Hot Debate: Is a Mosque next to Ground Zero offensive? Additional Commentary…

A little background first:

Yesterday afternoon after a 9 hour day of serving my country in my private capacity, stuck in DC traffic on my way home, I received a phone call from the President of the American Muslim Interactive Network (AMIN), of which I am a board member and co-founder, asking me to be a guest on a program in DC in her place as she had other commitments.  Although tired, after hearing about the topic and getting approval from my wife, I got home, changed and headed BACK to DC.

Knowing who I was going to be debating, I didn’t expect much from the opposing side but more of the same rhetoric (and that’s exactly what happened), however I figured why not be an opposing view to the madness that is being propagated by the likes of Pamela Geller?  Of course, we had a short “debate” in which Pamela, as many of those who espouse her beliefs often do, talked and talked, was loud, angry, and just plain rude.  In fact, between the host and Geller, I doubt I even spoke more than 3 minutes! 🙂

I ignored most of her rhetoric due to time and not wanting to be baited by topics she obviously threw out there to sound intelligent on matters concerning Islam knowing it would make me sound defensive and what remained, we can judge for ourselves in the video.

Now that I actually have time, I felt I would take a few moments on my lunch break to address some of the thinly veiled rhetoric Ms. Geller spouted:

1.  She opened up her remarks with a statement about how she received emails from “several Muslims of conscious” against building a “Mosque on Ground Zero”.

This opening statement is both illogical and a lie.  What does having several emails from several Muslims prove?  This is a logical fallacy called “appeal to authority”.  Ms. Geller would have the listeners believe that this statement proves that true Muslims oppose the plan and that Muslims such as myself, must therefore be in league with radicals.  Even if she had several hundred emails from “Muslims” it would make Ms.  Geller no more credible on the subject of Muslim thought than I am with my hundreds of letters of support.  Her attempt at logic miserably failed in her opening remarks.  Then the lie that Cordoba is building a Mosque on Ground Zero is just outright sensationalism aimed at stirring passions and inflaming her supporters.  It’s simply not true.  The Cordoba House will be built 2 blocks away from the location of the WTC.

2.  “It is insulting, demeaning,….we know it’s an Islamic pattern to build shrines on conquered lands…”

This statement more than any other summarizes how I feel about the entire debate.  What Ms. Geller reveals here is the madness that she and her followers have adopted as truth.  What makes building a community center that houses a mosque in it so insulting?  This is what Ms. Geller will not admit on TV because it would reveal the bigotry that she and her adopters share.  When you read in between the lines the entire debate centers around this idea that since the terrorists who claimed to be Muslim attacked “us” (remember “us” never includes the Muslim Americans who died in the WTC, were part of the search and rescue teams on the NYPD, NYFD, or fought and continue to fight in the war on terror) that anything revolving around Islam/Muslims and the WTC is an affront to all Americans.  So if per se, a group like the Cordoba Initiative comes along and states that it wants to build a community center and promote interfaith understanding and healing, something the terrorists DO NOT want, logic be damned, all that matters is they are Muslims (i.e. not “us”) and how dare they even think they have the right to be anywhere near hallowed grounds where so many Americans died (Muslims aren’t Americans to them so don’t count them).

In radicals like Pamela Geller’s mind, that what makes this idea so “demeaning”.  To put a period to her sensationalized commentary she rattles on about building shrines and conquering, blah, blah, blah… it’s illogical ranting at best.  In order for this to be remotely true the Cordoba Initiative would have to be terrorists and not promoting the exact opposite of what the terrorists advocate.  But that’s just it, in Ms. Geller’s mind and the mind’s of her followers all Muslims are terrorists, of course they can’t say that on TV and as she so sneakily alluded to later in the “debate” any Muslim claiming otherwise is actually lying under the ruling of some supposed ancient “Islamic” code of conduct.  So even though on the Cordoba Initiative’s website they state the following:

Cordoba House is a Muslim-led project which will build a world-class facility that promotes tolerance, reflecting the rich diversity of New York City.  The center will be community-driven, serving as a platform for inter-community gatherings and cooperation at all levels, providing a space for all New Yorkers to enjoy.

This proposed project is about promoting integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion through arts and culture.  Cordoba House will provide a place where individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, will find a center of learning, art and culture; and most importantly, a center guided by Islamic values in their truest form – compassion, generosity, and respect for all.

The site will contain tremendous amounts of resources that otherwise would not exist in Lower Manhattan; a 500-seat auditorium, swimming pool, art exhibition spaces, bookstores, restaurants – all these services would form a cultural nexus for a region of New York City that, as it continues to grow, requires the sort of hub that Cordoba House will provide.

This all must be a lie, because you know how we Muslims “really” are, wink, wink, and a nod…

3.  “Expunge the Qur’an…of violent texts..” “Jihad…, Jihad,..” etc. etc. etc.

Several times, Ms. Geller keeps showing her cards as an irrational bigot (is there even a such thing as a rational one) by repeating her ideology in code on TV that she believes the real issue here is Islam and Muslims in general.  See, she pretends to be rational with the “I’m not against all Muslims see I even got emails from a few Muslims of conscious rhetoric”, but this very line of dialogue points to the crux of her ideology.  For people like Geller, the only way for them to even remotely consider Muslims as fellow Americans or in some cases human, to them we would have to completely change our religion and our beliefs to their liking.  Outside of that we will always be the enemy in some capacity regardless of what we say and do.  This idea of “expunging” the Qur’an of violent verses is just ridiculous right off the bat if you think about it.  People like Geller love to point out the “violent verses” of the Qur’an just like their terrorists counterparts (surprise, surprise) as evidence that Islam promotes violence.  Never mind the other thousands of verses that speak to the contrary, never mind that those verses are often taken out of context by Geller types and terrorists (surprise, surprise), never mind that over a billion Muslims think and believe otherwise (as evidenced by our actual practice) and never mind that damn near every major Islamic institution prior to and after 9/11 have officially declared terrorism as against Islamic teaching.  It just doesn’t matter to Geller types.  They believe that because these verses exist that they are the smoking gun of evidence and any attempt by a Muslim to debate otherwise is an obvious attempt at deception.

Herein lies the problem with Geller’s “logic”.  She’s applying an obvious double standard when it comes to religion and religious texts.  Anyone can pick up a Qur’an, Torah, Bible, etc. and pick out “violent verses”.  I could fill this writing with example after example of some very heinous text from both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Things from outright genocide, to adultery, even Jesus (as) being reported to have called the Samaritan woman a “dog”, claiming to not bring peace but a sword, or even telling his followers to slay his detractors before his feet.  If I got on TV like Ms. Geller and ranted and raved about how violent Christianity and Judaism is by pointing out these verses and then ranting the statistics about murder, rape, adultery, etc. in America and Israel, Christians and Jews alike (and anyone with common sense) would tell me I’m taking the texts of out of context, I’m not understanding the theological points, or what Christians actually believe, etc. etc. Which would all be true, but if a Muslim says the same thing, then we are the ones lying?  The murderer Cho from the VA Tech massacre quoted the Bible, those who blow up abortion clinics quote the Bible, the Ku Klux Klan quotes the Bible, radical zionists quote the Torah, 75% of Americans claim to be Christian yet look at our crime statistics, on and on, history is filled with insane murderers quoting text after text to excuse or justify their crimes.  Why is it that when these murderers happen to be Muslim, do we actually believe them and not the MAJORITY of the Adherents?

What Ms. Geller can’t escape is the numbers.  The fact remains that for every terrorist that cites the Qur’an and it’s “violent verses” as justification of their crimes, there are millions of Muslims who read the same Qur’an and haven’t killed anyone.  Muslims have been in America since the time of slavery.  Now all of a sudden we are the problem?

4.  “Abrogation…later verses…”

Pamela Geller once again threw out what I call a cute Arabic phrase to both make herself seem “in the know” and to somehow prove that I’m somehow being deceitful about Islam, the Qur’an or both.  This diatribe consisted of two logical fallacies the first being a red herring as it came out of nowhere and had nothing to do with the facts concerning the location of the Cordoba house, and also once again appealing to reason, as the mere fact that she used that term and insinuated I was hiding something somehow proves she in fact knows what she is talking about.  I didn’t take the bait.

Here’s the facts concerning abrogation:

The actual arabic word is Naskh and it’s a highly debated topic in some scholarly Islamic circles.  Essentially, the term is a legal exegesis meant to explaining seemingly contradictory directives in the Qur’an and Sunnah (i.e. Hadith).  What it implies is that if an earlier ruling, verse, etc. seems to contradict a latter ruling, verse, etc. chronologically, then the latter has precedence over the former.  So people like Geller (and terrorists) latch on to this obscure idea to suggest that since some of these “violent verses” were revealed, written, etc. after the “peaceful versus”, the “violent verses” take precedence and therefore what we are left with is the “true” meaning of Islam.  I could “sound” reasonable if you only deal with this idea on the surface and ignore the facts, but the facts are crystal clear:

  • The debate is largely a theological one which rarely if ever has any real bearing on the practice of actual Muslims, i.e. “if” the so-called violent verses came after the so-called peaceful verses, then why do the majority of Muslims practice the peaceful ones?  Does that mean that a billion Muslims for centuries don’t even know their own religion and it’s left to anti-Muslim extremists like Geller and terrorists to define Islam?
  • If Naskh were in fact, a true accepted teaching across the board, why so much debate?  Why so many scholars have all but abandoned the idea in the last couple of centuries?  If you actually look at the chronology of the Qur’an there are several latter Meccan verses that are in fact “peaceful” and the last sermon of Muhammad (saw) by all interpretations is peaceful.  So according to the rules of Naskh then certainly if the last sermon was peaceful, that should settle it right?

The reality is none of this really matters nor am I going into great depth on this subject Google and Wikipedia can aid those who care deeper into the subject.  Geller as many of those like her often do, only throws this line of “discussion” out to distract and seem more credible about Islam than they actually are.  The real question is, if it’s so obvious to prove the “true nature” of Islam why must critics like Geller and the other side of the coin, terrorists, cling to ancient theories, obscure ideas, and cherry pick from among thousands of verses a dozen or so to “prove” their points?  What those of logic and sound mind should wonder is if it’s so obvious than the majority of verses in the Qur’an should be violent and the majority of Muslims should be violent.  This should be apparent to the causal observer.  However, truth being what it is, the fact remains that the overwhelming majority of Muslims just don’t practice or believe Islam is what Geller and terrorists say that at is.  We don’t seek out a handful of verses or seek out obscure thousand year old scholarly terminology to live and practice our faith daily.

When has it ever made sense to define an entire religion from an outsider’s or minority perspective and not the perspective of the majority of the adherents?

5.  “deception…taqiyya”

This one phrase proves that Ms. Geller has no real knowledge of Islam or Muslims and is just throwing around phrases and obscure terms to make herself seem like an expert.  “Appealing to Authority” by far is her most used logical fallacy.

Taqiyya for those who care, is a largely Shia theological concept that largely means that Muslims are allowed to lie, deceive, or conceal their faith when they feel under threat, persecution, or compulsion.  So basically, Ms. Geller called me a liar and any Muslim who states that Islam is peaceful or in this debate state that the Cordoba House is what they say it is are lying as well.

However, as pointed out in my commentary for point #4, Geller is once again using obscure terms and faulty logic to make herself seem credible.  Using taqiyya was not a good idea on her part, because it makes her deception that much more obvious.  Sunni’s (over 80% of Muslims) reject this doctrine outright and think of it as a Shia (less than 10% of Muslims) innovation.  I’m not even sure most Shia’s accept this doctrine.  The majority of Muslims accept that Islam teaches honesty as one of the highest virtues of a true believer.  The question must be asked, of Geller, why use a obscure Shia term toward a Sunni?  If she is as knowledgeable as she claims she would know that the term has little value in a debate with a Sunni Muslim.  This just proves that once again, that in order to prove her points, Pamela Geller has to cherry pick terms and concepts of which she obviously has little knowledge and try to broadly apply them to all Muslims even when it’s not remotely applicable.  Geller, like her followers and terrorists, rely on the ignorance of their audience to make themselves seem knowledgeable and right.  If their audience were actually educated, they would be laughed of the stage.  It took a lot for me to not bust out laughing last night when she said taqiyya casually as if she knew what she was talking about!

Conclusion:

As I said in the “debate” these questions, concerns, etc. will continue unless there is more dialogue.  However, if we are not coming from a place of truth than we will end in falsehood.  If one were to look at Pamela’s website, you will find it replete with anti-Muslim/Islam propaganda.  Countless times she and her supporters have advocated a complete banning of Islam in America and the removal of Muslims from these shores.  She can get on TV and come across as just a concerned citizen, but her works and words speak to the nature of her true objectives.  Now if one were to analyze my site and actions they would see that I have not only swore several oaths in uniform and as a civilian to protect and defend my country and have done so honorably, they will see that I never advocate the marginalization on anyone group, and the group I helped create, locally works in the community in interfaith projects, feeding the homeless, and advocating common understanding amongst diverse groups.  I practice what I preach, does Pamela Geller?

The final vote is with those who take the time to research and see for themselves.  One can talk the talk, but can they walk the walk?

The day Pamela and those like her can produce a DD 214 with Honorable Discharge on it, is the day they will at a minimum be able to seriously discuss Patriotism, Honor, etc. with me.

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9 Comments

  1. Great job! You should have, if possible, used the materials @ loonwatch.com. They have clearly documented her complete lunatic behavior.

    Reply

  2. Eve those who believe in Naskh do not consider peaceful versus abrogated. They are not, other verses maybe, but those versus are few, and not dealing with war or violence.

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  3. It’s sad they keep throwing around the word of abbrogation.  Not only is it debated among muslims, but those who adhere to it do NOT believe the  ‘sword’ surahs abbrogate the peaceful. I have not met one man who believes in abbrogation that does.

    Reply

  4. Abrogation—Surah 2, verse 106
    None of our revelations  do we abrogate or cause to be forgotton, but we substitute something better or similar: Know you not that God has power over all things?
    Yusuf Ali translation.
    Though this verse is in reference to previous revelations, it is a good “rule of thumb” to follow that “something better” could abrogate a previous revelation/verse/ayah……..

    Reply

  5. For the Qur’an cherry-pickers out there-Surah 3, verse 7
    “3:7 He it is who has bestowed upon thee from on high this divine writ, containing messages that are clear in and by themselves – and these are the essence of the divine writ – as well as others that are allegorical.
    //
    [5] Now those whose hearts are given to swerving from the truth go after that part of the divine writ [6] which has been expressed in allegory, seeking out [what is bound to create] confusion
    //
    ,
    //
    [7] and seeking [to arrive at] its final meaning [in an arbitrary manner]; but none save God knows its final meaning.
    //
    [8] Hence, those who are deeply rooted in knowledge say: “We believe in it; the whole [of the divine writ] is from our Sustainer – albeit none takes this to heart save those who are endowed with insight.”

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  6. Thanks Robert……If we pay attention, the Quran gives instructions on how it should be read/understood.—-(there is also another verse like 3:7) basically saying some things can be taken literally and others should not–but what I like the most about these verses is that they emphasise the pursuit of knowledege and the active use of our (God-given) intellectual abilities……which, IMO, can be taken to mean that our stupidity is the result of our own laziness.

    By the way—to those who like reading “cherry-picked” verses (like myself) —-the Quran itself says its verses should not be “cherry-picked”— I am assuming all Muslims know this already and hopefully, make the effort to double check verses in context……….?……….

    Reply

  7. I wanted to post for your consideration the following article by Sam Harris.  I strongly agree with this views:

    Silence is not moderation

    In a recent Wall Street Journal article, terrorism analyst Evan Kohlmann said that anti-Muslim rhetoric in America is bad news for anti-terrorism efforts: “We are handing al Qaeda a propaganda coup, an absolute propaganda coup.”
    By many accounts, the man who could blunt the power of that coup is Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the religious leader behind the planned Islamic Center near Ground Zero. The imam has been surprisingly mum on the issue while he travels in the Middle East. What message of faith could he offer to Muslims and non-Muslims alike that could turn this moment of division into a time of healing?
    As many have pointed out, the controversy over the “ground zero mosque” is a false one. The project is legal to build, and it should remain legal. That does not mean, however, that any concern about building a mosque so close to ground zero is synonymous with bigotry. The true scandal here is that Muslim moderates have been so abysmally lacking in candor about the nature of their faith and so slow to disavow its genuine (and growing) pathologies–leading perfectly sane and tolerant people to worry whether Muslim moderation even exists.

    Despite his past equivocations on this issue, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf could dispel these fears in a single paragraph:

    “Like all decent people, I am horrified by much that goes on in the name of ‘Islam,’ and I consider it a duty of all moderate Muslims to recognize that many of the doctrines espoused in the Qur’an and hadith present some unique liabilities at this moment in history. Our traditional ideas about martyrdom, jihad, blasphemy, apostasy, and the status of women must be abandoned, as they are proving disastrous in the 21st century. Many of Islam’s critics have fully justified concerns about the state of discourse in parts of the Muslim world–where it is a tissue of conspiracy theories, genocidal ravings regarding the Jews, and the most abject, triumphalist fantasies about conquering the world for the glory of Allah. While the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity also contain terrible passages, it has been many centuries since they truly informed the mainstream faith. Hence, we do not tend to see vast numbers of Jews and Christians calling for the murder of apostates today. This is not true of Islam, and there is simply no honest way of denying this shocking disparity. We are members of a faith community that appears more concerned about harmless cartoons than about the daily atrocities committed in its name–and no one suffers from this stupidity and barbarism more than our fellow Muslims. Islam must grow up. And Muslim moderates like ourselves must be the first to defend the rights of novelists, cartoonists, and public intellectuals to criticize all religious faiths, including our own.”

    These are the sorts of sentiments that should be the litmus test for Muslim moderation. Find an imam who will speak this way, and gather followers who think this way, and I’ll volunteer to cut the ribbon on his mosque in lower Manhattan.


    By Sam Harris  |  August 24, 2010; 2:48 PM ET Save & Share:      <!–  –>            
    Previous: Christians should follow Jesus on mosque debate | Next: Imam Rauf: take a lesson from Pope John Paul II <!–
    Main Index –>

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  8. Hmm,  No takers on that last post,  Ah well.

    Let me try another, that your readers might find more palitable:

    One of the narratives that you hear about this issue is that the ground zero mosque is a “Victory Mosque.”  In other words, that it is the practice of Islam to erect mosques as a symbol of cultural dominance, and that by allowing this mosque to be build next to Ground Zero, it is in effect, a symbol of triumphalism for the cultural exportation of Islam that is being implemented by the Muslim world.
     
    I’m curious what you guys think of this narrative.
     
    I’ll tell you what I think:
     
    1)    I think that Saudi Arabia really is using its massive wealth to promote Islam systematically throughout the world, and that it is probably the case that some rich Sheiks consider this a form of cultural imperialism in to the united states.   I think that this is unfortunate, because I believe Islam to be one of the more toxic religions in the world.
     
    2)   I do no know if this cultural center is motivate by this bid for cultural imperialism or not, but I frankly don’t care.
    BECAUSE
     
    3)   I believe that America stands for freedom of religion and that as such it is a sign of our strength to allow the mosque to be built, and as such I support the building of this cultural center and mosque.
     
    4)   I believe that while Islam is an inherently anti-American and anti-enlightenment religion, that this is really no big deal, because the same can be said for Christianity, and we have done ok as a democracy in spite of the Christians, so we will do ok as a democracy in spite of Islam.
     
     BECAUSE:
     
    5)   If liberal democracy cannot stand up to an iron-age ideology like Islam, then it was never a viable worldview to begin with.
     

    Reply

  9.    Oh, and I would also like to add that if there is a viable threat to American democracy, it will not be from Islam,  it will be from the disproportionate amount of wealth and power controlled by corporate America, which will systematically undermine the government from within.  But that’s the topic for another thread.

    Reply

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