As I’m sure readers will now be aware, two issues have come together in the last few months over the building of a so-called Ground Zero Mosque which is actually neither a mosque, nor at Ground Zero. I first read about this online when I was in Portugal in about May or June. The simple story was that a panel of city planning executives or someone similar had refused to deny planning permission for the building of what the story called an ‘islamic centre’ near the WTC. I just thought it was two religious groups being arseholes as usual and carried on with my day. Since then it’s spun completely out of control, and it’s been dubbed the ‘ground zero mosque’, even though it’s not a mosque and it’s not at ground zero. It’s a community centre including a basketball court, a kitchen, a memorial to the 9/11 victims, and a prayer space. There has been an awful lot of punditry about the ridiculousness of the whole thing. The first piece I saw in the British press was this comment piece from Charlie Brooker in late August, but the issue’s been going in the states for ages, to the extent that when I saw the following video from Keith Olbermann I thought he was a bit late into the game, to be quite frank, even though that was still a month ago (and yet people are still talking about a ‘ground zero mosque’). It is the most thorough rebuttal of the claims I’ve seen though, and Olbermann’s a bit of a hero of mine after he pwned Pat Robertson and Rush Limbaugh, so here’s the video:
Of course Fox News’ coverage has been hysterical, and has drawn fire from several different sources. They repeatedly lied that Park 51’s opening day was supposed to be on September 11th, and implied that the funding for the project was coming from radical islamic sources such as the Kingdom Foundation. Jon Stewart was very quick to point out that actually the owner of the Kingdom Foundation is a very large shareholder in New Corp., the parent company of Fox News itself. The ignorance, it burns.
The Young Turks have also been pretty vocal on this issue, pointing out the hypocrisy in the position of many on the right who are against this mosque. I disagree with libertarians on a hell of a lot of things, but I at least respect them when they’re consistent, like Ron Paul in this clip. The political right in the US at the moment want a small state, and for private enterprise to step in and boost the economy, and yet when a private group wants to develop a piece of real estate in a run-down area 4 blocks away from ground-zero, they oppose it! They want the government to keep away from people’s private lives and respect individual rights, and yet now on this occasion they want the government to step in and tell a group what to do with their own private property! And they want the government to step in again and incur on people’s religious freedoms by telling them where and when they can pray! I usually consider the Amazing Atheist a bit of an arsehole, but on this occasion he is absolutely right:
Now I do think it’s missing the point slightly to keep repeating ‘This is America’ and keep referring to the First Amendment. Pieces of paper are easily changed. The reason this community centre should be allowed to be built is not because that’s what the law says, but because freedom of religion is a good idea. That argument transcends borders, time, and politics.
Then of course some nutjob pastor in Florida says he going to burn a load of copies of the Koran on September 11th. At first I didn’t think it had anything to do with this not ground zero not mosque, but the two stories have become inextricably linked now that he claims he won’t do it if the ground zero mosque moves. Is that not just blackmail? Why the hell should they move the centre, they live in that area, they own the land, there’s another centre a couple of blocks further away, there are strip joints and churches and all kinds of other things in that area that aren’t considered insults to the victims of 9/11, but of course as we all know Muslims=Evil.
So how’s the best way to deal with morons like this Terry Jones? Ridicule? That’s one possibility, and one taken by DC Douglas:
I started thinking about this in the context of Everybody Draw Muhammed Day, and why I thought differently about this burn a koran day than I did about drawing Muhammed, and it’s pretty obvious really. There are two main reasons. Firstly, this is (as far as Pastor Jones is concerned) a tit for tat between Muslims and Christians, and reeks of escalation, giving it the image of a holy war between two religions. That’s not at all what EDMD was about, it was showing that the rest of us don’t have to follow the rules set by Islam or another religion.
Perhaps more importantly, EDMD was designed to show Islam as an intolerant group, many of whom will get offended at the slightest opportunity. It wasn’t just setting out to offend muslims. In contrast, lots of religious groups would also get offended by their holy books being burned. I myself find it very distasteful, and it stinks of cowardice, because instead of dealing with a piece of work, you just destroy it. EDMD was constructive, not destructive. What message does it send out to other Muslims in America? Probably that they’re not wanted there, that they’ve been set aside as different. Thunderf00t hit the nail on the head when he pointed out that book burning just has bad connotations for all of us. It’s not necessary to do something as drastic as burning books. So whilst I agree that Pastor Jones has the right to burn the Koran, I don’t support it and I think it’s in bad taste. I would have no problem, however, with something like ‘use the Koran as a doorstop day’.