Your read that right. While having an animated discussion at Pennsic I dropped that bombshell and things got quiet pretty fast. The people at the table, who were of differing opinions on the matter were both surprised that I would say such a thing. I am generally known as a free thinker with Liberal tendencies and such a proclamation raised eyebrows. But I said it and I stand by my personal opinion.
Make no mistake. The group involved here has every legal right to build their community center (which happens to have a Gym, an auditorium as well as a mosque). I do not contend that. When the project first came to the attention of our semi-retarded media the initial conservative backlash was immediate. The frothing rhetoric spoke of bans and interceding to stop such a travesty until it was pointed out that forbidding such a building flew in the face of the first amendment. After that the right-wing modified their bleating to state that while they could build the center, they shouldn't. It empowered fundamentalists. The Imam is a radical (a radical Bush himself appointed as a kind of good will ambassador, but whatever) The area is "Hallowed Ground", whatever that means. And most importantly; It would hurt the feelings of some of the victims. The last one is a strong possibility. It's a sensitive and emotional issue certainly. But that isn't why I don't support the project.
I am against this project because they are building a Mosque. I do not hate Mosques, or Muslims. I have stood in several beautiful Mosques in several countries. I think the Muezzins call to prayer is a delight to listen to as it echoes over the city. I count several Muslims as friends.
What I am against is the construction of another house of worship. A place where people go to listen to "Holy Men" tell them untruths about the origin of the world and mans place in it. Buildings where the social morays of a bronze age society of violent nomads are held up as unassailable, unquestionable law. A place where poorly translated gibberish is declared historical fact and the infallible word of violent, psychotic gods. A place where bigoted, xenophobic ramblings are declared unshakable moral codes for all to slavishly follow or risk eternal damnation.
It's not that I don't want a Mosque built near ground zero, I don't want ANY "holy" building built there. Not a church, or a synagogue or a Cathedral or a Scientology Center. Do you know what I'd like? A library. A place where anyone came freely enter without restriction or discrimination. A place where the guides help you to find answers without judgement or charging a tithe. A place where all questions are allowed. A place that has many answers but does not claim to have ALL the answers.
Or a book store. I'd be fine with a book store. How about a gym? Or a small garden? Anything but another place that turns out more groveling believers. According to a quick search there may be as many as 6507 houses of worship in NYC compared with about 860 libraries. Do we really need more churches?
The other boogeyman in the debate is the fear of what all "those people" will be up to "in there". Surely no good! I very much doubt that this mosque will be turning out radical wahhabists. In fact, I suspect that it will be the most well surveiled mosque in the entire US. Everything in that building will come under close scrutiny. Every email, every sermon, every phone call. There won't be a single prayer session where there aren't at least 4 or 5 undercover agents blending in with the group. It would be the single stupidest place in the world to start talking jihad.
Alas, no one is listening to me. Both sides are too busy screaming at each other. In the end, I suspect the community center will be built. And I am okay with that. Even though every Sept 11th I tend to crack at some point in my day. I'll be in the car or maybe at a show and I'll loose it for a short time. I pull over or find someplace quiet and break down for a bit. Some things haunt you. But I pull it together, and I've never let it control me. Never let it close my head or my heart.
This Mosque will likely impart the positive values shared by the majority of Muslims around the world. Just as most other houses or worship do. But it's still pushing religion. The belief in an all powerful invisible sky wizard.
If I have any faith it is that I truly believe we can solve many of our worlds problems ourselves. Without supernatural aid or distraction.That we can let go of the crutch of superstition. My greatest fear is that I and my beliefs are in the minority.