Taken at face value, this is not a conciliatory message. Taken seriously, it is an appeasement. However they intend it, this argument is presented by American politicians like New York Mayor Bloomberg, by American publications such as the New York Times, and by many other of our President's fellow travelers who cheered his momentary approval of the GZM.
Even so, thoughtful Americans feel conflicted about the Ground Zero Mosque. For them, there is a tension between the Founding principle: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof", and our knowledge that adherents of a particular religion attacked us because of their beliefs. We can be sure the 9/11 murderers died with their God's name on their lips.
- We recognize that interference in religious matters is tyranny.
- We don't want a 13 story mosque built where 3,000 people died at the hands of Muslims.
The Great Mosque of Cordoba, Spain, is a symbol of the golden age of Islam. It began as a Christian church, became a mosque upon the Muslim conquest of Spain, and is now a Catholic cathedral. The history of these conversions appears to be gradual and gentle, but that is not the point I think is being emphasized in the Manhattan naming: "The Cordoba Center." I fear the audience for this brand is outside the United States, and that they are inimical to the United States.
My disquiet is reinforced by comments made by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the GZM promoter, that "Islamic law and American democratic principles have many things in common," and by his advocacy of "plural jurisdiction" - meaning enclaves of sharia - in Great Britain.
And that brings us to this point: Islam is not merely a religion. It is a theocracy. Morality from the State clerics. Law from the State clerics. Practices of worship from the State clerics. Islam does not render unto Caesar. It IS Caesar.
It is a political and legal system driven by mysticism. Precisely the thing our First Amendment was intended to prevent.
If the mystical bit of Islam conformed to the understanding that a just government has neither the power to decree religious belief, nor the ability to enforce religious law, then I would find the GZM unobjectionable; but the melding of political imperative with religious zealotry must cause us to think again about tolerating the proposed insult. I repeat, a 13 story mosque on Ground Zero is not a reaching out.
Islam cannot be understood except as a theocratic state, with sharia as its law - given by clerics at their whim. Freely elected representatives are not part of the equation.
If Feisal Abdul Rauf wants to reach out, let him build a modest, apologetic structure - not a triumphalist one. I'm good if he names it the Atonement Center and limits it to 2 stories. That would show Imam Rauf gets the difference between the phrases "hallowed ground" and "the 9/11 debris field."
Alternately, he could start lobbying for a one room multi-faith prayer site in Mecca. THAT would really be reaching out.