The impassioned wailing over the Ground Zero Mosque is troubling, sad, and, at times, hilarious. Troubling because of what the critics of the Islamic center reveal about how shallow many Americans commitment to religious freedom really is. Sad because of what the wailers reveal about too-many of our fellow citizens pure, unadulterated ignorance about Islam and its divisions which is doubly dangerous in these times. Here are a couple of facts you may not have picked up during the current bitchfest, particularly if your information has come from the hyperpartisan goobs at FoxNews:
Its not even a mosque. The building is slated to be something like a Muslim Y, with a gym, pool, restaurant, auditorium, galleries, a 9/11 memorial, and a prayer room, which people who are terrified of, or angry at, all Muslims believe qualifies it as a mosque." Calling the planned building a mosque, however, is like calling the Harris Y a Presbyterian church.
Its not at Ground Zero. The building will be on Park Place, two blocks north of the WTC site, in what the New Yorker describes as a neighborhood ajumble with restaurants, shops (electronics, porn, you name it), churches, office cubes, and the rest of the New York mishmash. And one more thing: the building wont even be visible from the WTC site.
The center's builders are American citizens, including Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who worked with the Bush administration on Muslim outreach, for crying out loud.
The Muslims involved are adherents of Sufism. For a more complete discussion of what that means, read this article by William Dalrymple of the New York Times. The short version is that the Sufis are just about the last Muslims who would ever condone religious violence; think of them as the Islamic equivalent of Quakers, but with lots of dancing. They work tirelessly for understanding among religions, to the point that the al-Qaeda types within Islam kill them whenever they get the chance. And these are the people Newt Gingrich says are part of an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization? Im trying to watch my language lately, but theres no other way to put it: Gingrich, as usual, is completely full of shit.
So where does the hilarious part of the anti-mosque gripe-a-thon come in? Well, only in a dark humor sense, but sometimes you have to laugh to keep from going nuts. If the ignoramuses, cynical politicians, Fox snake oil salesmen, and xenophobes and their way-over-the-top rhetoric and fearful, knuckle-chewing view of anything outside FoxNews World isnt funny to you, at least some of the time, you may be on the way to a stroke. Sometimes ridicule isn't just one way of dealing with outlandish viewpoints; it's really the only way. I particularly liked journalist Greg Palasts notion of diverting criticism of the Islamic center by disguising it as a Disney retail outlet, to be called, of course, Mickey Mosque.