Saturday, August 21, 2010

Location! Location! Location!

Isn't that the mantra when it is time to look for a home or place of business?  It's all about location.  It doesn't matter if you are single, married, a family or the Golden Girls.  You are looking for the right place to be who you are.  Right?  It is the same with businesses as well.  Where you put your business can be a make-it-or-break-it decision, especially if you rely on public traffic seeing and entering your establishment.  So what about churches or places of worship?  Is it important where they are located?  Absolutely.  

Several years ago, the church where I belong was bursting at the seams.  The original site was land bound within a neighborhood and there was no way to expand there.  The search began and many large parcels were considered based on price, feasibility and of course, location.  We wanted to be on a major road, unlike the original site.  We wanted to remain close to the location where we started so that we could best continue to serve those who were members and friends of the congregation. Sometime during the search process a parcel of land was donated to the church.  It wasn't clear if building there was a possibility.  The location was fair. It was in the same zip-code, but a differently named section of town.  It was also "on the wrong side of the tracks" in a more rundown area that had some criminal incidents most likely due to the biker and other bars within feet of what could very well become the new church home.  When it became time to truly consider building there, members of the building task force went door to door to both community residents and the owners of business establishments, including the seedy bars, one of which shared our property line.  Thank goodness the community did not have strong objections to our building a church there.  If they had, we would have sold the parcel that was donated to us and continued the search for a new location.  Why?  Because if the church cannot respect the wishes of the community, what kind of example would that set to its members and society as a whole?

So what is up with the Cordoba Initiative's Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf wanting to build an Islamic community center and mosque within feet of Ground Zero?  How is this idea even remotely respectful to the community?  It is fact and not speculation that a group of radical Islamics  carried out the terror of September 11, 2001.  That is not very long ago. The wound still festers and mourning continues.  Americans are savvy enough to know that wackos exist in all groups and not to prejudge an entire group by the few.  That is the larger message of the civil rights movement.  We get that. We, who oppose this locale are asking for a little deference to a national tragedy.  Not even half a generation has passed.  

There are concerns too about Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and possible ties to radical Islamics.  There are questions regarding the sources of funding for this 100 million dollar edifice. Even the name of his organization, the Cordoba Initiative has multiple layers of meaning which can be interpreted as either benign or antagonistically. One blogger (see the Ridgewood Blog link below) insists that building the mosque at Ground Zero is a symbolic way for Rauf, his followers and those who fund him to "thumb their noses at the infidel," that it is a statement of their superiority, and that it is an act of "fitma" or mischief.  Fitmas are forbidden by Allah.

Building a mosque at 51 Park Place, less than 600 feet from where the World Trade Center once stood, and a place that was damaged by airplane fuselage on 9/11 is the moral equivalent of:
  • Building a neo-Nazi meeting hall outside the gates of Auschwitz-Birkenau or Dachau
  • Turning John Wayne Gacy's former home (or any murderous pedophile's place of crime) into a NAMBLA meeting place
  • Putting a museum touting nuclear weapons or displaying a replica of the Enola Gay  at Hiroshima or Nagasaki
  • Erecting a Kool-Aid factory at Jonestown
Would those be OK?  I think not.  They are counter to all sensibilities. 

For the record, nobody I know of or have spoken to regarding this issue are trying to usurp religious freedom here.  Furthermore, no one is arguing the legality of the location on which they propose to build.  What is being questioned here is the wisdom of the decision, the lack of respect that the decision shows and a complete lack of community sensitivity which happens to be mandated by  Islam.  Questioning and voicing concerns is neither intolerant nor racist. In fact, I have heard no Islamophobic language or lack of tolerance for Islam to be practiced in NYC.  I have read different sources siting numbers upwards of 30 mosques already present on Manhattan and over 100 in all of NYC.  So tolerance is not the issue either.  What is the issue?  Location! Location! Location! Practice your religion!  Build a mosque!  Seek to build tolerance and find those bridges of common ground on which to strengthen communal ties that go beyond religious differences.  All of that is good and is encouraged. What is being asked is that you move the location another 8 - 10 blocks north.  It is really not too much to ask. Is it?

Helpful Links:
Wikipedia (well referenced) entry on the Cordoba Initiative Mosque at Ground Zero
Blog written by Muslim presenting reasons for Mosque
Cordoba Initiative's 2008 Anti- Free Speech conference

Update 08/23/10:
Over the weekend, the debate on this issue has heated up even more and so have my research efforts.  I have now found an interview with Imam Rauf that he did with 60 Minutes where he blames the United States as an accessory to the crime of the attacks of September 11, 2001 and states that Osama Bin Laden is "made in America." (Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf on 60 Minutes) This is unconscionable.  As in our personal lives, we are responsible for our own actions and others are responsible for theirs. America has made some poor choices and mistakes in its history. Name a nation that has not.  Even though our foreign policies attempt to promote liberty across the globe, we have fallen short.  We are not perfect by any stretch and I do not deny that.

Here are two links providing a comprehensive look at the history of the controversy:
Hannity Overview of the Ground Zero Mosque Controversy
Hannity on Imam Rauf

In the second of these two links, Rauf insists he is a bridge builder.  If that is the case, then the very second the outcry began he should have apologized, admitted bad judgement and chosen a site that was a more appropriate distance from Ground Zero, yet still considered lower Manhattan.  Refusing to back down and instead deny or ignore the will of the community in which he is supposedly building bridges is completely contrary.  

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I Have a Proposition for You

Unless you have been living under a rock, you are aware that on August 4th, US District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker overturned California's Proposition 8, paving the way for gays to marry.  Proposition 8 stated, in its entirety: "Section I. Title  This measure shall be known and may be cited as the "California Marriage Protection Act."      Section 2. Article I. Section 7.5 is added to the California Constitution. to read:     Sec. 7.5. Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California."   Prior to Prop 8, California sanctioned gay marriages and any such marriages that occurred prior to its passing on November 4, 2008 remained valid.

There was much debate leading up to the vote. Civic  and religious organizations took stands on both sides.  (For an overview, please refer to:  The final vote was 7,001,084 (52.24%) for the measure and 6,401,482 (47.76%) against.  Since the overturn, debate has resumed and there are many who call the decision an act of ignoring over 7 million California voters.   Conservative radio talk show host, Michael Medved has engaged his listeners in such debate.  Medved stated that it is not discriminatory for the state to define marriage as between one man and one woman because it has been established that laws can discriminate along gender lines; that women can marry any man they want and men can marry any woman.  Somehow he missing the point of marriage.  How about changing the wording just a little: A man or woman can marry any adult with whom they are in love and share a deep commitment.   Doesn't that grasp the spirit of marriage that people are so trying to protect?  Would you speak to that, Mr. Medved?  How does that tarnish the sanctity of marriage?

As a compromise, it is said that gay couples can create contracts that give them the same legal rights that marriage affords or that they can have civil unions.  That's true.  So can straight couples, but they don't because it is simply not the same as marriage.  Is it?

Here are some questions to ask yourself about why people marry before you make up your mind on this issue:
  • Is your motivation for marriage based on a tax break?
  • Did you marry so that if your loved one was ill, you could be included in their information and decisions?
  • Did you marry so that if you survive your spouse you will have the rights to all of their worldly possessions should they die?
  • Did you or would you marry because you were deeply in love?
  • Is your motive for marriage to stand up and announce to the world and your God that what you have is sacred to you?
  • Did you marry out of a profound belief that your love was forever and that no other love would compare?
  • Did you marry to mark the deepest commitment of your life in a ritualized way that everyone would recognize?
The first set of questions, if agreed to, are reason to pursue a civil union.  For me, those so-called benefits are the last thing on my mind when considering marriage. What about the second set of questions?  Those are what marriage is about.  Every adult couple, gay or straight, deserves the right to celebrate their love and set it apart in the way that only marriage can accomplish.

I do not understand the selfishness of those who want to keep marriage from loving gay couples.  Heterosexuals do not have a corner on the markets of love and commitment.  In fact, many gay couples have healthier and more intimate relationships than a lot of straight couples.  So what's the problem?  What are you afraid of really?