"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened." -Dr. Seuss
Question #59042 posted on 08/25/2010 7:04 p.m.
Q:

I don't know why I keep going to 100 Hour Board,

Recently the building of the mosque at ground zero has come up quite a bit on the news...

Personally, I have many friends who are muslims and they really are great people, but I really feel that it is rather insensitive to build a mosque near where the ground zero is. I understand the fact that not all muslims are radical, it is just that because what happened in 9/11, building a mosque seems to me as adding salt to injuries that may not have been healed for some families. I guess people just associate 9/11 with all the muslims in the world, even though this is not true at all. Well, I fully support the idea of religious toleration, but I just feel that there ought to be better ways to do that.

It is really weird for me to say this because I really feel that religious toleration is of utmost importance especially as the world is more and more integrated than ever. I have never seen a country (haven't been to many of course) who tolerates such diverse views, race and religions such as America, and I really hope it stays on this way (there are rooms for improvement of course) , because it is really precious and not to be taken for granted!

What does the 1 Hour Board think?

-i don't really have a name seriously :)

P.S this post is not intended to be offensive ( I have reread them), but if it does, I apologize

A:

Dear Name,

Oh boy this makes me angry. The amount of racism and anti-Muslim sentiment this has brought to light has turned me off of the right like nothing before. (Including you, Mr. Romney.)

If seeing a Muslim symbol causes trauma to the families of 9/11 victims, they've got some serious irrational problems. If they associate the terrorists with all Muslims (which, as rational people like you and me know, is a serious fallacy), that's their own problem and gives no warrant for stomping on others' constitutional rights. The families of the 9/11 victims don't suddenly get to overrun private property, freedom of assembly, and freedom of worship.

I hope we can reach out and let people of all faiths build mosques and synagogues and churches and temples down the street from Ground Zero. It's lots better than the underground mall they'll be building in the ashes of the dead.

Others have put this more eloquently than me: my homeboy John Stewart nailed the illogic of the whole thing and Dick Cavett expresses exactly how bewildered I feel about it.

Love,
and Sauron

A:

Dear Name, 

I'm going to give you the arguments of the other side not because I agree with them, but because they ought to be heard since this issue is more complicated than racism and xenophobia.

What many people don't know is that immediately after the towers were hit, a group of American Muslims was rejoicing in the streets.  I personally saw a group of Muslims cheering.  This is not to say that all Muslims in America are part of this group (in fact, this group represents a very small population of American Muslims), but saying that there is no connection between members of the Muslim faith and the terrorist attacks is naive at best.  In fact data, which and Sauron will discuss in further detail, shows that 5% of Muslims in America show favorable views toward al Qaeda.  While this may seem like a small percentage, it still represents a significant population (67,450) when considering the total number of Muslims in America (1,349,000).  Additionally 27% refused to share their views on al Quaeda leaving only 58% strongly condemning the actions of the terrorist faction.   

Since a small group of American Muslims have been legitimately connected to the terrorist attacks, those opposed to the mosque fear that the group trying to build the mosque is of the same party.  This fear is compounded by the reluctance of the imam to reveal the source of the mosque's funding.

It has also been suggested (and by "suggested" I mean there is no official statement to support this claim) that the mosque is to serve as a memorial to the terrorists who took down the planes.  Since other locations have been offered (some of which were closer to the homes of the people who would attend the mosque), questions have risen as to why this group has been so insistent that the mosque be built in that particular location.  

I would be lying if I said I couldn't empathize with these fears to some degree.  The opponents of the mosque location, for the most part, are not blanket racists, but are instead afraid, for the reasons listed above, that the mosque is being built by a small population of hateful people.  That being said, there is absolutely zero hard evidence to prove that the members of the mosque have any relation to al Quaeda or other terrorist factions and the strong opposition has snowballed into ill-founded xenophobia. 

As I said earlier, I do not agree with these arguments, I simply presented them so that you have a fair and balanced (and not Fox News "fair" and "balanced") view of the issue from both sides.  These Muslims are within their full constitutional rights to build their mosque where they choose.  The right to worship God in whatever manner one chooses is one of our country's most sacred freedoms.  Furthermore, even if the mosque is to serve as a memorial to the terrorists who brought down the towers (again, there is no hard evidence to suggest this is true) they are protected by the freedom of speech and expression.  Allowing prejudicial fear to circumvent these rights would set an extremely dangerous precedent.  

- Hypatia

A:

Dear Name and Hypatia,

As Hypatia said, the problem is when people take anecdotes regarding views of a tiny minority of jihadist muslims and ascribe them to an entire, heterogeneous population that adamantly opposes violent jihad. I doubt there's anybody who hasn't seen, say, those videos of random Palestinian celebrations after 9/11, but because many of us don't have much day-to-contact with muslims, we generalize from the mass-media images we're exposed to.

Here's data from a Pew polling of American Muslims to put things into perspective:

At the same time, Muslims in the United States are widely concerned about Islamic extremism, and express strong disapproval of terrorists and their tactics. In fact, about three- quarters (76%) say they are very or somewhat concerned about the rise of Islamic extremism around the world, and 61% say they are concerned about the possible rise of Islamic extremism in the U.S. Similarly, more than three-in-four say that suicide bombing in defense of Islam is never justified, and just 5% express favorable views of al Qaeda. [emphasis mine]

While there are a very few American Muslims who supported the terrorist attacks—and yes, that's totally unacceptable—the unfounded fears and unsupported suggestions that the mosque might be a terrorist-aligned enclave are no grounds for abandoning our fundamental constitutional principles. The much-circulated quote by the mosque's imam—saying about United States foreign policy having some part in the 9/11 attacks—is virtually identical to a quote by Glenn Beck.* 

And if, in fact, the mosque is actually a front for terrorist recruiting or a memorial to terrorists, why would the location be the issue? I mean, if these are terrorist-recruiting extremist Muslims, do you really want them building anywhere at all?

Given the extreme prejudice Muslims face, I don't find it surprising that this group would stick to their guns and assert their constitutional rights. Giving in to racists and xenophobes is unacceptable. Similarly, plenty of black people looking to buy a home in a white area have gone through the same thing when their soon-to-be-neighbors strongly suggest they pick another neighborhood more suited to "their own kind." The argument becomes more about the principle of the thing—the right to private property and free worship regardless of race or religion—and less about the ideal location.

The protesters are spurred on by irrational fear of those they don't understand, and have taken an insult (one never intended) at the mere presence of Muslims in a neighborhood. If seeing a Muslim person or mosque is offensive, painful, or frightful to someone, that person should seek therapy, not expect the world to cater to their phobia. We have to be sensitive to these people as victims of a terrible trauma, but we also have to draw the line on the side of religious liberty.

I understand where the tantrum of anger and fear in this issue comes from—it's a perfect storm of conspiracy theory, xenophobia, and hatred for evil acts misdirected toward innocent people—but the right (and too many on the left) need to stop acting like two-year-olds.

Love,
and Sauron

* A Daily Show link here was censored for having bleeped-out swears. If you're interested in seeing it, look up the "Mosque-erade" segment from August 16, 2010. While you're at it, also look for "The Parent Company Trap" from Monday, August 23, an awe-inspiring takedown of the absurdity of the "follow the money" conspiracy theorists.