August 24, 2010

On the "Ground Zero Mosque

Given you’re probably aware that my liberal leanings are so pronounced that I almost fall over, you may be surprised to hear that I’m against any plans to build a Mosque at Ground Zero.

Let’s get one thing clear before you run off in disgust: the thing you’re reading about and seeing in the news, the thing being referred to as the “Ground Zero Mosque” is in no way a plan to build a Mosque at Ground Zero. The media are trying to pull the whole “piracy is theft” thing on us again. Namely, saying something so many times in the hope that that will simply make it true, while ignoring a few small things like the definitions of the actual words they’re using. In this case it’s a) not at Ground Zero, and b) not a Mosque. It’s a few blocks away and it’s a Muslim community centre.

I’d hope you already know this, and for the record, I have no trouble with that whatsoever. But.

When I first read the story, I had a different reaction. Like most people, for a few seconds, I thought the headlines were true. And the idea annoyed and upset me. Some liberal commentators have taken the whole “even if this story were real, it still wouldn’t matter” approach. Yes it would.

I’m going to say it now, a new rule that we should adopt that I think is pretty fair: if someone commits an atrocity in the name of your religion, you don’t get to build a holy site right next to the place it happened. Now I know the people that did it don’t represent your views, I know you’d never do anything like that, you’re a sane person that actually reads your holy book and obeys the whole “do no harm” principle that they’re all based around. But they’re your people, they’re part of your religion and it’s down to you to evangelise and preach and talk some sense in to them. Stop trying to convert us agnostics and atheists. Sort yourselves out first. Honestly you have to convince us that a god exists at all first, them you just need to convince that said god meant something slightly different. And where your religion is being abused by people of power, you need to fight against it and stamp it out. If you’re part of a religion which preaches evangelism at all (and that’s 95% of them) then that’s your job.

I actually see the appeal of the Catholic system here, by the way. There’s one guy that has a direct line to God and everything he says is treated as God’s own word. It’s pretty handy, as if anyone does anything bad in the name of Catholicism, he can just say that God told him they were evil and going to hell and aren’t real Catholics. He won’t, of course, as the church only elects utterly gutless cretins that are too scared to condemn people for kiddy-fiddling let alone wake up one morning and go “hey guys, God says condoms are okay now.” Still, it’d be an awesome system if it worked.

I’m not attacking Islam here by the way. At least, not exclusively. No holy buildings on the sites of atrocities. So no Catholic Churches near primary schools (and certainly no Catholic schools but that’s a whole other blog), no Synagogues near paediatrics wards (ritual circumcision is an atrocity) and no Scientology centres near filming locations used for Battlefield: Earth.

That’s perfectly reasonable to me. Those of us that aren’t religious don’t want to be reminded of what people did in your name. By all means, keep your faith and practice it wherever you want, just don’t build monuments to it that the rest of us have to look at right next to where someone killed a few thousand people in your name.

On the other hand, if you want to build a centre devoted to building community bonds between your religion and the local people a few blocks down the road, then have at it.


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