Notes on the Cultural Center

Over the last few months the construction of a cultural center has taken a lot of press time.  Abdul Rauf is going to found Cordoba house.  Abdul Rauf has served the US under the Bush Administration by going throughout the world telling how Muslims enjoy rights in this country.   Cordoba refers to a time in the Muslim world of great intellectual ferment, of an empire where religious differences were treated with some tolerance.

Trinity Church has, rightly, expressed support for the cultural center; Mayor Bloomberg gave an impassioned and brilliant speech expressing the importance of religious liberty.

Obama, Bloomberg and Nadler acknowledge that this is also an issue of property rights, that government officials should not use a heavy hand to cloak any sort of bigotry.

Of course, there is some bleating about and sensitivity and wisdom, but Krugman demonstrates the problem with that argument.

Second, the opposition seems to imply that Islam is a crucial aspect of terror and violence.  This is a complicated assertion.  Muslims, empirically speaking, have never had a monopoly on violence.   Both Muslims and Christians an ambivalence toward weakness.   A more precise question is:  what will this community center teach?

It’s useful to affirm that for some, the cultural center provides a lot of political fodder.  Those who oppose it benefit from stirring up passions and fears.  They strengthen their sway and authority by bravely protesting inconsequential projects, puffing themselves up as saviors and defenders of piety.

And I doubt that this is really about proximity to the World Trade Center.  All over the country people are opposing the construction of Mosques.  It’s fear, plain and simple.

Bashraat Peer wrote an article that describes, in detail, persons in the narrative.   Michael Kinsley writesIs there any reason to oppose the mosque that isn’t bigoted, or demagogic, or unconstitutional? None that I’ve heard or read.”

What is not understood is that by enabling tolerance, we represent a way of living together that is still new to some Muslim countries.   By seeking understanding, perhaps others will also seek to understand.

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