Sunday, September 12, 2010

Quran Burning and Mosque Building

I'm a day late and apparently Florida pastor Terry Jones did not go ahead with his plans to burn the Quran on the 9th anniversary of 9-11, but I did have a few comments I wanted to share while they're still relevant. A number of conservative commentators have weighed in over the last few weeks making the ridiculous comparison between Jones and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the Ground Zero mosque/community center. After all, both building the mosque and burning the Quran are perfectly legal- the outrage is all about the offensive nature of the action.

Of course, it should be a bit more obvious that there's a big difference between burning the religious text of a major religion and building a religious center. One act is clearly meant to be offensive and provocative, while the other is at worst, of ambiguous motivation. And herein lies the problem, that not every "offensive act" is of equal offense. No reasonable people are making the case that Terry Jones is anything other than a giant douche, but there are reasonable people on both sides of the mosque issue, with one side arguing quite specifically that it is not offensive to have a mosque near Ground Zero with the other side arguing that it is in fact offensive.

And I'll stand by my position even if the mosque is never built and the controversy goes away. Putting the mosque there, even if you question the motivations behind it, seems to me to be exactly why America is great. We're not an insidious monster because we keep other people out (like the segregated Muslim communities of many European countries), we're an insidious monster because we let everyone in and the melting pot of a growing American culture oozes to every corner of the globe. The truth is, even the most insular American communities are far more welcoming to outsiders than much of sophisticated Europe (Feel free to challenge me on this if you disagree, but it's more gut feeling than fact- a reflection on the nature of American versus European culture, not the result of any comprehensive survey). Just like those who are fervently anti-immigration, I think the mosque opposition is on the wrong side of history here, precisely because of American tradition


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9:58 PM  

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