The Mosque Controversy

Deep in the dark depths of winter, an announcement was made in church that caught my attention.  One of the ladies’ groups was meeting to discuss a project by a Muslim organization to build an Interfaith Center in a damaged building near Ground Zero.

Now, at the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I don’t tend to take this sort of thing very seriously.  It seems to me that the most enlightening thing to emerge from most “interfaith dialogue” is the realization that ladies who are members of the same tennis club have a lot in common in spite of their religious background.  An interesting insight perhaps, but unlikely to break the Israeli-Palestinian stalemate.

This project caught my attention because of the location.  It seemed like a bold, perhaps provocative move; the sort of thing people do to catch publicity.  It seemed too provocative to fit its stated purpose , but I had no idea where it would go and didn’t think much more of it at the time.

As a note to all the RiNO hunters out there who will assume I must attend some pinko-liberal church, let me confirm your fondest suspicions.  Yes, I am hip-deep in commie social-justice.  We are Methodists, me and George W.

The people behind the Cordoba Initiative who are proposing to build the Park 51 Interfaith Center in Lower Manhattan are not Jihadis.  They represent militant Islam like the United Church of Christ represents Christian Fundamentalism.

Their aims are typical of left-wing progressives.  They want to promote dialogue and whatnot and join hands and something or other.  I don’t understand it, but I’ve heard this song before, something about reaching out and children or some kind of neo-hippie crap.  I’ve never been to an Interfaith Center and I don’t fully grasp what they are meant to accomplish in practical terms.  But terrorism?  Give me a break.

I’m pretty sure I get what these folks want.  Attention.

Therein lies the answer to the question, why would peaceful people looking to promote healing near the site of Ground Zero include a mosque on the premises?  It is unnecessary to the purposes of the site and was not included in the original plans.  It just stirs the pot.

There are some on the left for whom victimhood is a sort of currency.  It was an amusing element of the Dems ’08 nominating campaign – the contest between feminists and left-wing African-Americans to determine whose collective suffering most deserved the prize.  Building a mosque within the debris-field of Ground Zero is an effort to write the story of Muslim victimization into the narrative of 9/11.  As such, I admit I resent it, and (here it goes) I join with Sarah Palin in urging Muslims to “refudiate” it.

In this country you can build a church, or synagogue, or mosque pretty much anywhere you want, which is how it should be.  You also have the freedom to build your new gourmet pork butcher shop wherever you want.  But if you chose to place it across the street from the Holocaust Museum, that would be regarded as a crude and small-minded gesture.  People would be justified in considering you a lout.

The Park 51 project is on a political par with chaining yourself to a tree to prevent a parking lot being built.  It is a cynical stunt perpetrated by some high-minded jerks with the aim of taunting America into putting her worst instincts on display.

Mission Accomplished?  The jury is still out on that.

If we still had a reasonably healthy political culture and a handful of grown-ups in the room, this provocative gesture would have already failed.  It would never have been more than a local headache for the NYC planning authorities.  In reality, of course, that’s all it is.  The Cordoba folks would make their petty gesture, it would get little attention, and we would all move on.

But Newt Gingrich has a problem and these people might just be the solution.  So off we go.

Gingrich wants to be President, which is fine, but he’s in trouble.  He has angered Fundamentalists with his independent thinking (and philandering) over the years and that is a terrible obstacle to the nomination.  His efforts to convince them that he’s a true believer have not worked well.

The mosque hype he has helped stoke gives him a chance to change the rhetoric and put himself out in front on a good, solid, red-meat issue.  Park 51 is today’s Terri Schaivo and he isn’t going to let it slip away.

Gingrich wants to create a notion that America is being threatened with an Islamic takeover.  That is a unique piece of political real estate that hasn’t been staked out up to now because it is too incredible for anyone serious to have thought of it.  But that doesn’t mean it’s too incredible to believe.

Now, perhaps, thanks to some snotty, high-minded elitists who thought it might be oh-so-cute to point out America’s flaws by popping a token mosque into their interfaith project, we have a new pyscho hysteria to worry about and an ambitious demagogue to promote it.

And the project will proceed because it should.  No matter what an a___ole move it is, we don’t tamper with religious freedom in this country.  It’s something we pride ourselves on.  We protect that right even for jerks who seek to humiliate us with it.

In any frustrating situation it is helpful to identify the elements over which you actually have some meaningful control.  In this case, the only factor we can influence is how much we are going to let these jerks push our buttons.  They are manipulating our still-raw suffering over the 9/11 attacks to try to make us look foolish.  We don’t have to cooperate.

In the end, this mosque will be built and it will sit there peacefully.  The story of this mosque will be that America respects its fundamental values even when people try to bring out the worst in us.  Gingrich will be a loser on this and NJ’s Gov. Christie will be a winner.

We will do the right thing because we do in fact, deserve to be the leader of the free world.  We will kvetch and grumble about what these people are doing, but the message of this controversy will finally be that freedom is more powerful than fear, even at Ground Zero.


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