By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Put It in Saudi Arabia

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...Image via Wikipedia
That's my personal view of where the 13 or 15-story Muslim center/mosque focused on inter-religious dialogue and proposed for construction near the site of the 9/11 Massacre in New York City (the World Trade Center) should be built. One N.Y. Times columnist agrees that it should  be built in Saudi Arabia:

Personally, if I had $100 million to build a mosque that promotes interfaith tolerance, I would not build it in Manhattan. I’d build it in Saudi Arabia or Pakistan. That is where 9/11 came from, and those are the countries that espouse the most puritanical version of Sunni Islam — a version that shows little tolerance not only for other religions but for other strands of Islam, particularly Shiite, Sufi and Ahmadiyya Islam. You can study Islam at virtually any American university, but you can’t even build a one-room church in Saudi Arabia.

Source link.

Yet, by the end of the column, he illogically retreats and says that it should be allowed to be built to prove (again) to the world that we welcome diversity in the United States. Scratch your head, and try to figure out what logical fallacy is being used. Many others have pointed out this ever-old, ever-new fallacy: "Submission will make bullies like us."  It never works on the playground, it never works in daily life, and it will certainly never work when dealing with the Middle East or with fanatics of any stripe or of any religion, whether Christian or Jewish or Muslim.

The world already knows that America is the premier place in the world for freedom, tolerance, and diversity. That is why large chunks of the world's population are eager to live here. If electing Barack Hussein Obama as president is not proof enough for some, then still trying to prove it to them is a vain enterprise.

What is going on here, in my personal view, is a great Muslim white-wash: let's try to overcome or mitigate the world-wide PR disaster of the 9/11 Massacre by making an architectural statement that Islam was not a contributing factor. First of all, the statement is not true: fanatical Islam was the sole cause of the massacre. Second, mere public relations is a dysfunctional response of denial to the need for radical self-reform and change. An alcoholic or drug user who has engaged in violence does not need to just put on a suit and tie and comb his hair. He needs to give up the poison and the addiction so that he does not repeat the crime and harm others again. The poison in this case is the evil insanity that one has an obligation to kill civilians in order to advance a religious cause.

The genuinely rational and apt response to the 9/11 Massacre would be for Saudi Arabia to build a prominent interdenominational Christian church along with a prominent Jewish synagogue in Saudi Arabia to show that it, as the center of the Islamic world, rejects the view of one religion as a "master race" destined by God to conquer the world. They need to make that statement. We don't. Let the bullies really change and not just change into a new suit to make a good impression. The opposite of the logical fallacy that "submission will make bullies like us" is the common sense truth that "you must relentlessly insist on real, honest change in order to get it"-- from anyone, of any or no religion. When the bully sees that you have lost your nerve to insist on real change, you will just get more and likely worse bullying. This moment is a time for the clarity of a Churchill and not the Hamlet-like paralysis of a Neville Chamberlain.

Update (8/8/10):

Here is an opinion piece from the mainstream Washington Post by a Muslim whose mother was murdered at Ground Zero and who does not want the mosque near Ground Zero: link.

Update (8/11/10):

As I read further on this controversy, it seems that the individuals sponsoring the proposed mosque appear to be individuals with good intentions. But good intentions are not enough. In the era of Communism, people living in the West who were fooled into cooperating with the totalitarian agenda of Communism were called "dupes" and "fellow-travelers." Many intellectuals were fooled by Communism for decades; some still are. Wishful thinking plays a large role in letting ourselves be manipulated by totalitarians, large or small. This situation may be what is developing in the West as well-intentioned individuals, both Muslim and non-Muslim, fail to grasp the central issue: the problem is not improving the image of Islam in the West (although I can understand why a Muslim living in the West would find that a very attractive project)--the paramount challenge is "to call out" the evil of radical Islam and name it for what it is. The root of the problem is not in New York City--it is thousands of miles away. The best PR ultimately derives from objective, internal change and transformation that precedes the PR.