You all know that I’m an atheist. I think religion is fundamentally bad, and then even the so-called “good” religions promote an environment of sloppy thinking and lies. I will be a happy person the day that less than 1% of the world’s population claims belief in any religion or spirituality. I have zero desire to see it continue to be a part of the human experience in any way other than the historical and mythological.
That said, I’m also an American, and I strongly believe in our Constitution. I believe that people should have the right to worship whatever god/s they want to, without fear or favor from the government. I truly, deeply believe that all religions are equal (in that I think they’re all equally wrong), and must be treated the same under our laws.
This apparently puts me in the minority and makes me a member of the radical left, as does my belief that torture is always wrong and anyone born in this country should be a citizen.
As you may have guessed, the genesis of this article is the Cordoba House project in New York City. This project would create a Muslim community center, a concept not dissimilar to the YMCA. It would be located two-and-a-half blocks from the site where the World Trade Center used to be, in a neighborhood that already has a mosque, and would contain an art gallery, swimming pool, restaurant and, yes, a worship center. It would replace a building that most recently was a Burlington Coat Factory store. It’s what many people like to call “The Ground Zero mosque”, because that has a nicely paranoid ring to it.
I think this project is a splendid idea! I think that giving Muslims a place where they can go and hang out is no bad thing, especially for the young ones. It’ll help continue to mainstream Muslim culture in America and might give non-Muslims a place where they can go to see a message that’s so very different from the kind of message that bin Laden and his like love to push. It also sends a very strong message abroad that our nation, as George W Bush once said, is not at war with Islam. It shows that we truly practice what we preach when it comes to our Constitution.
Sadly, as mentioned, this puts me in the minority. People like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich have come out in heavy opposition to this project, with Gingrich saying that as long as no churches and synagogues are allowed in Saudi Arabia, we shouldn’t allow this place to be built. I hope my readers understand the stupidity of that comment, but in case there’s any who don’t, allow me to point out that sinking to the level of Saudi Arabia is not, perhaps, what we should be doing.
I understand and appreciate the idea that some people find this location to be insensitive. I get that, I really do. But it doesn’t matter in the long run. You can petition the organizers of the project to move it, or offer to help them find a different place, or whatever. But ultimately it’s a matter of law, and the law says that there’s no reason this place cannot be built.
Yesterday when discussing this with a co-worker he asked the question of whether the KKK should be allowed to sponsor a highway cleanup operation near a major civil rights landmark. I said that, absolutely, under the law if they meet all qualifications they should be allowed to. It’s tacky, it’s horrible and it’s awful, but it’s a matter of law and freedom.
Under our law you don’t have the right to not be offended. You don’t have the right to not have your feelings hurt. This sometimes leads to things people don’t like, such as Nazis being allowed to have a little gathering in Skokie, Illinois, or Fred Phelps and his gang of idiots protesting at military funerals. The law is the law and you have the right to be an offensive jackass. Other people don’t have the right to not be offended.
There’s something to be made about the name of the project: Cordoba House. It refers to Cordoba, Spain, a city that was once capital of the Caliphite of Cordoba back when most of the Iberian peninsula was ruled by Spain. It was a great time of intellectual flowering for the world, especially since most of Europe was mired in the dark ages. It was also a time of great religious tolerance, where Jews and Christians were allowed to practice their faith. True, they had to pay extra taxes Muslims didn’t, but at least they were tolerated.
Mind you when Spain took over following the Reconquista in 1492, one of the first things they did was kill or kick out everyone who wasn’t Christian. Yes, this was during the thousand year period when Islam was the more tolerant faith.
I think it’s good that Cordoba House will evoke the name of this great city and the religious tolerance it represented and I think it’s very, very sad that we have so many of our government officials and politicians who are unwilling to back religious freedom in this country. Once you start saying that one religion should be treated differently from all others you start going down a very slippery slope that leads to some very dark places. I don’t want my country to go to those places. When it comes to choosing freedom and equality, I’ll take that every time, and if people’s feelings get hurt, that’s unfortunate, but the law and our freedom is more important.