Commentary: Oh my God, another 'mosque' issue

The issue of the "World Trade Center Mosque" has generated a great dealof controversy recently. Opponents of the project should be alerted tothe fact that there is another religious center of a group withconnections to terrorism even closer to a place that has been bathed inthe blood of the victims of terrorism.

Opponents of the "mosque" say it is an insult to the memory of the victims of terrorism on 9/11 to have an Islamic place of worship soclose to Ground Zero. Even though it is a community center with only aroom where prayers can be said, two blocks away and not visible from thesite of that terrible act of terrorism, they insist it should not bebuilt.

They argue that Islam is a religion that has a history of encouragingthe use of violence, discrimination against women and intolerance towardthose of other faiths. While they say they support the guarantee offreedom of religion in the First Amendment of the Constitution, theybelieve the so-called mosque should be moved some unspecified distanceaway from such hallowed ground.

Those who feel that way may wish to raise their voices against anotherfacility that is just across the street from where hundreds were killedand injured because of terrorists.

The religion in question has a history of violence, intolerance and links to terrorism. For the sake ofconsistency and to demonstrate the limits they want on the FirstAmendment are applied evenly, the opponents of the "mosque" shoulddemand this other place of worship be relocated. Anything less,according to their logic, would be a victory for terrorists.

The hallowed ground in this case is the site of the Federal Building inOklahoma City. In this country's second worst act of terrorism, TimothyMcVeigh combined fertilizer, fuel oil and a rented truck to construct abomb that brought down most of the building. It killed 168 people,including 19 small children, injured 680 more and damaged 324 buildingswithin a 16-block radius.

McVeigh was raised a Roman Catholic. Across the street from the memorialto his victims is a Catholic church — St. Joseph Old Cathedral. It hasbeen there for over a century, but given recent history should it not bemoved?

Shortly before his execution, McVeigh said he practiced no religion, butin his formative years he was a Catholic. Catholicism has a history ofviolence against those of other faiths, as the Inquisition and theCrusades amply demonstrate.

Its treatment of Galileo demonstratedintolerance even to scientific advances that supposedly conflict withits teachings. It discriminates against women by not accepting them tothe priesthood and by insisting they have no reproductive rights. Andneed it be pointed out that that the head of this religion is a formermember of the Hitler Youth who served in the German armed forces duringWorld War II.

Besides McVeigh there are other instances of Catholic involvement interrorism. Eric Rudolph, the abortion clinic bomber was a self-professedCatholic.

In addition, it was revealed last week in Britain that in1972, a priest was involved in planting three car bombs detonated by theIrish Republican Army. The bombs killed nine people, including aneight-year-old girl, but the priest was neither arrested nor eveninvestigated. Instead, the Church, with the help of British authorities,transferred him to another parish.

In other words, the Church reacted toprotect itself and not the victims of the crime, in the same way it didon numerous occasions more recently when confronted with priests accusedof sexual abuse.

Does any of that mean that Old St. Joseph ought to be relocated? Doesany of this say anything about the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world?

Of course not. They have no more responsibility for the acts of criminalpriests, Rudolph or McVeigh than the 1.5 billion Muslims in the worldhave for what 19 fanatics did on 9/11.

That will not stop the politicians and pundits who exploit issues likethe "mosque" for personal gain. It will not prevent them fromproclaiming their support for freedom of religion with one breath andinciting mindless fear, xenophobia and bigotry in the next. But thatdoes not mean anyone has to be stupid enough to fall for it. Given thenumbers who flocked to hear Glenn Beck defile the memory of Dr. King onSaturday, there is no shortage of such people who do, however.

To the extent Beck and others succeed in making the "mosque" an issue,it will be a victory, not just for intolerance, but also for theterrorists.

For Beck and company will have brought down the image ofAmerica abroad — just as effectively as the terrorists brought down theTwin Towers.


Dennis Jett, a former career diplomat, is a professor of international affairs.

McClatchy Newspapers did not subsidize the writing of this column; the opinions are those of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of McClatchy Newspapers or its editors.

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