A strange way to promote ‘understanding’

By George Jonas, National Post

‘We have to let them build their mosque. But we don’t have to buy the project’s phony rationale’

The much-disputed mosque near Ground Zero has been described as a test of our commitment to liberty. With great respect to pundits on both sides of the issue, I think it is a test of our commitment to the wrong question.

The question isn’t whether people should be able to build whatever they like on their private properties. To this, the answer is a simple yes in a free society, subject only to the appropriate municipal zoning laws and building codes. Anyone who denies others this right because of religious or political sympathies needs a refresher course in the basics.

Except this isn’t the question to ask about the Cordoba Initiative.

Described in news reports as a non-profit organization whose stated goal is to promote cross-cultural understanding between Islam and the West, Cordoba Initiative spent US$4-million to purchase property two blocks from the one-time World Trade Centre in order to pull down an old building at the site and erect an US$100 million 13-storey Islamic cultural centre, including a mosque, in its place.

The question to ask is: Can any group genuinely believe that building a mosque two blocks from where jihadists pulverized 3,000 New Yorkers nine years ago will promote cross-cultural understanding between Islam and the West?

If the answer is yes (God knows, some people believe anything) the next question is: Having observed their New York neighbours’ actual reaction to their plan, do they believe it still?

The answer to this question can no longer be yes for anyone non-delusional with a measurable IQ. This leaves Cordoba Initiative with two choices. It can withdraw voluntarily, thereby demonstrating good faith, or continue building, thereby demonstrating that whatever it’s doing it for, it isn’t to promote understanding.

What is it for? Search me. Mischief? Subversion? Pushing the envelope? To rub salt into wounds, assert dominance, boost militant spirits?

Although human naïveté is boundless, the likelihood of an organization hoping to promote understanding through what others view as desecration is remote. Cordoba Initiative’s organizers may not themselves think of building an Islamic centre and mosque near Ground Zero as desecration, but it can’t escape their notice that many Americans do. This being so, the builders cannot be motivated by what they claim to be. On the contrary, their Cordoba Initiative must be a $100-million exercise in exacerbating tensions.

Who would want to spend $100-million to increase tensions between the Islamic world and the West? Those who intend to do so, presumably. It’s logical to assume that people intend the natural consequences of their acts. The law certainly makes this assumption.

So the question isn’t whether Ground Zero’s mosque-builders have a right to what they do, but is what they do right? The first is an obvious yes. The second, if you ask me, is a no.

Even if the Cordoba Initiative genuinely intended to alleviate rather than increase tensions, its supporters had to have noticed that they’re achieving the opposite. Far from promoting friendship, they’re likely to spend $100-million to promote enmity. There’s vocal opposition from relatives of 9/11 victims as well as from local Manhattan residents. This is the point at which reasonable people revise their plans.

The builders aren’t likely to be reasonable. Certain plans are too insensitive and provocative to proceed from anything but malice. Seeking to build a mosque and Islamic community centre two blocks from where the Twin Towers used to be “to promote understanding” can only be intended to add insult to injury.

If there’s good news, it’s that reality illuminates. A $100-millions Islamic centre two blocks from jihad’s killing fields dispels illusions.

Here’s today’s mail. “Hey, George, two questions. One, must they build a mosque in New York next door to Ground Zero? Two, must we let them?”

Yes and yes. An old fable illustrates why.

A sage on the riverbank rescues a scorpion that has fallen into the water. When the sage pulls it out, the scorpion twists to sting him and falls back into the river. The sage rescues it again, and the same thing happens.

The sage is about to rescue the drowning arthropod for the third time, when a disciple stops him. “Master,” he says, “teach me. Are you no wiser than the scorpion to keep making the same mistake over and over again?”

“A scorpion must sting because it’s a scorpion,” comes the reply. “I must save it, because I’m a sage. Nobody’s wiser than his nature.”

August 8, 2010 | Comments »

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