Come in! Come in!

"If you are a dreamer, come in. If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar, a Hope-er, a Pray-er, a Magic Bean buyer; if you're a pretender, come sit by my fire. For we have some flax-golden tales to spin. Come in! Come in!" -- Shel Silverstein

Monday, August 16, 2010


On Friday night, after a White House dinner celebrating Ramadan, the Islamic Holy Month for Muslims, President Obama stepped into the controversy surrounding the building of an Islamic Center and Mosque in New York City near the site of Ground Zero, near the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center, saying
"Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country."

"That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances."
The leaders of the Islamic center say they plan to build the $100 million, 13-story facility called Cordoba House three blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks. The developer, Sharif El-Gamal, describes the project as an "Islamic community center" that will include a 500-seat performing arts center, a lecture hall, a swimming pool, a gym, a culinary school, a restaurant and a prayer space for Muslims.

On Wednesday, the project's developers declined an offer by New York Gov. David Paterson to relocate the project to a state-owned site.

Earlier this month, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission unanimously denied landmark status for the building where the proposed Islamic center would stand, allowing the project to move forward.

In his speech Friday evening, the President noted that Thomas Jefferson hosted the the first Iftar dinner at the White House more than 200 years ago and said that the country had previously seen "controversies about the construction of synagogues or Catholic churches."
"But time and again," he said, "the American people have demonstrated that we can work through these issues."

"This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable," Obama said. "The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure."
Unshakable? Really?

Somebody tell the President that we are living in very shaky times.

Let's start with the economy. There's been 'a whole lotta shakin' goin' on' on Wall Street, with the reverberations being felt on Main Streets everywhere.

How about the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? The cost of those wars in terms of human life - military and civilian - alone have shaken this country to its core.

We are still living with the shake up of Health Care Reform - not to mention the reform of Welfare and Immigration Policies.

The Religious Right has not only been an unshakable force for religious intolerance among Christians, they have also fueled the Tea Bag Movement, the Birthers, and Proposition 8 in California.

So, why take on this political hot potato? And, why now?

I suppose, like every other politician, he weighed the pros and cons. This year, Eid ul-Fitr - the great, joyous celebration at the end of Ramadan - will take place on or around September 11. It's one of the two biggest holidays of the Muslim year. The other commemorates Abraham's near-sacrifice of his son, which coincides with the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca.

According to Haroon Moghul, and author and the Executive Director of the Maydan Institute in NYC, "Traditionally, Muslims wake up early on Eid, dress in their finest, exchange gifts, and make a trip out to the mosque for a special holiday prayer and sermon. Then, there is usually some kind of brunch, and people spend the rest of the day visiting friends and family, and eating as often as they can. (It is, after all, marking the end of a month of fasting.) This year, Eid ul-Fitr may be on September 9th, 10th, or 11th - depending on the rise and appearance of the crescent moon in the heavens."

Many Muslims are already worried, given the rise of anti-Islamic rhetoric in this country, about any public celebration. That this particular major religious holiday falls so close to - or might actually occur on - September 11th - is a cause for major concern.
"The issue I can sense brewing on hate sites on the Internet is, `These Muslims are celebrating on September 11,'" said Ibrahim Hooper, national spokesman for CAIR. "It's getting really scary out there."
Apparently, Mr. Obama took the path of "Oh-what-the-heck, I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't," and took his stand on the founding principle of religious freedom.

It's high, holy ground, to be sure, but the pragmatics are that it's probably better to get people focused on that issue NOW rather than wait for an explosion of another sort on September 11th.

Don't get me wrong - I think the President was absolutely right to take on this political hot potato. This country was founded on the principle of religious freedom. That means all religions.

But, what about the other 'inalienable rights' promised by the Constitution? You know, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"? What about 'liberty and justice for all"?

Yes, I'm asking about the final repeal of DADT ("Don't Ask, Don't Tell").

Yes, I'm asking about Marriage Equality.

Why is it that this Administration hedges on these two civil rights but has taken such a huge political risk on this "local issue" - which how his Press Secretary has been describing this for months - even as Mayor Bloomberg, himself and observant Jew, has waxed eloquent when he has spoken forcefully in support of the Cordoba Center?

Don't get me wrong - I admire the President greatly for his courage and his integrity. His support of this project is a huge political risk.

HUGE!  Indeed, one wonders why he decided to step into the fray, which really means stepping into a huge pile of political "poo-poo caca".  He could have remained silent and everyone would have understood.

It would seem, however, that the fantasy of the "ick factor" of the Queer Nation is stronger by far than any illusion of the "terrorist factor" of the Muslim Nation.

Gee, ain't we a powerful bunch!  More powerful than a whole bunch of supposed terrorists, much less the 'steaming locomotive' of the lore of Superman.

It's all pretty silly, isn't it? I men, when you come right down to it. And, embarrassing to anyone with even an average IQ - much less an active faith in God.

Truth is, I think we're still working out what our Founders meant about "we the people" when they wrote ". . . in order to form a more perfect union."

America is not perfect. Far from it. It's the business of striving to be "more perfect" that makes this such an amazing place to live and move and have our being.

If I remember my 6th grade Civil lessons, that's one of the reasons we have a two-party political system and there are checks and balances in our government structure. Because no one "owns" The Truth.

There will always be discussion and debate. There will be open, public demonstrations for or against a proposed or existing philosophy, political or religion ideology and the structures built to house the people who believe and espouse these positions and views.

This is what makes us the nation of people known as The United States of America. Not that we are united in thought or ideology or expression of belief or faith.

Rather, we are united around the principles of the certain "inalienable rights" of "we the people" to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness", including freedom of religious expression.

Even when "we" are "them". Because "they" are part of the whole of the "we".

That, as the President said, "must be unshakable" - even during these uncertain times that seem to shake us to the very foundations of our beliefs.

It is essential to who we are.

The writ of our Founders must endure - even when we don't much like it.

As-Salāmu `Alaykum - Peace be upon you!

UPDATE: Check out the "hallowed ground" of the site of the proposed Cordoba Center.


MackBeemer said...

Except, "'inalienable rights' promised by the Constitution? You know, "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"?" ain't in the Constitution!

Declaration of Independence does not have the force of law.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I stand corrected, Mack, but it is one of the founding principles of this country on which the Constitution was based.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Thanks, Elizabeth! Well said.

Brother David said...

This Islamic center is a good 2.5 fully developed city blocks away from the nearest corner of the 9/11 property, in the middle of the block on the north side of the street.

If you use the satellite view of Google Maps any fool can see that this property does not "overlook" the World Trade Center site by any stretch of that fool's imagination. I cannot tell how tall the buildings are between the Cordoba House site and the WTC site, but if anything looks down on the other it will be the WTC, because it is going to be tall. Like 100 stories, right?

The folks at Cordoba House are moderate muslims. They are US citizens. They are dedicated to the success of their country and to being an influence to moderate radical Islam. Something like that should actually be right across the damn street from the WTC, but it isn't.

The radical right's saber rattling is the dying throes of a defeated world view. Their children have disowned them. They are embarrassed by them. They do not share their parent's views on the world, politics, spirituality, sexuality, gender, etc. This radically conservative generation, that clings to a false memory of "the way things used to be" will probably have to completely pass to their graves before the saber rattling finally stops, and the world can take a collective sigh of relief and bid them good ridance.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you and bless you, Dahveed. Imagine you - the voice of reason. Imagine me - agreeing with you.

Imagine how intolerant and UN-American the voices of criticism of this project.

It's unimaginable to me. And, I know it is to you.

MarkBrunson said...

The difficulties you see are simply symptoms. The whole structure is corrupt, though founded on sound general principals.

Life is valueless, humans are valueless. This is the truth of the world, no matter how much rhetorical decoration we put on it. This will be true as long as there is something we can call an "economy."

The reason for this is that, far from getting value for your money, in reality, a money economy assigns value to the person - you sell your life at so much an hour; your place in our "egalitarian" society is decided by the amount of money you can scrounge; you must be able to afford certain possessions to be part of a larger community. Human life, in fact, has no value until assigned by its profitability.

This is the basis of the other struggles. Take away want and competition, you will have peace.

JCF said...

I know you kept saying you agree w/ President Obama on this, Lisbeth...

...but I really wish you hadn't put it in the context of "Yes, but..." in this post.

The President is ABSOLUTELY CORRECT in standing up for the First Amendment, for people of ALL faiths, including Muslims.

Period, full-stop. (And God bless him!)

Bitching at him re DADT and ENDA and DOMA should be saved for another post (Lord knows, there's them and more to bitch at him about! O_o)

Doorman-Priest said...

"The Religious Right has not only been an unshakable force for religious intolerance among Christians, they have also fueled the Tea Bag Movement, the Birthers, and Proposition 8 in California."

Sort that, and all will follow in time.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mark, that is the darkest perspective of human nature I think I've ever read. You have out-Calvined Calvin.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Well, JCF, it's just my opinion. Just my perspective. We can agree to disagree.

Andy said...

As a Libertarian, my politics are grounded on the 8 articles and 27 ammendments of our constitution. In your observation, you missed the fact that two of our three branches of government are treating our national charter as if it were a roll of Charmin.

Just a thought, but one worthy for consideration; the rights that are being fought for will evaporate in the face of emergent sharia if its allowed to take hold on these shores.

Look hard into enclaves like Somalia, Iran, Eritrea, Yemen and the like where Sharia is codified as the land, and consider their take on Women's Rights, gential mutiliation, and GLBT rights.

David, I fear your perspective doesn't allow you to grasp the magnitude of this project existing within the vicinity of what Americans call "ground zero". THis would be analogous to having a center built in Cuidad de Mexico, dedicated to the exploits of Winfield Scott, Zachary Taylor and President Polk; men who through their actions and policies, wrought death and destruction in your nation.

Brother David said...

Andy, I think that you are widely off base in your perception. You analogy of the center you mention in my country's capitol and this Islamic Center does not follow, for they are no where near in comparison. It's apples and oranges.

A better comparison would be the churches and cathedrals that have been built all over the Americas in tribute to the religion that the Conquerors from Europe forced upon the ancestors of all the indigenous from the Arctic Sea to Cape Horn. Sometimes, often times, built upon the very foundations of the religious edifices of the conquered peoples!

Those churches and cathedrals were desecrations of hallowed ground!

And yet that is not what is occurring at Cordoba House. It is not rising on the foundations of the fallen towers. It is blocks away, hidden among the McDonalds, the corner markets, the strip joints, the BBQ restaurants, the Burger Kings, the donut shoppes, the street venders hawking junk, the banks and investment institutions, the court buildings and untold apartment houses and condominiums. It is not dedicated to the teachings of the Islamist radicals who planned and carried out the attack on the WTC.

I think that only a fool would entertain the idea that sharia law would gain a foothold in the USA. It does not stand a snowball's chance in 5 minutes of Hell in becoming the law of the land! Beware everyone, Red Herring ahead.

Andy said...

Please understand that while I stand in opposition to the teaching and tenets of Islam, I don't begrudge them one square foot in building a house of worship.

I would hope that first, NYC would demonstrate the same deference to the Parish of St. Nicolas in clearing the red tape, allowing them to rebuild. Too, I would ask the backers of this project to show the same deference to the citizens of New York (and by extension, the United States) that has been extended their way. No sensitive Christian body would ever entertain building a Christian community center in a predominately Muslim community and name it "Templar House". That would be outrageous and rightly so.

I know it is very tempting to dismiss what I previously stated as a red herring, but consider the case of the United Kingdom and growing segments of Western Europe. A few decades ago, any discussion of emmergent sharia would have been dismissed out of hand.

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

Andy, part of the issue with St Nicholas is that it actually was part of the area destroyed in the terrorist attack.

Do you have any idea how many Muslims live and/or work in Lower Manhattan? It is not a "Christian community." It is a very secular community with people from all sorts of ethnic and religious backgrounds.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

To get another "picture" of the location of the Cordoba Center, check this link:

To watch the President's speech and sign onto a statement of support, check out this link:

Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG said...

See this link for some of the background to the St Nicholas Situation, before the recent wave of hysteria linked it to the Cordoba center.

MarkBrunson said...

I'm sorry you felt the need to insult me, Elizabeth.

We could do better - Calvin believed we can't - but we don't.

So, what are we defending? The right to be miserable and make others miserable? A form of community and society that has no justification in the life of Jesus?

Calvin believed we were cut off from God by our nature, whereas I believe we are cut off from God by choice.

When we stop pretending that the world we've created can be fixed, and realize that it must be dismantled as a failed experiment (look at Andy's comments if you want a dark perspective), we can bring the Kingdom.

What greater light and hope could you ask?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Mark - I meant that as a compliment.

MarkBrunson said...

Oh Good Heavens!

And you call yourself a liberal?!

srsly - Calvin sux

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Actually no, Mark. I call myself a Progressive. I don't have the strength to be a real Liberal. You have me confused with Jack Spong and Louie Crew.