not support that.
So –what to do?
FIND OUT THE FACTS! LETS HAVE THE FACTS.
LETS have some DUE DILIGENCE –(dammit)– that phrase the Media loves to use. What are the facts about the Imam? What are the facts about the financing? The Facts, the facts, the facts, the facts. (Not that fair-and-balanced Unfact )
Nothing! Nothing from the media. And nothing from the people who could have helped us –or at least, could have helped me, could have INFORMED me– resolve my questions and my doubts.
(There is today, Too Much Information, we are told. WRONG. So wrong!
What we have is Too Much Bullshit!!!)
There is an Irish proverb which goes “What do you expect of a pig but a grunt!”
–which I amend here to read “What do you expect of a Demagogue but Demagogic Grunts!” All the right wing demagogues –from the appalling Newt Gingrich down to Glenn Beck and that Palin-Palaver about “Unnecessary Provocations” (I’ll stop my long list here)-
have provided us with endless Demagogic Grunts. That’s what we have learned to expect of them.
(Which is not to say that a genuine, un-posturing objection should not be responded to:
let me, as the saying goes, say this about that. And don’t forget –if you are looking for stuff to throw back in my face– that “I was for the Mosque before I was against it”! It’s true. I went into that earlier in this blog.
(And let’s not forget that there have been some unfortunate lapses among some Democrat individuals on this question, who seem to have forgotten that this is a question of leadership, of principle rather than poll.)
It’s those particular Republicans who COULD have added some LIGHT to this shameful Non-Debate and who didn’t, who should be ashamed of themselves.
And prime amongst the Republicans who should be ashamed of themselves, is none other that GEORGE W. BUSH, who –it turns out– knows Imam Rauf PERSONALLY, knows him well, and has consulted him on how to win Muslim votes in Michigan (that famous Sharia State!) and has called on his wise counsel on how the USA can have more positive relations with all Muslims (–and not just President Obama). Mr. George W. Bush even commissioned the Imam to accompany his trusted advisor Karen Hughes on her big “re-tooling” trip to the Middle East (in 2006, I believe it was.)
By the way, the Imam (who –significantly– is a Sufi) has written several books, among which is “What is RIGHT with Islam is what is RIGHT with America” (I feel I’ve read that one already…..)
SO! HOW ABOUT IT, MR GEORGE W. BUSH? You must be hurting right now, seeing what your extremist demagogue Republican/Conservative/Tea-bagging pals are putting your good friend the Imam through! How about a good word from you? How about doing the right thing? This must fit with that Family Values Thing that you used to go on about!
Please, Mr. Bush. DO the right thing!
I know we’re going to be hearing a LOT from you in a couple of months, about your new book “Decisions” (presumably so focussed that you don’t have to talk about embarrassing things like… skipping Afghanistan & Osama, and going after those evaporating WMDs, not to mention the our-hearts-go-out 4,419 dead American soldiers).
Take my word for it, Mr. Bush! Do it now! Speak up for your friend Imam Rauf! (If you refuse now, your big Book Tour may become….preoccupied …instead with questions about your refusal ….and your apparent fecklessness.
Do the Right Thing! (If you do, I predict, more people will buy that book of yours!)
THERE IS, IN ALL THIS discussion –I believe– a larger point to be made.
About Islam. And about us –we Americans.
America, it can be said, is the nation that INVENTED FREEDOM OF RELIGION.
We enshrined the very idea in our founding, in our constitution. (Well, not exactly “WE”, not “WE” here today in 2010. We are currently tied up with flavor-layered chewing gum and sending our Harvard & Yale Best Minds (& Greediest Souls) to garner THE BIG BUCKS as The New Quants of Wall St.) When I say “WE” I mean of course “YOU” , You Founding Fathers back in 1776. Good Thing we’re not having to start in 2010. Just think what we would come up with!
But –yes. America invented Freedom of Religion!
Indeed, let me propose a question: IS Religion even meaningful if it is NOT freely practiced?
That is a point that I raised in my “After 9.11 Essay” that I wrote as an introduction to “A Collection of Arabic Proverbs”, (The Stone Street Press, 2001.) The proverbs themselves contained the very best of Arabic/Islamic wisdom and all its insights and poetry and humor. They also contained many “street-level” proverbs that were….shall we say, less elevated (of the order of our equivalents, e.g. “Never give a sucker an even break,” or, say, any one of a whole slew of those anti-female never-trust-a-woman proverbs that one still hears on mainstreet America.)
Here is the point as I wrote it:
“The world was changed on that day. (9.11)
We have to see to it that the change
is for the better: it seems to me that the
great question for the Arabic/Islamic
world is: how will it change? I posed the
question at the outset: can it save itself
from its own extremist fundamentalism?
Can Islam devise and then enter its own
Reformation? Can the Arab world offer
political, economic, and religious freedom
and equality to an exploding population? Can
it ever achieve a separation of Mosque and State.
If it does, the world may again be enriched
by a brilliant Arabic contribution. But, if it
refuses to undertake the changes there will be
tragic and enduring failure. ( In time “New
Energy” will replace oil; exhausted Israelis and
Arabs will finally make their peace; the world
will move on.)
Irony of all ironies –and we know it would
have to be an unbearable irony for Islam–
it is not hard to see that the best expression
of Islam –as a freely and fully practiced
religion by fulfilled, productive, and
insistantly-moderate Muslims, is likely to be
in the West, and especially in the USA.
It is a process already quite advanced among
some few million Arab-Americans, a large
number of whom –judging by my Arab/Muslim
friends– have already come to regard the USA,
for all its faults and imperfections, as their
home; already feel relatively welcome here;
and have no desire to go back to the age old
(Copyright: Malachi McCormick, 2001)
Support Imam Rauf!
And –save your own soul!
Best to you,