January 16, 2011

The Ground-Zero Mosque: Friend or Foe?

About three years ago, my father in-law sent us a gift subscription to Reader’s Digest.  We’ve enjoyed it immensely, and we told him so.  Accordingly, he has kept it coming continually ever since.

One of the things I enjoy most about this magazine, is that it’s mostly free of political propaganda and extremist ideology.  Such things have a legitimate place in the give-and-take of a free society, of course, and I get my fill from cable news and talk radio.  But the Digest is supposed to be different.  And in the February issue that arrived at my doorstep this week, there appeared a story that I found very disturbing.

We’ve all heard about the controversy surrounding the so-called “Ground-zero Mosque” in New York. I believe that it’s a very bad idea, but I’m open to hearing other views.  Still, whatever side you might take on this issue, it’s vitally important to get your facts straight and engage in an honest discussion. Sadly, at a time like this, such good-faith discourse is hard to find.

On page 167 begins an article titled “Freedom to Worship,” by Daisy Khan, one of the principal planners of this development.  Of course, the title itself is inherently deceitful; no one is suggesting that Muslims (or anyone else) shouldn’t be free to worship as they choose.  The only real issue here is whether this building should be erected on this spot, at this time (while the wounds of 9/11 are still fresh), and on such a grand scale.

The lies and half-truths continue, in almost every paragraph:

“America is the most Islamic country in the world, because America lives up to this idea that God has created different religions.”

Huh? By all accounts over 80% of us are professing Christians, and this belief (that God created many religions) is found nowhere in our Bible. Our God is a jealous deity who gives no quarter to any other.

“That all men are created equal, and no one religion may dominate, is so much a part of the Islamic ethos.”

Can you tell me where this free society exists in the Islamic world?  I personally know a missionary who planted 22 Christian churches in the Middle East; none of these congregations are allowed to worship openly, own property, keep a bank account, etc.  Nearly all have faced violent opposition and threats from the government.  You get the idea. In these lands, Islam reigns supreme. 

“Islam has always celebrated the diversity that exists within Muslim thought, as well as diversity among religions.”

Again, where in the Islamic world do they “celebrate” other religions?  I’d really like to know.  The last time I read the Q’uran, it exhorted all true believers to slaughter the infidels (translation: me).  Is there a new edition that I don't know about? (By contrast, Jesus forbade Peter to defend him by sword.)

“A center (the mosque) that is supposed to be multifaith and tolerant, is being rejected by Americans.”

Are you sure? Again, I have followed this story very closely, and I’ve heard no one suggest that this center shouldn’t be built.  The problems here have to do with the location and the scope.

“You know when you’re being pushed away; you know when you’re being told, ‘just move out of the neighborhood’ – out of our own neighborhood, where we’ve already been for 27 years.”

Let us test this theory, shall we?  Let's pick up the Crystal Cathedral (arguably the most ostentatious house of worship in America), very carefully, and set it down on a street corner in downtown Riyadh.  Or Cairo.  Or Karachi.  Shout it loudly from the highest mountain, that you have every right to do so.  Would this assertion embarrass the zoning people into acquiescence?  I didn’t think so.

“From the Islamic perspective, freedom to worship is part of the divine plan.”

Really?  Tell that to the Christians in Iran.  I’m sure it will make all the difference.

Interesting.  When we speak of religious “freedom,” it seems, the burden inevitably falls to the Americans.  When we speak of “tolerance,” it’s the Christians and Jews who have to do all the “tolerating.”  We have to respect them, but they can insult us with impunity all day long.  This is a detestable double-standard, and it’s wrong.

Regardless of the subject, hard-liners on every side know how to win an argument: All they have to do is change the subject and ascribe sinister motives to all who disagree.  If you oppose abortion, then you obviously hate women and prefer that they reach for a coathanger. If you’re rich, then you certainly gained your wealth through fraud and you hate poor people; you should be taxed into oblivion.  And so on.

Yes, we have a constitutionally-protected freedom of religion in this country, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  But every city, everywhere, has a planning department that gets to decide what gets built where. Every day of the year, they deny building permits to supermarkets, factories, apartments, and – yikes! – yes, even Christian churches, when the projects are deemed inappropriate for the neighborhood.

It's refreshing to see that Mrs. Khan is not a fire-breathing extremist.  She chooses her words carefully, and she’s gracious to those who disagree. I respect that. Yet where I come from, her claims of entitlement are offensive, and her laments of victimhood are wildly overblown.

I'm proud to proclaim without reservation that I live in the greatest country on earth.  I say this not because we're so worthy or virtuous, but rather because God has chosen to bless us so extravagantly even though we're not.  We have the most liberal civil liberties in all the world, enshrined within our Constitution.  We have, by far, the most generous immigration policies known to man.  For these reasons, I'm sick and tired of the whiners who say we don't do enough.  If you don't like it, I say just try to find a better deal somewhere else.  Go ahead.  I dare you.

One thing I’ve noticed about liberation movements: Those who cry the loudest to defend their “rights,” often have no regard for the rights of anyone else. Those who call for “equality,” really believe themselves to be superior. It’s a transparent hypocrisy that knows no “principle” apart from naked self-interest. I fully expect to hear this slanted rhetoric from the New York Times, or from PBS, or the Village Voice.  But Reader’s Digest?  You should know better.

Don’t let them win.


  1. Great thoughts Steve. I happened upon this via your ad in Christian Communicator from last June. Your analysis is accurate and more of us need to speak up.

  2. So your main argument against the author is that other countries don't have religious freedoms, so we shouldn't either??? I read the article. All it is saying is that in the United States, we don't force anyone to believe anything, and allow people to believe whatever they want. You can't say that because other countries are intolerant, Muslims don't have the same rights as Christians here in the states. THAT is un-American.