What Fresh Hell Is This?

August 19, 2010

The Mosque*, Religious Liberty, and Some Local Pols

Mike Wereschagin of the Trib (yes, I don't only read Scaife's editorial page!) has a good rundown of some local politicians' reactions to the unfolding Mosque story. He begins:
What started as a local zoning dispute over a proposed mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center site has spread into a dispute over First Amendment protections, religion in public life and the campaigns of Pennsylvania politicians.
But the real story is in who (locally) said what. Ask yourself, who's brave and stands up for religious liberty and who, well, doesn't.

Jason Altmire is the first local politician mentioned in the piece:
Rep. Jason Altmire of McCandless was among the first congressional Democrats to come out against the project, and Keith Rothfus of Edgeworth, his Republican opponent in November's election, joined him Wednesday in opposing it.

"The folks who attacked us on September 11 were attacking us in the name of a religion," Rothfus said.

"It's an attack that was generated by Islamic extremists," Altmire said. "As a country, we are offended by this. This gets right back to the heart of what happened September 11."
However, while disappointing to read that Almire came out against the project, this is not the only thing he's said about Park51. When he was on Rob Pratt's KDKA radio show, he said they have a constitutional right to build the center - but he questioned whether it was "morally" the right thing to do. More from pa2010.com:
Count Congressman Jason Altmire (D-4) among the politicians who doesn’t think a mosque should be built two blocks away from where the Twin Towers once stood.

Altmire said over the weekend that he is “offended” by the idea of building the mosque and Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero, where the worst of the Sept. 11, 200 terrorist attacks occurred. Acknowledging the project’s backers have a legal and constitutional freedom to do so, Altmire said “there should be some discussion about what is right morally, as well as just what you’re allowed to do.”
The issue of being offended, however, has little or no bearing. Who's offended at the Catholic Church's pedophile priests? Can we discuss banning churches from being within walking distance to a school? Didn't think so.

While it's nice to see Altmire at least acknowledges Park51 project's rights, it would be nicer to see some backbone here. Seems to me his response is trying to have it both ways: Yes they have a right to build it but considering how offensive some people think it is, should they? And as always, there's a call for a "discussion" on the topic.

Rothfus, on the other hand, is frightening. He's opposed because the terrorists attacked "us" in the name of religion. Therefore this community center, to be built by other members of another sect of that religion, should be rejected. If his quotation is accurate, the logical conclusion to his position is little different from the AFA's Bryan Fischer: No more Mosques. Ever.

Luckily, up in Erie, there's a Democrat with a spine. Wereschagin again:
"While I understand that emotions are running strong in regard to the Muslim community center in New York City, it's neither the government's nor an elected official's place to tell any religious group where they can or cannot practice their faith," [Rep. Kathy Dahlkemper, D-Erie] said. "Our Founding Fathers came to America to escape religious persecution.

"I believe very strongly in the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom, and I will not throw our Constitution or core values aside simply because it is an election year."
Nice to see some backbone. Maybe Jason Altmire can borrow it sometime.

Kathleen Parker had some good things to say on Park51:
The mosque should be built precisely because we don't like the idea very much. We don't need constitutional protections to be agreeable, after all.

This point surpasses even all the obvious reasons for allowing the mosque, principally that there's no law against it. Precluding any such law, we let people worship when and where they please. That it hurts some people's feelings is, well, irrelevant in a nation of laws. And, really, don't we want to keep it that way?
And finally:
Ultimately, when sensitivity becomes a cudgel against lawful expressions of speech or religious belief -- or disbelief -- we all lose.
Land of the free, home of the brave.

*Again, it's really not really a mosque. It's a community center with a prayer room in it. It's also not at Ground Zero but a few blocks away. And before you say, "Oy! Again with the Mosque!" All I can say is, "Pittgirl has her pigeons, I have this."


Anonymous said...

It's only offensive if one conflates all Muslims - even those who are American citizens - with the terrorists who perpetrated the attacks on 9/11 and assumes that we are at war with Islam in general and all its sects. To take offense presumes that one regards all Muslims as subscribing to the extremist Islam of the terrorists and holds them responsible for the attacks on 9/11/01.

Yes, those attacks were carried out by Islamic extremists, but the folks behind the Park51 center are not in league with them. In fact, they have been singled out as enemies of Al Qaeda for preaching moderation and against wahabist extremism. We simply do the work of the terrorists - who would like nothing more than to convince and radicalize Muslims around the world that the US is at war with all Muslims - when we fail to make such distinctions. We give them the "holy war"/"jihad" they so desperately want (and that so many right-leaning Americans seem to want).

I read Kathleen Parker's column the other day and completely respect her opinion. She rightly understands that regardless of how she feels personally, that does not trump someone's fundamental right to freedom of religion. And I'm glad to see that my Congresswoman, Kathy Dahlkemper, isn't as cowardly and pandering as other Democrats have been on this matter.

Of course, all of this reveals the underlying rational behind this story - it's a wedge issue meant to divide Americans and stir up xenophobic, bigoted anger to pad Republican votes in November, just like TX Rep. Louis Gohmert's "terror baby" demagoguery and the "anchor baby" hysteria (funny how the right has so little concern for babies after they're born and would relinquish them to a class of non-citizens and looks at the children of Mid-Eastern immigrants to this country as "terrorists in training").

Great post, Dayvoe!

Ol' Froth said...

Anoother thing to remember, for those arguing that Cordoba House should be built elsewhere, is that community centers are there to serve a community. I'm not privy to the demographics, but I think its a good bet that the developers of Park 51 want to place the center there in order to serve the recreational and religious needs of those who live and work in lower Manhatten. It would be silly to build a center meant to serve that constituancy in someplace uptown.

Lyon Advocate said...

I am shocked, shocked that Jason Altmire is offended by this Mosque*! Oh wait, it's an election year and he's an opportunist who would like to become a career politician. Not shocked after all, but I am offended by his man boobs ... wear a manzier (or bro), Jason (see, this website on Nov 23, 2009)!

Heir to the Throne said...

Who's offended at the Catholic Church's pedophile priests? Can we discuss banning churches from being within walking distance to a school?
Do Catholics build the Churches to celebrate the molestations?
See Hagia Sophia

Maria said...

Do Catholics build the Churches to celebrate the molestations?
See Hagia Sophia

Funny you should mention that. While I take it that you bring up Hagia Sophia to make a point about a church being turned into a mosque after the area changed hands, I'm thinking you'd rather forget the part where the church was changed by force by the Catholic Church from Byzantine to Latin:

"Upon the capture of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade, the church was ransacked and desecrated by the Latin Christians. The Byzantine historian Niketas Choniates described the capture of Constantinople. Many reputed relics from the church, such as a stone from the tomb of Jesus, the Virgin Mary's milk, the shroud of Jesus, and bones of several saints, were sent to churches in the West and can be seen now in various museums in the West. During the Latin occupation of Constantinople (1204–1261) the church became a Roman Catholic cathedral. Baldwin I of Constantinople was crowned emperor on 16 May 1204 in Hagia Sophia, at a ceremony which closely followed Byzantine practices. Enrico Dandolo, the Doge of Venice who commanded the sack and invasion of the city by the Latin Crusaders in 1204, is buried inside the church. The tomb inscription carrying his name, which has become a part of the floor decoration, was spat upon by many of the angry Byzantines who recaptured Constantinople in 1261.[citation needed] However, restoration carried out during the period 1847–1849 cast doubt upon the authenticity of the doge's grave. It is more likely a symbolic burial site to keep alive his memory.

After the recapture in 1261 by the Byzantines, the church was in a dilapidated state."

Ol' Froth said...

Maria, stop confusing the issue with facts!

EdHeath said...

HTTT, how is the Park51 community center a "celebration"? Of course any house of worship is a celebration of God (however you might define God).

Joshua said...

Yeah, and let's not even begin to talk about the Ibn Shushan Synagogue in Toledo, which was forcibly converted into a Catholic church. Or what about the Híjar Synagogue, which became the Church of San Antón? And then, of course, the Córdoba Synagogue?

Mike said...

I have been having a flame war with a conservative friend of mine over this. His point is that Imam Rauf and his sect are radical, and they are building it there to stick it to America. I am not convinced that he can go from respected to radical in 6 or so
months. Cordoba House was even promoted on Fox News in December.

I found an article from a conservative site that describes the Imam and Cordoba. The opinion of the article is that he is trying to have it both ways and be respectable to both the West and the radicals.

George W. Bush referred to the Afghan and Iraqi wars in the Middle East as "Crusades" which took place during the time of the Cordoba Mosque. This is extremely insulting to Muslims and Jews like myself. I never thought about the connection before, but I wonder if he came up with the name Cordoba as a subtle shot towards Bush's Crusades.

I also read about Sufi Muslims. They are very religious and peaceful. I haven't found anything radical about them unless you consider non-Western as being radical. They also have a history of being persecuted by radical Muslims like the Taliban.

Jews and Muslims share many laws and customs. Jews probably have more in common with Muslims than we would like to admit. I see his sect as not being very much different from the ultra orthodox Jews I grew up with. The Kabbalah which seems to be popular lately was heavily influenced by Sufi Muslims, for example.

America's greatest freedom is our freedom of religion. This includes respecting the religions of people we have nothing in common with or even are real radicals. I can understand why people would be sensitive about the Community Center/Mosque being near the WTC site, but if we start pulling back from our principals just because people don't like it, what will be the next reason? As a Jew, when I see someone being discriminated against there is something in the back of my mind wonders if we would be next?