More On The Mosque Two Blocks From Ground Zero

I’ve heard and read a lot of arguments about why it’s in bad taste for a mosque to be built right on top of two blocks away from Ground Zero, and about how it would be hurtful to the survivors of the people killed on that day if the mosque is built — even if we distinguish between the Sufis who want to build the mosque and the Sunnis who made the attack happen, because the Sufis and the Sunnis have common religious beliefs.

I’ve heard and read some arguments to the effect that if a mosque is built right on top of two blocks away from Ground Zero, the Muslims will have “won,” it would be a “statement” that Sharia law is coming to America, or it demonstrates “weakness” by America.

I’ve heard and read a lot of arguments about why it’s going to set interfaith relationships back for years if a mosque is built right on top of two blocks away from Ground Zero.  I’ve heard and read claims that mosques can be built elsewhere than right on top of two blocks away from Ground Zero, although I notice that people are trying to stop mosques from being built in places like Murfreesboro, Tennessee; Temecula, California; and Sheboygan, Wisconsin, too — and these are not places well-known to have been the sites of conflict between Islam and the United States.

I’ve heard and read some discussion about why the imam who would preside at the mosque to be built right on top of two blocks away from Ground Zero has said some questionable things about Islam and America, and about 9/11 (he’s also said some rather commendable things that seems worthy of support).  I’ve also heard and read a lot of speculation and fear about where the money to build a mosque right on top of two blocks away from Ground Zero is going to come from.

But what I haven’t read or heard, anywhere, is an argument about how, consistent with the United States Constitution, any of the above matters one tiny little bit.  The legal issue is: “Can the City, County, or State of New York, or the United States of America, prohibit the building of a mosque at this site?”  The closest thing I can get to an anti-mosque advocate addressing this issue is something like this comment:

I also find myself getting annoyed with pundits on the Libertarian right who are sanctimoniously hiding behind an absolute freedom of religion argument and refusing to acknowledge any other concerns or factors, sometimes to the point of accusing those of us opposed to the mosque of being bigots or knee-jerk Islamophobes. They also ignore the nature of Islam and what the mosque symbolizes: not just a place of worship, but also the dominance and superiority of Islam and sharia law. In a place where thousands were murdered in Islam’s name, that is unacceptable, and it is not protected by the 1st amendment.

Maybe this commenter isn’t a bigot or a knee-jerk Islamophobe. Now, there are plenty of bigots and knee-jerk Islamophobes out there objecting to the building of mosques (whether they be in Manhattan or Murfreesboro or Sheboygan or Temecula) but let’s apply the principle of charity here and look only at the argument made, not make unfounded presumptions about the motivation of the person making the argument.  (My doing so requires that the arguer cease using words like “sanctimonious” to describe those who, like me, claim the contrary result, by the way.) 

The substantive claim is that Islam is subversive to American values and law (“the nature of Islam,” “what the mosque symbolizes: …. the dominance and superiority of Islam and sharia law”).  This is a viewpoint-specific restriction on a First Amendment freedom — either of free speech or free exercise.  So the rule is, and can only be, “Would you also restrict Christianity in this way?”  Obviously not.  Now, one might ask, what Christians have engaged in acts of unprovoked mass terrorism, and are there any churches of the same religion as the terrorists located near the site of their terrible attack?  After all, we wouldn’t let, for instance, the LDS church build a site commemorating a brutal attack by Mormons on Native Americans, coincidentally also occurring on September 11, would we? 

America is full of sites of people motivated by religion who have done terrible things, and we don’t blame their coreligionists for the bad things people have done while claiming to act in the name of God, and if they God they were acting in the name of happens to be the Christian God, well, the religion itself seems to get a pass, where Islam does not.  And lest we claim that “Islam is a violent, cruel religion,” and back that up with citations from the Koran, let us not forget that the Christian Bible, too, has many cruel, violent passages — maybe more, depending on how you count them.

The question is not whether we as a people like Christianity or Islam more.  The question is, can the City, County, or State of New York, or the United States of America, prohibit the building of a mosque at this particular site?  The answer is “no.”  The Constitutional case is simple, open-and-shut, with the inevitable and predictable conclusion being that we have no choice but to allow and tolerate the mosque at this location.

Nothing I have said here would prohibit someone who thinks a mosque at this location would be a bad idea from engaging in peace protest outside the mosque once it is built, or its construction site while it is being built.  Nothing I have said here would prohibit someone who thinks a mosque at this location would be a bad idea from boycotting businesses owned by people who patronize the mosque, from refusing to work on the construction of the building, or encouraging people to refuse to work on the construction of the building.  Nothing I have said here would prohibit someone who thinks a mosque at this location would be a bad idea from trying to raise money of their own to buy the site (if the owners are willing to sell) or a site near it so as to build something they think would be more appropriate. 

Finally, nothing I have said here would prohibit someone who thinks a mosque at this location would be a bad idea from trying to persuade the owners of the site to go about pursuing their goals in a different way or at a different location.  Because nothing I have heard or read anywhere seems to be addressed to the owners of the property.  It has all been addressed to the general public or to some level of the government.  What we’re talking about here is the First Amendment.  The First Amendment gives everyone the power to try and persuade each other of the correctness of their point of view, and the government has to keep its hands off that sort of persuasion.  What bugs me most is the appeal — either explicit or implicit — to use the power of the government to stop American citizens from peacefully using their own property as they see fit.

Burt Likko

Pseudonymous Portlander. Homebrewer. Atheist. Recovering litigator. Recovering Republican. Recovering Catholic. Recovering divorcé. Recovering Former Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. House Likko's Words: Scite Verum. Colite Iusticia. Vivere Con Gaudium.


  1. The question still remains: is Islam truly or merely a "religion", or is it a political organization that shrouds itself in religious overtones?Much the same question can be laid of the Fundamentalist Mormon Sects, as well as the organization(s) that make up Scientology.What many are coming to realize is that Islam is not, and has never been, "merely" a religion. I have long ago stopped treating it as such, because to do so is simply dishonest.Much of the question is easily answered by looking at the codified law of the main organization of the various religions (we'll leave out the fringe kook cults for now).If you look at Jewish law, you find very clearly that beyond basic precepts found in our own law, they do not require non-Jews to follow their religious code. Indeed, the only two that really come up at all are the prohibition on murder (pretty darn universal) and a general sense that the society being lived in must establish a fair system of legal justice and administer such law honestly.Likewise, if one looks at Catholic law, or the legal codes of various Protestant groups (major Lutheran Synods, United Methodists, Anglican Communion, and so on) one finds that their religious legal codes are very careful not to step on the toes of government whenever possible.Even if we take the extent of the Amish, they obey local regulations as needed (such as putting "slow moving vehicle" reflectors on their horse-drawn buggies), negotiate with their locality regarding required attendance for children at local school, and stay within the same legal codes as the rest of us.On the other hand, the same cannot be said for the Fundamentalist Mormons, who make regular practice of forced child marriage, polygamy, and fraudulent documentation having their women claim to be "single mothers" and collecting public assistance checks (which they term "bleeding the beast"). For the Scientologists, their long line of crimes is particularly infamous, the number of nations in which they are banned for fraud or dishonesty numerous, and their practices (such as the "Fair Game", "Disconnect", and "R2-45" order) frighteningly illegal.I'll pause here to note that at least three times in recorded history and concerning at least 16 former Scientologists as well as possibly others (the group being notoriously secretive with their records), Scientology's heads have ordered an "R2-45", or assassination, on someone they considered an "enemy" of the group.Islamic Sharia law, unfortunately, falls squarely into the category of Fundamentalist Mormon or Scientology-level political behavior. There is also the matter of the doctrines of taqiyya and kitman, as well as the matter of the nasikh and mansukh (doctrine of abrogation) status of various verses in the Koran which renders much of the supposed "peaceful" passages which have probably been quoted at you null and void, given that the chronologically final chapter of the Koran – actually chapter 9 as the book is traditionally published, an effort of taqiyya in itself – is the bloodiest and the worst in terms of its calls for violence against nonbelievers, especially Christians and Jews.

  2. According to polls, 18 percent of the American public identifies with the "tea party" movement, and many more support it. A few people at Tea Party rallies have carried racist signs. Do you object to calling all tea partiers racist?The church of Scientology claims 8 million members, the majority of whom have only taken an introductory course. Do you think that people who've attended only one scientology class are supporters of the church's crimes?The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints claims 13.8 million members. Of these, the vast majority are not part of fundamentalist sects, do not engage in forced marriages or any of the other reprehensible practices you describe, and are generally very well-behaved citizens. Would you hold all Mormons accountable for the actions of a few rogue sects?Islam has 1.57 billion adherents – more than a hundred times as many Scientology or Mormonism. Unlike Scientology or Mormonism, it has no central organization, and its adherents are spread across many different countries and languages – some of which war with each other regularly. Yet you are perfectly comfortable ascribing the traits of radical Wahabbism onto all of them. I wonder why.

  3. Maxwell, I take issue with your deliberate distortions.Regarding the Tea Parties – who brought them into this? They are not, nor do they claim to be, a religion.Regarding the Cult of Scientology, it needs to be shut down. The criminal conduct of its core membership – setting aside its own fraud regarding membership numbers – as conducted by the Church hierarchy, Sea Org, various front groups including Narconon and "scientology business ministries", is ample to do so. Further, it is trivially proven that the claim of being a "religion" was a ridiculous dodge undertaken by L. Ron Hubbard only after he was sued for making false medical claims about his stupid e-meter device.Regarding the Mormons, there is a reason I distinguished between the main Mormon church – who have clearly altered their core tenets to be compatible with modern society – and the fundamentalists who practice forced child marriage, forced marriage, forced childbearing, polygamy, and fraud such as "bleeding the beast."

  4. As far as Islam, let's discuss the doctrines of "Nasikh" and "Mansukh" verses (Abrogating and Abrogated). The chronologically later chapters (not to be confused with those later by Chapter List) override the earlier-written, peaceful ones. Of the 114 chapters in the Koran, only 43 are not Abrogated in some manner or other. Without exception, the more peaceful verses are abrogated by later, bloodier ones. The worst is Sura 9, the chronologically latest chapter, which includes exhortations to bloodshed and slavery: [9:5] Once the Sacred Months are past, you may kill the idol worshipers when you encounter them, punish them, and resist every move they make. If they repent and observe the Contact Prayers (Salat) and give the obligatory charity (Zakat), you shall let them go. GOD is Forgiver, Most Merciful. [9:14] You shall fight them, for GOD will punish them at your hands, humiliate them, grant you victory over them, and cool the chests of the believers. [9:29] You shall fight back against those who do not believe in GOD, nor in the Last Day, nor do they prohibit what GOD and His messenger have prohibited, nor do they abide by the religion of truth – among those who received the scripture – until they pay the due tax, willingly or unwillingly. [9:30] The Jews said, "Ezra is the son of GOD," while the Christians said, "Jesus is the son of GOD!" These are blasphemies uttered by their mouths. They thus match the blasphemies of those who have disbelieved in the past. GOD condemns them. They have surely deviated. Islam also carries the doctrines of "taqiyya" and "kitman", the doctrines of holy deception of the unbelievers. One of the "tricks of the trade" is to quote peaceful, but abrogated, verses from the chronologically earlier chapters of the Koran and claim they are valid. One of the most famously misquoted is "2:256 There is no compulsion in religion, for the right way is clearly from the wrong way. Whoever therefore rejects the forces of evil and believes in God, he has taken hold of a support most unfailing, which shall never give way, for God is All Hearing and Knowing." This is misquoted in two ways. First, they leave out the majority of the verse: it is not a claim that nobody may be compelled to join Islam, but a strange statement that "no Muslim is compelled to be a Muslim." Secondly, even if it had said that nobody may be compelled to join the Islamic cult, it is abrogated at least a dozen times over by chronologically later verses – among them 9:73, 9:123, and 48:16.It should be noted that Muslim differences in sects come not from their interpretations of the Koran, but rather in which books of Hadith ("Things Mohammed Said") they believe are official. The Koran is deemed "official" as well as the doctrines above by EVERY major Islamic sect, and even the true wack-jobs like Nation of Islam (who believe that whites, latinos, and all but blacks and middle eastern asians were created by a mad scientist named Yakub).

  5. Mike, for a supposed lawyer – at least someone who talks like one – you seem remarkably ignorant of the law. The first amendment doesn't just guarantee freedom of religion, but also the freedom to peaceably assemble. It is as essential to Tea Partiers as it is to Muslims.All you've shown in your bizarre diatribe is that you want one of those groups to have first amendment rights, but not the other.

  6. Mike, if Islam is a political organization as you claim, then aren't the Cordoba House people engaged in political speech? Isn't it a political point of view, protected by the First Amendment, to urge the adoption of Sharia law? That doesn't mean it's a popular proposal or a good idea. But a statement that "The law ought to be 'x' instead of what it is right now" is inherently political speech, within the very core of what the First Amendment protects.

  7. Political speech is fine up until it crosses the line of being actively engaged in conspiracy to overthrow the US or to funnel money to terrorist groups.It is pretty clear that political Islam crossed that line a long time ago. Things like this come to mind. The ground zero mosque's founder having received much of his funding through Xenel Corporation, (previously having had many contracts dropped when its terrorist links became known), one of a number of transparent money-laundering operations set up by Dar al-Maal al-Islami that primarily funnel money to groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, and al Qaeda, is well documented. So too is the fact that is "American Society for Muslim Advancement" primarily funnels money to Muslim Brotherhood front group Islamic Society of North America through "paid speakers" like Yasir Qadhi.The first point is that as a political group, Islam is not a religion and should not be given the tax status of same (the same goes for Scientology, and the methods by which they have somehow retained this in the US when most other nations in the world have denied them said status are, shall we say, matters of debate). As a deliberate enemy group, the question of what they should be allowed to do – if anything – is open and valid.The second point is that given the ground zero mosque's funding ties to terrorist organizations, there is no way it should be allowed to proceed, period.

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