Friday, August 06, 2010

Short Thoughts: Prop 8, The Orthodox Statement on Gays, and Cordoba House

I haven't been blogging as much as I'd like, so I thought I'd throw out some quick thoughts on various current events:

Prop 8 Ruled Unconstitutional

Congratulations to California gays and lesbians, their children, and all who care about them! Congratulations to America for taking another step in the right direction. I wish this issue were over and done so millions of people could move on with their lives, but it's great to watch America continue to overcome the small-mindedness of social conservatives.

Statement of Principles

Some of the Jblogs and various news outlets are praising the Orthodox rabbis who signed a Statement of Principles on the Place of Jews with a Homosexual Orientation in Our Community for preaching a message of tolerance and inclusion and patting themselves on the back for being tolerant Orthodox Jews. While I agree it would be far better if Orthodox people followed these principles rather than continuing to shun, mock, and abuse gay people, I don't think you can be genuinely tolerant as long as you support Orthodox Judaism.

What good is it to preach tolerance when you maintain that God himself wrote that men who have sex with men should be killed? When you stand against not only gay sex, but gay marriage and even commitment ceremonies?

It's not enough to send mixed signals. You can't convince your gay son that you fully love and accept him if you also tell him he can never marry or even have sex. You can't convince the bullies that they should stop bullying gay teens into mental illness and suicide when you also teach that God thinks gay sex is an abomination worthy of death. You can't teach your children that gays and lesbians are people to be loved and accepted and also that halakha is a good thing. It just doesn't compute, not at a gut level, no matter how clever your apologetics are.

Looking down the list of signatories, I recognize some of the most liberal Orthodox rabbis in America, people whose natural inclination would be -- if they were not Orthodox -- to recognize and accept gays and lesbians as equals and embrace gay marriage as wholeheartedly as they do straight marriage. But they are Orthodox. And so we get half-measures and mixed signals.

If you're genuinely for tolerance, you cannot continue to support the tenets of Orthodox Judaism. The two are mutually exclusive. Still, something is better than nothing, and I commend the rabbis for going as far as they have to reduce harm. I hope it helps.

Cordoba House

Various Republicans including most famously Sarah Palin but also lesser luminaries like Rudoph Giuliani and demi-Republican Joe Lieberman have been ranting and raving about plans for a Muslim cultural center to be built several blocks from Ground Zero on the grounds that Muslims perpetrated the 9/11 attacks and therefore it's insensitive to allow the center to be built nearby. Or something.

They disgust me. They do not get what makes America great. They're small-minded and hateful and eager to exploit the average American's fear for political gain. They think the difference between America and (e.g.) Afghanistan is that we are (Judeo-) Christian and they are Muslim. It's not. There were Christian countries for centuries that engaged in slaughters much larger than 9/11. What makes America great is not that so many citizens are Christian or Jewish but that in spite of that religiosity, we are a pluralistic and tolerant country.

I have no illusions about Islam. Traditional Islam is without a doubt worse than Orthodox Judaism or any of today's mainstream Christian denominations. Worse for women, worse for gays, worse for nonbelievers, worse for intellectuals, worse even for the pious -- pretty much worse in every way. But it doesn't have to stay that way.

Ancient Judaism was much like modern Islam -- just open the Torah and you'll find exhortations to execute gay people and those who don't keep the Sabbath, condoning of child marriage and slavery and treating women as property -- pretty much everything we rightly revile Islam for today. And yet Judaism changed. The largest denomination of Judaism today allows for and encourages total equality between the sexes, full rights and tolerance for homosexuality, and total engagement with secular scholarship. Even the Orthodox holdouts have long since jettisoned the implementation of most of the Torah's horrible rules and mostly restrict their bigotry to words and social ostracization.

Christianity for centuries engaged in the kind of mass slaughter and forced conversion that the pathetic al-Qaeda could only dream of, and even they reformed. (I'm not speaking of Luther's Reformation -- Luther was probably as bigoted a man as ever existed -- but rather the reformation that occurred as Christians absorbed the secular ideas of modern humanism and modern science. The Catholic Church today can't even convince a majority of American Catholics to oppose legal abortion.)

The Cordoba House, rather than helping the likes of al-Qaeda, is instead part of the solution to al-Qaeda. We can't beat radical Islam by killing people. Every radical we kill has children and siblings and cousins and friends who now hate us more than they did before, if they did hate us before. Every civilian we kill or maim has loved ones who hate us perhaps even more passionately.

But every Muslim we welcome and influence for the better just by our example (not by Palin's or Lieberman's but by everyday Americans') takes a piece of Islam away from the fanatics and turns Islam into a less dangerous ideology. It demonstrates that modernity and Islam can coexist and that you don't have to hate America to be a good Muslim.

But that's not even the point. The point is, this is America. We're supposed to stand for freedom, regardless of religion or ideology. Palin, Giuliani, and Lieberman are a disgrace to the country they so ostentatiously claim to love.

36 comments:

jewish philosopher said...

Gay men should be beheaded.

Mecca should be nuked.

Enough said.

Jewish Atheist said...

I don't censor comments, but I will encourage people to ignore the troll.

jewish philosopher said...

Frankly, I think the word "troll" is a little bit over used, especially in reference to me. "Troll" does not mean "anyone who disagrees with me". It means specifically someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troll_(Internet)

I am posting on-topic comments with the intent of making people aware of my point of view, which is probably the reason comments are enabled on this blog.

According to Torah law, men who engage in anal sex with each should be put to death, following a trial, conviction and sentencing. And such a practice would actually save thousands of lives.

http://jewishphilosopher.blogspot.com/2006/11/anti-gay-pride.html

Regarding Muslims, my opinion is that there really is nothing wrong with them and I'm not against any mosques in the United States or elsewhere. What concerns me is that that Muslims (actual believing, active, practicing Muslims) have, over the past 40 years or so, begun to believe that attacking non-Muslims is a very good thing to do. This is a very unfortunate error and the only way to correct this error is seemingly to kill Muslims on such a massive scale that it dawns on them that violence is not a good thing.

Germany and Japan in the 1930's and early 1940's were extremely belligerent and caused massive damage to other nationalities. Since 1945, both have been models of passiveness. The change was brought about by bombing them into the ground with no mercy.

By the same token, if on 9/12/2001 we had destroyed Mecca and Medina, followed by a threat to kill 1000 Muslims in reprisal for every American killed by Muslims, I think we would have seen Islamic attacks quickly fizzle. People will get it. The Nazis and Japanese did. I love my Toyota Prius. Muslims would get it too. Kill people and you die. Simple.

Instead, we have ended up causing the deaths of about a million Iraqis while accomplishing nothing. That's a disgusting genocide, besides the 4,000 Americans killed there.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Iraq_War

Now this is off topic, however I also support a death penalty for Bush.

http://www.prosecutionofbush.com/

Suzanne said...

I enjoyed reading your latest blog. I agree that left-wing orthodoxy can only go so far in promoting tolerance. As much as they would like to be more accepting, there is a ball and chain around their leg, namely the assumption of TMS. I have had a similar skepticism about the "feminist" and orthodoxy movement, since it's inception about 10 or so years ago. It's definitely made headway, but how far can it really go?

Random said...

Not too surprised to see your response to the Prop 8 judgement, though I have to say I’m somewhat disappointed by it. Are you not prepared to admit to even the smallest amount of queasiness as to how this happened? Proposition 8 after all was a referendum passed by a clear majority of voters in California which has now been annulled because the losing side in that referendum managed to find one judge who didn’t like it. Furthermore, it was a constitutional amendment, which is supposed to be immune to this sort of judicial activism (yes I know, the activists sued for a violation of the federal constitution which outranks state constitutions in these circumstances. Although how even a liberal activist can assert with a straight face that those guys in the 18thC had this in mind when they wrote the federal constitution beats me.).

Are you really going to celebrate so unreservedly this sort of “ends justifies the means” contempt for basic democratic principles? (One interesting side effect of this has been that a parallel effort by another gay rights group to gather enough signatures to put a repeal of Prop 8 on the ballot has now probably been short circuited). Will you be so jubilant when a conservative judge feels emboldened to strike down something you hold dear which has a substantial measure of popular support (and it may happen sooner than you think – this thing is probably going all the way to the Supreme Court now, which as presently constituted is unlikely to pass it)? Or is it only your side of the argument that has the right to behave in this manner?

“William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Sir Thomas More: Yes! What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?

William Roper: Yes, I'd cut down every law in England to do that!

Sir Thomas More: Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned 'round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws, from coast to coast, Man's laws, not God's! And if you cut them down, and you're just the man to do it, do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake!” (“A man for all seasons”)

random said...

“Christianity for centuries engaged in the kind of mass slaughter and forced conversion that the pathetic al-Qaeda could only dream of, and even they reformed.”

I’m an Anglo-Catholic Anglican, Sarah Palin is a pentecostalist. I would be grateful if you could fill me in on the “kind of mass slaughter and forced conversion” our traditions are responsible for that deny us the right to express distaste at the idea of somebody who has claimed America shares the blame for 9/11 and refuses to denounce Hamas as a terrorist organisation building a centre named after a symbol of muslim rule over non-muslims within shouting distance of ground zero. Seriously, as a Jew and therefore somebody who’s people have been on the wrong end of this sort of logic all too many times, are you really serious about giving legitimacy to this sort of “sins of their fathers” stuff?

And incidentally it’s worth pointing out that most of the luminaries you denounce are expressing distaste at the idea and calling on the people behind it to find another site – New York is a big city after all, there’s no reason this place *has* to be two blocks from Ground Zero – and have repeatedly stated that they would have no objections if it were located elsewhere. They are not as far as I can see calling for it to banned in all places and in all circumstances. “Please, think again about the pain you are causing, even if that is not your intent” does not seem to me to be an intrinsically unreasonable or bigoted attitude to take.

Incidentally, it seems to me that the more appropriate analogy to the Cordoba centre is not to rant vaguely about theAlbigensian Crusade or the expulsions from Spain but to examine what happened when a group of Carmelite nuns back in the late 1980’s attempted to found a convent in Auschwitz to pray for the souls of the dead there. Jewish groups protested this, saying that they didn’t dispute the motives of the nuns but Auschwitz just wasn’t the right place. The Vatican listened to the protests, agreed and the nuns were moved out in 1993. If you are going to condemn Christians as an undifferentiated group for protesting about the Cordoba centre you could at least acknowledge that they are not asking anything more of others than they are prepared to do themselves in similar circumstances.

random said...

“but rather the reformation that occurred as Christians absorbed the secular ideas of modern humanism and modern science.”

“Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” is a teaching of Jesus Christ himself found in the oldest documents of the Christian faith. It owes absolutely nothing to modern humanism. Modern humanism owes rather more to traditional Christian thought and teaching than the reverse – if nothing else, it seems fairly self evident that the early humanists would have found far less freedom and support to develop their ideas in any contemporary non-Christian milieu (there is a reason why there is no Saudi equivalent of David Hume or Thomas Jefferson). Incidentally, there is no equivalent of “render unto Caesar” in the Koran or any other Islamic text.

“It demonstrates that modernity and Islam can coexist”

Up until about 10 years ago, I never saw a burkha in public and if anybody had mentioned the thing to me I would have dismissed it as a mediaeval irrelevance. These days in the streets of a city in a modern, secular country that was at the heart of the Enlightenment it is rare that I can go out and not see several in the course of a single day. We also hear –in Britain, remember – that female circumcision is on the rise and converts from Islam have to go into hiding for fear that they will be hunted down and killed. One doesn’t have to agree with JP’s mad ravings to hold the view that your assertion is at best unproven and dangerously na├»ve. In the real world when modernity and Islam clash, more often than not it’s the case that modernity gives ground, not Islam.

To make it absolutely clear, I do not believe that the Cordoba Centre should be prevented from going ahead and accept fully that they have the right to build it and that their right to do so should be protected. I do believe however that they should show at least as much genuine tolerance and respect for those who disagree with them and who have been pained by this as the Catholic Church showed in the case of the Auschwitz convent and build it somewhere else.

(PS sorry about the multiple posts above - blogger kept telling me I'd failed the word verficiation and had to re-submit. If you can delete the surplus I'd be very grateful.)

Jewish Atheist said...

Suzanne,

Yes, I have the same thoughts. Okay, highly-controversial "rabbah" and kabbalat shabbos, now what?


Random,

Proposition 8 after all was a referendum passed by a clear majority of voters in California which has now been annulled because the losing side in that referendum managed to find one judge who didn’t like it.

This is America, not a pure, anything-goes democracy. Mob rule doesn't cut it when a majority of people are voting to take away the rights of a minority.

Although how even a liberal activist can assert with a straight face that those guys in the 18thC had this in mind when they wrote the federal constitution beats me.

We don't assert that, just as we don't assert that "those guys" thought of women or African-Americans as full citizens. Somehow "those guys" managed to write a constitution and several amendments that transcended their own bigotry.

Will you be so jubilant when a conservative judge feels emboldened to strike down something you hold dear which has a substantial measure of popular support

Popular support should not allow this kind of blatant discrimination for no good reason.

“William Roper: So, now you give the Devil the benefit of law!

Roper was arguing for your side here.

I would be grateful if you could fill me in on the “kind of mass slaughter and forced conversion” our traditions are responsible for

Are the people behind Cordoba House Wahabbists like the hijackers? No, they're sufis! -- just as you and Palin are not Catholics. You expect us to make distinctions for you and not them?

are you really serious about giving legitimacy to this sort of “sins of their fathers” stuff?

You couldn't have missed my point more. My point is that we shouldn't blame people for the sins of their fathers or coreligionists.

“Please, think again about the pain you are causing, even if that is not your intent” does not seem to me to be an intrinsically unreasonable or bigoted attitude to take.

How far does this go? If your brother was murdered by a black guy, does that mean that no black cultural centers can open up within a 5-block radius of your house?

Jewish Atheist said...

Carmelite nuns back in the late 1980’s attempted to found a convent in Auschwitz to pray for the souls of the dead there.

This isn't the ground zero memorial center. Two blocks in Manhattan is like 20 miles somewhere else. Do you know how many people and offices there are there?!

“Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s” is a teaching of Jesus Christ himself found in the oldest documents of the Christian faith.

Tell it to your fellow Republicans.

Modern humanism owes rather more to traditional Christian thought and teaching than the reverse

I agree with that, although modern American lay-Christians probably owe more to secular humanism than they realize. Their attitudes towards women, non-Christians and gays are a lot different than traditional Christian thought. Obviously, I'm talking more about the liberals than the Mel Gibsons and Pat Robertsons.

Incidentally, there is no equivalent of “render unto Caesar” in the Koran or any other Islamic text.

Seems like this isn't a problem for the overwhelming majority of American Muslims, so aren't you being unfair? There's no equivalent of "don't marry 12 year olds" in Christian or Jewish texts that I'm aware of -- it doesn't mean we need to fear that churches or synagogues imply a wave of child marriages is coming.

Up until about 10 years ago, I never saw a burkha in public and if anybody had mentioned the thing to me I would have dismissed it as a mediaeval irrelevance.

I don't see how your provincialism is relevant. :-) Those people were wearing burqas before, just not in your city. I'd rather them wear burqas, live in your city, and be exposed to modernity than to stay where they came from and remain ignorant.

We also hear –in Britain, remember – that female circumcision is on the rise and converts from Islam have to go into hiding for fear that they will be hunted down and killed.

And moving Cordoba House 100 miles away would do what for this?

I do believe however that they should show at least as much genuine tolerance and respect for those who disagree with them and who have been pained by this as the Catholic Church showed in the case of the Auschwitz convent and build it somewhere else.

Have you looked at a map of the plans, honestly? This is not at Ground Zero.

Jewish Atheist said...

My point is that we shouldn't blame people for the sins of their fathers or coreligionists.

Let me walk that back a little. Blame is sometimes fair, when they're complicit. What we shouldn't do is discriminate against them illegally.

Jr said...

"Jewish groups protested this, saying that they didn’t dispute the motives of the nuns but Auschwitz just wasn’t the right place."

Presumably Jewish groups would have objected if the I tried to build a casino, convenience store or bank building there as well since this would detract from the character of the place.

I do not know exactly what type of buildings lie near the proposed mosque but I am pretty sure they are not all devoted to commemorating the 9/11 catastrophe.(Probably they are normal commercial buildings.)

People only have a problem with Muslim buildings which is bigotry,and frankly likely counter-productive if you are worried about radical Islam.

jewish philosopher said...

Tonight is the beginning of holy month of Elul.

I request all Jewish skeptics and atheists to please refrain from ingesting cocaine and hiring prostitutes in respect of this sacred month.

The No Hos and No Blow 2010 Campaign has begun!

Random said...

"This is America, not a pure, anything-goes democracy. Mob rule doesn't cut it when a majority of people are voting to take away the rights of a minority."

Good old fashioned liberal elitism then. Seriously, setting precedents for annulling polls just because you don't like the result really isn't a road you should be going down. Haven't you heard the old cliche about what the road to Hell is paved with?

You know from previous discussions I try to be pragmatic about this. However I do find this sort of process, and especially the unrestrained celebration of it, distasteful. A bit more of "I'm glad this happened, but I wish it hadn't happened this way" and a bit less "Har! Har! Take that, cavemen!" Would do wonders for both reasoned debate and public acceptance.

"We don't assert that, just as we don't assert that "those guys" thought of women or African-Americans as full citizens."

Erm, that's pretty much exactly what you do assert when you claim to find such rights. Unless you're just saying the constitution has no objective meaning and only means exactly what you want it to mean. Oh, and it took further amendments to grant African Americans and women full citizenship (the 15th and 19th respectively), it wasn't just assumed to have already existed. By your own logic, gay marriage should require a further constitutional amendment (good luck with that).

One other thought - the constitution says a great deal about citizenship, but not a word about marriage. It does however say that those issues where authority is not granted by the constitution to the United States is reserved to the several states. I am not a liberal activist, but it seems to me obvious that this means the states regulate marriage, not the federal courts.

"Popular support should not allow this kind of blatant discrimination for no good reason."

And who gets to define what a "good reason" is? It won't always be you, you know. Do you see the problem with this sort of argument?

"Are the people behind Cordoba House Wahabbists like the hijackers? No, they're sufis!"

I'd like a cite for this, because as far as I can tell nobody knows quite who or what they are, which is one of the causes of concern. To take one problem, the Cordoba Initiative is a group with $20,000 dollars in assets and which managed to raise a grand total of $100,000 in their first five years. And yet now they can suddenly afford a $100 million dollar building project? And they refuse point blank to explain where they got the money (it's "insulting" to ask, apparently). It doesn't help that the guy who runs the initiative has been contradicting himself - in English language interviews he said he would be raising funds from the local muslim community, in Arabic language ones he's been saying he would raise funds from Muslim nations as well. Usually when this sort of thing happens anywhere in the world you'll find Saudi money is behind it - so yes, Wahhabis like the hijackers. One other thought - the building was bought for the Cordoba initiative by a company run by the nephew of the secretary general of the Arab League. I don't know what variety of muslim he's likely to be, but given that Sufis are barely more popular in the Middle east than Jews I doubt he's one.

"You couldn't have missed my point more. My point is that we shouldn't blame people for the sins of their fathers or coreligionists."

Nobody's blaming anybody for anything. They're saying that, like the Carmelite nuns, they should recognise that what was intended as a focus of healing and unity has become instead a focus of pain and division and move it elsewhere.

Random said...

"Tell it to your fellow Republicans."

Erm, I'm British. And a Monarchist. I really don't know that many republicans...

"Seems like this isn't a problem for the overwhelming majority of American Muslims, so aren't you being unfair?"

The US has indeed done a much better job of assimilating muslim immigrants than most other western societies. Why I don't know, though somewhat ironically for your POV the greater religiosity of American society as a whole may have something to do with it (checking up on this I found a great quote - "When I go out to Bush Country," says Eboo Patel of Chicago's Interfaith Youth Core, "it is true that, for some people, the way I pray is peculiar. But they don't think I'm hallucinating when I say, 'It's prayer time.'"). This doesn't mean you should be complacent when it looks like integration is failing, however.


"There's no equivalent of "don't marry 12 year olds" in Christian or Jewish texts that I'm aware of "

Actually, there is. There's a parable in Ezekiel where God is comparing Israel to a beautiful woman. The key bit for this discussion is Chapter 16, verse 7 -
"you grew up and became the most beautiful of jewels. Your breasts were formed and your hair grew, you who were naked and bare. Later I passed by, and when I looked at you and saw you were old enough for love, I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness."

"old enough for love" in this context is usually interpreted as meaning that sex (and therefore marriage) is only permissible with somebody who has completed their journey through puberty. 12 year olds are out, in other words.

"I don't see how your provincialism is relevant. :-)"

I was living in London at the time, quite possibly the most multicultural city in the world.

"Those people were wearing burqas before, just not in your city."

That's rather my point. Such mediaeval practices are spreading in the face of modernity, not retreating, as your theory would have it.

"I'd rather them wear burqas, live in your city, and be exposed to modernity than to stay where they came from and remain ignorant."

Actually, burkhas and such like are rather more common amongst second and third generation descendants of immigrants than the immigrants themselves. They haven't come from anywhere. They have experienced modernity and don't think much of it.

"And moving Cordoba House 100 miles away would do what for this?"

Moving it by force? Not much. (Though if you think the radicals will be the slightest bit impressed by the multiculturalism displayed then you're also being delusional. They're rather more likely to see it as planting their flag on the site of Islam's greatest victory over the Great Satan.) Moving it voluntarily however will do a great deal of good.

"Have you looked at a map of the plans, honestly? This is not at Ground Zero."

Honestly, I have. This one, for example -

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:World_Trade_Center,_NY_-_2001-09-11_-_Debris_Impact_Areas.svg

Note that the site of the Cordoba Centre is only 600 feet away from the WTC and was close enough to be severly damaged by falling debris (it's one of the two sites in the bottom right hand corner). It is not totally unconnected with Ground Zero or 9/11.

Jewish Atheist said...

Good old fashioned liberal elitism then. Seriously, setting precedents for annulling polls just because you don't like the result really isn't a road you should be going down.

WTF? Surely you're aware of the difference between a mob-rules democracy and a democracy in which people have rights that are uninfringeable by the majority? The U.S. is (in theory and sometimes in practice) the latter. It's not a "liberal elite" thing except insofar as you would call the founders liberal elites.

If 90% of Americans voted that Islam cannot be practiced in America and 5 Supreme Court Justices voted that it can, then it can. Same with gay marriage.

Oh, and it took further amendments to grant African Americans and women full citizenship (the 15th and 19th respectively), it wasn't just assumed to have already existed

I'd argue that we shouldn't have needed Amendments for that.

One other thought - the constitution says a great deal about citizenship, but not a word about marriage.

No, but it says a lot about equal protection and due process, etc. See Loving v. Virginia.

I am not a liberal activist, but it seems to me obvious that this means the states regulate marriage, not the federal courts.

This is true, but the states cannot violate the federal constitution either. And the federal constitution insists on equal protection, etc.

And who gets to define what a "good reason" is?

The Courts! They specifically made rulings based on whether the reasons behind banning intermarriage were sufficient to go against equal protection and due process in Loving. (The answer was no.)

Jewish Atheist said...

(cont.)


I'd like a cite for this, because as far as I can tell nobody knows quite who or what they are, which is one of the causes of concern.

Just google "cordoba sufi." Here's a TIME profile of the leader.

Get this:

The Kuwaiti-born Rauf, 52, is the imam of a mosque in New York City's Tribeca district, has written extensively on Islam and its place in modern society and often argues that American democracy is the embodiment of Islam's ideal society. (One of his books is titled What's Right with Islam Is What's Right with America.) He is a contributor to the Washington Post's On Faith blog, and the stated aim of his organization, the Cordoba Initiative, is "to achieve a tipping point in Muslim-West relations within the next decade, steering the world back to the course of mutual recognition and respect and away from heightened tensions." His Indian-born wife is an architect and a recipient of the Interfaith Center Award for Promoting Peace and Interfaith Understanding.

I mean, seriously.

They're saying that, like the Carmelite nuns, they should recognise that what was intended as a focus of healing and unity has become instead a focus of pain and division and move it elsewhere.

I don't agree that it's a focus of pain and division. I think people like Palin and Giuliani are seizing on it and creating an issue out of nothing. Note that local boards approved it unanimously before Palin swept in to complain on behalf of Manhattanites. (Come on.)

Erm, I'm British. And a Monarchist. I really don't know that many republicans...

Sorry, I forget. :-) (A Monarchist? Really?)

The US has indeed done a much better job of assimilating muslim immigrants than most other western societies. Why I don't know,

I assert that it's exactly because we'd allow a Muslim cultural center to be built two blocks from Ground Zero. It's because we treat people as individuals rather than as instantiations of a race or religion.

Actually, there is. There's a parable in Ezekiel where God is comparing Israel to a beautiful woman.

Okay, 14 years old. So much better?

That's rather my point. Such mediaeval practices are spreading in the face of modernity, not retreating, as your theory would have it.

I think it's true that fundamentalism increases in response to modernity, but the majority of people in a religion are not fundamentalists, and they become more assimilated.

So there will remain a core of crazies, but the religion as a whole will become more in line with modern values. Just like Judaism and Christianity.

random said...

"I mean, seriously."

I mean seriously, where's the money coming from for an organisation with $20K in assets to build a $100m facility? He sounds like a nice guy and all, but who's funding him and why won't he tell us?

"I don't agree that it's a focus of pain and division. I think people like Palin and Giuliani are seizing on it and creating an issue out of nothing."

Just because you're not feeling pained and divided doesn't mean nobody else is. Go the wikipedia article and you'll find plenty of quotes from 9/11 survivors, New York firemen and even genuinely moderate and constructive muslims who are opposed to this project. It ain't all Palin.

look - to repeat, I'm not saying they shouldn't be allowed to build it. They clearly have every right to do so. I'm just saying that if they meant what they say about using it as a place of healing and coming together they'd move it to a less sensitive location (coming clean about their funding and backers wouldn't hurt either, mind).

"(A Monarchist? Really?)"

Yep, really. Amongst other things, keeping the top job in politics (Head of State) out of the hands of politicians keeps them (relatively) humble and ensures that the HoS is a unifying rather than a divisive figure.

"It's because we treat people as individuals rather than as instantiations of a race or religion."

Is "instantiations" even a word? Okay then if you really believe that, a quick question - Affirmative Action, for or against?

"Okay, 14 years old. So much better?"

The Bible doesn't give an age, it says when puberty has completed. i.e When the individual is biologically an adult. As a fan of evolution, I thought you would understand the logic of this. Incidentally, if Wikipedia is to be believed this is still a fairly good approximation today, as the vast majority of countries have an age of consent in the 13-16 age range.

"So there will remain a core of crazies, but the religion as a whole will become more in line with modern values. Just like Judaism and Christianity."

It's a nice theory, but the evidence so far does not seem to support it. Bluntly, I think it's likely you'll have to wait for Saudi Arabia to run out of oil money before this happens. By which point we'll probably have other things to worry about.

Jewish Atheist said...

I mean seriously, where's the money coming from for an organisation with $20K in assets to build a $100m facility

Come on, this is a separate issue. If the funding is EVIL MONEY then it doesn't matter where the thing is, right? I don't know anything about the funding issue.

I mean seriously, where's the money coming from for an organisation with $20K in assets to build a $100m facility

Well, yes, obviously *some* people are pained. Some people are pained with blacks move into their neighborhood, too. But at the local level, the imam apparently worked with Jews and Christians and got all the locals onboard before Palin et al swept in out of nowhere to make a big stink.

I'm just saying that if they meant what they say about using it as a place of healing and coming together they'd move it to a less sensitive location

I just honestly don't understand how two blocks from Ground Zero can be called "a sensitive location." How does that make any sense? Does it emit smells or noises that can be heard by visitors to Ground Zero? Can they just sense it? Why would it be better a mile uptown?

Is "instantiations" even a word?

Sorry, computer science jargon. :-)

The Bible doesn't give an age, it says when puberty has completed.

Right, exactly. My point is NOW American Christians and Jews think it's wrong to marry 14 year olds. Their views changed because society changed. Therefore, if Muslims join our society, their views too will change to reflect our society's rather than the plain meaning of their texts. So your point about there being no "Render unto Ceasar" in Islam is a bad one. There doesn't need to be one, just as there doesn't need to be a "Don't marry 14 year olds" in Christianity for American Christians to get the picture.

It's a nice theory, but the evidence so far does not seem to support it.

You don't see a different between American Islam and Saudi Islam? I'm not saying that Saudi Islam will necessarily change a great deal, but American Islam will (and does) show a LOT of American influence.

Jewish Atheist said...

Check out this article:

A two-year study by a group of academics on American Muslims and terrorism concluded that contemporary mosques are actually a deterrent to the spread of militant Islam and terrorism. The study was conducted by professors with Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy and the University of North Carolina. It disclosed that many mosque leaders had put significant effort into countering extremism by building youth programs, sponsoring antiviolence forums and scrutinizing teachers and texts.

Radicalization of alienated Muslim youths is a real threat, Mr. Bagby said. “But the youth we worry about,” he said, “are not the youth that come to the mosque.”

Random said...

"If the funding is EVIL MONEY then it doesn't matter where the thing is, right?"

The funding issue came up because of your specific assertion that there was no Wahhabi connection to the project. If they're paying for it (and we don't know they aren't, because nobody will tell us if they are but the Saudis have a track record as long as your arm in funding this sort of overseas project) then that is an obvious and strong connection.

"and got all the locals onboard before Palin et al swept in out of nowhere to make a big stink."

Are you seriously suggesting all the survivors and firemen and whatnot were happy with it until Sarah Palin got involved? How about the Anti-Defamation League? Do they take marching orders from Alaska too?

"My point is NOW American Christians and Jews think it's wrong to marry 14 year olds. Their views changed because society changed."

Only insofar as the widely accepted definition of childhood has changed (expanded, to be precise). They have always been consistent that it's wrong to marry children.

"A two-year study by a group of academics on American Muslims and terrorism concluded that contemporary mosques are actually a deterrent to the spread of militant Islam and terrorism."

Well, there are studies and there are studies of course. I'm guessing the Sanford guys never crossed paths with the Freedom Centre guys.

One last thought on this topic which I offer up because it rather brilliantly links the main themes of this discussion, but courtesy of Megan Mcardle's blog I found this delightful story of someone who has decided to take the mosque builders at their word of wanting to promote diversity and reach out to all America's communities by building a gay bar next to the ground zero mosque. Sadly, Megan thinks that the same people who cheered on the mosque will find some reason to stop this from going ahead, but it will be genuinely fascinating to see if any of the supporters of the mosque project develop a sudden attack of qeasiness about this project.

Jewish Atheist said...

The funding issue came up because of your specific assertion that there was no Wahhabi connection to the project.

Come now, my claim wasn't *that* broad. I just said that they're not Wahhabists, just as you are not Catholic. You shouldn't be blamed for the Crusades and these folks shouldn't be blamed for 9/11.

Are you seriously suggesting all the survivors and firemen and whatnot were happy with it until Sarah Palin got involved?

No, I'm saying that the local community board approved it with a vote of 29-1. You can't put up a stop sign without some people being unhappy.

How about the Anti-Defamation League? Do they take marching orders from Alaska too?

No, I think they're just anti-Muslim.

Only insofar as the widely accepted definition of childhood has changed (expanded, to be precise). They have always been consistent that it's wrong to marry children.

Many Orthodox Jews including the preeminent Biblical commentator Rashi believe that Rebecca married Isaac when she was 3. Regardless, if they can "expand" their definition of childhood, American Muslims can "interpret" their texts to render to Ceasar. Never underestimate the ability of religious people to "interpret" their texts.

I found this delightful story of someone who has decided to take the mosque builders at their word of wanting to promote diversity and reach out to all America's communities by building a gay bar next to the ground zero mosque.

Hell yes! THAT is what America (and New York especially) is all about. I'm all for it.

Jr said...

"Okay, 14 years old"

I'd like to point out that in ancient Israel girls in all likelihood entered puberty much later than 14.

Jonathan said...

I agree with your post. Islam itself is no better, no worse than any other major religion. The only problem is that the IQ of Islam believers today is usually low, so they are more acceptable to extreme interpretation of their religion. If the Europeans had converted to Islam, and the Arabs had converted to Christianity, we would have talked about Christianity being evil and Islam being enlightened.

Baruch Spinoza said...

If gay people want to marry and be just as miserable as the result of other people then they should definitely not be stopped from doing so ^_^.

I agree with you about the Mosque that is being build in NYC. Even if the Mosque was put there as a direct insult to Americans it still cannot be stopped. Because there is something a lot more important at stake. And that is separation of church and state. This is fundamental. Even if these Muslims want to go out of their way to insult the people we cannot stop them. In actuality, all the fear about the Mosque (or whatever it even is) is just social hysteria to scare the people. There is a good video on this subject here: (the first minute is pointless - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fV8kIXo4jQ0 ).

a Jew said...

Even the Orthodox holdouts have long since jettisoned the implementation of most of the Torah's horrible rules.

Lest anyone actually believe JA's misrepresentation of how exactly Judaism has "evolved," please allow me to point out that Orthodox Judaism has not jettisoned ANYTHING; we are unable to perform some things because of circumstances, but when those circumstances change (essentially, when Messiah comes - and we like to think he's coming soon) we will be able to go back to fully practicing everything.

Have a good day.

------------------------
I agree with JA, though, that you're best off ignoring JP.

Jewish Atheist said...

Jr:

I'd like to point out that in ancient Israel girls in all likelihood entered puberty much later than 14.

A good point, but only if you think that the author of the Torah couldn't see the future. :-)


Jonathan:

Whether IQ is a cause or an effect or both is an exercise left to the reader, but I agree insofar as that I don't see anything intrinsic to Christianity that caused it to reform rather than Islam -- it's more an accident of time and place and people.


Spinoza:

Excellent point. Even if the mosque were preaching hatred, etc., it could not be stopped by legal challenge, not that it would stop many on the right who pretend to be Constitutional originalists when convenient.


a Jew:

So you look forward to and pray for the day when once again Jews will stone to death adulterers and sabbath violators and gay men? And you're willing to admit that on a public forum??

How are you different from JP? :-)

a Jew said...

JA, the answer is that the way normal Orthodox Jews view what will happen is that once Messiah comes, the whole world - not just us religious Jews - will realize and believe in the correctness of Judaism. At that point the world will really realize what is moral and what is not: for example, the USA has the death penalty for murder, which it realizes is wrong (I'm not saying you have to agree with the USA's utilization of the death penalty - just bear with me), and we will have the death penalty for adultery, which, when the world's morals catch up to Judaism's (and I don't expect you to like what you're hearing, but at least realize that you simply have a different perspective) people will come to realize is just as bad.

(Also, "gay men" won't necessarily be stoned - just men who committ homosexual acts. Minor distinction.)

And keep in mind that (a) it's not like we're talking wanton stoning by random people - it goes through a very, very regulated court system and (b) even though the death penalty is to be officially in place, the Talmud describes (this is VERY IMPORTANT) dozens and dozens and dozens of loopholes that exist in even the most ironclad of cases, expressly instructs judges to use any loophole necessary to avoid utilizing the death penalty, and even says that a court that puts someone to death once every SEVENTY years is still over-using the death penalty. In other words, although the death penalty did and will exist in theory, it's rarely implemented.

I think maybe JP will agree with everything I've said in this post so far; when I say to ignore JP, I mean his rantings and ravings and such. I should hope that you'd be able to tell the difference.

Random said...

"I agree insofar as that I don't see anything intrinsic to Christianity that caused it to reform rather than Islam -- it's more an accident of time and place and people."

Well, there's the fact that Christianity (like AIUI Judaism) has a tradition of analysing and interpreting the sacred texts (when the founder of the faith teaches through parables rather than laying down commandments you pretty much have to analyse and interpret to get at the meaning of the teaching). The view that the scriptures are the literal word of God and no interpretation is allowed has never been the sole acceptable view of scripture in Christianity the way it is in Islam.

Also, and rather more pragmatically, there's the fact that at least since the fall of the Roman Empire in the west the Christian world has contained a number of feuding states where religious and secular authority were separate and often in conflict (in the east, where the Roman Empire survived, the emperor was "equal to the apostles" and the church was part of the Imperial bureaucracy). In such a world you're bound eventually to get a circumstance where the church is not merely challenged but flat out rejected. All of these are circumstances that favour a reformation, even if it's just a case of a secular ruler finding a pious excuse for a naked power grab (yes Henry Tudor, I am looking at you).

Oh and in any case Islam has had a reformation. The problem is that Wahhabism was the result. The Islamic reformation was about getting rid of the sort of stuff you prefer - a tolerant approach to non-believers, a relaxed approach to cultural practices not specifically authorised by the Koran, secular authority that was distinct from religious, and so on. The sort of muslim society that Jews were able to flee to to escape persecution is precisely the sort of society that the reformers thought was decadent and non-islamic and were struggling against.

"Even if the mosque were preaching hatred, etc., it could not be stopped by legal challenge, not that it would stop many on the right who pretend to be Constitutional originalists when convenient."

Two thoughts - firstly, and for the umpteenth time, "the right" are not calling for it to be banned. Most of those who have spoken up have expressed distaste and are calling for the organisers to move it voluntarily. Come on JA, you're normally a smart guy. Do you really not see the difference here?

Secondly, if this is only about secular values and respect for the constitution, then why is the mosque being fast tracked while the Greek Orthodox Christian Church that was destroyed when the WTC collapsed on it is being given the full "of course we want to see it rebuilt, but..." bureaucratic runaround? Where's the desire to show New York as a place of tolerance and diversity under the law where people of all faiths came come together and worship in peace and safety here?

Random said...

"How are you different from JP? :-)"

You've probably worked it out for yourself, but AJ seems to be in favour of the death penalty only as the culmination of a rigorous legal due process, whereas JP sounds rather more like he's calling for lynch mobs. You may still disagree with it, but I assume you agree that AJ's approach is rather more preferable. (I like JP, he makes me feel like a flaming liberal.)

Anonymous said...

Random Christianity has butchered more jews, and humans in general than Islam

You say only christianity has do unto Caesar, but Islam has the much more explicit ayat "there is no compulsion in religion" which is why on average muslims had much lower instances of forced conversion than christiandom

Oh and Jefferson loathed Christianity and Paul in particular. Btw certainly you know many have argued the reason Jefferson was able to initiate the clause of freedom of religion in the Constitution was because of the Quran's commandment of "there is no compulsion in religion"

incidently islamic literature has much more use of parables than jesus and most of the Quran is prose anyway. consider that islam has also produced more mystics like Rumi, loved all over the world than any other religion

furthermore the hadith sciences with which muslims grade their texts are what gave them such a rich tradition of socratic debate. Christianity however had the holy spirit card, whenever a church father wished to get his way the holy spirit was invoked. Islam however sealed prophecy with Mohammed, forcing the people to appeal to socratic debate alone. A much grander improvement over the other two abrahamic faiths I would argue

And it was Islamic thinkers like Ibn Rushd who fathered western secular thought, whose writings the church made reading herectical, but paved through and thus the secular wave via the Renaissance and Enlightment period came forth

Nobody sensible is going to fall for this rosy-cheeked view you have of history

tommy said...

According to Torah law, men who engage in anal sex with each should be put to death, following a trial, conviction and sentencing. And such a practice would actually save thousands of lives.

It wouldn't save any lives because halakha demands two adult male witnesses to put any Jew to death. In a society that treats sodomy as a capital crime, good luck getting that!

Are the people behind Cordoba House Wahabbists like the hijackers? No, they're sufis!

The Cordoba people seem moderate in their videos, but I can't say how the situation will evolve over time. The fact that the founder is a Sufi is irrelevant. I've seen little evidence that Sufis are fundamentally more moderate in their attitudes toward the kafir than mainline Sunnis or Shia.

They have a legal right to build, but my biggest fear is that we will eventually see footage of radical pro-jihadist, anti-American babble being preached at the mosque down the line. Should that occur, the average American will be wondering who in the hell backed this project.

It's also possible it will just become a platform to denounce American actions toward the Muslim world while hiding behind a facade of moderation and concern--much the same way your average moderate Palestinian spokesperson harps on Israel and excuses Palestinian terrorism at every turn.

They've also been secretive about the source of their funding and they seem more interested in PR for Islam than respect for the dead. Even the name "Cordoba" sounds a tad...well...imperial.

tommy said...

You say only christianity has do unto Caesar, but Islam has the much more explicit ayat "there is no compulsion in religion" which is why on average muslims had much lower instances of forced conversion than christiandom

Prove it. The claim that there is no compulsion in Islam would have struck the Rambam as absurd. Just try being an apostate in any number of Islamic countries today.

Oh and Jefferson loathed Christianity and Paul in particular. Btw certainly you know many have argued the reason Jefferson was able to initiate the clause of freedom of religion in the Constitution was because of the Quran's commandment of "there is no compulsion in religion"

Jefferson had some opinions on Islam as well. In any event, Muslims can do little better than compare 12th century Christianity to 21st century Islam.

incidently islamic literature has much more use of parables than jesus and most of the Quran is prose anyway. consider that islam has also produced more mystics like Rumi, loved all over the world than any other religion

There are far more references to violence in the Qur'an than in the New Testament and nobody accuses Jesus of being a warlord, slave-owner or pedophile.

And it was Islamic thinkers like Ibn Rushd who fathered western secular thought, whose writings the church made reading herectical, but paved through and thus the secular wave via the Renaissance and Enlightment period came forth

LMAO.

Boonton said...

Carmelite nuns back in the late 1980’s attempted to found a convent in Auschwitz to pray for the souls of the dead there

If there's an empty Burlington Coat Factory two blocks from Auschwitz I won't object to Carmelite nuns doing anything they want with it.

Otherwise nice analogy, two office buildings were 2K people died = Auschwitz.

I'm all for compromise but just as Israel will not negotiate with those who don't even want to acknowledge its right to exist, the supporters of the Park project should not put up with most of the critics who spout lie after lie about it. It is not a 'victory mosque'. It is not 'at ground zero'. It is not 'on a graveyard'. Its founders are moderate Muslims who were among the first responders on 9/11 and have been targetted by Al Qaeda for asserting that Muslims and others can and should live peacefully together.

In the meantime NPR had an interesting story today about the commentary on various jihadist sites. Basically the Islamists are saying "we told you so" and are using the Mosque contraversy to bolster their argument that moderate Islam is a dead end, that religious freedom in the west is an illusion and that young Muslims should join radical causes.

Make no mistake about it, those jumping up and down about the Mosque are carrying the water for the enemy of the US and are playing the role of useful idiots for Osama bin Laden. Nice job guys.

Boonton said...

Tommy

The Cordoba people seem moderate in their videos, but I can't say how the situation will evolve over time.

Last I checked this was the USA where we have private property, freedom of speech and freedom of religion. When Pat Robertson builds a church he doesn't have to apply to a 'moderation council' to get a specil license certifying he is a moderate Christian who only advocates nice things.

There is, for example, a rag tag church running around the US making headlines by disrupting the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Asserting that their deaths is the US's punishment for being too nice to gays. If that church scraps together the money to buy or rent real estate in lower Manhatten they are just as free to sprout their nonesense.

Whether or not a radical speaker ever appears at this place is highly irrelevant. One does not have to be a moderate anything to exercise freedom in the US. What is a real issue here is the assumption that these people are under obligation to prove themselves as moderates. Even more grating is that they seem to be obligated to demonstrate this proof to the stupidest yahoos who do not seem the least bit interested in learning anything about this group or their intentions.

This is a very nice big 'Fuck You' to all Muslims who are not radical, not violent and do not support terrorism (and the US is exceptional because its Muslim community is well integrated with many US mosques serving as places of guidance where young people are steered away from radical jihadists....there's a reason many young Muslims who do want to join terrorist groups feel the need to leave the US and travel to difficult to navigate places like the Sudan and Pakistan to find groups to accept them. US mosques and Muslim communities for the most part have little interest in hosting jihadists and terrorism supporters).

tommy said...

Boonton,

Last I checked this was the USA where we have private property, freedom of speech and freedom of religion.

Did I dispute this? Hey, knucklehead, did you bother reading my first post? They have a legal right to build...

This is typical Kos-style argumentation: your opponent already acknowledges the point, so ignore his acknowledgment and hammer him for failing to acknowledge your point.

Believe it or not, freedom of speech includes the right to say I don't like this mosque or the people behind it and think the Muslim community can't be trusted.

This is a very nice big 'Fuck You' to all Muslims who are not radical

Who cares? Those Muslims do nothing to clean up their own backyard. They are more concerned with preserving the image of Muslims in the eyes of non-Muslims than combating extremism in their own community. Keeping Muslim immigrants and exchange students out of our country altogether would be the wisest move our nation could make.

Whether or not a radical speaker ever appears at this place is highly irrelevant.

Fine, but don't try to pretend the Muslim community is moderate when they tolerate such individuals. I know what you want, but you can't have it: if the mosque promotes uncontroversial interfaith dialog it's taken as proof of where the Muslim community really stands, but if it promotes radicalism, then it doesn't reflect on the Muslim community. I'm sorry, but you don't get to have your cake and eat it too.

As it stands, you don't have to wait for the mosque to be built. Here is our necessarily moderate Sufi (LOL) on 9/11, suicide bombings and al-Qaeda. There's a multicultural moron born every minute.

Boonton said...

I have no problem being critical of Muslim intolerance and the refusal of moderate Muslims to forcefully address radicals. The best example of this I saw recently was Bill Mahr's Religious documentary where he takes on a lot of blowhards but was particularly effective at taking apart Muslims in Europe and Israel who refused to address the 'double standard' of insisting on religious freedom while at the same time demanding that Islam cannot be 'insulted' by critics.

But the issue here is intelligent and fair criticism gets pushed aside by idiots. What the yahoos have done is a disservice both to the US and to much needed, serious, criticism of Islam.