Monday, August 30, 2010

On the Mosque near Ground Zero, Tolerance, Bigotry, Decency, and Questionable Intentions

Raise pertinent questions about the construction of the mosque near Ground Zero, or dare to object to the project and you're immediately labeled a bigot, Islamophobe, and anti-democratic. But the game is rigged.
I've referred people to thoughtful arguments made by Christopher Hitchens here and Charles Krauthammer, Sacrilege at Ground Zero, Mark Helprin, The World Trade Center Mosque and the Constitution , Andrew McCarthy here and Charles Jacobs here. The response is usually that 'they're cranks, right wing nuts, fanatics, etc.'
Well, here's Judea Pearl on why the mosque may not be such a stellar idea.
Hard to throw him to lions as a man of intolerance!

The psychology behind the Ground Zero mosque
By Judea Pearl
Overall, the message that emerges from this discourse can hardly be missed: When Muslim grievance is at question, America is the culprit.
I have been trying hard to find an explanation for the intense controversy surrounding the Cordoba Initiative, whereby 71 percent of Americans oppose the construction of an Islamic Center and a Mosque next to Ground Zero. I cannot agree with the theory that such broad resistance represents Islamophobic sentiments, nor that it is a product of a recent “right wing” blitz against one Imam or another.
Americans are neither bigots, nor gullible.

Deep sensitivity to the families of 9/11 victims was cited as yet another explanation, but, this, too, does not answer the core question. If one accepts that the 19 fanatics who flew planes into the Twin Towers were merely fake Muslims who, by their very act, proved themselves acting against the tenets of “true Islam,” then building a Mosque at Ground Zero should evoke no emotion whatsoever; it should not be viewed differently than, say, building a church, a community center or a druid shrine.

A more realistic explanation is that most Americans do not buy the 19-fanatics story, but view the 9/11 assault as a product of an anti-American ideology that, for good and bad reasons, has found a fertile breeding ground in the hearts and minds of many Muslim youngsters who see their Muslim identity inextricably tied with anti-Americanism.

The Ground Zero Mosque is being equated with that ideology, not with the faith or religious practices it aims to house. Public objection to the mosque thus represents a vote of no confidence in mainstream American Muslim leadership which, on the one hand, refuses to acknowledge the alarming dimension that anti-Americanism has taken in their community and, paradoxically, blames America for creating it.

American Muslim leadership has had nine years to build up trust by taking proactive steps against the spread of anti-American terror-breeding ideologies, here and abroad. Evidently, however, a sizable segment of the American public is not convinced that this leadership is doing an effective job of confidence building.

In public, Muslim spokespersons praise America as the best country for Muslims to live in and practice their faith. But in sermons, speeches, rallies, classrooms, prisons, conferences and books sold at those conferences, the narrative is often different. There, Noam Chomsky’s conspiracy theory is the dominant paradigm, and America’s foreign policy is one long chain of “crimes” against humanity, especially against Muslims. Affirmation of these conspiratorial theories sends mixed messages to young Muslims, engendering anger and helplessness: America and Israel are the first to be blamed for Muslim failings, sufferings and violence. Terrorist acts, whenever condemned, are immediately “contextually explicated” (to quote Tariq Ramadan), Spiritual legitimizers of suicide bombings (e.g, Shaikh Yusuf Qaradawi of Qatar) are revered beyond criticism, Hamas and Hezbollah are permanently shielded from the label of “terrorist,” Overall, the message that emerges from this discourse is implicit, but can hardly be missed: When Muslim grievance is at question, America is the culprit and violence is justified, if not obligatory.

True, we have not helped Muslims in the confidence-building process. Treating home-grown terror acts as isolated incidents of psychological disturbances while denying their ideological roots has given American Muslim leaders the illusion that they can achieve unreserved public acceptance without engaging in serious introspection and responsibility sharing for allowing victimhood, anger and entitlement to spawn such acts. Opponents fear the construction of the Ground-Zero Mosque would further prolong this illusion and thus impede, rather than promote healing and reconciliation.

If I were New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg I would reassert Muslims’ right to build the Islamic Center and the Mosque, but I would expend the same energy, not one iota less, trying to convince them to consider an alternative project: a community-run multi-faith center in honor of the 9/11 victims. Given the current intensity of emotions, fellow Muslim Americans will benefit more from co-ownership of consensual projects than sole ownership of confrontational projects.

Judea Pearl is a professor at UCLA and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation, named after his son. He is a co-editor of “I am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl (Jewish Light, 2004), winner of the National Jewish Book Award.


Sirensongs said...

Hear hear! There are valid reasons not just "bigotry" for objections. For one thing, the safety of the community and worshippers themselves. "Bigot" is now like this magic word liberals use to just stop a conversation in its tracks and avoid having to listen to alt. points of view. The word used to be "communist."

George Jochnowitz said...

There is no easy solution to this question. The United States was conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. The First Amendment mandates freedom of religion. The mosque, in one sense, is the realization of the American dream.
In another sense, the mosque is a provocation--an act of extreme rudeness. It is figuratively speaking to the Twin Towers and saying, "You're gone, but now we're here instead of you."
There are no laws against rudeness. That is probably a good thing. Still--the rudeness remains.

Maurizio said...

I am sorry.I think Europe and America still didn't realize what it means to treat with the muslim world, especially the arab one.
We didn't realize that every sign of opennes is considered as weakness, every concession we make is a further step for them on the conquest of our society.
Listen to the declarations of Muhammar Gheddafi here in Italy and all the threats he is doing: "Europe should be Islamic", "You must pay us 5 billion Euro/year or Europe will become Africa,black. The problem is that nonee take this voices seriously.Same thing with iranian threats. Same as with Hitler.
Maybe we should reconsider our relationships with islamic world and analyze history from a deeper point of view.

Uzi Silber said...

others have rightly pointed out that this is not about religion. Muslims have a 100 mosques in NYC alone.

It's about location: there's no Shinto shrine or Benihana restaurant at Pearl Harbor. and the Catholic church pulled the plug on its convent at Auschwitz.

Sirensongs: Indologist At Large said...

I said the same - why not build a multifaith prayer centre? Probably because this would mean accomodating prayer in non-Islamic modes, and no facility run by Muslims can do that.