Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Few Things on Islam

So, I've recently been covering some of the ridiculousness in the conservative blogosphere surrounding the so-called "Ground Zero mosque."

The following three things seem relevant. The first is a ridiculous Fr. Z post about how the Muslims building a giant clock-tower in Mecca and hoping that it will become the new Prime Meridian is part of the destruction of "Western Civilization." Riiiight. Because, after all, Catholicism ="Western Civilization" and a Greenwich meridian is surely part of the Deposit of Faith!

The second is a funny article showing how close other things are to Ground Zero (including two strip clubs) and the ridiculousness of if we were to label all of them "the Ground Zero..." as the mosque is being labeled even though it is two blocks away.

The third is a very good article that I'll share a quote from below, which I think is applicable about our society in matters far beyond just this mosque question:

Opponents of Cordoba House, from Sarah Palin to Abraham Foxman’s Anti-Defamation League, believe that what ought to prevail are the emotions of survivors and others: some survivors and some others. Sensitivity rules. Former Governor Palin declared, in a tweet that went around the world, that the determining force is pain that “stabs hearts” “throughout the heartland,” pain that is “too raw, too real.” Mr. Foxman’s words were more modulated: “[U]ltimately, this was not a question of rights, but a question of what is right." But he too went on to specify an emotion-based conception of “right” when he went on to say that the anguish of the families of those murdered on September 11, 2001, “entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted." For Mr. Foxman, emotion is also the anteroom to morality.

One way or the other, Mr. Foxman and former Governor Palin would seem to agree that the rights of survivors—family members—are self-evident. Anyone who cannot feel for them forfeits a human impulse. For their losses, there can be no recompense. But just what are their rights, and where are their limits? In a democratic society in which feelings do not automatically line up around a single magnetic pole, questions immediately arise: Which hearts? Which heartland? Which survivors get to decide? How many widows are worth how many cousins? Does the pain of those of us who lived near the Twin Towers and inhaled the stench of the burned flesh and the smoldering ruins for weeks, but (or therefore) conclude that a nearby monument to civilized discourse about religion makes a great deal of sense, avail nothing? Are the courts to judge the respective realness or authenticity of pains? Elected officials? Congress? In this brave new world order, feelings would be enforced by the might of the law. This way lies the sort of touchy-feely madness that, not too long ago, conservatives considered political correctness run wild.

But beyond the question of whose feelings count looms a principle that needs stating: Private feelings do not convey public rights. It’s in keeping with the spirit of an age hostile to public values that some survivors—and some who share their view of propriety—can be considered to have the last word. If some survivors of Timothy McVeigh’s victims wish to erect a sculpture next to the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City depicting McVeigh strapped on a gurney receiving a lethal injection—perhaps next to the two pints of mint chocolate-chip ice cream that made up his last meal on earth—would that be their right? (I have not been to law school, so perhaps I may be excused if I say that this is, indeed, a self-answering question.) Or should we suppose that a poll (or focus-group? focus-assembly?) of survivors is to prevail on the question? Questions of principle remain.

To permit the feelings of some survivors, however deep, however inconsolable, to trump all other considerations is to view the massacre of September 11 as their private affair. But it was not that. It was perpetrated against the body of America—indeed, the world, since the victims were citizens of many countries. (At that, scores of them were Muslims, a number greater than the number of hijackers—not that this matters in principle.) Al Qaeda considered them fair game not because of any wickedness that might adhere to their own persons but because they happened to occupy certain sites on the American earth, and because, in their view, the destruction of these sites would serve their purposes in the diabolical theater that terrorism amounts to.


sortacatholic said...

The Cordoba Mosque controversy is no different than the "No Popery" protests of early modern England or the Know-Nothings of the 19th century United States. Irrational emotions ruled these historical incidences, and irrational emotions rule modern American FUD about Islam. The "THE MUSLIMS ARE INFILTRATORS!!!1!!1!" gambit has deep historical precedent in the "west", albeit with other faiths.

There are whack imams that preach a toxic ultra-wahhabism. Look in the mirror Christian America. I've heard some priests preach bigotry-laced sermons. I've heard awfully insensitive and ignorant statements from Catholic laity. Same goes for evangelical fundamentalism. Okay, Christian fundies haven't hijacked a Boeing. But radical fundamentalist Christians have bombed abortion clinics and have murdered abortionists with tacit support from some corners of American Christendom. Should we judge terrorism based on numbers dead and destruction wreaked? Are we willing to overlook domestic terrorism? Should American Islam be defined by bigot preachers and not sane preachers? Many talking heads, clergy, and politicians aren't stepping up to answer these questions.

Anonymous said...

The powers-that-be want us to unite against an enemy (so we don't take on said powers-that-be) and so we shall be invited to unite against an enemy, whether it be Roman Catholicism, Communism, or Islam.

Utterly ridiculous. I am far interested in the misdeeds of the Bushes, Cheney, and Timothy Geitner. - Avva Greg

FrGregACCA said...

Yes, I wrote the above. When are we going to transcend Anselm and learn to quit scapegoating?

Wanna be saved? Fine. Good. If you are faced with a choice between being crucified and crucifying, you darn well better choose the former.