Saturday, August 28, 2010

Around Town: Sensitivity over legality

The debate continues over the proposed mosque near Ground Zero. Those in favor call it the Park51 Islamic Community Center. Those opposed call it the Ground Zero Mosque.

Pastor Jon T. Karn (Light on the Corner Church in Montrose) says, "In the interests of healing this lingering American wound, I would hope that thoughtful and kind-hearted Muslim Americans would reject this planned building.: (Valley Sun, In Theory, 7-21-10)

Rabbi Joshua Levine-Grater (Pasadena Jewish Temple) says, "…how can an Islamic Center run by one of the most active interfaith Muslim leaders in America…someone who works with rabbis, priests and many others to promote healing and reconciliation between faiths, be anything but good for that tragic location? (Huffington Post, 8-20-10)

Greg Gutfeld (Red Eye) plans to open a gay bar that caters to Islamic and non-Islamic gay men, to be situated next to the mosque at Park51, because "The Muslim faith doesn't look kindly upon homosexuality, which is why I'm building this bar. It is an effort to break down barriers and reduce deadly homophobia in the Islamic world." (Fox News, 8-9-10)

At issue is not the legality of the project. The project is legal. The Muslim community has a First Amendment right to practice Islam. The developers of the project have a legal right to build the mosque on their land. They have complied with the local political process and have obtained initial city approvals.

The issue is not about legality but about sensitivity.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach says, "The builders of the Ground Zero mosque squandered a unique opportunity to portray Islam in a favorable light…its builders [should] consult the families of the Ground Zero dead, who are the people whose opinion matters most…proceed with the greatest sensitivity and understanding."

When we remodeled our house in 1980, the first thing we did was to talk to the neighbors.

We talked to the neighbors before we pulled our permits. We talked to them before we finalized our plans. We got their input. We were not legally obligated to do so, but we felt that it was the right thing to do.

When the Archbishop of Cracow decided to build a Carmelite convent on the periphery of Auschwitz, the debate (and mediation meetings) raged for a nearly a decade until Pope John Paul II spoke out in favor of moving the convent in the interests of normalizing Jewish-Catholic relations. Of the 1.1 million murdered at Auschwitz, more than 1 million were Jews.

With respect to the Park51/Ground Zero Mosque, New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan has volunteered to act as a mediator in the dispute, citing the compromise reached in the Auschwitz convent dispute.

It is easy for the mosque proponents to accuse the opponents of prejudice. It equally easy for Greg Gutfeld to criticize the death penalty for homosexuals under Muslim law, in effect in Iran, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

It is not so easy for the bereaved families of the victims of 9-11. They are not "over it." They have not "found closure." Nor should they.

It is much too soon.

If the developers of the mosque truly wish to promote interfaith peace, they will accept Cardinal Dolan's offer to mediate and reconsider the location.

As the Rev. Bryan Griem (Montrose Community Church) notes, "Nobody is denying a congregation its American privilege of having a worship center in New York or anywhere else. What nobody finds particularly palatable is having such a sensitive situation served with such insensitivity by a religious group that claims it's as patriotic to America as everyone else. Fine, then do your patriotic duty and back off." (Valley Sun, In Theory, 7-21-10)

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