Friday, August 27, 2010

The Dangers of a Mosque Near Ground Zero


In our country, there is racial and ethnic prejudice that bubbles just beneath the surface, showing its ugly head on occasion. There is also real, palpable race hatred in this country, and we must face that reality. We cannot ignore the very real dangers to the Cordoba congregation and their building, of locating an Islamic center near Ground Zero.

It is such a complex situation! On one hand, I agree that our First Amendment freedom of religion is an inalienable right. On the other hand, I wonder why they would want to build a mosque in that particular place when it is so dangerous. Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf, the head of the Cordoba House project, claims that the project will foster better relations between Islam and the West. Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement is more confrontational: "The time for a center like this has come because Islam is an American religion," she says.

Survivors and relatives of the victims of the 9/11 attacks regard it as an affront and a way for Islam to trumpet its victory over American culture. I even read a letter from an Iranian-American, herself a Muslim, who believes that it is wrong to build it the Cordoba Center in that location.
While the Muslims have the right under our Constitution to build there, I regard it as an instance of whacking a hornets’ nest with a stick. I have no doubt that the center will become a target for violent backlash. They will spend a good part of their budget painting over the racial slurs that will be graffittied on the building. Its members will be at risk going and coming.

Our country has a violent history: synagogues are regularly desecrated. When I lived in Sunland, a suburb of Los Angeles, the doors to our synagogue were firebombed. They had been spray-painted with racial slurs many times. After we moved to the East coast, the Northridge Valley Jewish Community Center where my daughter had been in an after-school program, was attacked by Buford O. Furrow Jr., a self-professed white supremacist, who sprayed the center with bullets injuring an elderly receptionist and several children, and killing a Filipino mail carrier.

For many years, African American churches were targeted for destruction, sometimes with people in them, and not just during the height of the Civil Rights Movement. Even as late as the George W. Bush administration, the burning of black churches was a regular occurrence. As recently as November 2008, a church being built for a black congregation in Springfield, Massachusetts, was destroyed by arson.
Considering that we are still at war in two Arab countries and that relations with Islam are very rocky, it seems to me that the wiser course would be to build someplace that would not draw the wrath of the bigots and race haters.

Sad to say, the publicity around the Cordoba Center will very likely draw hatred towards other Islamic institutions around the country. While I am glad that both New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Governor David Patterson have done the right thing by being supportive of the Cordoba Center and that the building commission has cleared the way for them to build, I fear for the congregation. The law is on the side of the Muslims; the government is making all the appropriate moves but if I were a Muslim, I would stay away from it because the haters are the wild cards.

Do not underestimate the haters. Sometimes they are organized, sometimes they are singular, but too many of them have guns and malevolent intent. Remember Timothy McVeigh: his fury was so deep, he bombed a government office and killed hundreds of people including babies in the child care center. He was a lone wolf—a very dangerous lone wolf.

So what is the answer? Should we live in fear? Should we curb our plans so as not to draw the haters? I know many will disagree with me, but I counsel waiting. Time heals all wounds. We must be realistic: the haters are out there and many of them have guns. I am sorry to say that I doubt that the building can be built without incident. And if they manage to raise the building, it will be a sitting duck. Listen to me: go build somewhere else.

Published by MyLatinoVoice, August 23, 2010.
This column drew a lot of disagreement. To read the comments,go to

1 comment:

  1. Oh yeah, one more thing. Afghanistan isn't an Arab country.

    But Libya is, and the handlers of President Hope and Change are the reason America's armed forces are causing trouble there, too.