WASHINGTON — After skirting the controversy for weeks, President Barack Obama is weighing in forcefully on the mosque near ground zero, saying a nation built on religious freedom must allow it.
“As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country,” Obama told an intently listening crowd gathered at the White House Friday evening to observe the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
“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,” he said. “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable.”
As glad as I am to see President Obama stick up for the constitutional freedoms of Muslims seeking to build a mosque in New York, I wish that he had similarly defended another group of Americans who were seeking to exercise their constitutional rights:
After a warning from a Brooklyn-based Islamist group, Comedy Central decided to censor last night’s episode of South Park over concerns about further offending Muslims by featuring a satirical representation of Mohammed.
Following last week’s episode, the cartoon-rendering of the prophet appeared with his body obscured by a black box and the name Mohammed was bleeped out, the Associated Press reports. Muslims consider any representation of the founder of their religion to be blasphemous.
Last week’s episode depicted the founders of various religions, including Moses, Jesus and Buddha, but did not show Mohammed outright. Instead, he was represented wearing a bear costume, and that angered members of a group calling itself Revolution Muslim. The group posted a warning on its website “that what they are doing is stupid and they will probably wind up like Theo Van Gogh for airing this show.”
Theo Van Gogh, Vincent Van Gogh’s great-grand nephew, you might recall, was the Dutch filmmaker who was murdered in 2004 for his movie questioning Islam’s views of women:
Van Gogh worked with Somali-born writer Ayaan Hirsi Ali to produce the film Submission, which was critical of the treatment of women in Islam.
. . .
Working from a script written by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, van Gogh created the 10-minute movie Submission. The movie deals with the topic of violence against women in some Islamic societies, telling the stories, using visual shock tactics, of four abused Muslim women. The title itself, “Submission”, is a translation of the word “Islam” into English, referring to Muslims’ submission before God. In the film, women’s naked bodies are veiled with semi-transparent shrouds as they kneel in prayer, telling their stories as if they are speaking to Allah. Qur’anic verses some argue are unfavourable to women are projected onto their bodies in Arabic.
. . .
Mohammed Bouyeri murdered Van Gogh in the early morning of 2 November 2004, in Amsterdam . . . while he was cycling to work. Bouyeri shot van Gogh eight times with an HS 2000 handgun, and Van Gogh died on the spot. Bouyeri then attempted to decapitate him with one knife, and stabbed him in the chest with another. The two knives were left implanted in his torso, one attaching a five-page note to his body. The note threatened Western countries, Jews and Ayaan Hirsi Ali (who went into hiding).
Ayaan Hirsi Ali eventually fled the Netherlands and now lives in the United States. She has written two books about her life — Infidel and Nomad: From Islam to America — wherein she lays out in excruciating detail how women are treated in many Islamic societies and the danger that radical Islam represents to Western liberal democracy.
A year and a half ago, President Obama declared that “We are not at war with Islam”.
That may be true, but based on Ms. Ali’s experiences, and the experiences of many others including the victims of 9/11 and Mssrs. Parker and Stone, it is also true that at least some parts of Islam are war with us.
And these segments of Islam is not just at war with “us”, as in “the West” — they are at war with everything and everyone not sufficiently Islamic, as they define it. Almost everyplace in the world where you find large Muslim populations living in, or in close proximity to, non-Muslim societies, or even to other Muslims not of their own sect, there is conflict.
Just in recent times, some of the better known sites have included Israel (vs. Jews), Lebanon (vs. Christians), Chechnya (vs. Russians), Bosnia (vs. Serbians), Western China (vs. ethnic Chinese), Iraq (Shiite v. Sunni), Afghanistan (vs. Buddhists), Pakistan (vs. India, Hindus), Mindanao (vs. Filipino, Christians), Indonesia (vs. Bali, Buddhists), Uganda, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and Nigeria (vs. African Christians).
And one of the patterns to be found in this conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims is that Muslims have consistently sought to celebrate and consolidate their conquests and defeats of non-Muslims by erecting mosques at or near non-Muslim holy sites that they were able to capture and/or destroy.
The most famous example of this of course is the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem:
Al-Aqsa Mosque . . . is an Islamic holy place in the Old City of Jerusalem. The site that includes the mosque (along with the Dome of the Rock) is also referred to as al-Haram ash-Sharif or “Sacred Noble Sanctuary”, a site also known as the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, the place where the First and Second Temples are generally accepted to have stood. Widely considered as the third holiest site in Islam, Muslims believe that Muhammad was transported from the Sacred Mosque in Mecca to al-Aqsa during the Night Journey.
An example from Christiandom is the Umayyad Mosque:
The Ummayad Mosque, also known as the Grand Mosque of Damascus . . . is one of the largest and oldest mosques in the world. Located in one of the holiest sites in the old city of Damascus, it is of great architectural importance.
After the Arab conquest of Damascus, the mosque was built on the Christian basilica dedicated to John the Baptist since the time of the Roman emperor Constantine I.
Then you have the Hagia Sophia:
Hagia Sophia . . . is a former Orthodox patriarchal basilica, later a mosque and now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. From the date of its dedication in 360 until 1453, it served as the cathedral of Constantinople, except between 1204 and 1261, when it was the cathedral of the Latin Empire. The building was a mosque from 29 May 1453 until 1934, when it was secularized.
These are just some of the more notable examples, but there are thousands more smaller examples. And it is not just Christian and Jewish sites that have been targeted:
In his book “Hindu Temples – What Happened to Them”, Sita Ram Goel included a list of 2000 mosques that it is claimed were built on Hindu temples. The second volume of the book excerpts from medieval histories and chronicles and from inscriptions concerning the destruction of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples. The authors claim that the material presented in this book are only the tip of an iceberg.
Although America may have been the first nation founded in world history without a recognized national religion, the World Trade Center in New York did in a very significant way symbolize the free enterprise system that is in fact akin to a recognized national religion of sorts.
Is was logical, then, that the Muslims who sought to strike a blow at that way of life in the name of Islam would choose the World Trade Center as a potent symbol of that way of life to be destroyed.
The desire of other Muslims to now construct an Islamic mosque and cultural center in what used to be the shadow of the World Trade Center has to be seen in light of the ongoing war between Muslims and non-Muslims around the world, and the desire of Muslims to construct Islamic holy sites at or near the sites of their “victories” against non-Muslims.
Again, we may not be at war with Islam, but no one can deny that at least some parts of Islam are most definitely at war with us.