Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Mosque Next Door

On most of the issues I write about, I don't claim to be absolutely right about everything I say. I readily acknowledge that there are other viable opinions besides mine, and that there are strengths and weaknesses to every interpretation of an issue.

But with this one, it's really hard for me to see any strengths of the opposing view.

A Muslim organization has plans to build a mosque and Islamic center two blocks from ground zero in New York City, and many people see that as a threat and a danger or at the very least as the cruelest of ironies.

Which is ridiculous. This reaction is a prime example of the kind of generalizing and stereotyping that will set back society. So, because the 9/11 attackers falsely claimed to have killed in the name of Islam, we should be afraid of all things Islamic?

Islam itself is peaceful and benign, and most of its followers behave the same way. Some of their strict orthodox views are in conflict with Christian values, but no true Islamic teaching promotes violent jihad against anybody. The 9/11 attackers were not living by actual Muslim doctrine when they killed thousands of Americans. And so righteous Muslims should not be punished or feared because of the sins of others.

One person I talked to was not totally up in arms against the "ground zero mosque." But he thought he should point out to me that "Even though not every Muslim is a terrorist, every terrorist is a Muslim." And he even let me know that Timothy McVeigh had converted to Islam before striking Oklahoma City in 1995.

First of all: the idea that every terrorist is a Muslim depends on your definition of terrorism. If you use "terrorism" to label any violent attack by al-Qaida, then, yes, I suppose every terrorist can be considered Muslim because as far as I know every member of the al-Qaida network calls himself a Muslim. But when Joe Stack flew a plane into the IRS building in Austin, Texas, wouldn't you say that was an act of terrorism? And yet Stack wasn't a Muslim.

Second of all: So what? So what if every terrorist is a Muslim? Every Nazi was German. Every soldier who bombed Pearl Harbor was Japanese. So does that mean we should be careful with all Germans and all Japanese?

Now, I did find one small aspect of this issue that could possibly raise suspicion. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, founder of the American Society for Muslim Advancement and the Cordoba Initiative, is in charge of the "ground zero mosque" project. He is known as a leader in improving relations between Islam and the West, which is a noble cause. But he has said a couple things that Americans might be offended by, and might make them anxious about letting him build a $100 million mosque. However, the opposition against the "ground zero mosque" I have seen doesn't bring up the imam's comments at all. It's just plain old anti-Islam rhetoric.

I thought of a situation in LDS Church history that would be possibly parallel to Islam and 9/11: the Mountain Meadows Massacre. The 1857 tragedy was caused by a few misguided members of the LDS Church, but not by the Church itself. No blame or criticism should be directed at the LDS Church whatsoever.

The same goes for the 9/11 attacks. The attacks were caused by a few misguided men who call themselves Muslims, but not by Islam itself.

So I did some research and looked for the closest LDS chapel to the massacre site to see if there were any similarities to the "ground zero mosque."

Interestingly enough, the closest chapel is the Pine Valley Chapel, which happens to be the oldest LDS building still in use. I remember visiting the chapel one of our family vacations, it's one of the Mormon history sites to see in southern Utah.

Of course, I didn't expect to find any similarities between resistance against the Pine Valley Chapel and the "ground zero mosque," and I didn't. But it proved my point. If Mormons are allowed to build a meetinghouse near the massacre site and expand their church, shouldn't Muslims be allowed to do the same? So I used the Pine Valley Chapel as a theme in my column.

To be honest, I am proud to live in a country where a Muslim mosque can be built two blocks from ground zero. It is that religious freedom that lets the LDS Church build meetinghouses and temples, and we shouldn't keep that freedom all to ourselves.

I also think by letting a mosque be built somewhere, we are living what is being taught in Article of Faith 11, and taught by Joseph Smith in this quote:

"If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a ‘Mormon,’ I am bold to declare before heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist or a good man of any other denomination. ... It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul — civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race."

Anyway, before I keep going I'll let you read the actual column:

The mosque next door - Let's learn a lesson from Pine Valley

Here are a few articles I used in learning about the "ground zero mosque":

Planned construction of Islamic center and mosque

Muslim Prayers and Renewal Near Ground Zero

Plan For Mosque Next To Ground Zero In NYC Moves Forward

Plan for mosque near World Trade Center site moves ahead

Mosque to go up near New York's ground zero

Near Ground Zero, a Mosque Moves In and Meets the Neighbors

Here are a few commentaries fueling the fire against the "ground zero mosque":

Mosque madness at Ground Zero

Glenn Beck: 9/11 mosque (He doesn't actually talk about the mosque until you scroll down to the end of the page)

And, a couple interesting articles about instances of cooperation between Mormons and Muslims (they both report that the LDS Church has even given financial support to Muslim programs):

U.S. Muslims share friendship, similar values with Mormons

Utah's Spanish fork has Krishna temple (not a Muslim group, but a Hindu group)


The other main feature of today's Issues & Ideas page is a response to last week's house editorial about the U.S. lawsuit against Arizona.

The rule of law, not will


  1. Wonderful blog. Thoughtful and well written. I read a lot of blogs about "terrorists" because Joe Stack was a friend of mine and I guess I'm a bit masochistic. Usually I end up rolling my eyes in disgust. Yours was a breath of fresh air. Thank you.

  2. Thanks for your compliment, AustinKirby. And thanks for reading!


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