Saturday, September 25, 2010

Manhattan Trophy Mosque Issue: Mountain or Molehill?

The Manhattan trophy mosque issue has certainly become a mountain of a problem in the eyes of some while others view it much less so.

Donald Trump offered the most rational attempt at bringing resolution to the whole affair when he offered the developer his original purchase price of the property plus a 25% profit and some other perks if he would take his project somewhere else. Trump sniveled about his bid being rejected, but since his offer still stands we’ll cut him a little slack.

In a free society, this is how it is done. If you want something bad enough, you simply buy it. If you can’t afford it, you suck it up and move on or you can also choose to sulk, whine, and snivel about it for weeks or months on end to anyone foolish enough or opportunist enough to listen.

Of course, political hacks and political wannabes, who are opportunists at heart, lined up quickly to console Boobus Americanus in hopes of gathering a few more votes ahead of the November rush.

Many have likened or compared the building of this mosque or Islamic Cultural Center to the building of a Japanese cultural center across from the Pearl Harbor Memorial and find such a proposal offensive because of the thousands of Americans allegedly killed in the name of Islam. Murdering is purportedly more palatable when it is done in the name of freedom or democracy and especially so when those being murdered are non-white or non-Christian. A bit arrogant, perhaps, but the whole concept dovetails quite nicely with Empire and the Crusader mindset of the religious right.

It is not our intention to be insensitive to the 3,000 individuals who died on 911 nor do we wish to trivialize any act of violence directed toward individuals or property. Such acts of violence are not a neighborly thing to do and trivializing such acts, as being ho-hum, are also offensive. We do, however, intend to examine the proposed Islamic Cultural Center against the backdrop of another temple we find much more atrocious, offensive, intrusive, insensitive and openly hostile to the community in which it forcefully resides. At the end of our piece, the reader can decide whether the Manhattan mosque issue is a mountain, molehill, or something more comparable to the Bonneville Salt Flats of Utah.

The Islamic Cultural Center, formerly the site of the Burlington Coat Factory, will be a single building 13 stories tall with an estimated construction cost being on the order of 100 million dollars. It will NOT be built at ground zero, as those attempting to make a mountain out of a molehill suggest, but will be located, instead, a couple of blocks away from the World Trade Center Memorial. It will be a multi-faith cultural center open to the public and very compatible with the symbols of tolerance and freedom many associate with New York City landmarks Lady Liberty and Ellis Island. The cultural center will also include a 911 memorial.

Contrast the Islamic Cultural Center with the trophy temple built in the middle of the Muslim world that comprises 104 acres (about the acreage of 80 football fields), 21 buildings, and is occupied predominantly by non-Muslims who are armed to the teeth. The cost to build this monstrosity was approximately 700 million tax dollars and the estimated cost to maintain the facility is 200 million tax dollars per year. The outer perimeter wall of this trophy temple is 15 feet thick.

The personnel housed inside this walled fortress plan anti-insurgent operations (house-to-house raids on the locals) which is, presumably, the reason for the 15 foot thick perimeter walls. There is nothing multi-cultural or community oriented about this trophy temple. It will be insulated from community in much the same fashion Washington D.C. has insulated itself from the rest of the United States. This trophy temple represents 104 acres of military-industrial make-believe surrounded by reality.

What trophy temple are we talking about? We are talking about the largest U.S. Embassy in the world located in Baghdad, Iraq. More precisely, this embassy, in Baghdad, is the largest embassy of any nation. This monument to empire is more likely regarded as the Trophy Temple of Doom, to those living in the area and experiencing the terror this temple continues to facilitate. There is certainly nothing in its structure resembling diplomacy. Most of the diplomats have probably been shoved into some cramped corner cubical with no mission other than shuttling coffee to the costumed real heroes who sell diplomacy and democracy at gunpoint.

When comparing the Islamic Cultural Center to the U.S. Embassy, in Baghdad, Iraq, in size, cost, and character it puts things into a clearer perspective. Compare the death toll of 3,000 Americans during 911 to the death toll of Muslims, via embargoes and war over the last 20 years or so, and the Manhattan trophy mosque issue becomes nothing but a small bump in the road with much more community credibility than the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will ever hope to achieve behind its 15 foot thick walls.

Picture the outcry in New York if leaders in Tehran proposed building a walled fortress in Manhattan equivalent, in size, to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and predominantly staffed with military personnel instead of diplomats. Isn’t it about time we do a bit of reflection and learn to put the shoe on the other foot? If we wouldn’t want something like that in our country, why would we expect people in other countries to feel any different? Is it because they are not a Christian Nation that we can so callously ignore the Christian mandate requiring that we treat others the way we would like to be treated? If so, maybe our status as a Christian Nation needs to be re-examined. We would suggest a Christian Nation IS as a Christian Nation DOES.

The U.S. government has been forcefully spreading the gospel of freedom and democracy in the Mideast for the last 60 years. It is estimated that 500,000 innocent Iraqi children died of starvation during U.N. embargoes planned, promoted, and funded by the U.S. government. Madeline Albright was rather nonchalant about this occurrence when confronted a few years back on a 60 Minutes segment. She certainly didn’t deny the accuracy of the numbers and basically postulated that this type of collateral damage was acceptable.

Isn’t it about time we begin to link cause and effect (actions and consequences) to our failed foreign policy of U.N. sanctions that include embargoes and military interventionism? Do they really hate us and attack us because we are free or do they hate us and attack us because we threaten them, disrupt their food supplies, and attack them and occupy their homelands? As long as we are over there stirring the hate pot, they will be attacking us here. Have we become so arrogant, as a nation, that we think we can reap other than what we sow? If we want peace, we have to sow the seeds of peace. If we continue sowing discord, strife, and social conflict can we really expect it won’t be returned to us, in kind, no matter how well intentioned, or seemingly noble, we think our cause to be? To expect anything other than that just ain’t natural.

So, how would you characterize the Manhattan Islamic Cultural Center issue? Is it a mountain or a molehill?


Anonymous said...

Thank you for this powerful essay!

~ said...


You are very welcome and we are glad you enjoyed it.

Steven and Debra