I would like to continue our conversation regarding The Ground Zero Mosque, Religious Freedom, and Interfaith Dialog with Islam. Earlier posts on this topic can be found here (Part One, Part Two, & Part Three).
Johan Bonny has written what I consider to be a very helpful article entitled “Christian Witness and Ecumenism in a Society with a Muslim Majority“. (HT Stephen Hand ~ Time Out of Joint) I especially appreciate how he deals with the issue of violence and how he refers folks to the life of Brother Charles de Foucauld. I encourage everyone to read the entire article, but here are some highlights for your reference.
Christian and ecumenical witness is first of all related to the heart of the Gospel, to the example and the commandment of Jesus Christ. How can Christians live and profess together the essence of Christian faith: this is the key question in any ecumenical reflection. This question, however, leads to a deeper one: what is then the essence, the very heart of Christian faith? What is the specific genius of Christianity among the three monotheistic religions, that has Abraham as their common father in faith: Judaism, Christianity and Islam?
…The dialogue between Christianity and Islam will certainly become a major challenge of the new millennium. No dialogue, however, has a chance, unless it is based on friendship and mutual trust. How can personal trust and friendship be improved, where Christians and Muslims are living together, day after day?
As The September 11 Anniversary Nears, A Review Of Al Qaeda's Little Reported-On War Against The Catholic Church
While most of the world mourns the nearly three thousand who were brutally murdered by Al Qaeda on September 11, 2001, many assume all of Al Qaeda attacks stem from a warped political motive. Most may not be aware that since the day of its inception many of Al Qaeda’s targets have involved the Catholic Church and her holy sites.
Less than one year before the September 11, 2001 attacks Al Qaeda was planning a spectacular Christmas attack at the large and historic Strasbourg Cathedral in France. While this attack was foiled, an attack on the Catholic cathedral in Jakarta, Indonesia was not thwarted, resulting in the deaths of several churchgoers and those on a nearby street.
Yet, five years before this brazen plan, an even more sinister plan was nearly carried out by the chief planner of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Khalid Sheik Muhammad, which he coordinated to coincide with the visit of Pope John Paul II to Manila for World Youth Day in January of 1995. The plan called for the pontiff to be killed along with countless of the faithful who was planning to see him in Manila that day. Incidentally, some speculate that the crowd that came to see the Polish pontiff that day was nearly the same size that came to see his funeral some ten years later. Some speculate it may have been the largest religious gathering at one place in our known history, some five to seven million strong.
The debate over the so-called Ground Zero mosque near the former site of the World Trade Center in New York has raised public interest in, and opposition to, other proposed or recently built mosques and Islamic centers throughout the country.
In areas where Muslim migration or immigration has been significant, some citizens have attempted to discourage construction of new mosques. Few come right out and cite the threat of terrorism; more often they seem to resort to time-honored NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) tactics such as creative interpretation of zoning ordinances, claims of decreased property values, or claims of real or potential problems with traffic, noise, etc.
Before I go any further, I want to make it clear that I understand the need to be vigilant regarding the potential for violent subversion, as well as the dangers of taking such a politically correct approach to militant Islam that people hesitate to report obvious suspicious activity for fear of being labeled bigots (as seems to have happened in the Fort Hood massacre case).
I’ve been trying to think of a good way to discuss a serious problem, which is the ongoing conflict between libertarians and conservatives in the United States over the proper response to the challenges as well as the threats posed by the Islamification of the West, which is well underway in Europe, has made inroads in Canada and Australia, and has not yet impacted the United States – at least until this ground-zero mosque controversy.
I follow the Campaign for Liberty’s updates on Facebook, and it is here that I witness some of the most troubling political conflict. There are many liberty-minded conservatives who follow C4L, who agree with its perspectives on many issues, but who become irate at the manner in which some C4L contributors address the issue of radical Islam (as well as illegal immigration, and the topics are not entirely unrelated). Conservatives are concerned, almost by definition, with cultural preservation and national security. Libertarians are quite naturally concerned with preserving liberty and treating everyone equally before the law. These concerns sometimes overlap, and sometimes diverge.
Though I agree with Ron Paul and other prominent libertarians on a number of issues, and even take their side on issues over which they typically disagree with conservatives, such as the war on drugs or even the “war on terror” – if by that is meant the occupation of foreign countries by American troops and the formation of an domestic police state – when it comes to the challenges posed to the West by radical Islam, many of them are, to use the most accurate and charitable word possible, naive.
I figure it’s time for me to finally put down in a sort of structured way what I think about this “ground zero mosque” controversy, beginning with the admission that I know it isn’t “only” a mosque, but a mosque is a part of what will hereafter be referred to as that “construction project.”
Next, I might simply wrap it up by saying I think that Charles Krauthammer, a man with whom I typically find little to agree with, is absolutely right in his assessment of the entire situation, while Ron Paul, a man with whom I typically find much to agree with, is almost entirely wrong in his own assessment, which makes repeated appeals to property rights.
Let me give you Krauthammer’s thesis, which is also a reply to this sort of argument, and which has been my own since the first day I heard about this:
No one disputes the right to build; the whole debate is about the propriety, the decency of doing so.
In my own readings and heated debates, the refrain I hear from the defenders of this construction project is the same as Obama’s: they have a right. What this argument boils down to is this: “we are doing this because we can, because you have no legal standing to stop us, and all of your complaints are irrelevant.”
Rank and File Conservatives & The Conservative Intelligentsia United In Outrage Over Mosque Near Ground Zero, Not So With Same-Sex Marriage
The proposed mosque set to be built near Ground Zero, site of the September 11, 2001 attacks has brought a sweeping condemnation from both rank and file conservatives and the Conservative Intelligentsia. Now that President Barack Obama has weighed in the matter, seemingly supporting the effort, one can only imagine how this will be used in the fall elections. However, a rift has appeared to have been opened concerning the views of the rank and file conservatives and the Conservative Intelligentsia following the ruling of Judge Vaughn Walker over same-sex marriage. Many of the conservative intelligentsia, along with the establishment wing of the Republican Party has either been silent or voiced the view that the wished the whole gay marriage issue would simply go away. This has led to bewilderment from some conservative voices.
The best Catholic tie in with the efforts to build a mosque on Ground Zero came from the famed conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, who is Jewish. In his opposition to the mosque being built near Ground Zero, he correctly pointed out that Pope John Paul II ordered Carmelite nuns, who were living right next to Auschwitz, to move closer to a nearby town, since the site had become a rallying point for Jewish identity. Krauthammer correctly pointed out that Christians had been murdered there too and the nuns were doing the heroic deed of praying for the souls of those who were viciously murdered. However, Krauthammer pointed out that the late Polish pontiff felt that it created the wrong perception.
One of the interesting (by which I mean dull, predictable and repetitive) aspects of the 24 hour news cycle is that all forms of media have incentives to magnify and actively seek out controversy. Not only does this increase ratings/page views/newspaper sales, it provides media outlets with something – anything in a slow news month – to talk about. I can’t help but feel that the recent outburst of commentary about the construction of a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks is the type of story designed to increase media consumption and accomplish little else. The First Amendment is not in dispute here; freedom of religion is well established and protected by settled case law. Furthermore, the proposed mosque is to be constructed on private property, and there is no legal reason to challenge its construction. And so most of the discussion revolves (and frequently devolves) around taste and symbolism.
This is a viral video sweeping the Internet by a group opposing the building of the Ground Zero Mosque.
The Muslims wanting to build the mosque have their reasons of putting on the face of a peaceful and moderate Islam, but the venue they have chosen couldn’t have been any worse.
The recent success of Geert Wilders and his Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands has caused European and, to a lesser extent, North American leftists a certain amount of discomfort, and a silently growing segment of the population a significant amount of joy. The Islamification of Europe through what the brilliant Mark Steyn has called “creeping sharia” has finally met its first formidable and successful political challenge – in spite of its long-standing threats and fatwas against the man of the hour.
I’ll be quite straight-forward about it; I’m with Geert, at least on the big issue he confronts. Those who label him as a racist, and his position as one of “hate”, are engaging in character assassination. A symposium at FrontPage Magazine addressed the Wilders phenomenon. One of the contributors, Roger L. Simon, stated:
I believe that consciously or unconsciously those who brand him as excessive, or even racist, are living in fear that he may be right. They have to hate Wilders, because if he is correct, their whole world disintegrates. Who would want that?
I don’t hate Muslims. Not wanting to be ruled by sharia law, be reduced to second-class status, have my freedoms curtailed, and watch my fellow female citizens be subjugated isn’t about hatred of Muslims, but love of Western and Christian civilization and those who inhabit it and benefit from it along with me. It isn’t a matter of indifference to me, and it shouldn’t be to you, whether or not Western or Islamic values prevail. What happens in Europe, moreover, may well happen here in the United States in the future, and will affect us in the present.
Most of us are aware of the Christian exodus from the Middle East where the fundamental problem is Muslim intolerance towards non-Muslims.
Father Samir hopes to change all of that.
In this interview with Father Samir Khalil Samir done by Mirko Testa of Zenit, Father Samir explains the possibility of learning form Lebanon’s coexistence between Christians and Muslims:
The coexistence of Christians and Muslims is good for civil society because their mutual questioning of the other’s faith acts as a stimulus and leads to deeper understanding, says a Jesuit priest who is an expert in Islamic studies.
This is the opinion of Father Samir Khalil Samir, an Islamic scholar and Catholic theologian born in Egypt and based in the Middle East for more than 20 years.
He teaches Catholic theology and Islamic studies at St. Joseph University in Beirut, is founder of the CEDRAC research institute and is author of many articles and books, including “111 Questions on Islam.”
ZENIT spoke with Father Samir regarding the June 21-22 meeting in Lebanon of the Oasis International Foundation, which seeks to promote mutual knowledge among Christians and Muslims.
ZENIT: Why was the subject of education placed at the center of the Oasis meeting this year?
Father Samir: The problem we are experiencing both in the Church as well as in Islam is that we are not always able to transmit the faith easily to the new generation and the generations to come. The question we ask ourselves is: In what way should we rethink the faith for young people, but also in parishes or in mosques, in the talks that religious address to their faithful?
This is what we want: to make a study of the Christian experience in Lebanon, and the Muslim Sunni experience and the Muslim Shiite experience in this ambit. We want to compare, to identify even if it is only the common difficulties, to seek together an answer to them. I think this has been the main objective of our meeting in face of a dialogue of cultures in the Christian and the Muslim faith.
ZENIT: What effect would the disappearance of the Churches of the Middle East have on the Christian and Muslim world?
Father Samir: The disappearance of the Churches of the Middle East would be, first of all, a loss for Christianity, because, as John Paul II said, the Church, as every human being, lives with two lungs: the Eastern and the Western. Now, the Eastern Churches were born here in the land of Jesus, in the territories of the Middle East, where Christ lived. And if this experience, these millennia of tradition are lost, then the loss will be for the whole Church, both of the Christians of the East as well as the Christians of the West.
However, there is more to this: if Christian leave the Middle East, in other words, if the Muslims remain alone, an element of stimulation will be lacking — represented, in fact, by that element of diversity that Christians can contribute. Diversity of faith, because Muslims ask us every day: How is it that you say that God is One and Triune? This is contradictory. And we say: How is it that you say that Mohammed is a prophet? What are, for you, the criteria of prophecy? Does Mohammed answer to these criteria? And what does it mean that the Quran is from God? In what sense do you say that it descended on Mohammed? We say that the Bible is divine, but mediated through human authors, whereas Muslims want to remove Mohammed’s mediation.
These questions that they ask us and that we ask are a stimulus, not only for civilization, but also for civil society. It would be a great loss because the risk exists of wishing to found a society, a state based on the sharia, that is, on something that was established in the seventh century in the region of the Arabian Peninsula, even if for Muslims the sharia is generic and true for all centuries and all cultures.
And this is Islam’s great problem: how can Islam be re-thought today? The absence of Christians would make the problem even more acute.
Fellow TAC cohort Donald posted an excellent column on President Obama’s attempt at reimagining NASA as a political experiment in Muslim outreach.
My personal opinion is that President Obama could care less about NASA for political reasons. The biggest one is that he is punishing Texas for voting Republican and many of his political contributors would love to increase their government budgets at the expense of those programs that doesn’t fit in their world view.
How ironic that Texas was the only state in the union that had a net increase in job creation. Many red states are faring better than the blue states in this economic recession. Though President Obama and his co-wealth distributionists continue to push for welfare-state programs that increases our national debt and fails to create any jobs in the private sector.
This past week brings news of yet another fracas involving Swedish cartoon artist Lars Vilks (CNN.com):
When Vilks entered a classroom where he was to deliver a lecture to about 250 people — all of whom had passed through a security checkpoint to gain admission — about five people started protesting loudly, Eronen said.
After Uppsala uniformed and non-uniformed police calmed the protesters, the lecture got under way at about 5:15 p.m. (11:15 a.m. ET), Eronen said.
But as Vilks was showing audiovisual material, 15 to 20 audience members became loud and tried to attack Vilks, he said.
As police stepped in, a commotion started and Vilks was taken to a nearby room; police used pepper spray and batons to fend off the protesters, Eronen said. Vilks did not return to the lecture. [Video footage of the event].
Last March, an American woman who called herself “Jihad Jane,” Colleen LaRose, was indicted in the United States for allegedly conspiring to support terrorists and kill Vilks.
In a 2007 interview with CNN he had drawn the cartoon of Mohammed with a dog’s body in order to take a stand.
“ “I don’t think it should not be a problem to insult a religion, because it should be possible to insult all religions in a democratic way, “ says Vilks from his home in rural Sweden.
“If you insult one, then you should insult the other ones.”
Vilks, who has been a controversial artist for more than three decades in Sweden, says his drawing was a calculated move, and he wanted it to elicit a reaction.
“That’s a way of expressing things. If you don’t like it, don’t look at it. And if you look at it, don’t take it too seriously. No harm done, really,” he says.
When it’s suggested that might prove an arrogant — if not insulting — way to engage Muslims, he is unrelenting, even defiant.
“No one actually loves the truth, but someone has to say it,” he says.
Vilks, a self-described atheist, points out he’s an equal opportunity offender who in the past sketched a depiction of Jesus as a pedophile.
For the past few years I have been taking my Catholic school students over to the nearby Mosque, as part of their World Religions research. It has gone well, everyone is on their best behavior, and it gives the students a chance to hear about Islam from devout Muslims, in their own place of worship. I also have visited the Mosque and Islamic community during the time of my run for public office to speak and dialogue about issues where we would find some common ground. It has all been a very positive experience, but there is one large elephant in the room that must be paid attention to.
Mark Steyn has a good post on National Review Online in regard to the Comedy Central appeasement of the jihadists that I referred to in this post here:
Meanwhile, Comedy Central — you know, the “hip,” “edgy” network with Jon Stewart, from whom “young” Americans under 53 supposedly get most of their news — just caved in to death threats. From a hateful 83-year-old widow who doesn’t like Obamacare? Why, no! It was a chap called Abu Talhah al Amrikee, who put up a video on the Internet explaining why a South Park episode with a rather tame Mohammed joke was likely to lead to the deaths of the show’s creators. Just to underline the point, he showed some pictures of Theo van Gogh, (the picture at the top of this post) the Dutch film director brutally murdered by (oh, my, talk about unfortunate coincidences) a fellow called Mohammed. Mr. al Amrikee helpfully explained that his video incitement of the murder of Matt Stone and Trey Parker wasn’t really “a threat but just the likely outcome.” All he was doing, he added, was “raising awareness” — you know, like folks do on Earth Day. On Earth Day, lame politicians dig a hole and stick a tree in it. But aggrieved Muslims dig a hole and stick a couple of comedy writers in it. Celebrate diversity!
Faced with this explicit threat of violence, what did Comedy Central do? Why, they folded like a Bedouin tent. They censored South Park, not only cutting all the references to Mohammed but, in an exquisitely postmodern touch, also removing the final speech about the need to stand up to intimidation.
Stone and Parker get what was at stake in the Danish-cartoons crisis and many other ostensibly footling concessions: Imperceptibly, incrementally, remorselessly, the free world is sending the message that it is happy to trade core liberties for the transitory security of a quiet life. That is a dangerous signal to give freedom’s enemies. So the South Park episode is an important cultural pushback.
Yet in the end, in a craven culture, even big Hollywood A-listers can’t get their message over. So the brave, transgressive comedy network was intimidated into caving in and censoring a speech about not being intimidated into caving in. That’s what I call “hip,” “edgy,” “cutting-edge” comedy: They’re so edgy they’re curled up in the fetal position, whimpering at the guy with the cutting edge, “Please. Behead me last. And don’t use the rusty scimitar where you have to saw away for 20 minutes to find the spinal column . . . “
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[Updates at the bottom of this post as of 4-25-2010 AD at 8:28pm Central time]
An internal U.K. government memo titled “Policy planning ahead of the Pope’s visit” have caused an uproar in Britain and which included the following suggestions:
- The launching of Papal-branded condoms.
- Blessing homosexual marriages.
- Opening an abortion ward.
There is more, but you get the picture.
The memo was distributed to key officials in Downing Street and Whitehall. Many recipients were not so pleased which eventually led to an investigation and finally to a public apology by the U.K. Foreign Office:
“The text was not cleared or shown to Ministers or senior officials before circulation. As soon as senior officials became aware of the document, it was withdrawn from circulation.”
“The individual responsible has been transferred to other duties. He has been told orally and in writing that this was a serious error of judgement and has accepted this view.”
“The Foreign Office very much regrets this incident and is deeply sorry for the offence which it has caused.”
I confess that I have never watched South Park. From what I have read about it, the show holds nothing sacred and has had cruel attacks on Christ and other religious figures. Some people have given it a thumbs up for not being politically correct. I guess the latter is true, because in an episode that aired Wednesday the South Park crew went after the ultimate sacred cow in today’s America, the founder of Islam, Mohammed.
Or rather they attempted to. Comedy Central, obviously caving to death threats from Islamic extremists, bleeped out the portions of the broadcast aimed at Mohammed:
Comedy Central bleeped out all references to the Prophet Muhammad in Wednesday night’s episode of the animated show “South Park.”
The episode was a continuation of last week’s episode which depicted the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit.
A radical Muslim website threatened the show’s creators following that episode.
Comedy Central confirmed to FoxNews.com that it had censored the show, and that the episode was not available on its website.