North Korea

North Korea
The always bombastic and unpredictable North Koreans go hysterical again. This time the country is prepared to "go to war" with South Korea because that country is playing loudspeakers directed at North Korean territory. A headline from a UK paper reads, "More than 50 North Korea submarines 'leave their bases' as war talks with South continue "

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Question of Rights and What is Right

President Obama delivering remarks to August 13, 2010 iftar dinner guests

A controversy has been brewing for months in New York City concerning plans to build a mosque/community center two blocks from the site of the 9/11 twin towers attack. Few people question the legal right for a mosque to be built, many people question the propriety of doing so. The debate has swirled higher and higher among the political levels, from local officials to the NY City Mayor, to national political pundits and cable networks, up to the White House Press Secretary. At least one of the dozen 9/11 family survivor groups, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, has publicly supported the Center (noting it is not a mosque and it is not seen from the Twin Towers site), while others consider it an affront to a burial site where victims' remains are still entombed. Finally, last night, President Obama weighed in.

At a dinner to honor Ramadan and Muslims in attendance (something regularly done by several past presidents), he declared it was the right of all Americans to practice their religion, and this was no exception. He stated, "as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances."

Initial press reactions framed the speech as strong support for the 9/11 mosque, and criticism erupted nearly instantly. Debra Burlingame, co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America was the most impassioned in her assessment, "Barack Obama has abandoned America at the place where America's heart was broken nine years ago, and where her true values were on display for all to see. ...Now this president declares that the victims of 9/11 and their families must bear another burden ... We are stunned." 9/11 mosque protesters make provocative points

Rick A. Lazio, a Republican candidate for governor of New York, and a former member of the House of Representatives, issued a statement responding to Mr. Obama’s remarks, saying that the president was still “not listening to New Yorkers.” And “with over 100 mosques [already] in New York City, this is not an issue of religion ..."

By Saturday morning, President Obama was attempting to clarify his remarks, "I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there," Obama said. "I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding..."

If the President intended his remarks to teach, clarify, and somehow unify the nation over a controversial building project, one suspects it has backfired loudly. Not only will future planning and building details be less and less a local decision, the project has taken on national symbolic and ideological dimensions. The designer and promoter of the mosque has already been questioned regarding the financing - where is the money coming from to build a $100 million dollar center - and his answer was controversial and vague. The money is to be raised by American Muslims and some overseas contributions. The level of scrutiny to be given to funds that are yet to be provided will be raised tremendously considering the number of Islamic fund raising charities around the world that were found to have ties to al-Qaeda and other extreme Islamic militant groups.

President Obama, after highlighting vague historic Islamic contributions to America, ended his Friday evening remarks, with a curious mixed reference: 'we remain “one nation, under God, indivisible.” And we can only achieve “liberty and justice for all” if we live by that one rule at the heart of every religion, including Islam — that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us.' Many scholars of the Koran and the Hadith say there is no real equivalent statement in Islam to that in Judaism and Christianity. In fact, the lack of reciprocal respect lies among the contentious roots of Islam, that 'Infidels' do not enjoy the same status as the Faithful — not in Allah’s eyes and not in the eyes of Allah’s servants. Not unless and until they convert.

For further pondering:
How can $100 million be raised so easily by the Islamic world, for that "101st" mosque (or Center, or combination) in New York City? Actually quite simply. At least for the portion to come from overseas, the modern world is providing billions daily in return for oil. So unprecedented wealth generated from the West has been transferred to a few Muslim nations.

Would a $100 million donation by the Imam Abdul Rauf (chief supporter of the "mosque") and Oz Sultan (program director for the "Center") to Pakistani Muslims struggling to survive their flooding woes, make a better statement of Islamic bridge building and compassion? Up to 20 million Pakistanis struggle to survive flooding, the government not oriented to effectively assisting

In what Islamic countries can Christian churches or Jewish synagogues (or centers) be found or built, even it they are meant to build bridges rather than foster their faith's tenets? Iran? Saudi Arabia? Perhaps one might point to Indonesia, Jordan or Egypt as examples of some tolerance, but that is because those governments are deliberately secularized, in contrast to those purer Islamic states where religion openly holds sway. President Obama's efforts to turn a page, and mark a new beginning with the Muslim world seems to mix fact and desire (his final remark being one example.) The truth of moderate tolerant Islam seems to be more in the imagination than in actual geographic reality.
Saudi Arabia, custodian of the holy shrines at Mecca and Medina, has no tolerance for other religions. Proselytizing for other faiths is a crime.

The President repeatedly emphasized the rights of all Americans, but what is right may be far different.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Really nicely written. Really good questions to think about and watch for any answers.

I'd like to post it on FB but I'll let you step into that fray if you choose... just know that I think it's worth a broader audience... (Actually I'd repost all of your posts... :) )