The Ground Zero Mosque

by Luke Muehlhauser on August 20, 2010 in Islam

Park51, aka Cordoba House, aka the “Ground Zero Mosque,” is a planned Islamic cultural center. The $100 million, 13-story structure would house an auditorium, a theater, a gym, a basketball court, a childcare center, a book store, a cooking school, a food court, and a mosque at the site of an old Burlington Coat Factory.

This is America, a nation founded on religious freedom. So yeah, where’s my shovel?

Not so fast. The majority of Americans oppose Park51 because the building is “too close” to Ground Zero, where Muslim terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center towers, killing nearly 3,000 people.

Protesters say that Park51 is “insensitive” and “sacrilege on sacred ground” and “a gross insult to the memory of those who were killed on that terrible day.” Why? Because it’s an Islamic cultural center, and the 9/11 terrorists did their deeds in the name of Islam.

This confuses me.

First, it’s a bit odd to draw such a connection between the acts of a small Muslim terrorist group and the identity of a religion practiced by over 1.5 billion people around the world. This is not an Al-Qaeda cultural center. This is a cultural center, open to the public, for adherents of what may, by 2070, be the world’s largest religion.

Hiroshima: August 7, 1945

Second, do protesters feel the same about analogous cases? Would they protest U.S. buildings constructed at the sites of the two largest U.S.-perpetrated terrorist acts in history: the nuclear bombings of civilians in Nagaski and Hiroshima? Would they oppose the building of Christian churches near the sites of massacres committed by the Christian terrorist group The Lord’s Resistance Army? Somehow, I suspect not.

I don’t write all this because I’m a fan of Islam. Islam is irrational, and generally bad for humanity. In fact, I think Islam is demonstrably the worst major religion in the world.  (I can say more later, but for now let’s start with just one comparison. Christianity was founded by and modeled after a Jewish pacifist who predicted the end of the world. Islam was founded by one of the most successfully violent generals in world history, who married a child. Let’s just say you have to try harder to make Christianity evil than to make Islam evil.)

But the arguments of Park51 protestors look more like hypocritical bigotry than sound reasoning to me.

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{ 90 comments… read them below or add one }

G'DIsraeli August 20, 2010 at 5:27 am

Nuclear bombings of civilians in Nagaski and Hiroshima, were not made in the name of Christianity.
Personally I think it’s simply bad taste to build a mosque, tho I don’t reject it, even sympathetic to it sometimes.
Religious “moderates” are mostly enables for extremists, that’s the problem with them. They tell you one thing (to a secular) and in there communities it’s difference.

The double hypocrisy with this issue, according to Islam no buildings of no other monotheists should be built (or restore). at all. Polytheists should simply be killed.
The central beliefs and tenets in Islam are very problematic, and seem -inflexible- next to other religions.
When Christians abuse children, we have no problem tracing it to there religion as a cause. Why all the confusion about Islam?

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Hendy August 20, 2010 at 5:33 am

@G’DIsraeli:

Nuclear bombings of civilians in Nagaski and Hiroshima, were not made in the name of Christianity.

Check Luke’s statement about these cities; he said there wouldn’t be objections to U.S. buildings there. Christianity was mentioned in connection to the Lord’s Resistance Army.

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IlCensore August 20, 2010 at 5:35 am

«Nuclear bombings of civilians in Nagaski and Hiroshima, were not made in the name of Christianity.»

So what? The question was «Would they protest U.S. buildings constructed at the sites of the two largest U.S.-perpetrated terrorist acts in history?» And the U.S. were responsible for that bombings.

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Ralph August 20, 2010 at 5:57 am

Would anyone really keep their mouths shut if let’s say Pastor Hagee erects a cathedral in the middle of Baghdad where a lot of Iraqis got killed? Somehow, I think a lot of people here will say that Pastor Hagee is a bit insensitve and arrogant if he does so. (Not that I’m a fan of that lunatic pastor)

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MKandefer August 20, 2010 at 5:58 am

G’dIsraeli,

Religious moderates in Islam have the opposite effect on extremism (in America) according to a recent sociological study [1]. From the study:

“In the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001, and subsequent terrorist attacks elsewhere around the world, a key counterterrorism concern is the possible radicalization of Muslims living in the United States. Yet, the record over the past eight years contains relatively few examples of Muslim-Americans that have radicalized and turned toward violent extremism.”

They suggest that, “a variety of practices of Muslim-American communities may be helping to prevent and address instances of radicalization.”

They attribute this to Muslim-Americans:

- Performing public and private denunciations of terrorism
and violence
- Self-policing (i.e., they monitor their communities for individuals that may express extreme views and report them)
- Performing community building (i.e., build community centers that will attract Muslims, which aids in self policing and furthers the anti-terrorism message)
- Engaging in politics (i.e., Shows that using peaceful democracy can also achieve goals)
- Engaging in identity politics (i.e., self identifying as a practicing Muslim-American shows that one can practice Islam while embracing American values)

With these findings in mind, opposing this community center at ground zero would likely cause more harm than good. It would show that the political process isn’t a means to an ends, that despite being said to be equal, Muslims are not equal. It would prevent a moderate Muslim group from spreading their message to more Muslims. It would decrease the chances for self-policing. It would prevent some moderate Muslims from showing that one can practice Islam and still hold American values.

Once again, G’dIsraeli you treat Islam like it is practiced one way by everyone when you use language like, “according to Islam…”. I wish you wouldn’t do that, it treat

[1] – http://www.sanford.duke.edu/news/Schanzer_Kurzman_Moosa_Anti-Terror_Lessons.pdf

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MKandefer August 20, 2010 at 6:01 am

Last sentence should read:

I wish you wouldn’t do that, it treats religious belief as something definite, rather than something that can be reconciled.*

* – Though the reconciliation seems to be irrational in many respects. :)

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Hendy August 20, 2010 at 6:14 am

I’m torn about the whole thing. I see the religious tolerance/respect/freedom issue but wonder if any analogies will actually work (like U.S./Christian buildings).

As G’DIsraeli brought up, one probably (or definitely) can’t build a Christian (or other) church/temple in certain predominantly Islamic countries. On the other hand, the U.S. was founded overtly open-minded and tolerant and many other countries were not. I do wonder if the U.S. is being taken advantage of in this respect, though.

I think it’s fair to look at the bigger picture, as well. Does anyone know answers to things like these:
- Why specifically ground zero and not elsewhere?
- What is the funding source?
- What has the fruit been for other nations who have bent over backward to be Islam-tolerant in the extreme (e.g. the Netherlands)?

Anyway, things like this strike me as pertinent.

It would also be interesting to plot the occurrence of violent crime traced to extremists in Europe prior to quasi-endorsement compared to these occurrences after intense embracing of Islam. Would Theo van Gogh have been murdered in the streets of NYC? If not, why not?

Is this guy crazy in everything he says? How is the rest of the world viewing this ordeal? As a simple matter of religious tolerance or more than that?

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Reginald Selkirk August 20, 2010 at 6:24 am

The majority of Americans oppose Park51 because the building is “too close” to Ground Zero, where Muslim terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center towers, killing over 5,000 people.

I thought it was ~ 3000 people, and some of them were Muslim.

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MKandefer August 20, 2010 at 6:58 am

Hendy,

You asked:

“Why specifically ground zero and not elsewhere?”

This group of Muslims have been practicing their faith in the region for around 27 years now. One of their members bought the land [1,2]. Why are they expanding in the region? There is a growing population of Muslims in NYC and the mosques available in that region “routinely turn people away” [3].

You also asked, “What is the funding source?”

No funds have been raised [2]. The leader of the mosque in this region, and also spearheading this project, expects to receive donations from American Muslims and Muslims from other countries [4].*

* – BTW, it pains me to link to the NY Post. :)

“What has the fruit been for other nations who have bent over backward to be Islam-tolerant in the extreme (e.g. the Netherlands)?”

You’ll have to be more specific. However, your question presumes this is “bending over backwards”, rather than a development project completely permissable under the law. Hardly, bending over backwards.

[1] – http://pr.thinkprogress.org/2010/08/pr20100802/index.html

[2] – http://www.cordobainitiative.org/?q=content/frequently-asked-questions

[3] – http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/14/nyregion/14mosque.html?_r=1

[4] – http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/foreign_mosque_money_OSkAG6ucmWz6yPAJU61cTO

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RA August 20, 2010 at 7:13 am

It is rather amusing that strip clubs are OK for sacred ground but a place of worship is not.

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Bill Maher August 20, 2010 at 7:14 am

This thing is more or less a Muslim YMCA.

If they don’t allow this for bad taste reasons, I do not think they could let the Catholic faith have churches within a certain distance of day cares and schools.

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Kaelik August 20, 2010 at 7:41 am

Not Ground Zero, just downtown New York where there are a lot of Muslims at a position that was for sale, and so they could reasonably buy it.

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Patrick August 20, 2010 at 8:03 am

Hendy… I gotta call you out on this. Maybe you’re not doing it on purpose, but…

Argh. This is such a hard conversation to have, but its important.

The whole “what’s the funding source” thing. Its a dog whistle. Its a way of incubating bigotry subtly and with such plausible deniability that you can trick even yourself.

The very question implies that the funding source might be something sinister, but there’s no reason to think that other than a general fear that Muslims are up to evil. It even implies that sinister funding might help the evil Muslims advance their evil Muslim plans, but even that’s a stretch since the construction of a community center in New York hardly seems an efficient way to advance one’s Evil Agenda if one even had such a thing.

If you want other examples of how this dog whistling stuff works, look at political pundits. When pundits want to advance a smear story without actually endorsing it, they do it by asking questions. This is because a question, by its nature, implies to the audience that the answer could go either way. The context in which its asked also implies to the audience that the scandal the pundit isn’t willing to actually trumpet is something that would be reinforced by the answer to the question. For example, “Why doesn’t Obama show us his birth certificate? It would clear things right up!” That’s an excellent dog whistle. It implies that Obama is actively hiding his birth certificate. It implies that, were Obama to show his birth certificate, it might prove him a non citizen. It even positions the pundit as a reasonable person who isn’t actually calling Obama a non citizen, all the while implying to the audience that Obama just might be a non citizen.

The questions you listed fall into these categories, particularly the funding one. They’re dog whistles. They imply Something Nasty, but there’s no basis for any of it. The whole moral panic about the Cordoba Center seems to have been created out of whole cloth by fears of Muslims and the use of the September 11 victims as stalking horses.

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Hendy August 20, 2010 at 8:09 am

@MKandefer:

Thanks for answering the questions.

Interesting to know re. #1 & #2. Perhaps it would help to clarify “turn away” as due to lack of space. Maybe it was just me but the bare phrase “turn away” connotes some type of other motive than pure lack of resources…

Re. #3 I was not aware that there were no funding sources. Googling “funding for ground zero mosque” brings up a slew of articles about wanting to investigate the sources of funding, but no list of actual sources.

Re. #4… perhaps bending over backwards is a poor phrase. It seems that some countries have faced delicate issues over such things as the burka for fear of riling up the powers that be. Perhaps this had nothing to do with previous embrace but just the fact that their populations are highly Muslim?

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Hendy August 20, 2010 at 8:31 am

@Patrick:

Excellent points and I’m open to being called out! I need it as much as the next. I absolutely recognize your points and recognize in myself a potentially irrational fear.

Perhaps let me put it this way: Is there any basis for thinking that acts of violence are more likely to come from a Muslim group than an X group?

That’s probably where my irrational fear finds its rationalization. As Luke said, the issue is with the subset of Muslims who are interested in violent acts, killing non-believers, taking over the world, etc. and not with the Islamic religion in general, per se.

You’re right about the funding one. I’m not very up to speed on politics and admit I’m quite possibly a sheep on this one: “Yeah, I heard something somewhere about where it’s being funded somewhere… actually, yeah, where is the funding coming from anyway?!”

I’m susceptible to media spin. The majority of the news focuses on Islam as some kind of force and that has left its imprint. People getting caned, seeing maps like THIS where someone could somewhere between a “large penalty” or death for same-sex marriage, the death of Theo van Gogh. Violent threats for what we would consider freedom of speech.

One suggestion would be for non-militant-open-minded-respectful-tolerant Muslims to get some publicity themselves and post their views. Are there groups trying to do this? Like, “Hey everyone! Islam isn’t like what you think. Just like you Christians reject the OT, we reject every instruction to purge the world of infidels. Screw the radicals doing bad things in the name of Islam — we and almost everyone else reject them entirely.”

Maybe that’s what needs to happen?

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İslami Paylaşım Platformu August 20, 2010 at 8:33 am

İslami Paylaşım platformuna bekleriz..
İ’m a muslim great topic. thanx.

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Patrick August 20, 2010 at 8:38 am

Well, the Cordoba House guys are pretty open minded and moderate as far as I can tell. They used to be media darlings on Fox when Fox wanted to do the whole “lets watch moderate muslims denounce extremists” dog and pony show.

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Rob August 20, 2010 at 8:46 am

The fact that this Muslim cultural center can be built near ground zero is what makes America worth defending.

Pointing out that a Christian cultural center could not be built in an Islamic country just reinforces my point.

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mkandefer August 20, 2010 at 8:47 am

Unfortunately, editing posts cannot be done, so I hope people read your follow up if they are confused by why the mosques are “turning away” Muslims.

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Hermes August 20, 2010 at 8:58 am

I have a question that I haven’t seen answered anywhere.

Is the funding and/or management for the center coming from the Wahhabi sect in part or in whole?

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Hermes August 20, 2010 at 9:06 am

Wait, found an answer;

“The Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (the ’9/11 Commission’) claims that ‘Islamist terrorism’ finds inspiration in ‘a long tradition of extreme intolerance’ that flows ‘through the founders of Wahhabism’.” Wahhabism is the name given to the Saudi Arabian version of Salafiyya — an extreme puritanical radically intolerant Islamic movement.

On the other hand, many Westerners reject the concept of collective responsibility. They feel that to hold all Muslims responsible for an attack by 19 violent fundamentalist Muslims who had no regard for human life makes about as much sense as holding all Christians responsible for the attack on the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. They readily differentiate between:

* The Muslims inspired by Wahhabism who belonged to Al-Qaeda and who perpetrated 9/11, and

* The group that is attempting to build Cordoba House, and who who follow Sufiism, a peaceful tradition of Islam.

[source]

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Ken Pulliam August 20, 2010 at 9:10 am

I have tried to stay away from publicly commenting on this issue because it seems to be a minefield. However, let me make several observations: First, it seems to me that many atheists/agnostics have come to their conclusions on this matter as a knee jerk reaction to the fact that people such as Newt Gingrich, Bill O’Reilly and other outspoken conservatives have been opposed to the Mosque. It seems that anything that the conservative are against, they must be in favor of. Second, as Luke observes the question is not about the legality but the propriety of building a mosque so close to ground zero. Many of the victim’s families have said this is an offense to them. Third, regarding the parallel of Hiroshima, if the US were to build some type of military museum in Hiroshima, I am sure there would be a protest by the Japanese and it would be totally inappropriate and insensitive of the US to do so. As a personal note some years ago my wife and I went to Hawaii. We were in the Arizona memorial which is a shrine to those sailors whose bodies are still entombed in the ship below the memorial. There were many people of ancient descent (not certain they were Japanese) who were laughing and “cutting-up” and in my opinion acting disrespectful in this memorial. I doubt they were doing so with malice intent but it bothered me nonetheless. Fourth, I agree that many Christians who oppose the mosque are doing so due to their religious beliefs and I reject their arguments because I reject their religion. Their beliefs are just as aberrant as the Muslims in my opinion. Fifth, the Muslim terrorists on 9/11 made it clear that they were doing what they were doing in obedience to Allah (at least their understanding of Allah). Jihad is not a political act; it is essentially a religious act. Whatever wrongs (and I know there have been many)the US military has committed against other countries has not been due to a religious motivation (at least not corporately, perhaps certain individual soldiers were motivated on religious grounds). Sixth, the Muslim community has not been outspoken against the terrorist acts committed in the name of their religion. I grant that most probably do not support the actions of Al-Qaeada but they could certainly be more vocal about it. If the people who want to build the mosque near ground-zero would agree to have a room dedicated to denouncing the terrorism that took place a few blocks away, that would go a long way to silencing the opposition to the mosque.

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mkandefer August 20, 2010 at 9:16 am

Hermes,

The only purchase made with a veritable funding source was of the property itself by SoHo Properties. From the FAQ [1]:

“SoHo Properties, a New York real estate development firm based in lower Manhattan, acquired the property a couple of years ago. Sharif El Gamal, owner of SoHo Properties, is a member of Imam Feisal’s lower Manhattan congregation that has been in the neighborhood for a number of years.”

The Imam is reported to be a Sufi [2], which is incompatible with the Wahhabi sect, from what I understand. He also appears to be a friend of the U.S. [3].

If you’re concerned about funding direct your concerns to the NY Charities Bereau and US Treasury as according to the FAQ:

“The New York Charities Bureau and the US Treasury Department will review the donor list to assure that all funding sources are vetted to their satisfaction and approved. In addition, our Trustees and Advisory Board will be comprised of a multi-faith group of distinguished individuals who will ensure that the community center stays true to its objectives of peace, tolerance and understanding between all.”

[1] – http://www.cordobainitiative.org/?q=content/frequently-asked-questions

[2] – http://www.suficircle.com/event-feisal.html

[3] -http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/17/ground-zero-imam-helped-f_n_685071.html

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Kaelik August 20, 2010 at 9:25 am

@Ken

Meh, I could just never follow that line of thought. People are offended? So what. I haven’t seen presented any compelling reason to believe that we should avoid offending people unless they will, because of their offense, do something that we want them to not do.

As for the whole thing, part of my problem is that it’s not New York because it’s Ground Zero. Most people who are really offended are the same type of people who are also offended by every other Mosque going up anywhere in the US.

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Ken Pulliam August 20, 2010 at 9:25 am

BTW, I meant to say “Asian” descent instead of “ancient” descent. Also let me add another point:

I agree that many conservative politicians are using this issue for their own political gain and playing off certain prejudices that their constituencies have. This is understandable (since everything seems to be fair in politics) but not admirable.

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Ken Pulliam August 20, 2010 at 9:28 am

Kaelik,

The fact that some people are offended is not sufficient reason to stop the building project, I agree. However, I think that the Muslims should be sensitive to the issue. It comes across as completely uncaring on their part. Again, as I said before if they would dedicate a room in the building to denouncing Islamic terrorism the I think most of the opposition would dissolve.

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mkandefer August 20, 2010 at 9:46 am

Ken you said,

“It seems to me that many atheists/agnostics have come to their conclusions on this matter as a knee jerk reaction to the fact that people such as Newt Gingrich, Bill O’Reilly and other outspoken conservatives have been opposed to the Mosque.”

Fitting the description as an atheist/agnostic, what makes you think I’ve come to this conclusion because someone like Bill O’Reilly has a different opinion? I have researched the issue, and when people pose challenging questions,like where is the funding coming from, I research them and find answers. Even when the answers come from sources I do not like, like the NY Post. This is a non-sequitur anyway. Bad arguments can always be made for correct conclusions. That doesn’t entail that there are no good arguments, or that the conclusion is false.

You also said, “Many of the victim’s families have said this is an offense to them.”

And some have not. Like conservative, and all around charming fellow, Ted Olsen [1] as well as others [2]. American-Muslims also died in the attack [3].

You also said, “Regarding the parallel of Hiroshima, if the US were to build some type of military museum in Hiroshima, I am sure there would be a protest by the Japanese and it would be totally inappropriate and insensitive of the US to do so”

This analogy fails. The group of moderate Muslims building this community center with a mosque did not perpetuate the attacks and they represent a form of Islam that does not support terrorist attacks. Furthermore, a mosque is a place of worship not a monument to successful terrorist attacks.

Finally, you said, “The Muslim community has not been outspoken against the terrorist acts committed in the name of their religion.”

Before engaging in what is probably a veritably false statement. What do you think would be a sufficient response from Muslims? Which Muslims? I can pull together a bunch of sources that have statements from Muslims against terrorism, Muslim organizations explicitly formed to combat terrorism, whole sects of Muslims that don’t support terrorism, but I have a feeling this wouldn’t convince you. So, before doing so, what would convince you?

[1] – http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/08/911-widower-ted-olson-obama-was-right-on-cordoba-house.php

[2] – http://www.aolnews.com/nation/article/9-11-families-speak-out-on-ground-zero-muslim-center/19581141

[3] – http://islam.about.com/blvictims.htm

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Hermes August 20, 2010 at 9:51 am

Sixth, the Muslim community has not been outspoken against the terrorist acts committed in the name of their religion. I grant that most probably do not support the actions of Al-Qaeada but they could certainly be more vocal about it.

Good point.

I pass the same type of comment to Christians who remain silent or indirectly financially support the abusive and immoral acts of their fellow Christians and leaders. Christians can’t claim have Christianity as the source of all goodness while remaining innocent of any abuses. I’d be more impressed with the moral claims if there were a clear indication that it were true in general, not just in isolated promotions.

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Reginald Selkirk August 20, 2010 at 9:57 am

Ken Pulliam: Luke observes the question is not about the legality but the propriety of building a mosque so close to ground zero. Many of the victim’s families have said this is an offense to them.

Please see the prior comment about some of the victims of 9/11 being Muslim. Do you think their families are offended by this?

First, it seems to me that many atheists/agnostics have come to their conclusions on this matter as a knee jerk reaction to the fact that people such as Newt Gingrich, Bill O’Reilly and other outspoken conservatives have been opposed to the Mosque.

Bill O’Reilly is a hypocritical idiot and Gingrich is a whore. I don’t even pay attention to what they say. Even Gingrich doesn’t pay attention to what Gingrich says:
Esquire interview with Marianne Gingrich. Why should I listen to someone in their third marriage who complains about gays threatening the sanctity of marriage? The guy is obviously full of shite.

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Ken Pulliam August 20, 2010 at 10:03 am

Note I didn’t say all atheists/agnostics support the mosque because conservatives oppose it. I am an atheist myself and I don’t fit into that category. I also said “it seems to me”, I could be mistaken. I have not done a scientific poll on the subject. I also said in a follow up that the fact that some are offended by the mosque is not sufficient grounds for halting the project. My main beef is with the Islamic group that wants to build this mosque. Can’t they acknowledge the sensitivity involved? Could they not mitigate much of this criticism by dedicating a room to denouncing Islamic terrorism or if not that at least a room to honor the victims of 9/11?

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Patrick August 20, 2010 at 10:16 am

The “why aren’t they denouncing [X]?” game is another dog whistle. It implies, rather than demonstrates, that there’s some special connection that creates an obligation to condemn the other party’s behavior. It implies that in the absence of a denunciation, its reasonable to assume that there is at least tacit approval. It also implies that the person you’re critiquing hasn’t actually made a denunciation in the past.

And the neat thing is that it doesn’t actually matter if the person you’re talking about denounces whatever it is you want him to denounce. You can just complain that he didn’t denounce it enough, or didn’t denounce it in the right way, or you can just assume that your audience is unaware of the fact that they denounced it and keep using the same argument. If you’re especially lucky your dog whistle will be picked up by members of the public who don’t know much about the people you’re critiquing. If that happens then even if you know that your implications weren’t honest (for example, you were aware that denunciations had been made but implied that they hadn’t) your critique will be repeated by people who are ignorant rather than dishonest, and less vulnerable to charges of bad faith.

In its most vicious form, this particular dog whistle is an effort at demonstrating dominance by making the target dance at your order. That’s how its most typically used by members of Congress.

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Hermes August 20, 2010 at 10:20 am

mkandefer, thank you for the extra details. Much appreciated.

For those who were wondering why I asked that question — why talk about Wahhabi Islam specifically — take a look at Undercover Mosque and The Power of Nightmares [ Part 1 ] [ Part 2 ] [ Part 3 ].

* No, I would not want anyone to make a special exception in denying them the ability to buy and build on the site as they wish within local zoning laws even if they were tied to the Wahhabi sect.

* That said, I would not trust them if they were run and funded by the Wahhabi sect or affiliates. I would hope that currently, and in general, special considerations are being given by law enforcement groups in silently monitoring any Wahhabi related group. I think that is warranted and prudent.

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Ralph August 20, 2010 at 10:33 am

“The “why aren’t they denouncing [X]?” game is another dog whistle. ”

It is not. When your religion and your holy book tacitly endorses the actions of the 9/11 hijackers, it is incumbent upon you to denounce it. So far, I’ve not seen or heard a denunciation of the attacks without some equivalence being drawn with US military actions of the past.

Muslims have a propensity to build mosques on conquered battlefields and this mosque will be seen in that same light – the name “Cordova” is very indicative, to say the least.

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Reginald Selkirk August 20, 2010 at 10:34 am

Ken Pulliam: My main beef is with the Islamic group that wants to build this mosque. Can’t they acknowledge the sensitivity involved?

Ken, the only reason anyone at all finds the Islamic center proposal “insensitive” is that they equate the Muslims who want to build an Islamic center with the Muslims who performed terrorist actions. Do you think that the Muslims who want to build an Islamic center equate themselves to the Muslims who performed terrorist actions?

Answer carefully, some of us are judging your intelligence from your responses.

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Reginald Selkirk August 20, 2010 at 10:36 am

Ralph: It is not. When your religion and your holy book tacitly endorses the actions of the 9/11 hijackers, it is incumbent upon you to denounce it.

I will remember this the next time a Christian complains that bringing up the Crusades, the witch hunts and the Inquisition are not germane. I will tell them: “Ralph said so.”

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G'DIsraeli August 20, 2010 at 10:41 am

If the Stanford research isn’t just PC, then all the power to the moderates stopping violence. Tho, I still think religion holds very violent and anti-democratic & western thought.

I think if you accept the principle of religious tolerance, the whole issue is a non-issue.

Yet, Promoting books like “What’s Right with Islam: A New Vision for Muslims and the West”, reminds me that one of the major concerns of ‘religious centers’ is functioning as missionary outposts.
It isn’t an excursively an Islamic issue. In Judaism Rabbis represent there religion in a partial and flattering manner, which makes me feel nausea and weariness.
This is a war of culture.

The real issue comes down to religious tolerance and tolerance in general.
Why should we tolerate intolerance?

“If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.” – Karl Popper

Paradoxical isn’t it?

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Reginald Selkirk August 20, 2010 at 10:42 am

OUTRAGE OVER PLANS TO BUILD LIBRARY NEXT TO SARAH PALIN
PLANS to build a state-of-the-art library next to Republican catastrophe Sarah Palin are causing outrage across mainstream America.
Campaigners have described the project as insensitive and a deliberate act of provocation by people with brains.

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Ralph August 20, 2010 at 10:43 am

I will remember this the next time a Christian complains that bringing up the Crusades, the witch hunts and the Inquisition are not germane. I will tell them: “Ralph said so.”

No, simply tell them it IS germane. I don’t know if Christians clerics do not denounce them – it would be silly not to.

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Reginald Selkirk August 20, 2010 at 10:52 am

Please forgive me for the actions of extremists I have never met who commit acts of violence that I have never advocated
As a white male Baptist, it is my duty today to denounce the violence perpetrated by Patrick Gray Sharp, 29, who yesterday attacked the police headquarters in McKinney, Texas, in a heavily armed but ineffectual assault involving a high-powered rifle, road flares, “gasoline and ammonium nitrate fertilizer.”

I understand that this denunciation must be swift and unambiguous and that, in the absence of such denunciations made by and on behalf of every and all white male Baptists, others are entitled to assume that every white male Baptist is fully in agreement with the actions of Patrick Gray Sharp and to therefore deny white male Baptists the rights others enjoy.

Posted by Fred Clark on Aug 18, 2010 at 05:05 PM

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Cody August 20, 2010 at 11:01 am

My humanist group has been talking about this subject for quite some time now. I myself reacted with disgust when I heard about it. However I have lolled it around in my head a bit and decided:
Timothy Mcveigh (Oklahoma City Bomber) was somewhat associated with the Catholic Church. If the Catholic church requested to place a community center next to ground zero in Oklahoma they most likely meet little protest. The emotional response would be minimum.

Reason being most Catholics condemn this action, although I am sure a slim minority may have supported it.

Therefore we should not condemn all Muslims for building this Community Center. Because most Muslims would condemn the attacks. While a slim minority supports them.

It seems that the response to the building of this community center is primarily emotional, as was my initial response. However we have seen time and time again how basing our judgment on purely emotional thought is inherently flawed.

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piero August 20, 2010 at 11:08 am

I cannot improve on Sam Harris’s assessment

American Muslims should be absolutely free to build a mosque two blocks from ground zero; but the ones who should do it probably wouldn’t want to.

(http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-08-13/ground-zero-mosque/3/)

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Fortuna August 20, 2010 at 11:26 am

Ralph;

Muslims have a propensity to build mosques on conquered battlefields and this mosque will be seen in that same light – the name “Cordova” is very indicative, to say the least.

Of what? One medieval Muslim dynasty’s victory over another?

Or perhaps you were referring to this:

Owing to the peace which the Christians of Cordova then enjoyed [...] the citizens of Cordova, Arabs, Christians, and Jews, enjoyed so high a degree of literary culture that the city was known as the New Athens. From all quarters came students eager to drink at its founts of knowledge. Among the men afterwards famous who studied at Cordova were the scholarly monk Gerbert, destined to sit on the Chair of Peter as Sylvester II (999-1003), the Jewish rabbis Moses and Maimonides, and the famous Spanish-Arabian commentator on Aristotle, Averroes.

via
http://gotmedieval.blogspot.com/2010/08/professor-newts-distorted-history.html

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Hendy August 20, 2010 at 11:34 am

@Cody:

Interesting comments. This thread has been quite interesting and I think my own reaction is pretty emotion-based as well. I’ve only recently become familiar with this topic at all. It’s great to listen to the various inputs and consider things more deeply.

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cl August 20, 2010 at 12:03 pm

I have no opinion worth sharing, at least, not about the proposal itself.

It strikes me as odd that there was a mosque four blocks north of Ground Zero on Warren St. until May of 2009. I don’t recall any of the current hoopla, so, I have to conclude that politricks and culture wars might be hard at work here.

Luke,

…do protesters feel the same about analogous cases? … Somehow, I suspect not.

Why do you say that?

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Erika August 20, 2010 at 12:51 pm

I notice a number of commenters mentioning how Muslims do not spend enough time condemning the acts of extremists. I have to ask, on what basis are these claims based? On what is reported by the main stream media? If so, I would urge you to consider whether or not the media’s portrayal is reliable. As a friend of mine puts it, “The media is nearly always wrong on any subject you know anything about.”

What I do know is that in my personal circle, Muslims have strongly condemned the acts of terrorists. Now, my circles generally consist of highly educated professionals, so they are certainly not representative, but they give me just enough counter evidence to be doubtful of unjustified claims that the Muslim community does not do enough to condemn extremists.

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Fortuna August 20, 2010 at 1:01 pm

cl said;

It strikes me as odd that there was a mosque four blocks north of Ground Zero on Warren St. until May of 2009. I don’t recall any of the current hoopla, so, I have to conclude that politricks and culture wars might be hard at work here.

Clearly, that was not meant to be a “victory mosque”, as the mosque being built directly on top of ground zero is meant to be. If the fact that some of Imam Rauf’s congregation were killed in the 9/11 attacks, and that he is thus apparently celebrating their deaths strikes you as contradictory…don’t think about it.

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nate August 20, 2010 at 4:07 pm

blocks away is not “directly on top”. This is a community center that has a mosque inside of it, not a mosque. You wouldn’t say that a hospital that has a chapel inside of it is a church. What makes you think Rauf is celebrating 9/11? I would be greatly suprised if you could find him saying that he’s glad 9/11 happened or that he thinks terrorism is justified

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Fortuna August 20, 2010 at 9:53 pm

The above was sarcasm.

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lukeprog August 20, 2010 at 11:21 pm

Reginald,

Oops! 3,000. Thanks.

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Ken Pulliam August 21, 2010 at 8:13 am

Sam Harris on the Mosque:

The first thing that all honest students of Islam must admit is that it is not absolutely clear where members of al Qaeda, the Taliban, al-Shabab, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hamas, and other Muslim terrorist groups have misconstrued their religious obligations. If they are “extremists” who have deformed an ancient faith into a death cult, they haven’t deformed it by much. When one reads the Koran and the hadith, and consults the opinions of Muslim jurists over the centuries, one discovers that killing apostates, treating women like livestock, and waging jihad—not merely as an inner, spiritual struggle but as holy war against infidels—are practices that are central to the faith. Granted, one path out of this madness might be for mainstream Muslims to simply pretend that this isn’t so—and by this pretense persuade the next generation that the “true” Islam is peaceful, tolerant of difference, egalitarian, and fully compatible with a global civil society. But the holy books remain forever to be consulted, and no one will dare to edit them. Consequently, the most barbarous and divisive passages in these texts will remain forever open to being given their most plausible interpretations.

Thus, when Allah commands his followers to slay infidels wherever they find them, until Islam reigns supreme (2:191-193; 4:76; 8:39; 9:123; 47:4; 66:9)—only to emphasize that such violent conquest is obligatory, as unpleasant as that might seem (2:216), and that death in jihad is actually the best thing that can happen to a person, given the rewards that martyrs receive in Paradise (3:140-171; 4:74; 47:5-6)—He means just that. And, being the creator of the universe, his words were meant to guide Muslims for all time. Yes, it is true that the Old Testament contains even greater barbarism—but there are obvious historical and theological reasons why it inspires far less Jewish and Christian violence today. Anyone who elides these distinctions, or who acknowledges the problem of jihad and Muslim terrorism only to swiftly mention the Crusades, Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, the Tamil Tigers, and the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma, is simply not thinking honestly about the problem of Islam.

What one doesn’t generally hear from Western Muslims is any frank acknowledgment of these unpleasant truths. In response to serious concerns raised over Islamic doctrines related to jihad, martyrdom, apostasy, and blasphemy—along with their incontrovertible link to terrorism, threats of violence, cartoon “controversies,” and the like—one generally meets with petulance, feigned confusion, half-truths, and non sequiturs. Apologists for Islam have even sought to defend their faith from criticism by inventing a psychological disorder known as “Islamophobia.” My friend Ayaan Hirsi Ali is said to be suffering from it. Though she was circumcised as a girl by religious barbarians (as 98 percent of Somali girls still are) has been in constant flight from theocrats ever since, and must retain a bodyguard everywhere she goes, even her criticism of Islam is viewed as a form of “bigotry” and “racism” by many “moderate” Muslims. And yet, moderate Muslims should be the first to observe how obscene Muslim bullying is—and they should be the first to defend the right of public intellectuals, cartoonists, and novelists to criticize the faith.

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dlewisa August 21, 2010 at 10:09 am

I take Ben Franklin’s position on churches (“Lighthouses are more useful than churches.”). I don’t care if the cultural center is built or not. I think it’s a non-issue.

What I do think we get from this is seeing the bigotry of christianity and some people in this country.

I say we start protesting the building of churches that happen to be anywhere near hospitals or medical services. Because christians kill doctors and medical workers in violent attacks on abortion clinics. They’re terrorists against the medical field!

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Patrick August 21, 2010 at 10:20 am

I was disappointed in Harris’ comment. There is a big difference between claiming that an ideology or holy book someone claims to believe in endorses something, and claiming that they themselves actually endorse it or even hold the slightest bit of responsibility for others who make similar claims.

Dennett could probably explain that to him. Its one of his things.

I can understand why he wrote what he did, because not holding people morally responsible for believing the clear dictates of their faith is something I struggle with myself. My mental reflexes are the opposite of how I’d like them to be. Its just important to recognize the problem, and work on it.

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JS Allen August 21, 2010 at 8:07 pm

I agree completely with Luke on this one.

Sam Harris has great rebuttals to the people who pretend the motives of the mosque-builders are pure and chaste, but that’s all irrelevant, IMO. Who cares if they want to build a “victory mosque”? It’s a free country, and people can celebrate their supposed accomplishments practically any way they want, so long as they have the money.

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piero August 22, 2010 at 7:01 am

JS Allen:

It’s a free country, and people can celebrate their supposed accomplishments practically any way they want, so long as they have the money.

So if the Japanese community in the US built a monument to celebrate Pearl Harbor, would you regard it as a good idea?

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piero August 22, 2010 at 7:44 am

There are several reasons why I believe the Cordoba initiative should not proceed.

Assuming their stated goals are sincere and genuine:

First, are they likely to achieve those goals? Clearly not. It doesn’t matter how sincerely you offer a gift to someone, if that someone does not want it you’ve failed.

Second, why name the project after a European city? That’s a monstrous PR blunder, as shown by the fact that they’ve recently renamed it to a nondescript label. Whoever commits such a blunder is automatically disqualified to manage a PR campaign.

Assuming their stated goals are not sincere and genuine:

Third: obvious.

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other eric August 22, 2010 at 7:50 am

Ken Pulliam: “…the Muslim terrorists on 9/11 made it clear that they were doing what they were doing in obedience to Allah… Jihad is not a political act; it is essentially a religious act. Whatever wrongs (and I know there have been many)the US military has committed against other countries has not been due to a religious motivation…”

i think this is a problematic view of the 9/11 terrorist acts, and one that i think many people use to implicate all muslims as complicit in these acts.
the al-qaeda terrorists were deeply religious and osama bin laden’s statement to the media began by praising allah, but the content of the statement was entirely about US military violence and oppression in the middle east. it was an eye-for-an-eye declaration.
the fact that their deep religious beliefs are used to justify their acts and that religious language invades all their rhetoric is predictable (and has also historically been employed by american presidents to justify military aggression), but this is then used by americans to conveniently paint muslims as bloodthirsty jihadists who are striking at an innocent target, while ignoring the decades of politically and economically motivated violence waged using their (americans’) tax dollars in countries they can’t even find on a map.
jihad is clearly a religious term used to veil political acts, that is, used by americans who wish to conceal the complicated political and military history that motivates these tensions as black-and-white one-sided religious hatred.

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Hermes August 22, 2010 at 8:05 am

other eric, consider this;

Anyone who thinks that terrestrial concerns are the principal source of Muslim violence must explain why there are no Palestinian Christian suicide bombers. They, too, suffer the daily indignity of the Israeli occupation. Where, for that matter, are the Tibetan Buddhist suicide bombers? The Tibetans have suffered an occupation far more brutal. Where are the throngs of Tibetans ready to perpetrate suicidal atrocities against the Chinese? They do not exist. What is the difference that makes the difference? The difference lies in the specific tenets of Islam.

[ source ]

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Reginald Selkirk August 22, 2010 at 9:42 am

The first thing that all honest students of Islam must admit is..

In which Sam Harris goes with the heavy-handed rhetoric by accusing anyone who disagrees with him of dishonesty.

Message to Sam Harris: don’t be a dick.

When one reads the Koran and the hadith, and consults the opinions of Muslim jurists over the centuries, one discovers that killing apostates, treating women like livestock, and waging jihad—not merely as an inner, spiritual struggle but as holy war against infidels—are practices that are central to the faith.

In which Sam Harris cowardly accuses Imam Feisal’s lower Manhattan congregation of complicity in those crimes against humanity without saying so directly.

Message to Sam Harris: don’t be a dick.

But the holy books remain forever to be consulted, and no one will dare to edit them. Consequently, the most barbarous and divisive passages in these texts will remain forever open to being given their most plausible interpretations.

This applies equally to Jews and Christians, most of whom (Andy Schlafly being a notable and stoopid exception) wouldn’t dare to change the text of their religion’s scripture.

Anyone who elides these distinctions, or who acknowledges the problem of jihad and Muslim terrorism only to swiftly mention the Crusades, Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, the Tamil Tigers, and the bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma, is simply not thinking honestly about the problem of Islam.

Did I mention that anyone who doesn’t agree with Sam Harris is dishonest?

Message to Sam Harris: don’t be a dick.

Apologists for Islam have even sought to defend their faith from criticism by inventing a psychological disorder known as “Islamophobia.”

In which Sam Harris claims that Islamophobia is an invention of “apologists for Islam.” And you take this man seriously?

Message to Ken Pulliam: don’t be a dick.

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JS Allen August 22, 2010 at 9:43 am

So if the Japanese community in the US built a monument to celebrate Pearl Harbor, would you regard it as a good idea?

I would regard it as pretty funny. After knowing what happened to Japan in WWII, if they get their self-confidence from building a building, more power to them. The world needs more comedic relief.

Honestly, the whole mosque thing reminds me of this hilarious ass-pennies skit:

Nick: Oh, I do have it together little brother! You don’t pull down EIGHT FIGURES a year without having it TO-gether!

Little Brother: You don’t have it together Nick! You stick pennies up your ass for confidence! That’s not having it together.

You build mosques for confidence? That’s not having it together.

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Reginald Selkirk August 22, 2010 at 9:45 am

Second, why name the project after a European city? That’s a monstrous PR blunder, as shown by the fact that they’ve recently renamed it to a nondescript label. Whoever commits such a blunder is automatically disqualified to manage a PR campaign.

Naming something after a European precedent? It is inconceivable that someone would do that in New York, formerly New Amsterdam.

Find a better argument.

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Reginald Selkirk August 22, 2010 at 9:48 am
JS Allen August 22, 2010 at 10:05 am

Or, it might help to imagine the voice of Milton in the movie Office Space:

Milton: But I never received my paycheck, and then Lundberg domiciled troops in my holy cities and uh bu um…

Secretary: Why don’t you just go sit at your desk.

Milton: OK, but … [out of earshot] I could put strychnine in the coffee. I could build a mosque. I could do it, you know..

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Reginald Selkirk August 22, 2010 at 10:44 am

Comment from a similar post at another blog

MikeN
Posted August 21, 2010 at 8:23 am

Have the supporters of your local Young Men’s (or Women’s) Christian Association publicly and vehemently condemned the murder of chldren in Africa by Christian witch-hunters? NO?

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piero August 22, 2010 at 10:46 am

Reginald:

Naming something after a European precedent? It is inconceivable that someone would do that in New York, formerly New Amsterdam.

Find a better argument.

Do I have to insult your intelligence by telling you what’s wrong with your retort, or shall I wait patiently until you see it for yourself?

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piero August 22, 2010 at 10:54 am

JS Allen:

I would regard it as pretty funny.

So would I. But that’s beside the point. The question is whether it would be a good idea, if the intended aim of the project was to foster US-Japan relations.

Now, clearly the planned cultural centre is not a monument to 9/11, but it comes dangerously close. Is that really the only available location in Manhattan? Must it have a mosque within it? Are there other more reasonable ways of spending that money if the aim is to promote better relations?

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other eric August 22, 2010 at 11:13 am

Hermes,
i wouldn’t argue against the notion that islam supplies its extremists with calls for violent martyrdom. i’m only arguing that the 9/11 attacks were a political gesture, commited from within a relgious paradigm, rather than a completely religious act. to label it as purely religious is to ignore a significant amount of political history between the US and the middle east, and it is a devious way to implicate all muslims in the act.

does the IRA count against the hypothesis that i’m reading in your quote that only muslims are terrorist bombers?

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Reginald Selkirk August 22, 2010 at 11:21 am

Do I have to insult your intelligence by telling you what’s wrong with your retort,…

No, you can go fuck yourself instead.

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piero August 22, 2010 at 11:25 am

Reginald:

No, you can go fuck yourself instead.

If my dick was that long, I wouldn’t waste it on myself.

What about the issue at hand? Have you thought it through, or do you still need an explanation?

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Reginald Selkirk August 22, 2010 at 11:30 am

does the IRA count against the hypothesis that i’m reading in your quote that only muslims are terrorist bombers?

Not that he phrased it very carefully. The IRA did bombing, but not suicide bombings. And he made no mention at all of certain other groups.

‘Suicide attack’ at Wikipedia
The Bible Book of Judges recounts the story of the Jewish hero Samson and how he killed himself by bringing down the temple of the Philistines in order to kill three thousand Philistines.

Modern suicide bombing as a political tool can be traced back to the assassination of Tsar Alexander II of Russia in 1881. Alexander fell victim to a Nihilist plot.

Not all modern suicide attacks are by Islamists, a notable example being the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.

This issue with identifying attacks as suicide bombings is not such a problem in places like Israel, Gaza and the West Bank, where suicide bombing is an overt Islamist strategy against the Israelis that has won the backing of both Hamas and Fatah.

Tamil Tigers? Odd they didn’t get a mention. And Hamas and Fatah are political groups, albeit Islamic ones.

More demagoguing from Sam Harris.
Message to Sam Harris: don’t be a dick.

And message to Hermes, in addition to Ken Pulliam: if you propagate demagoguery by others, you are also guilty.

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JS Allen August 22, 2010 at 11:33 am

So would I. But that’s beside the point. The question is whether it would be a good idea, if the intended aim of the project was to foster US-Japan relations.

I hear you. And if anyone really believed that the goal of the mosque is to foster warm fuzzies between the infidels and Islam, then we’d be right to argue that the current plan is flawed.

But nobody believes that. If they want to make clowns of themselves, let them do it. If we shut down the mosque because they’re seeking self-confidence in poor taste, we’ll next have to go after hicks who buy R.V.s with neon lights, or after old guys who buy Porsches and 20 year-old girlfriends to feel young again.

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Reginald Selkirk August 22, 2010 at 11:52 am

Have you thought it through, or do you still need an explanation?

I don’t need anything from you, but if you are going to provide an explanation, you can either do it now or beat around the bush for another week.

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piero August 22, 2010 at 11:59 am

Reginald:

I don’t need anything from you

Fair enough.

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Hermes August 22, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Piero & Reginald, if I considered either of you to be morons I’d think your exchange was funny. Currently, it’s tragic because I don’t think either of you are that far off from understanding what the other is saying and replying appropriately.

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piero August 22, 2010 at 12:18 pm

Hermes:

Piero & Reginald, if I considered either of you to be morons I’d think your exchange was funny. Currently, it’s tragic because I don’t think either of you are that far off from understanding what the other is saying and replying appropriately.

I just thought that Reginald’s comparison was colossally stupid, well below his intelligence, and I offered him the opportunity to retract. He replied by telling me to fuck myself, which I couldn’t do due to physical limitations. That’s all.

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Hermes August 22, 2010 at 12:18 pm

other eric, nothing is completely any one thing. Yet, there is a qualitative difference between those using violence and those who are not.

As for The Troubles in Northern Ireland, I think it just emphasizes the general case that the specific quote I gave covered for sects of Islam. Can you imagine any bloodshed there if religion were not a factor; say, none were religious, or everyone converted to Buddhism? How would they divide themselves up, and would those divisions be strife inducing?

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Fortuna August 22, 2010 at 12:22 pm

@ piero;

The ostensible reason that the rec centre/mosque is (or was?) named after Cordoba is because the city was an epicentre of a cultural renaissance that occurred in Muslim Spain, under a Caliphate that was relatively tolerant by Medieval standards. If one wanted to pick a city symbolic of a golden age of cooperation between Muslims, Christians and Jews, one could hardly do better.

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piero August 22, 2010 at 12:35 pm

Fortuna:
Even if Cordoba had been a paragon of tolerance, understanding and cooperation, choosing its name reveals poor judgement. After all, Cordoba was conquered territory.

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James Gray August 22, 2010 at 1:14 pm

Do you think Islam the worst religion or just the worst popular religion? There are a lot of small religions out there and some could be developed with an interest in being evil in mind.

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Fortuna August 22, 2010 at 2:02 pm

Cordoba was a paragon for its era. Choosing to focus on its being a conquered territory seems perverse; it did, after all, have a centuries-long history beyond the actual conquest (one which, incidentally, put contemporary Christian conduct to shame).

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lukeprog August 22, 2010 at 4:40 pm

James Gray,

Oops, I had always meant to write “worst major religion…”

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piero August 22, 2010 at 6:48 pm

Fortuna:
If I wanted to build a memorial to the Roman empire, should I call it the Roma Project or the Alexandria Project?

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other eric August 22, 2010 at 10:53 pm

Hermes: “nothing is completely any one thing. Yet, there is a qualitative difference between those using violence and those who are not. As for The Troubles in Northern Ireland, I think it just emphasizes the general case that the specific quote I gave covered for sects of Islam. Can you imagine any bloodshed there if religion were not a factor”

i can absolutely imagine The Troubles and al-qaeda sans religion, though i don’t find it that productive to do so. i’d say the qualitative difference is human. a human part we often label as religious, but which extends beyond those shallow barriers.

these politics, whether violent or not, will live beyond the names of islam or christianity. and it is important for us to deal with them on this true scale, rather than attempt to pin them to small passing things.

or maybe that’s pretentious bullshit. sorry if it is, sometimes you just can’t tell, ya know?

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Mazen Abdallah August 23, 2010 at 2:11 am

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”
It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Best expression of secular rights I ever heard of

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Hermes August 23, 2010 at 7:37 am

other eric: i can absolutely imagine The Troubles and al-qaeda sans religion, though i don’t find it that productive to do so.

I am not saying that religion is by itself sufficient. Along with those other factors, it seems to be the necessary motivator for violence to start and remain active, just as increased trade between potentially antagonistic groups can be a moderating influence that can quell potential violent outbreaks.

Religions that identify the hell-bound other group as a threat, and that encourage abuses/bigotry/violence against those non-believers (anyone not in the ‘in group’ of people with the ‘correct’ beliefs), spark these conflicts.

Let’s put it another way.

Let’s say you skip your imagination.

Can you give a comparable — actual — example that is comparable to either Palestine and Northern Ireland divisions and violent conflicts that does not have religion as a factor as identified by one or both of the groups participating in the divisive violent conflicts? Just one. [ This is a real question, not one to force your hand and get you to agree with me. You might find support for your case by looking at Scott Atran's work. ]

After all, you’re saying that you can not see something that the primary actors in the event say they are doing it all for. Your imagination can only go so far in light of that detail and the others I’ve provided.

I’m for facts, and like you I can only go on what is available to me. If you know of examples that show religion isn’t a driving factor I would like to know about them so I can learn from the comparison or even change my mind about what seems to be clear to me now.

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Reginald Selkirk August 24, 2010 at 9:29 am

U.S. Anti-Islam Protest Seen as Lift for Extremists
WASHINGTON — Some counterterrorism experts say the anti-Muslim sentiment that has saturated the airwaves and blogs in the debate over plans for an Islamic center near ground zero in Lower Manhattan is playing into the hands of extremists by bolstering their claims that the United States is hostile to Islam.

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JS Allen August 24, 2010 at 10:01 am

If you know of examples that show religion isn’t a driving factor I would like to know about them so I can learn from the comparison or even change my mind about what seems to be clear to me now.

Some examples might include the Rwandan genocide, the Eritrean-Ethiopian war, the war between North and South Korea and the Vietnam war.

In absence of religion, people can use ethnicity or economic ideaology (like communism vs. national socialism) to demonize each other.

It might be possible to show that at least some of the ostensibly religions conflicts today are actually ethnic or economic conflicts where religion is being used as a tool. Historically, this has often been the case.

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JS Allen August 24, 2010 at 10:17 am

playing into the hands of extremists by bolstering their claims that the United States is hostile to Islam.

Somehow, I don’t think people on an atheist message board are going to worry too much about being perceived as hostile to religion. Atheists sometimes do drugs, too, and I heard that plays into the extremists hands.

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Hermes August 24, 2010 at 10:35 am

JS Allen, thanks for the examples. Much appreciated. Do you know why Christian Palestinians aren’t suicide bombers?

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JS Allen August 24, 2010 at 11:54 am

Do you know why Christian Palestinians aren’t suicide bombers?

Beliefs have consequences, and different beliefs have different consequences. Islam is relatively more conducive to the conclusion that suicide bombing is good, while Christianity (for example) was more conducive to a doctrine of “white man’s burden”. Both Islam and Christianity have been used to support a doctrine of wiping out Jews.

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Patrick August 24, 2010 at 5:33 pm

Actually, Christianity (or at least western culture) seems fairly conducive to that sort of thing. We lionize suicide attacks in the fiction. Watch action movies and see how long it takes you to come across a scene where a character tells everyone else to go on ahead, he’ll hold them off… and then engages in a blatantly suicidal effort to kill off everyone he can before he’s killed. It takes a little longer, but you can even find situations where the “hero” engages in tactics that directly lead to his own death, typically by ramming some sort of vessel with some other sort of craft.

This has been less popular since 9/11. But even Independence Day features a heroic character who flies his jet directly into the superweapon of an alien craft, like a kamikaze pilot.

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