The dueling demonstrations in lower Manhattan on Sunday gave me little choice but to find a way to donate to the Cordoba Initiative. Clearly a better understanding of the Muslim faith is needed. Urgently. The fact that its location is spotlighting this need is an added bonus. As other anti-muslim demonstrations around the country prove, siting it near Ground Zero is hardly the cause for such irrational anger.
The first paragraphs of Hitchens' piece in Salon were great in destroying some of the lies spouted by Gingrich and his ilk. In fact there is a lot of Nazi signage, not just near the Holocaust museum, but in it. And your humble bustard has pointed out that the convent at Auschwitz that was supposed so laudably relocated by the Pope, was only moved from Auschwitz proper to a site directly across the road, with clear views of the concentration camp.
But then Hitchens' goes all wobbly. He seems to forget that freedom of religion is in our constitution. It is not based on a popularity contest. It's not a game in which Hitchens awards building permits based on his personal evaluation of their tolerance.
He doesn't like the fact that the Imam has supported the government in Iran. (Did we stop Jews from building temples because of Israel's support for the apartheid regime in South Africa? Did we stop building by Anglicans because of England's behavior in Ireland?) He doesn't like the fact that the Imam's stationery describes him "Visionary and Founder." If we banned all religious structures that were built in the name of visionaries, there would be a hell of a lot fewer tax-exempt buildings in Utah. (Hitchens should recall that a Baptist Minister also had 'visions' - Martin Luther King, Jr. whose "vision" will be slimed and insulted on August 28th in Washington D.C. by many of the same folk who oppose the mosque.)
He criticizes Islam because "It's easy enough to find Mosque Web Sites and DVD's that peddle the most disgusting attacks on Jews, Hindus, Christina,, unbelievers and other Muslims - to say nothing of insane diatribes about women and homosexuals." Has Mr Hitchens ever visited the website of the Westboro Baptist Church - of Fred Phelps fame? Most Evangelical Christians seem to think that the Bible has a lot of very nasty things to say about homosexuality.
Hitchens continues by insinuating that when Muslims get a little power, they try to insert their religious beliefs into the body politic. Aside from sounding disgustingly like that phrase "give a Jew a hand, and he'll take your whole arm", Hitchens seems unaware that we are constantly fighting about teaching evolution in our schools, about having the Ten Commandments posted in our court rooms, about the legality of stem cell research - the argument over religion's place in the public square is as American as apple pie.
The notion that some sort of a tolerance test must be passed before a building permit is issued is the central point of Hitchens' article. But does he really want to ban temples where men and women are forced to sit separately? And what about religious institutions that permanently mutilate the human body, like for example, circumcision.
No, only one religion has to prove its tolerance according to Hitchens - Islam. Similarly, many are insisting that only one religion must open their books and reveal their funding. Demagogues like Rick Lazio and Peter King demand to know who is paying for the building. (For obvious reasons they do not ask the same question of the Vatican) So let them investigate who has donated to the building - and let it be you whom they question.
P.S. The bustard is not affiliated with the Cordoba Initiative in any way. They are completely unaware that I have written this post. The views expressed are my personal views.