Home > Political Game-Playing, Religion > Guilt by Association

Guilt by Association

July 29th, 2010

Newt Gingrich:

You know, there are over a hundred mosques in New York City. I favor religious freedom. I’m quite happy if they’d come in and said, ‘We want to build a community center near Central Park, we’d like to build a community center near Columbia University.’ But they didn’t. They said right at the edge of a place where, let’s be clear, thousands of Americans were killed in an attack by radical Islamists.

By that logic, since the 9/11 terrorist were Middle Eastern, we should be blocking anyone of Middle East descent from (a) purchasing property, (b) running a business, or (c) taking up residence anywhere near Ground Zero. For example, any Saudi business that wants to rent offices within, say, ten city blocks should be denied permission.

Unless I misunderstand Newt–we’re talking about guilt by association, right? We’re essentially saying that since radical Islamists were responsible for 9/11, that means all Muslims are to be banned from setting up shop near Ground Zero. Since it’s not about religion, we must also take into account whatever attributes were involved–and national origin is certainly involved, at least as much as religion.

And hey, the terrorists were all men!

Or how about Timothy McVeigh being a registered Republican; should we have banned the GOP from setting up any party offices within a mile of the Oklahoma City National Memorial? You paint with a broad brush, you cover a lot of territory.

This whole thing is idiotic and bigoted, an appeal to the lowest common denominator for the most base and shameful of reasons. Now, if radical Islamists, maybe some Shariah Law school run by people of the exact same stripe of the terrorists, or a mosque dedicated to the terrorists–you know, someone actually in any way associated or identifying with the terrorists–if they wanted to set up business nearby, then maybe Newt’s got a point.

Now, if someone wanted to take the community center to task on specific grounds, such as objections to the Imam responsible for the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, that’s different; you can cite specific reasons and call specific sensitivities into question. For example, Rauf said things after 9/11 such as, “I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.” Or, “… we have been accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA.” Now, he also said other things like “Fanaticism and terrorism have no place in Islam,” and “I am a peace builder. I will not allow anybody to put me in a position where I am seen by any party in the world as an adversary or as an enemy.” These are items we could debate on their merits. We could have a conversation about whether it is agreeable to allow or not allow an organization run by a person like this to set up shop near Ground Zero–either in terms of sensitivity or whether it is even legal to stop it. We could discuss the ins and outs, the conflicts and the perceptions, and so forth.

But to say, “Hey, these guys are Muslims, the terrorists were Muslims, all Muslims banned from the area” is pretty much the definitive example of sweeping religious stereotyping and discrimination.

But then again, this is an election year.

Stay classy, Newt.

Categories: Political Game-Playing, Religion Tags: by
  1. Kensensei
    July 29th, 2010 at 13:42 | #1

    Hey Luis,

    as much as I deplore Newt Gingrich, this is one point on which I agree with him. The quote you posted said (in summary) that Muslim mosques and businesses are welcome in all areas New York City, except for Ground Zero. That seems reasonable to me considering the sensitivity New Yorkers have about the events that took place there.

    If I could use an analogy; suppose an American Corporation [Starbucks or KFC, for instance] wanted to set up a branch restaurant right next to the A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima’s Peace Park. Wouldn’t Japanese be understandably reluctant to allowing that to be built there? Another spot in the park? Fine, but not at the epicenter.

    Clearly, Starbucks does not represent the entire United States, and Starbucks is not responsible for that regrettable event back on Aug 6, 1945. But it serves as a grim reminder and, more importantly, makes Japanese question whether or not the American’s remorse is genuine.

    A flawed analogy?

  2. Geoff K
    July 29th, 2010 at 14:43 | #2

    Kensense is absolutely right. This isn’t just a Mosque–it’s a huge 13 story tower. Now that’s a not-so-subtle message: “Let’s knock down the Infidel tower and erect a Muslim tower in it’s place” Even if that’s not what they were trying for (which I suspect), than that’s how it comes out. And that’s how Al Quada and other Arabs will view it when they get the news.

    This is just plain not appropriate. What next? A Nazi memoriabila shop at Auschwitz? A KKK head office in Selma Alabama? And don’t say “Those are hate organizations–Islam is a religion”. Your own quotes make it clear that the sponsors of this project have plenty of sympathy for the 9/11 perpetrators.

    By all means, I encourage the Democrats to press this issue strongly. Maybe they should make it a focus of the fall campaign. Then we’d see how many Americans really agree with this nonsense.

  3. Troy
    July 29th, 2010 at 15:58 | #3

    demogoguery ftw, as far as Geoff is concerned.

    I thought conservatives were all about freedom from government and extra-market limitations, that money talks and bull— walks.

    Guess not.

  4. Troy
    July 29th, 2010 at 15:59 | #4

    >A flawed analogy?

    Yes. If we are going to coexist with the Muslims we’re actually going to have to not be infantile butthurt children about everything.

  5. Luis
    July 29th, 2010 at 16:35 | #5

    Kensensei:

    If I could use an analogy; suppose an American Corporation [Starbucks or KFC, for instance] wanted to set up a branch restaurant right next to the A-Bomb Dome in Hiroshima’s Peace Park. Wouldn’t Japanese be understandably reluctant to allowing that to be built there? Another spot in the park? Fine, but not at the epicenter.

    Alas, the analogy is flawed, in a few different ways.

    First, the center is not a mosque, nor would it include one; it’s a community center, and part of it has a “multi-faith chapel” and prayer area–as well as a 9/11 memorial, which, considering that the people behind the project condemned the 9/11 attacks and note that Muslim extremists have killed other Muslims on 9/11 and worldwide, one can assume it will not be sympathetic in any way to the terrorists. Quite the opposite. As for the chapel/prayer area, think of a chapel in a hospital; the chapel doesn’t make the hospital a church, even with a hospital with a name like “Saint Mary’s,” founded by a Christian organization.

    Second, the center is not “at the epicenter” of Ground Zero, nor is it across the street. It’s roughly 200 meters distant from the periphery of the WTC site, 2 or 3 blocks away.

    Third, a quick check of Google Maps might be a good idea before forwarding an analogy based on locations: there is a Starbucks, a McDonald’s, and a KFC all within about 300 meters distance from the Genbaku (A-Bomb) Dome in Hiroshima. Clearly it is not a problem.

    The correct analogy would not just be a KFC near Genbaku Dome, but a KFC with a Hiroshima memorial which criticized the American use of the Atomic Bomb. I don’t think that any Japanese people would have a problem with that–in fact, I think they would appreciate and encourage an American entity taking that stand. I would think that the people of Hiroshima would even allow such a building much closer than 300 meters distant from the memorial. Well, that’s exactly what the Muslims behind the community center are doing–renouncing the violent behavior of Muslim extremists and paying homage and respect to the 9/11 victims. It’s exactly what we say we want Muslims to do. And now they’re doing it–so why are we objecting?

    Geoff:

    You are ignoring the main point I noted before: the people building the community center are about as far away from the terrorists as Ronald Reagan was from Timothy McVeigh. Reagan and McVeigh were both Republicans; does that put them at the same moral level, and should the families of the Murrah Center victims be offended at any GOP presence near the site?

    Your own analogies are not just wrong, but offensively so. Are all Muslims comparable to Nazis and Klansmen? We object to the terrorists because of their intentions and actions, which the people behind the community center do not share in any respect whatsoever. That’s why I named the post “Guilt by Association.”

    Sorry to say, but you’re wrong. The center, far from inappropriate, is a potential bridge to the mainstream Islamic world, one we should be welcoming. Instead, we’re slapping them in the face and throwing their gesture back at them. Way to go.

  6. Geoff K
    July 29th, 2010 at 17:53 | #6

    The notion of “Mainstream Islam” seems generated more by people who wish it was so than by people who actually know it from experience. “Mainstream” mosques seem to have anti-semitic materials and “mainstream” Islamic charities support Hamas and other terrorist groups. Incidents like the Danish cartoons and the ongoing death threats for Salmon Rushdie lead me to believe that there is nothing moderate or reasonable about “mainstream Islam”. Even now, you will rarely hear a flat denunciation of Bin Laden or 9/11 from Muslums. It’s always “Yes, that was bad but…”

    You want a less offensive analogy? Fine, how about building not a Starbucks next to the Atom Dome, but instead building a Boeing Bomber sales office? Or better yet, razing a surviving Japanese building and then building the Boeing office on top of it? What could be offensive about just selling airplanes?

    When the words “Islamic” and “terrorist” don’t appear together 90% of the time, than I’ll cut other Muslims a break. But, right now, I don’t see them trying to accomodate the West at all. They keep insisting we accomodate them. This is one case where it’s clearly offensive and meant to be offensive. Why build it *right there* unless you mostly want to send a message–the message “yes, we did win.” Screw that.

  7. Tim Kane
    July 30th, 2010 at 17:12 | #7

    Well, I don’t think people from Georgia and Alaska should be telling New Yorkers where they can and can’t build whatever in New York City. Republicans are pretty two faced on this issue. They were happy to sell management of all of our ports to Dubai, and cried racism when people objected, but suddenly quibble with an Islamic institute being placed in lower Manhattan. I would agree with Luis, if there is no direct link between the people building the Islamic center and the people who bombed the World Trade Center.

    Having said that I have some pretty big problems with Islam, on a conceptual level, and wish that no Muslims were allowed into the United States unless they take a vow pledging belief in and support for the notion for the separation of religion (church) from civics (state).

    The first problem I have with Islam is that it is a religion. Its fine to have religious beliefs, I have my own, but the only acceptable religion is public display of decency and the practice of the golden rule. What you believe, or pray to, otherwise, is nobody’s business.

    I tend to side against Islam on most things.

    The big problem I have with them is that they conceptionally cannot accept the separation of church from state. In fact philosophically, they can’t embrace modernism because Islam emphasizes cohesion (one god, one prophet, one law, one community: one, one, one) over centrifugalism: the later being the essential quality of specialization of tasks, which is the central concept that created modernism. (Prior to the modern age, in the agricultural age, the emphasis on cohesion is what gave Islam its competitive advantage.)

    (Christianity, of course, has an opposite, more centrifugal premise: one god, but three persons, and already before he died, Christ was saying separate church from state).

    The inability for Islam and Islamic societies to accept the concept of separation of church and state, and centrifugalism in general, is essentially why Turkey’s entry into the European Union has stalled. And until that is undeniably cleared up, I say, rightfully so (otherwise I believe that the Turks of Turkey are essentially more European than they are Middle Eastern).

    On top of this, Islam doesn’t really embrace the Golden Rule (all other religions do): “do to others only as you would have them do to you.” If you are not a member of the one Islamic community, then you are not protected from harm or unequal treatment by Muslims.

    Personally, I think ALL people should have to take a vow accepting the notion of the separation of church from state before they are given protection of the constitution or any benefits the constitution provides (like a drivers license, the ability to vote, etc… an I mean to include all fundamentalist Christians when I say this too). Any immigrant coming into the United States should have to take such a vow.

    I believe, in the final analysis, this is the big problem with Islam and Muslims being in the west. As for this Islamic center – its a political football. My position is the same as most liberals, but I don’t think that position is going to win, given the xenophobia of the ignorant right right now. A lot of idiot Americans don’t know much, but they know they don’t like Muslims.

  8. Luis
    July 30th, 2010 at 17:15 | #8

    The notion of “Mainstream Islam” seems generated more by people who wish it was so than by people who actually know it from experience. “Mainstream” mosques seem to have anti-semitic materials and “mainstream” Islamic charities support Hamas and other terrorist groups.

    Your objections are flawed in many, many ways.

    First, “anti-semitic” does not mean what you think it means. Arabs are semitic. What you meant was “anti-Israel.”

    Which leads to the second point, that many people from the Arab world are angry at Israel for reasons not associated with race or prejudice, but instead because of what has happened to Palestinians and in the region generally. You may disagree or debate who is worse or is or is not justified, but you cannot say they don’t have reason to criticize.

    Third, your statement is general and cannot be evidenced easily one way or the other–I am not currently able to visit a large number of mosques in the U.S. and check what they distribute and judge whether it is racist or unfairly inflammatory, etc. However, I would wager that you haven’t either, and are just echoing yet another right-wing talking point. A specific non-biased source, evidence that is objective, would help–but, …

    Fourth, the issue of anti-Israeli propaganda is irrelevant to Ground Zero. Even pro-Hamas is not relevant. Pro-Taliban or pro-Al-Qaeda is relevant, and only relevant in this case if these people are among the Muslims who put forward such things. Yet again, for the (how many-th time?) you have lumped all Muslims together under the general category of “violent, Jew-hating, terrorist-loving nutballs,” which–also again–I remind you was the error I argue against making, that being the topic of the post. Everyone should be judged for their actions, not the actions of people with similar attributes.

    Now, if you can show that this organization has backed in any way the 9/11 terror groups, or the Taliban, with verbal or monetary support, then you have a point, and my agreement. Short of that, you’re just lumping people who may not at all deserve it in with other people, and in the process helping to alienate exactly the people we should be trying to bring in to our tent, and doing so in a prejudicial manner as well.

    You want a less offensive analogy? Fine, how about building not a Starbucks next to the Atom Dome, but instead building a Boeing Bomber sales office? Or better yet, razing a surviving Japanese building and then building the Boeing office on top of it? What could be offensive about just selling airplanes?

    Once again, your analogies are extreme and, frankly, ludicrous. If these people are anti-terrorist, are not even Jew-haters, and want to build a multi-faith community center several blocks from Ground Zero which includes a memorial for the victims and condemns the terrorists, then the “analogy” of razing the A-bomb Dome in Hiroshima and building an American bomber-manufacting plant on top of it is, well… “spectacularly preposterous” wouldn’t even be strong enough to cover it.

  9. Luis
    July 30th, 2010 at 19:41 | #9

    Tim:

    I would agree with several of the problems you have with Islam, especially the church-state marriage and the extreme antipathy to other faiths. However, I do not see it as a sound basis for treating Muslims different in America. Sure, some of them may want to have Islamic law be the law in the U.S.–but then, many Christians feel the same way. I don’t see that as a just cause to deny Christian organizations the freedom to build community centers, especially ones that do not in any way blur the line of separation between church and state.

    I generally have major issues with almost all organized religions; my personal philosophy recognizes the “inverse-square law of spirituality,” which I have mentioned before, which states that the relevance and quality of spirituality lessens quickly the farther you move from the individual, and the deeper you move into religious organizations–e.g., you get organizations which promulgate and influence for their own sake rather than attend to the masses. Thus they wind up being simply another body trying to accumulate power and influence, even if for the best of intentions.

    Nevertheless, I am also very strongly against restricting religious practices or discriminating in any way against people for their religious beliefs. My stand is that all beliefs should be allowed but none should be allowed to harm others–an expression of the “your right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins.” Under this rule, no matter how much I disagreed with or even hated a specific religion, I would not feel it appropriate to curb their freedoms based on my dislikes–but I would be agreeable to curbing practices which violated laws. With the Ground Zero area, I believe that the community does have the right to do some discriminating–but I would hold that even they could not turn someone down just because of a specific religious affiliation.

    In this case, I don’t think that any of us here even know what this particular group is like beyond a few lines in news reports and on web pages and so forth. If they shilled for the Taliban or raised money for al Qaeda, I would say there’s a strong case for not letting them build the center.

    But that’s not what this is about. This is about a blanket generalization laid upon a group simply for their religion (Islam) and not their own specific actions, blown out of proportion by opportunistic politicians feeding off the fears of the public at the expense of our core values.

  10. Tim Kane
    July 31st, 2010 at 10:17 | #10

    @Luis
    I took the opportunity of the posting to express my frustration over the question of Muslims in the secular west, in that they want to be part of it, they want the rights, but they don’t accept the central premise that creates the rights: separation of church and state.

    This is the tenant that defines our civilization.

    I don’t just loathe Islam for lacking this feature in their religion – it extends to everyone that doesn’t embrace this tenant. When I said that immigrants should have to take a vow, I imagined an even more onerous situation, tongue-in-cheek, of course, where when babies are born, they are asked whether or not they believe in separation of church and state and can avow to it, and if they don’t they get shoved back up into the womb.

    Of course that’s ridiculous, but I’m just expressing how adamant I am on the issue, and frustrated particularly with Muslims for not addressing this. I think if they wanted to, they could address this (apparently Mohammed said that their should be no compulsion as to religion) but they don’t. I also think just talking about this would ease the situation with Turkey’s membership in the E.U.

    Islam is the problem child of the world’s religions.

    Deep down inside, I think this is the essence of problem with Islam and the problem with their existing in the context of the modern world.

    Probably I shouldn’t have vented that frustration under your posting. And I agree, they can build a church or whatever where ever they want if it fits the local codes.

  11. Luis
    July 31st, 2010 at 23:45 | #11

    Tim:

    Please don’t take my response wrong–absolutely feel free to vent your frustrations over whatever. I don’t disagree with your evaluation of what Islam is doing around the world, I just differ on how it’s handled under US law. Sorry if I reacted overmuch.

  12. Kensensei
    August 1st, 2010 at 01:39 | #12

    Luis points out:

    “the center is not a mosque, nor would it include one; it’s a community center, and part of it has a “multi-faith chapel” and prayer area–as well as a 9/11 memorial, which, considering that the people behind the project condemned the 9/11 attacks and note that Muslim extremists have killed other Muslims on 9/11 and worldwide, one can assume it will not be sympathetic in any way to the terrorists.”

    Yeah, I am a little confused about exactly what kind of “community center” or structure is planned. I have heard sound bites here and there without a complete picture of the new structure and its components. I assume now it’s a kind of “healing center” for family’s of victims of all backgrounds/nationalities. If Newt Gingrich is against it, it probably means building it has some merits.

    Tim aptly points out:

    “I don’t think people from Georgia and Alaska should be telling New Yorkers where they can and can’t build whatever in New York City.”

    That really is the litmus test for building the structure. If New Yorkers find it has the “healing” quality required to put the events of 911 behind them, then who can argue with that? My [albeit limited] understanding is that many New Yorkers are reluctant to build anything that promotes Islam in that spot [Yes, for me, 200 meters from Ground Zero is still Ground Zero]. Having said that, I for one am in favor of a “multi-faith chapel” if it would promote a greater understanding/tolerance of other religions. But living here in California, it doesn’t matter as much to me what is or is not built in NYC. Let New Yorkers work it out themselves.

    –Kensensei

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