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Yes, Build the Mosque

August 19, 2010

FCNL is closed this week while Congress is on recess.  Our August closing gives our staff a break from the daily demands of lobbying and a period for renewal of our spiritual and intellectual “batteries.”  The bashing that Islam and the proposed Cordoba Center of New York City are getting in the press this week forces me to come back, if only for a moment, to weigh in on this issue.  I’ll be brief.

First, freedom of religion means freedom of religion.  America has disgraced itself by violating that truth too many times already.  Quaker Mary Dyer was executed in the colony of Massachusetts for her religious beliefs.  Bigotry hounded Catholics and Jews even late into the 20th Century.  We should have learned by now not just to tolerate others’ religions; we should have learned by now to affirm and welcome them.  Let’s urge our Muslim friends to please build the mosque at the chosen and already approved site and go to its opening celebration.

Second, yes, Muslims have a human right and a constitutional right to build a community center or mosque on private property in Manhattan — even in the vicinity of the 9-11 ground zero.  I applaud Mayor Bloomberg for his statements welcoming the proposed Islamic community center.

Third, shame on those who have said, all in the same breathe, that Muslims have a right to build but should build somewhere else.  That “questioning the wisdom” of the the location for the site is not wisdom speaking; that’s shivering bigotry peaking out from behind the principle.  9-11 does not taint Islam.  Islam is one of the three great Abrahamic religions.  Islam did not launch 9-11, criminals did.  This “questioning the wisdom” implies that something is wrong with Islam.  No, there’s something wrong with the fear filled mind that opposes this Islamic community center.  Where is the courage of our founders today?!

Third, for those so-called realists who care less for principle and more for the practical, please consider this:  Our nation’s most precious “national security asset” is the diversity of its people.  Our multi-racial, multi-cultural, and interfaith society ties us to the peoples and religions of all the world.  Our many different and richly varied people are living peace bridges to every continent and island on this living planet.  No gun, no tank, no bomb, no fighter plane can match this national security asset for keeping or for building peace (and, yes, security) among the nations of the world.

When our friend and colleague Sayyid Syeed, the founding head of the Islamic Society of North America, spoke at our FCNL annual meeting last November, he gave us a wonderful book.  What’s Right With Islam Is What’s Right with America by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.  As so many in our country have expressed fear of the author, because he proposes to build a community center in Manhattan in the vicinity of ground zero, now might be a good time to promote the reading of his book as a way to get to know him.  He closes his book with a poem by Sheikh Muhyiddin Ibn al-Arabi:

There was a time when I took it amiss in my companion if his religion

was not near mine;

But now my heart takes on every form; it is a pasture for gazelles, a monastery for monks,

A temple for the tables of the Torah, a Ka’bah for pilgrims and the holy book of the Quran.

Love is my religion, and whichever way its riding beasts turn, that way lies my religion and belief.

As William Penn frequently said, “Love is the first motion.”  Let love be our first motion that we might preach to the entire world by answering that of god in everyone. — JV

  1. Jeanne DeFlorio permalink
    August 19, 2010 8:46 am

    I cannot for the life of me see the big deal here. Of course it is the chosen site! I have such difficulty understanding the Christian Religions which main tenant is forgiveness. So, then, in deductive thinking is it those that profess to be Christians(that is our general population) that is opposing the Mosque? Sarah Palin?

  2. Lacey Maurer permalink
    August 19, 2010 9:20 am

    Well said, Joe.

  3. Colin Browne permalink*
    August 19, 2010 11:27 am

    In his presentation at FCNL’s Annual Meeting last year, Sayyid Syeed talked about overcoming opposition to building an Islamic cultural center in the Midwest (the exact location escapes me). You can listen to the whole talk here:

  4. August 19, 2010 11:57 am


  5. August 20, 2010 2:42 am

    Gorgeous! I appreciate the link Colin.

  6. Rachael Jeffers permalink
    August 22, 2010 8:53 am

    Very, very well said Joe! I can only hope that everyone – everywhere can read this and appreciate these well made points of truth!

  7. Linda Hartinian permalink
    August 24, 2010 4:27 pm

    Very well said indeed. We live down here and we support the Community Center. Thank you for putting into words how, we, who lived through this terrible event feel.

  8. Mark permalink
    August 24, 2010 4:28 pm

    This is what I’ve posted on Facebook and what I’ll repeat here:

    Ifyou think that putting up a mosque, 600 ft. from ground zero and having
    the inauguration on the anniversary of 9/11 is immoral, inhuman and a
    complete lack of respect for the memories off all that perished thereon
    that day and their survivors and that politicians are doing a grave
    injustice to the fallen heroes, their families and all the people of New

  9. Linda Hartinian permalink
    August 24, 2010 6:04 pm

    Try Sarah’s twits and her face book page you must not be much of an acquaintance. She started much of this for her poor pal Pam who needed to promote her book. Do you work for Pam?

  10. Frank Kopczynski permalink
    August 24, 2010 6:37 pm

    To say that this Muslim cultural center is an affront to the memory of those who died on 9-11 misses the point. If one believes in God and the after life the Christians are right next to the Muslims who also died on that day.

    Unfortunately after nine years there is is nothing but a big hole to memorialize those who died and I never liked the idea of doing so with skyscrapers. How about a multi-denominational center for all in the middle of a park?

    Sadly this is a contrivance of those who seek an issue where none exists. The world is watching to see if the hypocrites win and give lie to all we stand for.

    Finally there has been an eerie silence from the middle east. I hope the response doesn’t come from us providing another recruiting tool for Al-Qaeda. Also winter will soon be upon us hopefully OPEC will not respond in kind to all the vitriol.

  11. Linda Hartinian permalink
    August 24, 2010 7:06 pm

    I would be happy to have a park there but as the actual foot print of the World Trade Center is about 16 acres of prime now empty Manhattan real estate. I think the whole thing has been settled on that issue including a planned Memorial. Just slow to rise. This Community Center is a few blocks out of that designation. You can’t see it from the WTC as it’s very dense with other kinds of commercial buildings as soon as you go away from the cleared out area. Really, a park would be nice but the so called protesters don’t want a park. They want to ban all Islam including these Sufi’s who already pray there.

  12. Isabel Best permalink
    August 25, 2010 11:02 am

    Dear Joe, you are in the Quaker tradition of building bridges for peace and understanding. We shall miss you.

  13. August 26, 2010 6:25 am

    The blogger’s intentions are good, yet, they miss many points, it’s not a Mosque being built, it’s a community center that will have a cooking school, community recreation center, community outreach, etc.; it’s planned to be built blocks away from “ground zero”, etc.- if you’re going to relate a position on a local subject, it’s best to get your facts correct, in order not to add to the republican conspiracies attempts to ‘use’ this issue, of religious bigotry, to pray on the fears of the populace, exacerbated by loss of homes, apts., jobs, savings, relatives in the unnecessary war in Iraq, etc.. Which tea partiers and republicans are doing, as they always do, months before a national election cycle here, to terrorize the polity, hoping to intimidate the voters into voting more ‘conservative’, republican, than they would, otherwise. The first amendment is clear, and republicans attempts to ‘use’ this local issue to undermine the first amendment of our constitution, like their attempts to do away with the 14 th amendment as it stands, is religiously bigoted, and racially motivated in general, against Islam, and Islamic immigrants, specifically, etc.; as well as more proof of their pathological lying to commit treason of all kinds, against themselves, their families, communities, states, country, life, religion, God, truth, justice, humanity, progressing civilization, et al. reality

  14. Nancy Milio permalink
    August 27, 2010 7:58 am

    I think that Quakers and others who work for peace and the common good should see the ranting about the Muslim cultural center in Lower Manhattan as an opportunity to reach out in local communities and extend the open hand that the President spoke of. Where some of us have done so, we receive a welcoming response from our Muslim neighbors. We need to try to put ourselves in the shoes of the other, perhaps by recalling the stories our own families told about when they arrived here–how fearful they were, and how hurtful the not-so-subtle barbs hurled at them and their children and neighbors were. And how cautiously hopeful they felt from the kind word and outstretched hand of strangers.

  15. Mike Kelly permalink
    August 29, 2010 4:44 pm

    I have shared this following quote on occasions of interfaith encounter with Muslims where I’ve been asked about Quakers:
    “The humble, meek, merciful, just, pious and devout souls are everywhere of one religion; and when death has taken off the mask, they will know one another through the diverse liveries they wear here that makes them strangers.” William Penn, 1693

    It is invariably affirmed with a smile and it is a tribute to the forbearance and “sensitivity” of my Muslim neighbors that I am not asked about the inquisition, the crusades and the holocaust.
    Peace, Mike Kelly

  16. August 30, 2010 8:44 am

    For the tea partiers and republicans are still ‘using’ divide and conquer, although, because it’s becoming less effective they’re introducing new angles, and spins on it, to instill fear in the polity, decrease the evolutionary advocacy and activism, and try to permanently replace humanity with exigency, etc.; American dreamism = extremism- addictions to enumerable more variations on destruction and murder will not change the fact that there’s no profit and/or pleasure from destruction and murder. Copy and share as you will. reality

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