Vox Populi
A Letter to the Editor

Your "Mosque Madness" Diatribe
Monday, August 16, 2010

by Dennis P. Skea

Dennis P. Skea (dpskea at hotmail dot com) writes:

The murderous Islamic vermin who destroyed the World Trade Center want to build a trophy to that destruction on the site of the carnage, and you say we are intolerant? Are you a Muslim apologist? A fellow traveler? Or just a misguided youth?

Richard E. Berg-Andersson responds:

Hmmmmm... I'll take each of these questions in reverse order:

A "youth"? Hardly! I'm already in my mid-50s... "misguided"? Well, at least at times: but I don't honestly think any more- on average- than the average American.

A "fellow traveler"? Now, there's an "Old School" term I thought had already died out with the end of the Cold War some two decades ago!

A "Muslim apologist"? I've always thought that an apologist was someone who was defending and/or justifying their own beliefs and ideas, religion or philosophy... I am not a Muslim: it is, therefore, not my religion to either defend or justify and, thus, I can't possibly even be an apologist for Islam.

What I am is an apologist for my own ideas, as expressed in Commentaries for this website, including those I expressed in my most recent Commentary and what I am, therein, most defending- and, yes, justifying- is the right of Muslims, no less than anything else in this country, to freely exercise their religion as is not only protected, but also guaranteed, by the Constitution of the United States and, more to the point, the Constitution of the State of New York within which the proposed Islamic cultural center is to be located. As anyone who has read my many Commentaries for The Green Papers should well know: I most strongly support the Rights and Liberties protected (since they were not at all granted to us) by our Constitutions (plural here because one has Rights and Liberties under one's State Constitution as much, if not more, as under the Federal Constitution) and it would be altogether hypocritical for me to have taken a position other than the one I have most recently taken as regards the constitutional right of those who wish to construct the Lower Manhattan mosque to so construct it.

"Intolerant"? What, sir, is much more intolerant than saying that "murderous Islamic vermin who destroyed the World Trade Center want to build a trophy on the site of the carnage"? OK, I'll grant you: the intolerance of those who aided and abetted, planned and financed, and ultimately carried out the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 is infinitely more intolerant than any intolerance either you or I could possibly come up with in the course of this discussion. Nonetheless- and as now regards the first part of your 'vox Populi':

1. As far as I can determine, the "murderous Islamic vermin" (and I have absolutely no quarrel with this description per se, by the way) who actually carried out the 9/11 attacks against the World Trade Center, as well as on the Pentagon and aboard United Flight 93 which crashed in Pennsylvania, all died along with, sadly, all their innocent victims. Of those who aided and abetted, planned and financed the 9/11 attacks, they are either in custody and awaiting Justice (whatever that might be-- I'm here talking about the Justice of human, secular Law, by the way: not anything in the afterlife or anything of a religious or theological nature!) or are being sought by both Law Enforcement and/or the Military (where appropriate) in order to either be brought to that same Justice or, where necessary, "terminated with Extreme Prejudice"... but I have yet to see that people directly behind the 9/11 attacks are themselves behind this project in Lower Manhattan and, if any are, I have already pointed out- in my most recent Commentary- that, in such a case, their free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession and worship, without discrimination or preference under Article I, Section 3 of the New York State Constitution would be trumped by its- in such a case (but only such a case!)- being inconsistent with the peace or safety of this State (same section of the N.Y.S. Constitution)... thus, the people behind this project, absent clear evidence to the contrary, are not the same as "the murderous Islamic vermin who destroyed the World Trade Center" (unless, of course, you happen to believe that all Muslims, regardless, are- by the very practice of their religion and by very definition- "murderous Islamic vermin who destroyed the World Trade Center"... you are, of course, fully entitled (as an American with the same Rights and Liberties as I have) to hold an opinion that they, indeed, are... but it would certainly be a very intolerant opinion).

2. You refer to the proposed Islamic cultural center/mosque in Lower Manhattan as "a trophy to [the 9/11] destruction": I had deliberately avoided the issue of "provocation" (that is: the notion that the site of the project was purposely chosen to provoke or insult-- thereby, something of a "thumb in the eye" or, to use your words, "trophy") in my Commentary of 15 August for two reasons:

a.) I don't see any clear evidence of provocation per se: instead, I see this project as having originally been intended to be an attempt to allow Muslims- both immigrants to America as well as those born into the United States- to be more involved with 9/11 remembrance (unfortunately, Muslims [keep in mind that innocent Muslims- or, again, are you suggesting that all Muslims are "murderous Islamic vermin", thus not a single Muslim can ever be "innocent", regardless?- were also killed in the 9/11 attacks] have been rather marginalized when it comes to participation in many a 9/11 event over the years) by putting something close to 'Ground Zero' (most likely thinking that its being well outside of 'Ground Zero' proper- I will come back to this, by the way, in '3.' below- would not at all pose a problem) which could also serve Muslims living and/or working in the area as a place of worship, reflection and learning (and perhaps even allow non-Muslims who might wish to do so to visit and also learn something about Islam). Given the controversy that has since been engendered, this whole concept as I have outlined it herein may well have proven to be most misguided but it hardly suggests the erection of a "trophy"! (Then again, you are- in this- no less entitled to your opinion than heretofore... but, again, it would be a very intolerant opinion).

b.) "provocation" is ever in the eye of the beholder (whether the "beholder" be individual or family, [social, religious, ethnic, racial, political] group or community): thus, one person's action, not intended to be at all provocative, turns out to be- indeed- provocative to another... and then the argument becomes more one of "who's right about any such intended provocation?": the person who feels provoked or the person pleading that they never intended provocation in the first place? You are, of course, entitled to your opinion that the project is intentionally provocative (as I am entitled to mine that many opponents of the project- including Congressman Peter King- have been deliberately provocative against the Muslim Community) but *I* don't happen to agree that the Cordoba Institute has purposely been provocative... thus, I can't see how it is a "trophy to [the 9/11] destruction" (again, see 'a.)' above)...

note, by the way, that I have not considered your opinion that the proposed Islamic community center is a "trophy" per se- in other words, intended to provoke those with still raw feelings and emotions about 9/11 or insult their dead and injured loved ones- to be intolerant: because "provocation", again, is in the eye of the beholder. If you yourself feel so provoked, then you feel provoked-- simple as that!... *I*, however, don't at all feel so provoked.

Where your concept of the project being a "trophy" is intolerant is in your so connecting said concept to your earlier notion about the project being built- largely, where not solely- by "murderous Islamic vermin": for effectively lumping all Muslims- or, at least, those Muslims living and working in Lower Manhattan who might want to worship at this proposed Lower Manhattan mosque (what you call their "trophy") once it is built- into that category would be fairly considered to be intolerant (again: see '1.' above).

3. You refer to the proposed Lower Manhattan mosque as being located on the "site of the carnage": as I pointed out in my 15 August Commentary, the location is not actually on the site of the carnage-- it is a couple blocks away-- I know: I was just there, in front of the site, this past Saturday. The carnage of 9/11, on the other hand, took place in the World Trade Center proper: there the Twin Towers collapsed; there the outlying buildings of the complex burned furiously throughout the day; there- in the final moments of the active portions of that whole, terrible tableau of the date 11 September 2001- the original 7 WTC building (the most recent addition to the complex at the time) collapsed due to heavy damage from fire.

But 7 WTC was fairly quickly rebuilt (per the 5th Edition of the AIA Guide to New York City: "the first certifiably 'green' skyscraper in the City")... and yet no one protested... however, as regards the development of a site (that for the Lower Manhattan mosque) even further from 'Ground Zero' proper (that is: the World Trade Center complex itself-- the "site of the carnage") than the still relatively new 7 WTC, we have plenty of objection!

St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church was destroyed by falling debris on 11 September 2001: it is being rebuilt (though it has run into some recent "red tape"- not about the religion/denomination that seeks to so rebuild it but, rather, related to its proximity to the Deutsche Bank Building [being demolished, but ever so slowly, because of severe contamination (as well as logistical problems- not helped by a fatal fire back in 2007])... let me see: a religious institution to be located right across from the very footprint of the South Tower of the WTC (certainly closer to 'Ground Zero' than the proposed Islamic community center, one would have to say)... but nary a word of objection is heard!

I think I have just well demonstrated that a certain "discrimination or preference"- one in clear violation of the very words of Article I, Section 3 of the New York State Constitution- might be rather easily discerned here. Put another way: how can a church be permitted to be built right next to 'Ground Zero' but a mosque not permitted to be built a few blocks from 'Ground Zero' and this contradiction thereafter be reconciled with said constitutional provision? Simple: it can't be!

I will here repeat your original question: "The murderous Islamic vermin who destroyed the World Trade Center want to build a trophy to that destruction on the site of the carnage, and you say we are intolerant?"... to which I now answer (having already explained the reasons for my answer):

Yes, I would have to say the "we" of your question would be.

But, to be fair, the intolerance of, yes, those "murderous Islamic vermin" of 9/11 itself is, as I've already said, way beyond any either you or I might be here displaying.


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