Wednesday, August 25, 2010

More thoughts on the Ground-Zero Mosque

I agree that, at the start, this was a badly considered decision. But when it turned into a judgment on all Muslims, the argument changed.

Ah, that’s where we are on tough ground.
However, the claim that “We cannot judge all Muslims” is also a kind of category error, isn’t it? Hardly anyone says, “We cannot judge all Al Qaeda”, yes? If Americans take on faith rather than experience that Muslims are a group just like any other that may be good for an initial assumption, but why shouldn’t it be modified by actions, facts, and context?

There are lots of people out there whom, when the Nazi-induced Holocaust of Jews is mentioned, or the violence in Darfur, reply by saying, “That’s terrible and the Israelis are just as bad, just look at what they do to the Palestinians.” These people are invoking a social convention that no group is any worse or better than any other, so the actions of Israel or America MUST have been as bad as their relatives, countrymen, or co-religionists were in similar situations.

While you can’t blame 9-11 on EVERY Muslim, a significant percentage of Muslims endorsed their violence, and an even larger percentage of Muslims do not see it as their duty to oppose such terrorism. In my opinion, that should not be forgotten, especially not by Muslims themselves, some of whom want the Cordoba House site so they can portray Muslims as primarily victims of the 9-11 assault. That’s about as honest as the Japanese claim that they were victims of WWII due to the fate of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Cordoba House can be built, or not. Either way, what matters is the effect upon Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Will it radicalize America’s Muslims, causing division between them and non-Muslim Americans? Is that the purpose of its backers? I imagine that purpose could also be served even more cheaply by canceling the project, with the backers citing American intolerance as the reason.

But if Cordoba House is truly open – if it is planned as a real public facility with prayer areas for all, a mission statement in its lease (for that ownership needs to be changed), and a humbling and apologetic attitude by its spokesmen, then Cordoba House could be a real instrument of healing. Mosques can always have their management changed, by fair means or foul, so what the Rauf-of-the-day says matters little. Instead, the backers can make a voluntary yet binding declaration and contract with the community. It’s their choice, and nothing in the law or Constitution compels them to go either way.

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