Ground Zero Mosque, Part Two

Part of what motivates people to oppose a mosque at Ground Zero is worry that any form of Islam, except perhaps the most liberal, contains the seeds of religious violence because the Qur’an does, too. The so-called sword verses seem to legitimize various degrees and rationales for violence, and a complex legal discussion has emerged over the centuries in Islamic jurisprudence and politics over what is and isn’t appropriate for jihad.

So, the argument goes, we need to worry about even moderate Muslims, as opposed to–well, as opposed to whom?

Many American Christians in this debate are posing the Qur’an against the Bible and Muhammad against Jesus as if the latter elements of each pair contain no legitimation of violence. But most Christians in church history would say that that is not true. “Moderate” Christians, throughout the history of the church, have favoured violence in various circumstances: to preserve order (police force), to incarcerate and punish criminals (forcible confinement), self-defense (including justifiable deadly force), and “just war,” to name a few, very large categories. Only outright pacifists, always a minority of Christians, say otherwise.

(I say “always,” because I side with those historians who find even the early church not consistently, even generally, pacifistic. Converted soldiers, for example, are not required to leave their duties, but quite the contrary. And once you get beyond A.D. 312, there is no question where majority opinion among Christians lies on this matter.)

To this day, Buddhism has been employed to legitimate all sorts of violence (e.g., Sri Lanka and the history of various countries in Southeast Asia). Hinduism has been similarly invoked (e.g, the Hindutva movement). Various forms of atheism came into their own in the twentieth century, the bloodiest century ever. So what and whom are we talking about when we say we’re worried about people whose ideologies might justify violence?

Conclusions:

1. Humanity is prone to violence and will use any legitimation that lies to hand.

2. Some religions and philosophies are, yes, more “useful” than others to legitimize violence. But let’s consider this point more carefully under “3.”

3. Some religions and philosophies more readily legitimize some forms of violence rather than others (e.g., a Christian theory of just war is much more defensible, most Christians agree, versus a Christian defense of imperialism or of chattel slavery, let alone forced “conversions” of a population).

4. We cannot, therefore, oppose the Ground Zero mosque on the grounds that even mainstream Islam legitimizes some violence sometimes–as if Christianity (or secular humanism, or what have you) doesn’t. It all depends on what violence is legitimized in what circumstances. And so the key point here is that the particular violence in question, the violence of 9/11, has been explicitly and repeatedly condemned by the Muslim leaders who want the mosque and community center to be built.

I am pressing these points hard because we need clear, sharp thinking about these matters–and we’re getting precious little of it from our political and cultural leaders, it seems. If we are going to see the American experiment succeed–and, indeed, the Canadian one, or the Australian one, or the modern one–we must think rigorously about the principles, limits, and opportunities of multiculturalism and religious diversity in particular. Let’s keep at it, neighbours.

0 Responses to “Ground Zero Mosque, Part Two”

    • Josh Mueller

      John, if I extrapolate that argument then not a single Muslim believer should be allowed to receive American citizenship and all those who do should be exiled, right? After all, they are probably just posing to be good citizens in order to smuggle in a briefcase bomb later on.

      Once the possibility (or would it be more honest to say “probability”?) of deceit is allowed to count as an argument to refuse civil rights to our neighbors, we actually turn ourselves into prisoners of our own fears and will calibrate our own perception carefully to accept only as true what will agree with our fears rather than contradict them.

      I’m not saying we should be naive or throw justified prudence out the window. But to argue that all muslim denounciations of terrorist acts are just a sham has nothing to do with prudence but everything with stereotyping IMO.

      • Mel

        Josh,

        The issue is, indeed quite complex and difficult, and there are no easy answers. Differentiating between true “moderate” Muslims and radicals is not always easy, especially when the latter like to masquerade as the former (Bridges TV?)

        But rather than suspect all Muslims, one should take into consideration the things they write, as well as what they say, and (equally important) do not say. Support for “Shariya Law” (which moderate Muslims clearly reject since many have come to America to escape it), would be a very good clue to whether such a person is a threat. The use of loaded Islamic words associated with violence (such as da’wa) and attempts to hide that by using a different word (or title for a book) when facing a western audience is another. Ducking or attempting to dissimulate when asked point blank questions about funding and support for specific terrorist groups should raise many red flags. There are many other objective criteria which could be raised which can help in this most difficult of tasks.

        We are truly facing a dilemma. On the one hand we want to preserve our freedoms and democratic rights. On the other hand, we also have an obligation to protect the innocent. When a determined, well funded, highly intelligent movement is determined to use our democracy and freedoms as a pathway to destroy it (much as Hitler did in the 1930’s with Germany, utmost vigilance and compassionate analysis is required.

        “Wise as serpents; harmless as doves”

      • susanbf714

        I have to disagree with the Professor. It’s obvious he’s not an expert historian, thank goodness! The difference between the Islamic and Christian nation is this: Christianity resulted from salvation as the gift of God through the sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ so that we may have life and spend eternity, so you can say rightfully that Christianity was born from a violent act of the Son of God. Islam’s view point of religion comes from a whole nation believing that the only way to eternity is to shed innocent blood of others who believe in God instead of Allah, stated perfectly and translated perfectly in their Q’ran. I’ve heard all the arguments, what people don’t understand is that almost 97% of the Islamic faith is an extremist and capable of carrying out violent acts…and smiling the whole time they carry out their own plan of achieving paradise. Islam’s view of salvation is flying planes into WTC, and the ONLY thing left standing after 9/11 was two steel beams melted into a perfect cross. I know, i’ve seen it with my own eyes. A sign? You bet! No question now who runs the show! But then again, Christ did say to turn the other cheek. Muhammad said to blow-up both cheeks, including some others! Yes, i agree, along the timeline, Christians have indeed caused violent acts in the name of Christ, but Christ is the FOUNDATION of the Christian faith, and His act of being the sacrificial lamb so that others may live, is in anyone’s opinion an act of love, not violence. The Muslim faith cannot accept that concept. But one wonders, all this conflict between Christians and Muslims, where are the Jews during all this? Where they should be…in Israel…and truth be known, they are God’s chosen people, and they may be a small nation, but they are a mighty nation, and a force to be reckon with for sure! When you lose 6 million of your own people by a sinister mad man in which he believed was a perfect act of faith, by genocide, you become a nation of people who are not scared of anything, nor do they have anything to lose. Maybe we, as Americans, should take a lesson from Israel, instead of Islam! Israel does not stand down, and i don’t think we, as Christian Americans, should either, not for one second, in any time or space.

  1. Jeff Loach

    A question is sparked by this post, John: Do you believe, quite apart from the matter of the Ground Zero Mosque, that there is an Islamist agenda at work in various parts of the world today?

    • John Stackhouse

      Tell me what you mean by that, Brother Jeff, and I’ll be glad to respond.

      I assume, that is, that you don’t mean to ask me the obvious question, “Do you believe that there are Islamist individuals and groups who are trying to do something (i.e., have an agenda)?”

      • Jeff Loach

        Nope – didn’t mean the obvious question. (Didn’t want to offer you a gimme, John!) 🙂

        What I meant was this: Do you believe that there are Islamist (not Islamic, but Islamist, as you will have noted already) individuals, and more particularly groups, whose agenda is to fulfill their take on the Qu’ran, i.e., to bring about Islamic states throughout the world and place as many people and nations as possible under Sharia Law?

        For example, it’s statistically demonstrable that France has the potential to become an Islamic state, through both immigration and the birth rate among Muslims – this despite recent laws brought in by the government there.

        Or does this all say more about the complacency of Christians in their evangelistic efforts?

        • John Stackhouse

          I’m sorry, Jeff, but I’m still having trouble getting this into focus. If you’re asking whether I think there are Islamist movements, well, sure, I do. And some of them, at least, really do want their version of Islam to rule the land and, if possible, the world.

          But I don’t know what that (banal) observation of mine has to do with France or with evangelism.

          France, like any other democratic country, must be wise in making sure its institutions are not vulnerable to subversion and, in particular, to the irony (experienced by Germany in the 1930s) of a democratically-elected dictatorship. (We would need to put a big asterisk beside that characterizaton of German history, of course, given the violence used by the Nazis to intimidate and liquidate opposition along the way.)

          As I defend Feisal and Daisy’s right and, in some key sense, obligation to press ahead with their project, I also say (in other contexts, and now this one) that I share the fears of many that some immigrants, as well as some home-grown citizens, are not committed to pluralism, or even liberal democracy, and therefore are working at cross-purposes with most of us and with the institutions of our countries (Canada, the USA, the UK, France, et al.)

          In this light, I would point out that there are many (quasi-, nominal, and sometimes quite observant) Christians in such countries, and conspicuously these days in Germany, the Netherlands, the US, and Australia who seem to want a Christians-only populace and a quasi-Christian theocracy with no room for importantly different populations at all.

          I’m not surprised by that: nativism is a strong element in the cultures of all those countries and others, too. But it is important to recognize it even as we properly, in my view, guard our immigration policies and multiculturalism policies against too naively welcoming a stance of “differences” that amount to genuine threats.

          On this score, I agree with Mel and with others in this discussion. Where we disagree is whether Feisal, Daisy, and the planned community centre represent such threats. I am quite convinced they don’t, while Mel et al. are convinced they do.

  2. David Alexander

    Not sure I agree with your point nuber 4. I have not heard any Muslim leaders who desire to build the “center” be forthright about it’s funding, who may be backing it (what organizations), and I certanily think if the builders had the slighest amount of sensitivity it would be built elsewhere.

    Islam has been opposed to Christianity for many years throughout history and I don’t see that changing.

    I agree some unspeakable things have been done in the name of Religion. (many Religions) Islam happens to be and remains to have some old and violant practices in law and in practice. What is going on in Africa today is a good example. I should say a poor example.

    It does make it hard to trust. Especially when the builders appear to be distant at best in explaining the centers use, funding and backers.

    What is worse is the U.S. tax payer foots the bill for the leaders trip…who’s kidding who here..

    Yah, I find it hard to trust them. But to be honest, I don’t think the world would be having the conversation in the first place if the proposed “center” were to be proposed to be built elsewhere.

    • Erp

      David,

      I would not have Africa as an example given that it is Christians including ministers in Uganda who are calling for the death penalty for homosexual acts or that in Nigeria Christians mass murder Muslims (as well as Muslims mass murdering Christians) (of Muslims in Kuru Karama in January 2010, of Christians in March 2010)

      As for Park 51, why should a Muslim community living and/or working in lower Manhattan and nearby not build a community center (one that they are offering to allow non-Muslims to use) with prayer space on land they own? As for donors, I doubt that it has the all the money yet and it is a bit difficult to state who your future donors will be. Park 51 is also a regular non-profit not a church or equivalent and as such does have to file financial reports with the state government (according to their web site http://www.park51.org/faq.htm).

      • Mel

        Why? Because the imam who is building this center and his colleagues are advocating for “Shariya Law”, which, among many other things incompatible with American freedoms, calls for the beheading and stoning of homosexuals.

  3. JLBetts

    A Democracy is a risky place to live, and sometimes an inconvenient and even insensitive place, to one party or another. Are the benefits worth the risks? I still think they are.

  4. Alan Tong

    “the violence of 9/11, has been explicitly and repeatedly condemned by the Muslim leaders who want the mosque and community center to be built.”

    N0 it hasn’t. The ground zero mosque supporters have not unequivocally condemned 911 – far from it. The Imam of the ground zero mosque has stated “American foreign policy was to blame for 911 to the extent that America was an accessory to the crime “ – he denies America deserved 9/11 but that is just hair splitting.

    It’s hard to see how an Imam who is so anti-American can claim that the purpose of his mosque is to “build bridges between faiths ” – on the contrary the location of the mosque is at best mischievous and at worse deliberately insulting.

    See link
    http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2010/08/19/ground-zero-mosque-imams-controversial-60-minutes-interview

    • Mel

      Also, Faisel Abdul Raouf has consistently refused to condemn Hamas, which is clearly a terrorist organization.

      And the issue is not just terrorism. That’s just one concern. Of similar concern is the broader question of stealth Islamization leading to the imposition of Shariya Law.

      Here in Canada, if it weren’t for the valiant efforts of Muslim women in Ontario, that province would have allowed Muslims to imposed Shariya Law on Muslims living there. Our intellectual elite, bureacrats, and politicians (not to mention Christian leaders) would have let it pass if Muslim women themselves had not fought so hard to stop it.

      How can we say that someone is “moderate” if he advocates for a system of law which treats half of its subjects (women) as well as all non Muslims as legally inferior?

      Maybe I’m “behind the times”, but does America still not believe in the equality of women?

  5. Spencer Capier

    John,

    Great to have found your blog. It must drive you a little nuts to read comments from people who, though smart enough to read your blog, seem to get the remainder of their information about the world from Fox News. The idea that US foreign policy was in part to blame for 9/11 is only controversial amongst people with little background knowledge.

    The American Evangelical lifted his gaze from his navel, saw the towers fall and grabbed the first comforting analysis the first huckster provided: Americans wear white hats, anyone who disagrees wears black ones.

    • Mel

      Spencer.

      Your comments indicate a sad lack of consideration. I lost 4 dear friends in a terrorist attack less than two months ago. The group responsible for the attack have many members in it who, if put in front of a camera in North America would appear “moderate”.

      The issue is not simple. There are many very serious aspects to it which need in depth analysis.

      I can’t speak for everyone. But I do not watch Fox News (I live in Canada in a place where it is not available). I get much of my information from first hand experience, having lived in a Muslim country for more than 10 years, and having built up a network of well informed, compassionate people who are anything BUT bigotted. Some have sacrificed all for the sake of helping Muslim people they love so dearly.

      In a sensitive issue such as this, can someone not disagree with the “official” view without getting a knee jerk put down?

      • Spencer Capier

        Mel, I don’t understand what you mean by “appear moderate” in front of a camera. Their photogenics are independent of their evil actions and beliefs.

        I’ve used no knee jerks nor put downs, and of course I’m sorry for your loss (you have no monopoly there). Should we restrict Islam in North America? Should we ask the same question of Catholics in Protestant Ulster? Don’t use your grief as a trump card, that’s the root of the problem in areas of religious strife. Also don’t assume I’m unacquainted with violent loss. As others have said, this problem requires razor sharp thinking, not appeals to emotion.

        Regards,

        Spencer

        • Mel

          Spencer,

          Your statement: “The American Evangelical lifted his gaze from his navel, saw the towers fall and grabbed the first comforting analysis the first huckster provided: Americans wear white hats, anyone who disagrees wears black ones” is a clear “put down” and also a straw man argument. Its unnecessarily hurtful. For me, I could care less. I’m used to being called names. But I know that others on this site are not so thick skinned. By all means, attack an argument with all the ruthless vigour you can muster. But mocking people’s motives or intelligence is simply a form of psychological manipulation.

          By “appear moderate” I mean that someone can look the right way, say the right things, and act the right way to give the appearance of being a “moderate”.

          Yes, we should restrict (or at least not play cheerleaders for) certain types of Islam. For me the critical issue is support for the establishment of Shariya Law. If a mosque, or Islamic group want to replace the Constitution of the United States with a theocracy, they should be exposed and opposed. And yes, that would be the same for any other religious group. That’s what America is all about. To use the argument of “religious freedom” to promote a group whose primary aim includes the destruction of religious freedom is simply illogical.

          I’m not using grief as a trump card. But grief is a very real factor in the debate. What I was requesting from you was sensitivity….the refraining from dissing people, portraying them in an obviously false and demeaning manor. And it is a similar sensitivity that we are requesting of Faisel Abdul Raouf in light of the hurts and grief of the American people.

          It is self evident that if his true aim was to build bridges and foster better relations between Islam and the American people, he would pick a different location. That he is refusing to do so clearly indicates an agenda which trumps that of reconciliation.

          • Spencer Capier

            Here’s the thing Mel, I do think Evangelical culture (I’m a member) is spectacularly ignorant of the world around it. It has historically disengaged from politics and academia. It became politically involved in the seventies around a single issue, abortion, and was deftly manipulated by larger political forces to it’s rather bizarre place now of tea partyism, libertarianism, and anti- science. So, my comment of navel gazing isn’t a put down, it’s an apt metaphor. It may be painful to hear, just like it would be painful to hear one’s son or daughter died a soldier in Iraq fighting an illegal war, but it would be true. They may have died serving one’s country, but not for a just cause.

            What mechanism could you propose that would restrict some kinds of religion in a democratic society?

            Lastly, how far away should this group build their mosque? It’s not AT ground zero, why do all the opponents of it say it is? As the Mayor of New York said recently, there’s a few porn shops even closer to ground zero, should we be offended by those too?

            • Mel

              Spencer, well you and the “Rev” Fred Phelps obviously are in agreement that there is no need for “tact” or consideration when telling hurting people what you believe to be the truth.

              I’m sure I’m not wrong in assuming that not all Americans are spirit filled Christians given to “turning the other cheek”. And that’s the whole point about this debate. Its rife with emotion, boiling over. As it stands, its certain to lead to violence…and violence has a way of escalating out of control in a hurry. Mocking people’s pain is not the best way to smooth things over or cool down an explosive environment. Ridicule has no place in a serious discussion like this.

              As for Evangelicals being “ignorant”, yes some are. But many are not. Many evangelicals have led the way in peace negotiations, humanitarian assistance, dialogue, research and other activities all over the planet which have given them tremendous insights into a world of which the mainstream media and their groupies are not even aware. Your grouping of them all together as “ignorant” based on your own limited and obviously biased experience is stereotyping of the very kind you and others are accusing those who oppose the mosque of doing.

              As for restrictions on religions….I think when a political system (aka Shariya Law) masquerades as a religion, then it should be identified as such — a political party, not a religious body. It should not enjoy all the privileges which religions have, such as “charitable status” and other benefits. That way it can be opposed more openly based on the political policies it advocates, without criticizing the religion itself.

              Since Raouf is clearly advocating for Shariya Law, his center (and all other groups which support Shariya Law as a political system for America) should lose any religious labels they have, and be listed strictly as political organizations. That way there would be less deception, and deceit. People would be free to oppose things like the inequality of women, the death sentences for homosexuals, apostates and others, and a host of other barbaric political policies which come with Shariya Law, without being labelled “bigots”.

  6. John Stackhouse

    Brother Alan, I have to say, with regret, that you don’t know what you’re talking about.

    The same is true of everyone else who keeps misinterpreting what Feisal Abdul Rauf said on the question of 9/11. Look it up: even the Wikipedia article on him gets correct his denunciation of terrorism in the name of Islam right alongside his acknowledgment that the United States was not blameless in the attacks of 9/11.

    On this latter point, Brother Spencer is, of course, right, as was Feisal. The 9/11 attacks did not come out of nowhere, nor did they come out of an evil hatred of America because America is so irritatingly good.

    (For the record, again, I enjoyed living in the United States; my family of origin are all Americans now; and I admire America very much, warts and all.)

    As a professor, I am now going to set some very basic homework in the form of very basic “Skill-Testing Questions” that qualify you to even start talking about these issues.

    1. How did the Shah of Iran come to power and retain it? Why is the acronym SAVAK one that does not endear the United States to Iranians?

    2. How does the House of Su’ud maintain power in Saudi Arabia? In particular, why does it fund Wahhabi madrassahs at home and around the world–when Wahhabism is a sworn enemy of all that the House of Su’ud stands for?

    3. How did the Taliban become powerful in Afghanistan and why? In particular, where did their weapons and their legitimacy come from?

    There: That’s just three Muslim-majority countries, although three of the most important in understanding Islamism. If you don’t understand the United States’ involvement in those histories, then you really have no worthwhile opinion in discussing 9/11 and its aftermath.

    • Mel

      John,

      The most telling issue about Raouf is that he is advocating for Sharia Law. Yes, what he said about 9-11 could be said about any “truther”.But when someone advocates for Shariya Law, and writes a book with the word “Da’wa” in the title, this is a very strong indication that his views and intentions are anything but moderate.

  7. Spencer Capier

    Well, that’s basic history (I teach it in high school), and for the record, I love America and Americans, having spent a considerable part of my working life there as well. Americans have amnesia about their history, which makes them dangerous as they invade countries for their own good: Cuba, The Philippines, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Greneda, oh, I’ll stop.

  8. moriahbethany

    Not all Muslims are terrorists. Some are. The point is that people of one religion all share a unifying idea. I am pretty left leaning but I think we need to look at every situation individually. These particular Muslims appear to have an agenda. The proposed name for the site is the Cordoba House. Historically, this name represents victory and conquest within Islam. It will also be the most expensive mosque in New York. We do not know where the money came from, and, despite being offered another spot the people building it turned the offer down. There are a lot of terrifying things happening in Europe I.e. Anti Blasphemy Resolution. Terrifying. We owe moderate Muslims rights to their religious freedom but we need to take a closer look sometimes and realize that some people do not have our best interests in mind. Religion is different from gender, race, sexuality, all of it because it is the one out of those things where the group truly shares a common idealogy. These particular people do seem to have an agenda.

    • Mel

      Moriahbethany. Your statement: “The point is that people of one religion all share a unifying idea”, is simply not accurate. Its wishful thinking. An analysis of the orthodox teachings of Islam show that they are fundamentally different (often diametrically opposed) to those of other faiths.

    • Mel

      Moriahbethany…sorry, I misread your statement. My bad. You are right. I agree with you. I thought you were saying that all religions share the same unifying theme. I’m on the road and am trying to respond to too many posts in a hurry. What you said is dead on. Again, my apologies.

  9. Spencer Capier

    Not all Christians murder abortionists. Some do. The point is that people of one religion all share a unifying idea. I am pretty left leaning but I think we need to look at every situation individually. These particular Christians appear to have an agenda. The proposed name for the site is the Campus Crusade Center. Historically, this name represents victory and conquest within Christendom. It will also be the most expensive center in New York. We do not know where the money came from, and, despite being offered another spot the people building it turned the offer down. There are a lot of terrifying things happening in America I.e. The Tea Party. Terrifying. We owe moderate Christians rights to their religious freedom but we need to take a closer look sometimes and realize that some people do not have our best interests in mind. Religion is different from gender, race, sexuality, all of it because it is the one out of those things where the group truly shares a common idealogy. These particular people do seem to have an agenda.

    • Mel

      Spencer. There is no moral equivalence here. Campus Crusade is well known, their funding accountable and verifiably so. Their “agenda” is clearly written in their incorporation documents and there have been years of its operational history to verify that it does what it says it is going to do.

      • Spencer Capier

        Oh, I was just using the word “Crusade” as an example of a touchy word for Islamic history. I have no problems with Campus Crusade per se. Nice folks.

        Spencer

        • Mel

          Spencer,

          Yes, I realize that, and I think the group should use a different word than “Crusade” for their organization’s name. I would agree with you on that. My contention is that the moral equivalence argument is spurious at best.

  10. moriahbethany

    What’s your point. Yeah, I think religion is dangerous. I would have said the same type of things about Christianity. All I am saying is that while we shouldn’t condemn ALL of the people in a religion, we shouldn’t let them ALL off of the hook either. Just like while I’m sure there are many nice Christians, being a Christian shouldn’t get you off the hook for being a gay bashing, abortion doctor killing, woman hating person either. do you get what I’m saying? I am saying that while I have no problems with Muslims in general, and no problem with people building their houses of worship wherever they want, these specific Muslims appear to have an agenda. I have all of the respect in the world for Muslims, Christians, Buddists, who are just good people. We have a responsibility to realize that some are not. Do not take our safety for granted.

    • Josh Mueller

      moriahbethany, I don’t get what you mean by “letting off the hook”. Unless there’s actual proof that a hidden agenda of planned violence against Americans is in play, there is no reason why Muslims couldn’t have a community center just as much as any other religious group could have church or a synagogue or other place of fellowship and worship. If we start with suspicions of who all MAY have undisclosed harmful agendas involved in their own view how to act out their personal faith, we might as well denounce most religious buildings, period. Like you said yourself, there are always some with bad intentions everywhere. Should that determine how we treat an entire congregation?

      • moriahbethany

        I’m not saying that we shouldn’t let them build it, I’m saying that sometimes being suspicious is a good thing. Sometimes I think it’s too easy as Democrats (I’m a Democrat) to simply say ” It’s cool”. I have my suspicions about their reasons. Just because the GOP is so often wrong doesn’t mean they always are.

        * Secretly I do denounce religious buildings…but I think that they should be allowed to build them.

  11. moriahbethany

    Spencer,
    The Tea Party terrifies me too. Anybody who believes a word out of Sarah Palin’s mouth is potentially crazy.

    • Spencer Capier

      I’m glad to hear you say it!

      What to do with and for our Christian brethren who fear Obama, love Beck, and hate all Muslims? After years of working in the heart of American Evangelicalism I’m beginning to worry the Christian Right is cleaving from Orthodox Christianity, becoming a weird sort of gnostic offshoot. I choose that word carefully.

      How exactly does Libertarianism dovetail with Christianity? How does a denial of the intellect ditto, as seen in the Evangelical Right’s denial of global warming and modern biology? I’m past worrying about the evangelical movement and have moved into despair.

      John? Any hope or should I start genuflecting?

      Spencer

      • Spencer Capier

        Sorry, the word chosen carefully above was ‘gnostic.’

  12. Patat

    Excellent posts. Since comments were closed on Part I, I’ll make the comment here that I wanted to make there. If Muslims are the big threat that many people claim it is, why not seek to strip them of their citizenship and deport them? We’re undoubtedly prepared to ship out “illegal” Latinos, so why not Muslims? Absurd. Also, I’m noticing that what people are including in their opinions about this project are sound bites. You are right that “we need clear, sharp thinking about these matters”.

    • Mel

      Patat. Just for arguments sake, lets suppose there is a very determined group of people (similar to Nazis, Marxists, or other Totalitarian Group) who has a clear goal of taking over western nations, including the United States, and setting up its own system of government based on its own political ideology. Lets suppose that this group has lots of money, and has sent some of its most brilliant and skillful people to masquerade as a religious group in order to more effectively hide as a “fifth column”.

      Then lets say that you have reliable information about this group and want to alert people everywhere about this danger. How would you do it, without risking being labelled a “bigot”?

      As you may have guessed, there is just such a group, and its called the Muslim Brotherhood. And many of the most prominent “Muslim” organizations in the United States are fronts for this organization.

      • Spencer Capier

        Wow it didn’t take long for Godwin’s Law to show up.

  13. Van

    Let’s make a deal! The muslims will be permitted to build a mosque at the site of 9/11, just as soon as Saudi Arabia, Libya, Sudan, Iraq, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emarates permit the building of an Evangelical Church in the biggest cities (or even a little village) of their muslim countries. Don’t hold your breath! A woman who would dare appear in public without a chador and carrying a Christian Bible in many of those Islamic nations would be stoned or beheaded.

    • Josh Mueller

      Van, this argument is not rational although powerful in its emotional appeal. An eye for an eye, right? Except that Americans hold up religious freedom as a basic right of every citizen and those countries don’t. By the way, how “Christian” do you believe this eye for an eye argument actually is?

      • Mel

        Josh….yes, an “eye for an eye” is not Christian. But Can does have a point. I would suggest that if the Cordoba Initiative are truly interested in building a bridge, they should locate their mosque — not in New York, where religious freedom is already in practice and people are tolerant of other faiths, including Islam — but in downtown Mecca, where its “moderating influence” will be right where it is needed most.

        • Mel

          Sorry, I meant to say “Van does have a point”. Typing on the run is difficult….

    • Spencer Capier

      Van, that’s the whole point, we live in a democracy, the Saudi’s don’t. Think through the implications of your comment.

  14. Mel

    John,

    I have been unable to find your definition of “moderate”. I requested it twice in the last section. Maybe you did respond to it and I have missed it. If so, can you please repeat it.

    Without a common understanding of the word “moderate” we will all talk past each other.

    I’m inferring, (from what you’ve written) that you view someone who does not promote or advocate “terrorism” as being a moderate. But I think that is insufficient given that so much of radical Islam is antithetical to the American concepts of freedom and justice. Is someone who advocates the legal inferiority of women a “moderate”? Is someone who advocates the death penalty for apostasy a moderate? If he specifically denounces all terrorism, but believes other such issues to be the will of Allah, including the replacing of the American Constitution with Shariya Law, would you still refer to him as “moderate”?

    With regards to your discussion on violence. Christianity (at least in the 21st Century) does not promote violence as a means of extending the Kingdom of God. The “Just War” (if that is acceptible at all) is about legitimate self defense).

    Can you name one authoritative school of Islamic jurisprudence which does not advocate or allow violent “jihad” as a legitimate means of expanding the influence of Islam within the Dar el Harb?

  15. Mel

    Another point about this whole debate is the issue of why, despite bending over backwards to permit a mosque, the same authorities are stonewalling on the rebuilding of an Orthodox Church which was destroyed during the 9-11 terrorist attack, and which has every legal right to be rebuilt.

    • Erp

      Well to begin with it isn’t the same authorities. St. Nicholas is on land under Port Authority control; Park 51 is not.

      Second I don’t think anyone of significance is questioning the right of St. Nicholas to rebuild just how much money the Port Authority should give them to rebuild, how tall the new church should be, and exactly where. The Port Authority has apparently been very slow about approving anything not just St. Nicholas at the WTC site.

      • Mel

        Thanks Erp (any relation to Wyatt? 🙂

        Yes, you are correct to point out these details. Still, the irony here, I think, is significant.

        My understanding of New York City municipal authority is limited. But is the Port Authority independent from the by-laws and authority of the New York City Council? And if not, could not Major Bloomberg, if he really wanted to, lean on the PA to move at a less glacial speed?

        • Erp

          I believe the Port Authority has always been a force in its own right and includes areas outside of New York City (e.g., parts of New Jersey). Its board is appointed by the governors of the two states (the mayor of NYC has no official say). It has its own police force. They own the WTC site which is in part why they are involved though I’m not sure they own the land under the former St. Nicholas. However part of the problem may be St. Nicholas trying to negotiate the compensation from them for the destruction (i.e., a portion of the insurance money) and how much money they get will affect what they may try to build (this is speculation on my part). The city will become involved a little further down the pipeline when designs are made and need to be approved (my guess a rubber stamp as long as building codes are followed and nothing too different from previous use is planned [e.g., a 20 story parking lot with the church on top]).

          • Mel

            Thanks Erp,

            You are probably right, though the OC people I’ve talked with believe that there is some other inexplicable reason why the PA is stonewalling, and that it is doing so in a non way that is not typical even for NYC bureaucrats. I guess we will have to see what happens.

            On a previous point, you mentioned the Christian massacre of Muslims in Kuru Karama. Do you have first hand knowledge of this? I haven’t read a lot about it, but the media reports which I have read quote survivors as saying they “thought the attackers were Christian”. But clearly Christians in the town itself were also attacked. Even one pastor was badly beaten. It would appear that whoever the attackers were, they came from outside the area. I’m not doubting your word, (though such an unprovoked attack, if truly organized by some Christian church or organization, would be quite uncommon) just would like to know what your sources are.

  16. Pat

    Mel, first let me correct my name. It’s Pat; I accidentally typed too many characters on my first post 🙂

    As to your question, I would need to see reliable data supporting the notion of a fifth column. There may be such a group, I just don’t know about it and even if it exists, I cannot in good conscience lump an entire group of people in because of some errant group. I have Muslim relatives and know that Islam has many sects just like Christianity. Because of my exposure to Muslims (both African-American as well as Middle Eastern), I don’t possess the fear and suspicion of them that others do. Also, if such an organization exists and is a front for many Muslim organizations, one better have all their facts together because it’s a strong allegation to make. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but so that we are not responsible for spreading unfounded fears, we need to make sure we are dealing with verifiable facts and not just conspiracy theories.

    • Mel

      Pat, thanks for clarifying your name.

      You are right that we should not lump people altogether. I grew up outside of North American and had many very good Muslim friends and neighbours. The Muslim Brotherhood is not typical of these people. But unfortunately, it is typical of many radical Muslim groups who, due to our myopic provision of billions of petrodollars over the last century, seem to have risen to the top of the political and social food chain in many Muslim lands. I mentioned this in the last section, but since you have requested it, I will repeat. There is a recent book entitled “Muslim Mafia” which is an expose done by two investigators (one of whom was a trained former special navy intelligence officer) who inflitrated the CAIR and uncovered literally thousands of documents and other first hand evidence about the Muslim Brotherhood and its role in the USA.

      Also of interest would be the events surrounding the Pan Arab Islamic Conference which occurred in Khartoum during the mid-1990’s (and which the mainstream media all but ignored).

      These are only for “starters”. There is no shortage of information on the aims and objectives of the Muslim Brotherhood (especially from their own writings).

  17. John Stackhouse

    Brother Mel asks for a definition of “moderate.” Well, normally one thinks of a moderate as someone between two extremes.

    At one extreme are those who are totalitarian and ruthless: Islam should rule and by any means possible.

    At the other extreme are those who are liberal and accommodationist: Islam is an individual religious choice and should extend only by persuasion.

    Those between those two extremes, the moderates, would be those who believe in the general superiority of the Islamic way over other ways (while granting that Islam might not be superior to all others in every respect) and who promote that belief vigorously, but without offensive and oppressive violence and with respect instead for the rule of law.

    I understand Feisal and Daisy to be decidedly in this moderate category. And I would place most orthodox American Christians in that category also.

    As for the contemporary Christian defense of legitimate violence, many of us do not restrict it to defensive war, but would extend it to intervention on behalf of the oppressed, as what should have happened in Rwanda, what belatedly happened in the former Yugoslavia, and, in my view, what should be happening now in Darfur.

    So, again, many of us (whether Christians, or secular humanists, or whatever) cannot content ourselves with seeing contemporary moderate Muslims as being so very different from us in these terms: We think our worldview is the best and is sometimes worth pressing on others forcibly.

    Nonetheless, having made these points, I return still to my primary point. Unless those trying to build the Cordoba Center are provably up to something seditious, how can they be denied their right to build? And if they are trying to assert that they belong in America, too, and should not be acting guiltily when they are not in fact guilty, all the more reason for them to build in the face of the fearful suspicion of those who seem to think all Muslims except the most liberal are in some vast conspiracy against America/Christianity/God.

    • Mel

      Brother John,

      Thanks for giving me your definition of “moderate”. But….and I hate to do this…it still leaves some ambiguity. What is meant by “without offensive and oppresive violence”? To most women and non Muslims, Shariya Law is seen as “oppressive”. And, as the streets are showing, many Americans (up to 70% by some polls) are offended by the location of this particular mosque. So unless you further qualify what you mean by oppressive and offensive, it would appear that Raouf is not a moderate — by your own definition.

      I support what you say about military “intervention” to protect the innocent using controlled force, if necessary, for such egregious evil as crimes against humanity and genocide (as in Rwanda and Darfur). You are correct that Christians could argue that this protection (which is a form of defense on behalf of the helpless) is provided in a “Just War” theology. (Though I would argue that there are important steps which should precede this if possible, and that, in the case of Iraq, these steps were not taken).

      Interesting that Clinton, who declared intervention in the Balkans a “moral imperative” turned a blind eye to a far more numerically atrocious genocide in Rwanda, even to the point of instructing his own staff to not call it “genocide” but “acts of genocide” to avoid any possible legal imperative for action. And while Obama made promise after promise during the campaign about Darfur, he (like his predecessor Bush) has done precious little to stop the carnage there, which is being carried out by the Muslim Brotherhood backed Islamist regime in Khartoum.

      But I disagree with your statement: “And if they are trying to assert that they belong in America, too, and should not be acting guiltily when they are not in fact guilty, all the more reason for them to build in the face of the fearful suspicion…”

      Continuing to build by bulldozing ahead will only foment more suspicions, hurts, anger, and most likely violence. If he were to take the high moral ground and say “due to the sensitivities of Americans, we will move our mosque to another location”, it would not be an act of guilt in any way. Rather, it would show Islam in a far better light. It would be significant evidence that there is no hidden agenda and avoid any symbolism which could be interpretted by radicals the world over as a sign of Islamic supremacism. This would help to smooth over the hurts and anger.

  18. Matthew Westerberg

    Thanks for the definition of “moderate”, John. (And thanks for requesting it, Mel).

    You convey the importance of understanding that the vigour with which we moderate Christians promote our form of Christian belief is not to be reserved for us alone. In America, Muslims also ought to be given the freedom – as they have been – to promote what they believe to be the best way to live – provided they do so in accordance with American law.

    For their part, moderate Muslims would do well to understand why they are treated with so much suspicion. It’s not because Americans are furious haters. You could remove every bigoted opponent of the GZ mosque from the controvery and it would still be going strong. Rather, it’s because Americans have noticed that the vast majority of religous violence that has taken place in recent years has been perpetrated by Muslims. Attempts made by some to throw examples of recent Christian violence in the scales in order to balance out recent Muslim violence are unconvincing. For every innocent abortionist murdered by a radical Christian, thousands of innocents are murdered by radical Muslims. And when the Christian blows up the abortionist, Americans do not take to the streets by the thousands to celebrate – as Pakistani and Palestinian Muslims did on 9/11.

    Many Americans are suspicious of Muslims because they keep on hearing lurid accounts of Muslim violence: planes full of people being blown out of the sky; trains full of people being blown out of their tracks; party-goers being blown up at a nightclub; children blown up in school bus bombings; artists being assassinated while going about their daily lives; women mutilated for disobeying their husbands; girls mutilated for disobeying their husbands or fathers; threats of violence issued against cartoonists; women sentenced to horrifying deaths for commiting adultery; men sentenced to horrifying deaths for their passionate love of another man; and so on.

    In our day, Islam has a problem with violence in a way and on a scale that other religions do not.

    I’m not saying that because Islam has a very big violence problem among large numbers of its adherents therefore Americans should oppose the GZ mosque. Rather, that the Muslims who are building it should recognize that American suspicion is not ridiculous. They would do well to kindly and frequently meet with the leaders of the mosque opposition and patiently explain what their aims are and why they are not to be feared and what steps they are taking to ensure that young men at this mosque will not be exposed to recruitment to the radical cause, etc. This they would do, not because they owe it to their opponents, but because they love them.

    As you mentioned in this post: “Humanity is prone to violence and will use any legitimation that lies to hand.” Americans know this, and they fear that the GZ mosque will provide that legitimation. I believe they can be convinced otherwise. But I don’t see the mosque supporters doing much to convince them.

    (Incidentally, this is a good lesson for Christians as well. It’s not good enough to be right, we also need to be loving. People may oppose a legitimate Christian endeavour wrongheadedly due to some nagging fear or prejudice. If we merely stand on our rights and plow ahead undeterred, we may end up permanently embittering those who we might have generously and selflessly served. This is NOT easy. But surely it is better in the end than the easier alternatives.)

  19. Spencer Capier

    From “The Guardian:”

    The planned “ultra-mosque” will be a staggering 5,600ft tall – more than five times higher than the tallest building on Earth – and will be capped with an immense dome of highly-polished solid gold, carefully positioned to bounce sunlight directly toward the pavement, where it will blind pedestrians and fry small dogs. The main structure will be delimited by 600 minarets, each shaped like an upraised middle finger, and housing a powerful amplifier: when synchronised, their combined sonic might will be capable of relaying the muezzin’s call to prayer at such deafening volume, it will be clearly audible in the Afghan mountains, where thousands of terrorists are poised to celebrate by running around with scarves over their faces, firing AK-47s into the sky and yelling whatever the foreign word for “victory” is.

    • Mel

      When the mainstream media and our political elite lack reasonable arguments, they resort to ridicule. That’s the first sign that they know they are beaten intellectually.

      Normally its simply a nuisance. In this case, with emotions running so high on the ground, such mockery is bound to incite violence. Its vintage mean-spirited hate.

      • Spencer Capier

        Now you’re talking like a conspiracy theorist.

        • Mel

          There have always been conspiracies throughout history. And there are certainly many going on today. To adopt “a priori” the position that any talk of conspiracy should put you in a corner with a tin foil hat is illogical. With regard to the mainstream media, can you explain its virtual blackout of news regarding Bilderberg meetings, where presidents, prime ministers, (and other key government officials), the owners of the media and the world’s corporate and financial elite meet for several days each year (guarded by their own private army)?

  20. chuck

    Seriously Dr. Stackhouse, play a new song. Defend Christian brothers instead of pointing out what you think is wrong with them (including yesterday’s post). An enemy of the true, living God is an enemy of the true, living God.

    • John Stackhouse

      Do I not sound serious, Brother Chuck?

      In reply, I’ll say simply that the New Testament is full of positive examples of Christians disagreeing with each other, sometimes publicly, and sometimes vehemently. They are not opposing God in doing so: They are exhorting each other to greater faithfulness, and our Lord and his apostles exhort us to exhort each other–and to denounce bad doctrine and practices when we see them. That’s what I’m trying to do.

      Moreover, if we don’t publicly criticize each other, evangelism gets hurt by our apparent approval of bad doctrines and practices. So it is indeed on behalf of the gospel and of genuine discipleship that we must sometimes, and sadly, say: “No, this isn’t right. We don’t believe that or practice that, and we hope you won’t confuse this particular belief or practice with orthodox Christianity.”

      As I’m taking fire elsewhere on this blog for defending certain Muslims, one of the charges against western Muslims is that they fail adequately to denounce extremists. Well, fair enough: I’m doing that in our own ranks, and it’s a necessary, if regrettable and unpleasant, thing to do.

      • chuck

        Oh, I was under the impression you were publicly disagreeing with them as a form of gossip. I didn’t know you contacted them, discussed their point of view, and how you thought their form of evangelism was hurtful. my apologies.

    • Spencer Capier

      Geeze Chuck, “our co-religionists, right or wrong”? Yeehaw.

      • Mel

        I concur with Chuck.

        Implying, or downright suggesting that if one doesn’t share Dr. John’s views on this issue that he/she is “bigoted” is certainly not helpful to furthering insights and deepening knowledge on a very complex and sensitive issue. One can certainly oppose what is happening at GZ without implying that all Muslims are terrorists.

        • Spencer Capier

          I’ll just keep pointing out it isn’t Ground Zero, it’s four blocks away. How far away is okay?

          • Spencer Capier

            Also, I’ve never used the “B” word yet.

          • Mel

            Its 600 feet away. But the reason it is inextricably connected with GZ is because: A. The landing gear of one of the planes fell on it during 9-11; B. 600 meters is close enough to rightly say it is “near” GZ; but more importantly, C. Faisel Raouf has made it so in the minds of Muslims all over the world with the title of his book: “A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Da’wa in the Heart of America Post 9-11”.

            Its is the Cordoba Initiative itself which has made the connection, not just those opposed to it.

            And yes, I know it wasn’t you who used the “b” word.

      • Mel

        I concur with Chuck. Lets try to be more polite and considerate to one another. By all means disagree with an argument. But using words like “bigot” (in reference to someone here) and suggesting that if someone believes that there is something seriously amiss with GZ that this makes him/her an “extremist” is going over the top.

  21. Tim

    Canada is blessed to have as a citizen a wise individual such as Salim Mansur who has been a consistent voice of reason and thoughtful comment in his opinion pieces published in the Toronto Sun newspaper. He is also an example of what I view as a moderate Muslim. He has written on this very topic and I urge the readers here to read his words and consider his opinion:

    http://www.torontosun.com/comment/columnists/salim_mansur/2010/08/27/15165446.html

    You can read a bio of Mr. Mansur here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salim_Mansur

    • John Stackhouse

      Well, by the definition I set out above, he is not a “moderate” Muslim, but a “liberal” one–as even the Wikipedia article makes clear. That doesn’t mean, to me, at least, anything good or bad immediately about his opinion, of course. (I have several Ismail’i acquaintances and like them all.) It’s just that, for the record, he is well to the left of Muslims even in Canada, let alone worldwide.

      • Tim

        You write that ‘he is well to the left of Muslims even in Canada’ which suggests a political ideology to me, not religious. Be that as it may I merely posited that he is a moderate by my definition. Perhaps the position of a reformer is preferred on this topic. Dr. Tawfik Hamid has said the following:

      • Mel

        Thank you Tim. That’s an excellent article. Unfortunately Dr. John seems to have backed himself into a corner where he equates “moderate” with Shariya Law. And therefore, anyone with Liberal views can not be a moderate.

        • John Stackhouse

          Okay, Mel, I confess I’m growing weary of you repeating yourself and your half-baked, poorly expressed ideas. You’re sending yourself, and others, ’round in circles.

          “Advocating Shariah” can mean lots of things, not the One Thing you imply it means, namely, seeking to impose Islamic law by any means possible on the United States (and the rest of the world).

          I have indicated instead that most Muslims believe Shari’ah (at least, their tradition’s version of it) to be the best way for everyone to live, so of course they “advocate” for it, just as Christians advocate for their (particular) views of ethics and law, Marxists do, libertarians do, Democrats and Republicans do, and so on.

          So enough of the weasel-word “advocate.”

          Instead, here’s the challenge, and I mean this respectfully and sincerely. I’ll even make it relatively easy. I won’t ask you to prove that Feisal or Daisy promote violence against the United States. (I’m quite positive you couldn’t, anyhow.) Instead, just this: Provide one instance where Feisal or Daisy says that he or she wants Shari’ah to replace the US Constitution and all US law and make the United States an Islamic theocracy, and I’ll retract everything I’ve said. Don’t do that, however, and I suggest you stop slandering them.

          • Mel

            Dr. John,

            I’ve been on the road for over a week and just got home, so will focus on your “challenge” as soon as I dig out. To me its self evident from Raouf’s book and what he has said, but I’ll work on getting more specific info for you.

            That you would describe my use of the word “advocate” as a “weasel word” is baffling…especially when you use it yourself. I wasn’t using it in any “weasel” way, and its not an ambiguous word. It has a clear meaning.

            I’m also baffled that you seem to see Shariya Law in such a benign light. After years working with victims of Sudan’s (and other countries’) Shariya Laws it is quite disheartening to see evangelicals turning a blind eye to its evils and inherent injustices and even (whether inadvertently or not) helping to promote it. In which country, where Shariya Law is practiced, do women have equality? Where is there religious freedom? In which Shariya Law state are Muslims not regarded “in law” as above all other people? How is Shariya Law in any way compatible with Christian principles of justice? or democratic freedoms that Americans enjoy?

            The reason I kept pressing on the Shariya Law issue was because you were not addressing it. You’re only criteria appeared to be the use of terror and violence. which is why I had to be “theologically ruthless” and press you on it, because it is a critical piece in the puzzle. To paint the GZ issue without referencing the threat of Shariya Law is to misrepresent the dangers involved.

            I noticed that you studiously avoided answering my question about which orthodox (and authoritative) school of Islamic jurisprudence does not advocate or allow the use of violent jihad as a means to advance the cause of Islam within the Dar el Harb. Are you aware of any?

  22. Jeff

    Brother John,
    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    Stay strong. Continue to speak up.
    We (evangelicals) desparately need your voice in this debate.

  23. Spencer Capier

    I’ve enjoyed this discussion, and it only affirms my work teaching Critical Thinking and History at the high school level. As Twain said, “The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that ain’t so.”

    Thanks John, I look forward to your next post.

    Spencer Capier

  24. Dan

    I don’t know much about the Ground Zero mosque, apart from what I’ve read on this blog (I’m an Australian living in the UK).

    But in discussing the wider issue of the use of violence and who or what are the threats to peace in the world, it’s good to recall this line from Martin Luther King’s Beyond Vietnam speech: “… I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government”.

    I think what he said back in 1967 remains true today: the US state, even under the Obama administration (with the help of its UK and Australian, and maybe Canadian, allies), by far surpasses any Islamist organizations as an agent of violence and a threat to peace in the world today.

    Given that most of us in this discussion (which I’m grateful to Professor Stackhouse for hosting) are, I guess, US, Canadian, UK or Australian citizens, surely what’s morally required is to focus on the violence of our own governments, about which we can do something? Otherwise, it’s kind of like a bunch of BP shareholders complaining about people in Louisiana throwing too much cooking oil down their sinks.

    Dan Och.

    • Spencer Capier

      Dan,

      Exactly. How many innocent muslims have been killed in Iraq because of collateral or not so collateral damage in that illegal war? Most estimates are in the hundreds of thousands.

      Spencer

      • Mel

        Yes, unfortunately many Evangelicals supported the Iraq war because it was sold to them — not only by George W. Bush — but many key Democrats as well as morally necessary to rid the world of a “madman” who had WMD (which, of course he did; though he shipped them out of Iraq to Syria and Sudan immediately prior to the arrival of the US troops). And certainly Rumsfeld’s “shock and awe” strategy was the worst possible approach from a collateral damage perspective. It did permanent, irreparable damage to America’s image in the Muslim world. But what is significant is that the people who were goading George W. and his ilk on to take out Saddam Hussein were none other than our so-called “moderate” Muslim allies in Saudi Arabia and the region. To me, it was clearly a trap, likely hatched at the Pan Arab Islamic Conference, that the Americans walked into.

  25. Steve Wilkinson

    Hi John,

    Just wondering if you’ve caught the latest in this continuing saga…

    Now there are complaints over public funding (in the form of tax exempt loans), which the city might give the project. The opposition are now trying to rally the troops by saying that ‘your church wouldn’t get this kind of funding.’

    Well, the key is in this Reuters article:
    http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE67Q5BW20100827
    “Tax laws allow such funding for religiously affiliated non-profits if they can prove the facility will benefit the general public and their religious activities are funded separately.”

    Whether they can prove that or not is another story, but there doesn’t seem to be anything fishy going on with this. Certainly most churches and most mosques wouldn’t meet the criteria, but if they did, they would get it too. No double-standard, it seems (which is the claim).

    • Mel

      Steve,

      If Rauf is going to include in his edifice, offices for the Sharia Index Project (which is obviously very close to his heart) , would that not be a double standard?

      • Steve Wilkinson

        Probably not. I’d make a guess that some Christian-based charities have gotten funding, where that particular church probably supported things like putting the 10 Commandments into court houses or pushing some Christian concept into the legal system.

        I’m not expert on this, but I’d imagine what is going on here is that this building is multi-purpose. Mosque, offices, community center, etc. The community center or some other kind of charity or service is probably what makes it eligible for the funds. I’m not sure why that would be any different than some church that has a worship sanctuary, offices, and a food kitchen to feed the homeless. That would also get funded, and they could worship as they wished in the worship sanctuary, and conduct any other legal business in the offices.

        So, sorry. Unless someone can give me some new information I haven’t already seen… I’m not sure what the issue is here.

        • Mel

          Steve,

          Do you really think that there is no issue here? Imagine any Christian church based organization applying for government funding, where the minister:

          – had a history of shady dealings with tenants and with previous financial dealings;

          – had close connections with the KKK;

          – had, as his stated goal “building bridges between the American people and some “misrepresented” neo-Confederate group (whose founder advocated slavery and whose followers still practice it in some places);

          – was asking for 70,000,000 dollars for ill defined “community work”;

          – was being supported by extremely wealthy individuals who were members of a white supremacy group; and

          – who had on his Board of Directors, men who were clearly theological Puritans who wanted to establish a theocracy built on Levitical laws with no separation of church and state; and

          – was proposing to build a 13 story building 600 feet from the grave of Martin Luther King.

          Do you think this minister, even if he was smooth talking, calm, and moderate in his approach, would get any kind of hearing from any government funding body (let alone adulation from America’s elite)?

          And can you imagine the ballistic response of the mainstream media if the funding actually went through?

          • Steve Wilkinson

            I guess it depends on what you mean by ‘issues’. As a Christian, do I like to see mosques built and people becoming Muslims rather than churches built and people becoming Christians? Of course not. However, in terms of rights and religious freedom, no, I don’t see the issues.

            In your hypothetical scenario, as long as the ‘shady dealings’ weren’t criminal convictions or hurt the criteria for repayment, and the ‘community work’ was deemed to fit the criteria, I’d have to support their right to built and get the funding. That doesn’t mean I’d like it, but that’s how these kinds of rights work.

            And, yes, I do think people would be going ballistic over it, just like they are over this. I’m not sure how that matters though. Rights aren’t based on popularity. I’m also not seeing the adulation you are talking about, mostly people standing up for American ideals.

            I’m hoping that if/when our culture is primarily secular/atheistic, that the constitution will protect my rights to build a church, no matter how much the public disapproves. And even if I want to build it down the block from some famous atheist’s grave.

            • Mel

              Steve,

              Again, the issue is not the legal “right”, but the moral propriety. Certainly having a legal right to apply for funding does not imply a legal (or moral) obligation to provide that funding. In the hypothetical case above, the impropriety would be obvious, and there is almost zero chance of any ethical panel approving any public funding. But the analogy is, I think, accurate. And in the case of the GZ mosque, while over two thirds of the American people clearly see the impropriety, America’s self appointed elite do not (or at least pretend not to). That’s where the double standard comes in.

              Also, you appear to be using the terms “secular” and “athiestic” as meaning the same thing. (You put it as secular/atheistic)Perhaps you understand the difference, but just to be sure, and to avoid anyone inferring incorrectly, there is a huge difference! (Though many athiests would like us to believe there is not).

              Secular, in its traditional sense, means “neutral” between religion and religion, and neutral between religion and non religion. “Atheism” has a built in bias against religion.

              That’s why some atheists would like us to believe that the godless ideology of secular humanism is the legitimate default moral system underpinning democracy. This gives that very clear ideologically loaded system an advantage in the public arena. We need to insist on a level playing field; that all people have equal access to inform the public debate; and that secular humanism should not be the “default” ideology of the state simply because it has the word “secular” in it. Like Marxism, it has a specific moral (or some would say immoral) code, and while based on atheistic assumptions, mimics religion itself.

  26. Mel

    Dr John,

    Regarding Feisal Rauf’s support for Sharia. Of course he is too clever to make a statement that he is advocating for Sharia to replace the US Constitution. But we can infer, with reasonable probability, that this is exactly what he is doing.

    Sharia Law has always been about subjugation. Once established, it does not recognize any other form of authority as being its equal. Sharia is from Allah, based on the Qur’an, and it is “superior” to all other forms of government. That’s academic. If you want to debate that, we can do so.

    Also, the Muslim Brotherhood has made it clear that this is their goal. Yusuf Al Qardawi, one of the spiritual leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood said “We will conquer Europe, we will conquer America, not through the sword but through dawah (hence the significance of Rauf’s book title which he published in the Muslim world).”

    The credo of the MB has always been:

    “Allah is our goal; the Prophet is our guide; the Qur’an is our constitution; jihad is our way; and death for the glory of Allah is our greatest ambition.”

    So clearly the Muslim Brotherhood supports the supremacy of Shira Law over all other forms of government and is actively pursuing that goal.

    One secret document uncovered during the sting operation carried out by the authors of “Muslim Mafia” clearly shows the MB’s plan for the USA. It is a blueprint for stealth jihad. Under the heading of “The role of the muslim Brother in North America”, it states:

    “The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within, and “sabatoging” its miserable house by the hands of the believers, so that it is eliminated and Allah’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.” (Quoted on Page 230).

    Radical Muslims may, if they have insufficient numbers to attain political and economic power, adopt limited forms of Sharia (Ie such as they were demanding in Ontario, where it would “only apply to Muslims”) But these have always been temprorary measures taken until they have the political capacity to implement Sharia on the whole population.

    According to many knowledgeable sources including moderate/liberal Muslims (depending on which definition we are using) as many as 80% of US Muslim organizations (as opposed to the actual Muslim population) are fronts for the MB.

    Does Feisal Abdul Rauf advocate for Sharia Law? Well, not only does he advocate for it, he was the founder of the Sharia Index Project, a huge initiative involving Islamic scholars from all over the world to develop an index whereby countries (including non Muslim ones) can be rated on how closely they comply with the project’s promotion of Sharia Law.

    So if both Rauf and the Muslim Brotherhood are promoting Sharia Law, the issue is “to what extent are they working together, do they share a common view of what Sharia Law is, and how that Sharia Law will be established? Here a close look at the whole “Sharia Index Project” Is quite instructive.

    Since I don’t want to force you to read through too many “half baked” and “poorly expressed” ideas all at once, this will, I think, suffice for now. I’ll provide more information soon.

  27. Mel

    Before we look at the actual “Sharia Index Project’s” stated goals and objectives, as well as the standing of those who are with Imam Rauf in its implementation, I would remind you of an important parable that is used in Islamist strategy. (This is also used by most successful door to door salesmen). This is the account of the camel and the tent.

    I’m sure you have all heard it; where the camel, having first been refused permission to enter the tent, begs the Arab herdsman to allow “just his nose” under the tent to feel the warmth, and keep it from the wind blown sand and cold. The herdsman, being the kind hearted person he is, relents, thinking what harm can be done by a camel poking his nose under the tent wall? But once the nose is under, the camel asks for “just the head”, because the sand is hurting his eyes. Then the neck; then one hoof, etc Each time clever and persuasive arguments are used to advance the camel moving incrementally into the tent. Eventually, of course, the camel is completely inside the tent while the poor herdsman is forced outside. I’m sure I haven’t done the story justice, but I hope you get the point.

    The door to door salesman who uses this principle, then, focuses simply on getting a foot in the door. He will do anything to achieve this. Once the foot is in the door, he can move on to other priorities, such as establishing good and friendly rapport, confidence, etc. until eventually he is given permission to sell his wares.

    AT each stage, the entire focus of the argument is on the immediate, minor advancement, which will sound reasonable to kind hearted people. But once that is achieved, a whole new set of arguments and focus is put into motion which also will seem reasonable given the advances already attained.

    Similary, once the edifice at GZ is built and all the PR obstacles are overcome, it is logical to assume (given the above analogy) that there is at least a good possibility that the focus and priority could shift. Rather than being a “bridge building” establishment of mutual respect for the American way of life among radical Muslims and presenting Americans with a less militant form of Islam, the focus could simply drop the former, and focus on the latter. Americans become accustomed to a “kinder and gentler” Islam, with legal and cultural accommodations bringing greater acceptance of some highly sanitized version of Islamic concepts and principles into mainstream American life. The process moves on (once the accommodations are virtually irreversible) to the more totalitarian aspects of Sharia Law. Eventually, the camel is under the tent.

    Even if, for arguments sake, Imam Rauf is totally sincere and would not want this to take place (which I seriously doubt), there is nothing to prevent others who are behind the initiave from staging a corporate “coup d’etat” once the “mild mannered” and moderate Rauf has done all the hard work for them. Nor is Rauf any spring chicken. It will not be long until someone else will have to take over the reigns of power at ASMA and the Cordoba Initiative. What assurances are there that everyone else involved in the Cordoba Initiative, as well as its backers, are of the same supposed “moderate” disposition as Rauf?

    Permit me to draw on one more analogy which I believe to be appropriate and of which I have first hand experience. During the early days of the Communist revolution in Ethiopia following the famine of 1973 (which resulted in the overthrow of the empire of Haile Selassie), the “true Marxists” stayed in the background. The person who “led” the coup in its inital stages, was a man by the name of General Aman Andom, an Eritrean and a national hero. He was an honourable man who had quickly gained the trust of the Ethiopian people. They were assured — by Aman Andom himself — that the revolution was not about destroying the monarchy and the 3000 years of Ethiopian historic culture. No! It was not Marxism, just a democratic socialism which would leave the empire intact, but rid it of its corrupt bureaucrats and wicked officials. Once this corruption was addressed and the feudal system of land ownership was changed to allow for everyone to own land, things would get back to normal. No Communism, just democratic and economic reform.

    Aman Andom clearly believed what he was saying, but those behind him were using his popularity and prestige to pave the way for the complete demise of the empire, and the total collapse of the state and its transformation into a Stalinist Marxist state. All it took was the assassination of General Andom to enable the true Marxists behind the revolution to come forth and implement their Communist revolution. The way had been paved for them by the unwitting, though noble, Andom, and a worse case scenario unfolded. Ethiopian has never been the same since.

    I bring this out to say simply that even if Dr. John and other evangelical leaders are correct in their assessment of Imam Rauf (which I don’t believe is true), that still does not minimize the dangers inherent in just such an edifice at GZ. If Imam Rauf goes the way of Aman Andom and the leadership of the Cordoba Initiative falls openly into the hands of a front for the Muslim Brotherhood or similar radical group, it would be disastrous. The mega-powerful symbolism inherent in an Islamic edifice, at that location, in the hands of militant Islamists would be a “worse case scenario”. And, as it stands, there would be very little anyone could legally do to prevent that from happening.

    More on the Shariah Index Project next time.

    • Steve Wilkinson

      If you’re really so worried about this, I’d encourage you to become a Christian apologist and start teaching. Even if your worst fears come true… if Islam takes America, it won’t be because they snuck a radical mosque into the middle of NYC. It will be because Christians haven’t done a very good job of making disciples for several generations, and now don’t know much about Christianity, let alone Islam. If anything, the radical Muslims are making it less likely.

      • Mel

        Steve,

        Your point about Christians in the west failing to make disciples is well taken. I would concur, and sadly I would put myself in that “failing” category. I would add, though, that the Christian church has been under relentless and highly sophisticated psychological pressure and manipulation by the opposition — both from outside and from within. It is quite easy to be deceived.

        We all need to get back to our evangelical roots; to re-study what Christ taught about discipleship, including helping the poor and needy, delivering the captives from bondage, and proclaiming the saving power of our crucified and resurrected Lord.

        As for your suggestion about being an apologist, I appreciate your thoughts and kind words. I have thought along those lines, but for now am trying to focus on helping to solve the conflicts and genocides in East Africa including by addressing the man made causes behind them. Maybe when peace is established there, I will feel inspired to darken the daunting doors of academia.

        • Steve Wilkinson

          We each have our role to play. I guess the call to teach apologetics was more in general to the Church than you specifically (even though I said that).

          My point, though, is simply that if Christians put half as much effort into preparing their minds in the Christian worldview (and how it compares to other worldviews) as they do into resisting Islam in all sorts of other ways, what you are worrying about would be largely irrelevant.

          • Spencer Capier

            I concur.

            The average Christian in North America is more a product intellectually of their secular relativist culture rather than their church tradition. Ask most young Christians in high school why they are believers and they answer “’cause it works for me.” When I talk to twenty-somethings who’ve abandoned their faith they talk like they’ve broken up with their boyfriend Jesus, rather than as if it were some existential crisis.

          • Mel

            Steve,

            I would agree. Christians need to understand and promote our worldview of love. If all Christians were to exhibit that and proclaim the truth about the Gospel of Christ, we would not need to worry about Islam advancing. But, just as the nations of Israel and Judah paid the price of their unfaithfulness, and were sacked by the Assyrians and Babylonians, America and the west today stand in peril of losing our Judaeo Christian heritage and the freedoms we’ve enjoyed, due to our self indulgent life-sytles; our idolatry with mammon, and absorption with ourselves. Its left us vulnerable to false teaching. The evangelical church must return to its roots; return to a renewed sense of commitment to Christ Jesus and the Truth that He came to proclaim. That is the only way that our world can remain free.

            And being faithful to Christ’s teachings means adhering to His admonition to:

            “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves”
            Matthew 7:15

            An essential part of promoting Christ’s truth involves exposing (“speaking the truth in love”) false teaching.

            2 Cor 10:4 speaks of the “tearing down of strongholds” using “mighty weapons” (not “carnal”) as our method of spiritual warfare; indeed the “sword of Truth”!

            The Scriptures are clearly tasking the believer to show proper discernment in understanding these false teachings, and to “tear them down” by waging truth.

  28. Mel

    Let us take a look at the real ideas behind the Shariah Index Project and the American Society for the Advancement of Muslims (ASMA), both of which are headed by Feisal Abdul Rauf. From these we get a more realistic peek at the motivation of the Cordoba Initiative.

    In one document (since scrubbed) on the Cordoba Initiative web site, it states that the goal of the “Shari’ah Index Preject” is:

    “To define, interpret, and IMPLEMENT the concept of the Islamic State in modern times” (emphasis mine)

    On AMSA’s website the following (which clearly displays its ideological support for violent jihad)can be found:

    “I would be ashamed at the frown of Muhammad! The Sword of pure Haydar, the mighty Qu’ran are cornerstones of the strong faith of Muhammed.for he stood as master with Dhu’l -fiqar in every fight to the right of Muhammad. Since Ali’s sword helped the mighty Qu’ran, Ali was the helper, no doubt for Muhammed. As Aaron to Moses so was Ali in rank. A partner in faith and close to Mohammed. On Doomsday both Moses and Aaron will kiss the mantel of Ali, the hem of Muhammad.

    So the powerful killer “Ali” is lauded within ASMA. Not surprising given Ali’s special place within both Shi’a and Sufi Islam, as well as the current Islamic fundamentalist regime in Tehran, (for which Rauf has voiced his support — and against the democratic opposition forces).

    Of course Ali is looked upon as the first Caliph by Shi’a Muslims, and was described by author Richard Shand (in his book “Secret Doctrines of the Assassins”) as being the ultimate warrior. He quotes from – An Encyclopedia of Archetypal Symbolism

    “… Sidina ‘Ali, the ideal warrior, once became so caught up in the frenzy of killing that he began to kill his own people after finishing off the enemy. His frenzy had to be cooled down before he could stop.” Not even Rambo did that!

    Of course Rauf is too clever by far to use Ali and his followers (who conquered through the sword of jihad much of the known world within 100 years of “prophet” Muhammed’s death) as a sermon illustration. But Rauf obviously is no true pacifist if he can give such adulation to Ali. And the very esoteric nature of Sufi Islam (which also sees Ali as a leading symbolic figurehead) makes it quite possible for Rauf to appear peaceful and moderate to the west, yet at the same time, signalling to his more jihad prone peers that he is “one of them”.

    “War is deception” (“Prophet” Muhammed)

    It is also clear that he supports the theocratic implications of Sharia Law, which go against the US Constitution and the separation of church and state.

    Writing in “Islam: A Sacred Law, What Every Muslim Should Know About Sharia”, Rauf points out the differences between the American government based on man-made law, and an Islamic system, which Allah authored:

    “God’s role in the explicit philosophical construct of the law makes a big difference between the modus operandi of a righteous Muslim judge in a Muslim court and a righteous Western judge in a Western court… The Muslim judge explicitly “reports to God. The judge who sits in the Western court is only explicitly responsible to the Constitution, the interpretations of a civil law and its rules.”

    Also….

    “Since Sharia is understood as a law with God at its center, it is not possible in principle to limit the Sharia to some aspects of human life and leave out others. …The sharia thus covers every field of law – public and private, national and international – together with enormous amounts of material that Westerners would not regard as law at all”

    “…Theft, for which the punishment according to the Quranic rule is: “As for the male thief and the female thief, cut off their hands, as a punishment for what they have earned, an exemplary punishment from Allah…”

    “…The punishment for a fornicator, not bound by marriage, is according to the majority of jurists one hundred lashes of the whip and exile for one year.

    Similarly, if Rauf accepts these Qur’anic injunctions as valid for Islamic law, it stands to reason that he must also accept other fundamental requirements found in the Qur’an — the legal inferiority of women, the legal inferiority of non muslims and their (dhimmi) status. Polygamy, capital punishment for apostasy, and other barbaric provisions must also apply. Rauf obviously accepts the literal meaning of the Qur’an on these legal matters.

    So if Rauf’s understanding of Shariah Law is virtually in the same literal paradigm as it is in places like Sudan, Iran and Saudi Arabia, on what basis can Rauf’s position be seen as “moderate”. If he were truly attempting to bring about something different other than advancing the historic Muslim understanding of Sharia Law, why would he hold such a literalist exegetical approach to the Qur’an?

    Yet he appears to all as the personification of peace out of whom flows deep spiritual reflection. To me, it appears to be meticulous choreography. But why would he then paradoxically state openly that America is “Sharia compliant” (which is a self evident canard).

    There is a clear “good cop/bad cop” game going on here.

    A recent article by Dutch Islam specialist Hans Janssen explained

    “… “moderate Muslims” too, strive after an Islamic society in the Netherlands. They intentionally make use of radicals to enforce their wishes… Dutch politicians and media are downplaying excesses of multilcultural society and thereby increasing these.”

    As another specialist put it:

    “This ominous assessment highlights the ultimate aim of the ASMA society. To project a moderate, Westernised version of Islam which in reality puts an Islamist stamp on even the most seemingly innocuous and quintenssentially American or Western activities and uses legal Islamism to advance their agenda which leaves the West defenseless and a victim of it’s own legal system where protected freedoms are used to attack the host culture from within”.

    So how does this “good cop/bad cop” game work?

    Daniel Pipes, a widely renouned scholar on Islam, director of the Middle East Forum and author of Miniatures once said: “Should Islamists get smart and avoid mass destruction, but instead stick to the lawful, political, non-violent route, and should their movement remain vital, it is difficult to see what will stop them.”

    Well Daniel Pipes’ advice is now being taken by the Islamists. Its clear that, despite his convictions on literal Sharia Law, writings and clever use of doublespeak, Rauf is playing the “good cop”.

    So who are the bad cops? These are the people with whom Rauf works, corresponds, receives support, and chooses to place in key positions in his network of organizations.

    Most notable is the The International Institute of Islamist Thought (IIIT), a Muslim Brotherhood-affiliated organization in Northern Virginia, which helped to publish Rauf’s English version book “What’s Right with Islam is What’s Right for America”. The IIIT has contributed significant sums of money to CAIR, and is cited in Gaubatz and Sperry’s investigative report (Muslim Mafia) as clearly being a MB front and having members clearly identified with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Sheik Qaradawi, who is one of the most prominent IIIT leaders and clearly a powerful figure among the MB even issued a fatwa saying it is permissible to beat one’s wife (rather redundant, of course, since this is clearly authorized by the “prophet” himself).

    As the authors of “Muslim Mafia” write: “…America’s democratic freedoms have allowed the Brotherhood to put up a tremendous front, behind which it hides its subversive and criminal activities.”

    Why is an organization so closely connected with the Muslim Brotherhood publishing a book by a supposed “moderate”? Yes, its a rhetorical question.

    Others connected with Rauf as either board members or leaders of his network (or close associates) include:

    Iranian Mohammad Javad Larijani, (yes the same Islamic jurist who referred to President Obama with the Farsi equivalent of the “N” word), who has justified torture of Iranian dissidents as legal punishments under Shariah law. (While not officially listed as a board member yet, a photo of Rauf and Larijani on the Cordoba Initiative website was recently scrubbed. Since there are still 7 unrevealed board members of the Shariah Index Project, its quite possible that he is one. At the very least, there is a clear working connection between the two men).

    Dr. Mahmood Ahmed Gazi (Chairman of the Shariah Board for the State Bank of Pakistan and Former President of International Islamic University)

    Dr. Mohammed Hashim Kamali (Dean of the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilization and Former Interim Chairman , Constitutional Review Committee, Afghanistan)

    Dr. Tahir Mahmood, (Founder and Chairman, Amity University; Former Dean Faculty of Law, Delhi University)

    Dato Abdul Hamid Mohamad, Judge, Federal Court of Malaysia, Malaysian Supreme Court

    More on these and other connections later. My apologies for the length of this. Must go for now.

  29. Mel

    Dr. Mahmood Ahmed Gazi (Chairman of the Shariah Board for the State Bank of Pakistan and Former President of International Islamic University)has been involved with the “Shariah Index Project” from the start. He attended the first meeting back in 2006 in Malaysia, and has been working with Feisal Abdul Rauf ever since. Other than being considered a specialist in Sharia banking and financing, who is he?

    Along with opposing more moderate minded Muslim leaders like the late Benazir Bhutto and Meraj Khalid, Dr. Ghazi is seen (at least by the Ahmadiya Muslims) as one of their most prominent persecutors.

    He has, among other things, advocated for mandatory prayers, enforcing “correct” prayers, and the death sentence for apostasy. In an attempt at obtaining his PHD, he wrote a thesis (“Islamic Role of Shah Waliullah”) which was described by one Iranian Muslim scholar as “advocating genocide”.

    Check out the profile of this “glowing example of pluralism, tolerance, and a kinder, gentler Islam”.

    http://www.thepersecution.org/nr/ghazi.html

    • John Stackhouse

      Brother Mel, I think I’ll ask you to set out one more post, if you like, to summarize your argument and to provide in one place the main sources to which you would like to direct people. That will be more helpful in making your case, I think, than a long string of comments. Then we’ll close it off, okay?

      There is much that is complex about this situation, we’d agree. I’d say that most Muslims have no time for Ahmadiyyah, since they are wildly heretical according to the basic tenets of Islam (the Shahadah just for starters). That doesn’t mean I think they should be persecuted, of course, because I don’t. But there are lots and lots of Muslim and quasi-Muslim perspectives to be had on something like this issue, and without identifying parties and outlooks carefully, people can make almost any case they like.

      So, again, please make your case, if you want to, in one brief place, and then I’ll say what I’ve said all along: I do think this issue is much, much simpler than you and others have made it.

      If the Cordoba Initiative is a staging area for extremism and violence against the United States, then it shouldn’t be allowed to proceed but instead should be outlawed. If that cannot be proven to be true, then the American thing to do is to let it proceed. People, including Muslims (!), are not guilty until proven innocent nor guilty by association.

      These basic issues are not complex, and Feisal and Daisy must not retreat as if they have something to be ashamed about. They must act as loyal Americans and I believe they are. Other people’s suspicions about them, or bad feelings about them, cannot prevail upon their rights and their dignity. This isn’t complex, and to make it complex might indeed be an act of uncharity.

      • Mel

        Dr. John,

        I regret that you want to end this discussion. Its only just beginning :-). So let me say to anyone who might be interested in communicating more on this to write to me at mjmiddleton@hotmail.com.

        Someday I would love to sit down with you over coffee (I’d even make it a beer if you wanted) and discuss this further. Blogging and electronic media sometimes gives the wrong impression and inadvertently convey subtle unintended messages. The grin, the gleam in the eye, etc, which would signal less hostile intent is not communicated, so the result can appear more acrimonious and polemical than it actually is. I guess that’s inescapable. I want to assure you that I respect you as a brother, even though I disagree with your position. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t expend so much effort to try to convince you.

        For now, let me attempt to make 8 points to try to wrap it up:

        First of all, doing “the right thing” — which in this case would involve moving the location of the GZ edifice elsewhere where it will not spark such feelings of pain, anger and probable violence, would in no way imply that Rauf et al had anything to hide. Your argument there simply doesn’t wash. Who would interpret such a gesture in that light? Certainly not myself or anyone I know. If anything, it would be positive evidence of exactly the opposite — that he is, in fact, operating in good faith.

        2. No one is arguing against Rauf’s legal right to build a mosque. If that is what you mean by “simple”, then yes, it is simple. But the issue is not about legality, its always been about propriety. We’re not saying “you can’t” we’re saying “you shouldn’t” . Key leaders from both sides of the political spectrum — from Sarah Palin to Senator Reid — have correctly framed the issue in that light. By mixing the two issues (legality and propriety) you are creating confusion.

        3. Your framing of the debate by suggesting it is all “simple” is to put it into a “when did you stop beating your wife” paradigm. If any one disagrees with your persective, and the issue is supposedly, as you say “simple”, then it implies that dissenters are either bigoted or ignorant (and judging by the responses of yourself and some others on this blog, that is exactly what has been inferred at times). You admit that “there is much that is complex about this situation”, in your last post. But then at the end you say the “basic issues are simple”. And since the “basic issue” to you (at least as defined by that post) is the assumption that if Imam Rauf changes location, it is going to be an admission of guilt (which is a spurious argument at best) the “simple” is still “not simple”. So call me a bigot or ignorant. According to your criteria there is no escaping that label if one is to disagree with you.

        4. You apply a “courtroom criteria” inappropriately. Yes, in a court of law, someone is “innocent until proven guilty”. But if we apply that same standard to the area of public opinion, and public acceptance of projects, then we would be forced to accept as fact, every promise that every politician makes, every claim that avaricious corporate executives pronounce, and every other guarantee that nefarious schemers or snake oil salesmen offer. When some oil company executive comes to my neighbourhood with promises about how oil development is going to bring about prosperity to the community without harming the environment, and that same oil company just happens to have a murky or unpublicized track record that would make BP look tame, do we “assume they are innocent until proven guilty”? When it comes to the public arena, the key governing criteria is “due diligence” not litigational protocol. The decisions we make as a community to accept or reject any organization’s activities must be based on a careful study of its track record, the trustworthiness of its board of directors, the capacity of its CEO and administration, etc. This principle is especially the case when the security of the nation could be at stake. Imagine a distraught looking teenager wearing a trenchcoat walking into an ammunition store to purchase bullets for an automatic weapon? Should the teenager be sold the ammunition simply because it has not yet been proven that he is going to commit a crime? Or imagine 19 young men walking through airport security carrying box cutters, and saying to the security people “you can’t prove that we are guilty of plotting anything, therefore you have to let us on board”. 🙂

        5. A similar situation exists with your argument of “guilt by association”. Here again you are mixing apples and oranges. If someone is sitting at a bar with drunks, prostitutes, and dope addicts, yes, we should not assume that the person in question is also inebriated, a harlot or junkie. That person might be trying to help, evangelize, not know (I’ve met some who would actually be completely oblivious), etc. But when someone has organizational ties, invites someone to be on an advisory board, or publishes a book for someone, or in other ways co-operates to obtain a common operational objective, its a different matter.

        6. I find it interesting that you would be prepared to send a military intervention force into Darfur, (which I commend), to stop the genocide there which is being carried out by an Islamist regime supported by the Muslim Brotherhood. But when it comes to dealing with the same type of behind the scenes force here in America you seem to take a different approach.

        7. Your definition of “moderate” contributes to the confusion. This is because it is different from the commonly held notion of “moderate” when applied to religious beliefs. As Confucius once said when asked what it would take to achieve world peace, he responded: “insist on the exact definition of words”. When most people use that term in reference to Islam (or any other religion), its meaning is more closely associated with “progress”, and values with which those of a western democratic mindset can relate. I’m glad you did give us your definition, because at least that helped to clarify where you are standing. But only people who have been carefully reading this blog (I suspect that is very few by now), would understand that. Instead, most people view “moderate” as not being “radical” or “extreme” or “fundamentalist”. They will not view it as you do, as being somewhere on the continuum between a terrorist and a Liberal. Even if we apply a more political definition (as you have done) Rauf’s beliefs would more correctly be described as “conservative Islamic” rather than “moderate” since he accepts the whole concept of legal Shariya. Therefore when you say that Rauf is a moderate, people (not following this thread) could easily assume that Rauf does not support a system of law that is based on a literal exegesis of the Qur’an. nor view the harsh provisions of Sharia Law (amputations, oppressive treatment of women, harsh punishments for apostasy, blasphemy etc.)as being normative for today.

        8. As for reading and further study, the most important book by far is the Bible itself. Also it is imperative that people actually read the Qur’an and Hadiths for themselves. Much much more could be said on this. I would also refer everyone to the book list I gave back in the previous blog….especially the book by evangelical missionary statesment, Don Richardson, “The Secrets of the Koran”, as well as the book I’ve referred to often here, “Muslim Mafia, by Guabatz and Sperry. There are numerous excellent websites as well, such as:

        http://www.apostatesofislam.com;
        http://www.jihadwatch.org;
        http://www.faithfreedom.org/
        (and many many more)

        One of the best information sources on what the Qur’an actually teaches comes from the messages (in writing and on air) of Father Zakaria Boutros. Google his name and you will find how he is doing what the Christian church down throughout the ages has been afraid to do — take on the fundamental message in the Qur’an and the life of the “prophet” Muhammed, and hit Muslims head on, with “ruthless theological” vigour, with the teachings from their own texts. As a result, he has a 50 million price tag (from Bin Laden) on his head. You can find some information about him at

        http://sheikyermami.com/2009/01/30/father-zakariah-boutros-really-really-worries-muslims/

        Having worked in Muslim lands for many years, I know that God is at work there. Muslims are coming to Christ. Dreams, visions, and miracles are happening and increasing. The “impenetrable wall” of Islam is beginning to shake at its foundation. Like the Berlin wall, it is about to collapse. I think it is safe to say that we are on the verge of some “earth shattering” religious awakenings among the spiritual descendants of Ishmael. God has a huge purpose and plan for them, and it will be to bring honour to the Lamb who was slain.

        It would be an ironic state of affairs if, when God’s Spirit is finally poured out to Muslims worldwide, and His glory is revered from Mecca to Jakarta, evangelicals in America are found still clinging on desperately to the CFR supplied handlebars, riding shotgun for the Da’wa express.

        Ma’a salaam! Rubona ma’akum

        • John Stackhouse

          Those who have skipped all the intervening comments and happen to have read Brother Mel’s summary above can simply compare what he says I say to what I wrote in the two blog posts. Since I think he constantly misrepresents what I argue, and seems obviously to have quite different understandings than I do about what we owe each other as citizens in a pluralistic society, you can make up your own mind in just that easy a way.

          Thanks to all who have contributed. We have learned something about each other, to be sure. I trust we will continue to learn about Muslims (of various sorts), democracy, civility, pluralism, political realism and charity, and what Christianity does and doesn’t demand of Christians responding to the threats posed by Islamist terrorism, American foreign policies, North American bigotry and paranoia, and, yes, sentimental wishful thinking that does make us unnecessarily vulnerable. Lots to think about–even as I maintain that the basic issue HERE is, indeed, simple.

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