Saturday, July 24, 2010

New York's mosque opposition extends beyond Ground Zero

By GARY BAUMGARTEN
Paltalk News Network


NEW YORK - The celebrated case of the proposed mosque near Ground Zero is a story that's resonating with opponents and proponents around the world.

Purportedly, it's not an issue of Islam or mosques. It's because of its location - two blocks from the World Trade Center site. Insensitive, the opponents say - because those who attacked on September 11, 2001 did so in the name of Islam.

OK, maybe so. But then how does one explain the outrage that resulted in the canceling of the establishment of another mosque - this one on Staten Island?

This mosque was to be established in an abandoned Roman Catholic church convent. But the church, St. Margaret Mary, canceled its sale to the Muslim American Society, on the grounds that it could be used as a center for terrorism.

This church is nowhere near Ground Zero. So you can't say it has anything to do with sensitivities toward those who died on 9/11.

One might think that the Roman Catholic church would stand up against religious intolerance. After all, the Vatican has embraced ecumenical dialog and understanding. And its representative in New York, Archbishop Timothy Dolan, is a member of St. Margaret Mary.

But we don't hear Dolan using his pulpit to say this fear of all things Islam as terrorism is misplaced. Of course, we didn't see the Vatican do much to stand up to the Nazis when they started in on the Jews either, did we?

America must come to grips with the fact that Muslims are becoming an increasingly significant part of our society. Wishing - or perhaps in this case praying - Islam away isn't going to work. Like it or not, Muslims are here to stay.

While there is a serious problem of radicalized Muslims who use terroristic tactics against the West and toward fellow Muslims who belong to different sects elsewhere, it is a quantum, inaccurate, and dangerous leap to the conclusion that all mosques are centers of terrorism. If that were the case, would we not see dozens of terrorist attacks a day in our nation's cities?

Look at the Detroit area - home to scores of mosques. A search for mosques in Dearborn, Michigan on Yahoo Local comes up with 10. I'm pretty familiar with Dearborn and I'm sure this number grossly underestimates the number of mosques in this community. Dearborn - once best known as the home to Ford Motor Company's headquarters - is now more identified with its burgeoning Islamic population.

We've not seen a huge influx of Islamic terrorism in Dearobrn. Why, then, would Staten Islanders then presuppose that a mosque in their neighborhood will result in terrorism?

Besides, do they really believe that the number of Muslims in Staten Island will now suddenly decline? Or that the Muslim American Society won't find another location on Staten Island to serve the growing Muslim population there?

And if there are Muslim terrorist on Staten Island, do they really believe that they can't meet someplace else to plan an attack? Like someone's house?

Or would they now deny homes to Muslims on Staten Island as well?

If the good people of St. Margaret Mary Church really want to do something productive, perhaps they could start by publicly addressing the hate crimes that are taking place on a regular basis on Staten Island. Hate crimes targeting Hispanics and gays. Not one of the suspects of these attacks, by the way, are described as identifiably Muslim.

Then they should take a look in the holy water at the entrance to the sanctuary and address the hate they see reflected there. Before they enter to pray to a God who said, "Love thy neighbor as yourself.

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