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(Coffee) Shop Talk

Welcome to the shop where I talk about things that go well with coffee, which is almost everything.

New York City’s MTA just approved an ad opposing the building of Cordoba House, a mosque/Muslim community center, at ground zero. The ad will go on the side of city busses, and it features a picture of an airplane about to strike a flaming World Trade Center on one side, a picture of the proposed Cordoba House on the other, and the words “Why There?” in the center. It’s a completely tasteless ad and it makes me angry every time a picture of it pops up on NY1.

There’s been a lot of controversy over “the ground zero mosque.” Why? Because tons of people are prejudiced against Muslims. I’m not usually one to throw insults around or to come down categorically on one side of an issue, but this is one that really gets me.

I’ve been reading articles about the controversy on line, and this seems to be a good summary of the opposition stance:

“September 11th was a horrible tragedy, and it is inappropriate/disrespectful to build a mosque so near Ground Zero.”

I don’t think any sane person would disagree with the first clause in that sentence. However, no one seems to be asking opponents WHY it is inappropriate/disrespectful to build a mosque near the site. I’ve tried to think about all the possible reasons why someone might feel that way, and I would love for someone to explain to me a reasonable reason for opposition so that I can give up my conclusion that a huge percentage of New York State residents are irrationally prejudiced against practitioners of Islam.

The only reason I can think of for opposing Cordoba House is that you hold all Muslims or Islam itself responsible for 9-11. According to this Siena Research Institute report, the majority of New Yorkers hold this view.

Myra Adams of The Daily Caller holds this view:

Can you imagine back in 1950 if there had been an effort by Japanese-Americans to build a Shinto center honoring Emperor Hirohito just two blocks from Pearl Harbor? Furthermore, imagine that the building was planned to open on December 7, 1951 just in time to celebrate the 10th year anniversary of this cataclysmic attack. Faster than you can say “Tora Tora Tora,” one can hardly contemplate the absurdity of such a plan.

That is the introduction to her article entitled “Building the 9-11 Mosque Will Not Breed Tolerance.”

Her argument might make some degree of sense if Cordoba House were a monument to Osama Bin Laden. Underlying her argument and the argument of every like-minded person whose opinion I’ve read so far is the assumption that Bin Laden, 9-11, and terrorism are the same thing as Islam. In fact, Ms. Adams seems to be saying that Bin Laden is the head and primary representative of Islam.

This is NOT true.

Should I say that again? It’s NOT true.

Direct quote from an Egyptian Muslim teenager that I tutored: “If Bin Laden came to Egypt, he would be dead in five minutes.”

Most of the Egyptians that I talked to while I lived there were not what you might describe as liberal or freethinking, especially by New York standards, but I’m 1000% sure that all of them shared the opinion of that boy.

Newsflash: Islam isn’t going away any time soon.

Additional newsflash: Moderate Muslims are about as likely to commit any kind of jihad-y nonsense as my mother is. (My point being that neither they nor my mother are jihad-y, not that my mother is jihad-y.)

Conclusion: Moderate Islam is the world’s best hope for decreasing the number of crazy extremists who claim to act in the name of Islam.

And that is what Cordoba House is all about. It’s about giving Muslims who are committed to their faith a progressive way of looking at the world, and it’s about giving non-Muslims a way to understand that this religion that they apparently see as huge threat is really just the newest branch in the Abrahamic religion tree.

In my opinion, “the 9-11 mosque” is not only an appropriate way to use Ground Zero property, it’s the best possible way.


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