Hitch and Harris on moderate Islam

August 28, 2010 • 7:14 am

The debate about the “ground zero” mosque is continuing. I’ve said my piece, and will just point out debate elsewhere.   About two weeks ago Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens gave their views on the New York Islamic cultural center, and they’ve weighed in again this week.

Hitchens, ill as he is, has barely broken stride. In his latest column at Slate, he continues to point out that the Imam behind the Cultural Center, Feisal Abdul Rauf, may not be as moderate as everyone thinks.  Besides holding the U.S. partially responsible for the World Trade Center attacks, says Hitchens, the Imam asked Obama to endorse the theocracy of Iran. And he worries about how moderate “moderate Islam” really is:

Emboldened by the crass nature of the opposition to the [cultural] center, its defenders have started to talk as if it represented no problem at all and as if the question were solely one of religious tolerance. It would be nice if this were true. But tolerance is one of the first and most awkward questions raised by any examination of Islamism. We are wrong to talk as if the only subject was that of terrorism. As Western Europe has already found to its cost, local Muslim leaders have a habit, once they feel strong enough, of making demands of the most intolerant kind. Sometimes it will be calls for censorship of anything “offensive” to Islam. Sometimes it will be demands for sexual segregation in schools and swimming pools. The script is becoming a very familiar one. And those who make such demands are of course usually quite careful to avoid any association with violence. They merely hint that, if their demands are not taken seriously, there just might be a teeny smidgeon of violence from some other unnamed quarter …

. . So, before he is used by our State Department on any more goodwill missions overseas, I would like to see Imam Rauf asked a few searching questions about his support for clerical dictatorship in, just for now, Iran. Let us by all means make the “Ground Zero” debate a test of tolerance. But this will be a one-way street unless it is to be a test of Muslim tolerance as well.

In “Silence is not moderation,” his latest piece at the Washington Post’s “On Faith” site, Harris comes up with nearly identical sentiments:

The true scandal here is that Muslim moderates have been so abysmally lacking in candor about the nature of their faith and so slow to disavow its genuine (and growing) pathologies—leading perfectly sane and tolerant people to worry whether Muslim moderation even exists.

Despite his past equivocations on this issue, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf could dispel these fears in a single paragraph:

“Like all decent people, I am horrified by much that goes on in the name of ‘Islam,’ and I consider it a duty of all moderate Muslims to recognize that many of the doctrines espoused in the Qur’an and hadith present some unique liabilities at this moment in history. Our traditional ideas about martyrdom, jihad, blasphemy, apostasy, and the status of women must be abandoned, as they are proving disastrous in the 21st century. Many of Islam’s critics have fully justified concerns about the state of discourse in parts of the Muslim world–where it is a tissue of conspiracy theories, genocidal ravings regarding the Jews, and the most abject, triumphalist fantasies about conquering the world for the glory of Allah. While the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity also contain terrible passages, it has been many centuries since they truly informed the mainstream faith. Hence, we do not tend to see vast numbers of Jews and Christians calling for the murder of apostates today. This is not true of Islam, and there is simply no honest way of denying this shocking disparity. We are members of a faith community that appears more concerned about harmless cartoons than about the daily atrocities committed in its name–and no one suffers from this stupidity and barbarism more than our fellow Muslims. Islam must grow up. And Muslim moderates like ourselves must be the first to defend the rights of novelists, cartoonists, and public intellectuals to criticize all religious faiths, including our own.”

These are the sorts of sentiments that should be the litmus test for Muslim moderation. Find an imam who will speak this way, and gather followers who think this way, and I’ll volunteer to cut the ribbon on his mosque in lower Manhattan.

I know exactly how many commenters are going to respond:  a.  It’s not our place to tell the Imam what to say, and b. There really are tons of moderate Muslims who have decried the extremes of terrorism and repression practiced by some Muslims in the name of their faith.  And yes, maybe I’ve missed some of these.  (I haven’t, however, missed the many Catholics who vociferously oppose much of the repressive dogma of their church.)  But it does seem to me that many moderate Muslims—this excludes ex-Muslims like Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali—are strikingly silent on many of these excesses.  Yes, they may decry beheadings and suicide bombings, but I haven’t heard much about the pervasive repression of women and homosexuals in Muslim states, about freedom of expression, or about the lunacy of fatwas for publishing “offensive” books, drawing pictures of Mohamed, and naming teddy bears after the Prophet.  The Qur’an doesn’t seem to have been subject to nearly as much liberal or metaphorical interpretation as the Bible.

130 thoughts on “Hitch and Harris on moderate Islam

  1. Jerry, you noticed something I hadn’t seen commented upon: that despite their being on apparently different “sides” of this debate, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens are saying effectively the same thing, just with different emphases. Hitchens says, “These Cordoba guys are actually pretty suspect, but they have a right to build the thing and trying to stop then is not kosher”. Harris says: “Of course these people have a right to build the thing and trying to stop them is not kosher, These Cordoba guys are actually pretty suspect – and, BTW, this shows how even moderate Islam is actually pretty sleazy and why we should be pretty uneasy about this cultural centre.”

    1. Once again, Jerry Coyne boils down the issue to the important kernel. Benjamin, I like your summary too.

    2. it does seem to me that many moderate Muslims … are strikingly silent on many of these excesses

      Well, yes, if we abstract this to the general case, there is a limit where something like nazism becomes repugnant every which way you turn it. If the above is really the case (and that is my media impregnated impression), then one would have to act accordingly.

      However, I don’t see how that, which isn’t yet the common opinion on the religion, ties back to specific cases. Hopefully there are rules in such cases; if they are followed, fine.

  2. I’d like us to keep the “mosque” (actually, it would be a community centre) separate from a critique of Islam.

    For one thing, they have every right to build a community centre there. We come off looking very illiberal to suggest otherwise.

    On the other hand, we have every right to criticise Islam, and any other religion, as it threatens human rights and democracy.

    1. I’d like to think this is how the majority of Americans feel, despite the seeming din of genuine nutjobs out there. The problem is that, as Sam Harris wrote, even saing that we have every right to criticize Islam, or noting that building a towering tribute to Islam in the immediate vicinity of one of its most grotesque massacres, is enough to get you branded a bigot these days. It’s as if both sides want to quash any nuanced debate on the subject.

  3. I think it pertinent to perceive that most religious leaders of note are unspeakable. Take Ratzinger, yet no one would use his criminal foolishness to oppose the building of a Catholic church.

  4. Non-discriminatory human rights must always precede any attempt at cultural pluralism. Interpersonal equanimity should be consistently prioritized–eschewing emotionally tendentious ideologies and traditional values. It’s the same circle that will have to be squared concerning AGW.

    Or, as Larry David suggests, “That being said…”

      1. I agree that human rights should precede cultural pluralism but in such a case who will be an impartial guarantor of such rights who is also seen to be acting bona fidely for such rights? Unless we have such a guarantor any attempt at giving precedence to one over another will be seen as mala fide. Human rights, sometimes, are used as an excuse to further a national agenda. So these are not necessarily universal human rights but rights as seen from a nationalist perspective with a pick and choose approach depending on the inter-state relations.

  5. The best of course would be to have a total ban on building anything for organisations that promote superstition in any shape or form!
    No discrimination, no exception.

    1. Well, one might have an interesting fantasy about that sort of thing, but the reality would be a devastating nightmare of Orwellian proportions.

      The truly best course of action is what we’re seeing right now: the Islamists get to do what they want with the property they own, and everybody else gets to say exactly what they think of them.

      If the Klan wants to parade around in cut-up bedsheets, they must absolutely have the unquestioned right to do so. And we, the not-insane overwhelming majority who find their views repugnant, have a moral imperative to both protect their right to do so and loudly explain exactly what kinds of silly idiotic scum they are.



      1. You know…that works only as long as there aren’t so many Islamists that they win. When there are, it becomes a little too glib to say the best course of action is the Islamists get to do what they want with the property they own, and everybody else gets to say exactly what they think of them. If enough Islamists own enough property and do what they like with it, then everybody else does not get to say exactly what they think of them.

  6. All of those religions use the same methods of control. Christianity isn’t less grotesque due to its nature, it is less grotesque only because it doesn’t have complete control of the societies it has a dominate position in. Christianity has been forced into a moderate position by outsiders and former adherents that demand that they stop raping children and enslaving women.

    Swap the christian and muslim environments and the results will be very similar. Remove the moderating social structure and christianity will tumble back to the roots of its heritage.

    The more correct approach would be to not allow any religious structures within the shadow of the site.

    1. Again, as non-US citizen I can’t say what to do in the specific case.

      But sure, since it was religion that supported the terrorism, it would have been best to make it a secular zone.

      1. “been best” – ehm, doing what I had made up my mind not to. I mean it would be best in general.

    2. All of those religions have participants that range across the spectrum of belief. There are even some non-theist Christians and the numbers are growing. One problem is that it is the radicals in most fields who make the most noise while the moderates and progressives go their way.

  7. ‘Moderate’ Muslims are too often imams and intellectuals who make formal declarations against terrorism and (sometimes) the very worst excesses of sharia (stoning of women for adultery etc.) but otherwise are averse to airing Muslim dirty laundry, are loathe to denounce certain terrorist organizations, strive to convince non-Muslims that they ought never offend Islamic sensibilities in any way, and ultimately blame the West for Muslim extremism (and failing to explain, for example, Muslim-on-Muslim violence in Darfur and Pakistan).

    Truly moderate and reformist Muslims, on the other hand, are much more full-throated against terrorism, extremism, misogyny, and intolerance. And they are practicing Muslims, unlike the ex-Muslims embraced by conservatives and secularists.

    Some names: Asra Nomani, Irshad Manji, Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Mona Eltahawy, Salim Mansur.

    There are actually a quite a few of these reformists who are public figures (journalists, politicians, activists etc). Some of them reside in Muslim countries. But American media and politicians keep highlighting the so-called ‘moderates.’

    1. I think it may be because virtually none of them are part of the clerical hierarchy. Those with power tend to guard it jealously.

    2. While there are moderate Muslims, as well as liberal Christians, it is important, I think, to remember how liberal Christians are often regarded, as people who hang onto the form of the religion but let the content go. Dennett speaks of belief in belief, and that is precisely what characterises moderate or liberal believers. Even people like Hitchens, Dawkins, and Stephen Fry make jokes about them.

      But it is vital to remember that, for most of the adherents of the book religions, like Islam, Judaism and Christianity, it is the book, in the end, that drives belief, and moderation is just a waystation on the way out of the religion, not a form of living religion.

      Irshad Manji’s beliefs, for example, are so divorced from the realities of Muslim belief as to qualify as delusions. She will not convince Muslims to go down her street, because the Qu’ran and the Hadith are clearly against her. She’s like a Church of England vicar who has lost his faith, but loves the liturgy and the people. But the religious motivation is missing. It becomes a cultural thing. The religion itself remains untouched. Just see how powerful the Church of England Evangelical Council is at the moment. Conservative belief will win every time, because it takes belief seriously. That’s what too many non-believers simply do not understand.

      1. Yes and no: there have been plenty of religiously motivated movements and cults in history that have lost. The Evangelical Council in the Church of England well may be powerful within the church, but how powerful is the Anglican Church as a whole in comparison with what it was in its more glorious days? (Although no doubt the evangelicals are doing a grand job in spreading the more unsavoury aspects of Christianity in places like Uganda, as are certain American fundamentalists.) As David Lewis-Williams points out, religions – and certainly monotheistic religions – depend upon what is in the end an arbitrary assertion of authority, and therefore there is always the danger – and particularly when adherents see their beliefs as under threat – that this authority will be clung to and asserted in violent ways, but this does not necessarily entail that religious moderates are really and underneath no different from the extremists or that they are really not religiously-minded at all, but are merely nostalgic, and like religion only in the end for aesthetic or cultural reasons and are therefore on their way out of the fold. An interesting question is surely why it is that Indonesian Muslims are in general more moderate than their Arab, Persian or, say, Pashtun co-religionists (although there are plenty of Iranian people who have no time for the theocrats who rule them but who would nonetheless say that they are Muslims). Another is why it is that after its cruel and Calvinistic beginnings the Anglican church became rather more eirenic than many other churches. Would you class, say, that wonderfully humane man, George Herbert, whose beliefs seem to have been sincere and profound, as a moderate somehow on his way out of the fold? Robert Herrick, with his paganism, perhaps, but not, I think, Herbert. You say that Irshad Manji’s beliefs qualify as delusions. But do not some people (Muslims) listen to her – does she really have no constituency? Does she not in the end help others on their way out of the fold or prison of Islam? I think religion needs to be stood against with strong secular principles, but I think there is a danger in absolutising religion in such a way as to suggest either that all religious moderates are merely enablers of the extremists or that they are ‘no true believers’. Like it or not, we are going to have to try to encourage the moderates.

        1. Well, Tim, if all we knew of Bonaventure was the rather touching hymn, “Jerusalem the golden,” we might think him sincerely pious. I don’t know George Herbert in all his moods. Was he a moderate? One can be very sweetly sincere and even profound, quite touchingly devotional, and yet be full of the most angry beliefs and prejudices. I would need to know more of Herbert. Poetry is one thing, life is often another.

          The important thing to notice in what you have just written is the claim, undoubtedly true, that “religions – and certainly monotheistic religions – depend upon what is in the end an arbitrary assertion of authority, and therefore there is always the danger – and particularly when adherents see their beliefs as under threat – that this authority will be clung to and asserted in violent ways”. I do not think the threat here is necessarily external. More often it is internal. Threats to religious monotheisms are most powerful when they take the form of religious beliefs which are held by the true believers to be declensions from the purer forms of faithfulness (of which the various fundamentalisms are often the contemporary variety).

          Nor did I suggest that moderates were simply fanatics skulking around in fancy dress. What I was saying is precisely what David Lewis-Williams is saying, that religion is fundamentally capricious, so that, in fact, liberal moderation is not and cannot be at the heart of any religion. What makes it capricious is the kind of thing that powers religion, the thing that makes it ‘religious’, instead of simply a form of social consensus. I would not want to discourage moderates, but I should not want to depend on religious moderation, because in the end it is a delusion, and the real motive power of religion is unpredictable and theocratic. I don’t know what Manji’s constituency is, but I shouldn’t think it very large, and, in my own personal experience, moderation in religion is in a very unstable state, precisely because it is taken as an attack on the religion itself. The religious have always reserved their greatest hatreds for their differently believing brothers and sisters, not outsiders.

          As for Anglicanism and its power, it is arguably more powerful in the world today than at any other period in history, especially in its African and Asian forms, and the Church of England seems to be changing its spots so that it can accommodate to these power centres of Anglicanism, rather than to the more moderate and liberal Anglicanism of North America.

          1. Your points are taken. Do read a life of George Herbert, though. But my principal point was also that moderates should not be dismissed or discouraged, and if possible they should be encouraged (in particular to speak out), since they can and do have an influence. In the end, though, it is, as both of us have said, arbitrariness and caprice that lie at the heart of the monotheistic religions in particular, and, yes, it would be foolish to depend on the moderates, but encouraging moderation, as opposed to regarding both moderates and extremists as the same, is not necessarily dependence.

            I fear you are right about the Anglican church.

  8. Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens make good points, but surely the implication is that we should oppose the building of mosques (or Islamic cultural centers) anywhere? I’m not sure why this means solely that one shouldn’t be built two blocks from ground zero. Why is two blocks too close, and what would be the correct minimum distance, and why?

    1. Actually, I don’t think that is the implication; I think it’s more along the lines of “eternal vigilance.”

      This current debate, at least as it is being played out in the press, is highly polarized with very little nuance. H & H, I think, seek a sort of 3rd ground. Trust but verify?

    2. Neither Harris nor Hitchens are denying anyone’s rights. What they are saying, however, is that the pretence that the purpose of the so-called ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ (and there has always been a mosque in the plans) is to promote intercultural and interreligious understanding should be seen for what it is, a pretence. The real motivations are probably a bit more devious. This doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be built, but it does mean that we should not fall for the pretty stories that religious people tell. They’re almost always lies. Religions are expressions of power, individual and social power, and no one should mistake them for something else.

  9. I think you should excuse ex-Muslims from criticizing the Islamic fanaticism. The sheer fact that someone converts from Islam indicates that the person disagrees with the religion, and since s/he is not a Muslim anymore, puts the person in the same league as non-Muslims. Moderate interpretation of Islam cannot be carried out by anyone but Muslim scholars; and that is why their role is extremely important

    1. Presumably you refrain from commenting on the existence of Thor, Zeus, Wotan and the fairies at the bottom of your garden.

  10. The Qur’an doesn’t seem to have been subject to nearly as much liberal or metaphorical interpretation as the Bible.
    Scholars that attempt to study the Quran with the same type of critical mind as the Bible was studied in the 19th century are virtually absent, and not tolerated within islam. See item ‘Christoph Luxenberg’ in wikipedia.
    No critical historical edition of the Quran exists, only a standard text.
    No proper historical study of the origin of islam exists.
    No comparative study of all types of monotheism prevalent in the Middle East between 400 and 700 CE exists.
    Mohammad might not be a historical figure (neither might be the first four califs), but a study contradicting tradition to this level is impossible.

    1. I should think it obvious that Mohammad is entirely fictional.

      There are no contemporary mentions of him, despite the fact that he’s supposed to have been a most successful general with huge regional conquests. The earliest historical record is the written-down version of an already-centuries-old oral tradition that concludes with Mohammad riding into the sunset…on a flying horse.

      The evidence necessary to tip the scales in the other direction would be so massive that I really can’t imagine it hiding for a millennium and a half.

      It’s worth observing, of course, that the Jesus situation is no different….



      1. My (limited) understanding is that there is historical evidence of Mohammed as a military figure, but none of him as a religious figure. The latter was apparently created long after his death.

          1. I can’t remember which book in which I read this, but this link seems to have some good references: http://www.islamic-awareness.org/History/Islam/Inscriptions/earlysaw.html

            There are a couple of nearly contemporary non-Muslim references to “Muhammed” as a military leader, but nothing about him being a religious leader.

            The article itself is rather slated toward accepting the Muslim sources as historically accurate and places a non-Muslim source detailing Muhammed’s doctrines pretty early.

            1. They lost me with their very first source.

              In a section on texts from 622-719, they open with codex BL Add. 14,461. Wikipedia (granted, a less-than-stellar source) dates it to 767-768, in stark contrast to the article’s assertion that it “appears to have been penned soon after the battle of Gabitha (636 CE).”

              And, oh-by-the-way, the quote describes a massacre by “the Arabs of Muhammad,” and makes no effort to distinguish if they are led by a man of that name or if they’re the Arabs who worship a demigod of that name.

              I don’t care enough about the historicity of Muhammad either way to investigate the rest of the article in any kind of depth. It reeks to me of the same odor that wafts from the Christian apologetic attempts to “prove” the historicity of Jesus. If this is the best kind of “proof” the Muslims have to offer, I’ll continue to assume he was every bit as fictional as he appears to be at first glance.

              Either way, Islam (as with the other two big religions to come out of the Middle East) is still a despicable pile of sociopathic nonsense that would be laughable if it weren’t for the fact that people take it seriously.



            2. The ‘Islamic awareness’ is apologetics rather than scholarship, even if not in the furious style one tends to associate with islam defenders.

          2. Ah, thanks. I was lead o believe Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullāh, henceforth Muhammad, was an exception and an actual person. But like so many presumed religious founders before him he was an oral tradition. Bah!

            1. ‘Muhammad’ might have started as an adjective ‘praise-worthy’, and might have referred to Jesus in sixth / seventh century Middle East theology. ‘Abdallah’ means ‘servant of God’.
              When Byantium and Persia had fought each other to exhaustion and neither controlled the Arab territory between, a newly independent powerful Arab dynasty in Bagdad might have needed a state religion, just as the great powers Persia and Byzantium had a state religion. Mecca already existed as a remote place of pilgrimage with a meteorite cult.

  11. I look forward to the day when construction of any new “worship hut” results in pointed questions being asked of the perpetrators.

    Questions like:

    What does your holy book say about homosexuality, misogyny, physical and mental mutilation of children, abortion, euthanasia, stem cell research, global warming and the like ?

    How will you and your community of the chosen leave the world a better place for our descendants ?

    1. “worship hut” nicely done!

      Although I agree with your last question, I can’t help having an emotional attachment to a shorter version; How will you and your community of the chosen be leaving soon?

  12. And yes, maybe I’ve missed some of these. (I haven’t, however, missed the many Catholics who vociferously oppose much of the repressive dogma of their church.)

    Yeah, but…Catholicism is relatively weak in its ability to enforce acquiescence. Not so Islam. My guess is that if you find moderate Muslims who have decried the extremes of terrorism and repression practiced by some Muslims in the name of their faith, you’ve identified people who are economically independent of any particular community. I’m reluctant to reprimand the silence of people who face real consequences for speaking out. Which is all the more reason for the rest of us to do so.

  13. If Imam Rauf were to write that suggested piece, he would have a fatwa on his head by afternoon, and would probably be dead by nightfall. But, seriously, Islam could use some of its own kind heading moderation before they can accept christians and atheists trying to preach moderation to them. This revolution has to come from within. And sooner better than later, even if it comes at the risk of untimely death or dismemberment. Real question then is: are there real moderate muslims who are capable of leading. Are moderates willing to stand up to the hegemony?

  14. One issue is, should people build a mosque, which must be expanded to mosque/church/synogogue/whatever.Clearly yes.

    The other issue is, should they build on a site where many Americans have been killed. This too must be expanded to embrace all Americans, including thousands of members of the Lenape tribe who lived there before the Dutch arrived and built NYC over their cemetaries, also the graves 20,000 (moslem) African slaves whose remains are now being recovered.

    Or is it only “Hallowed Ground” when white people are buried in it?

    1. Sounds good to me. It’d practically leave the middle of the ocean as the only place were such worship huts could be built.

  15. Why does everyone speak and act as if they are scared of Muslims? The two I know personally are just a regular couple who run a Lebanese cafe. What unstoppable force has Islam got that every time they want to build a mosque it is seen as an encroachment upon other people’s liberties?

    Cordoba itself is an example of somewhere that once was part of a Caliphate, but is now part of democratic Spain. If the Spanish were able to push back an unwelcome Moorish incursion, why are New Yorkers so scared that they won’t be able to do the same?

    1. Why does everyone speak and act as if they are scared of Muslims?

      The names Salman Rushdie, Daniel Pearl, and Theo van Gogh come to mind.

      And, for that matter, so do the dates September 11, 2001, and July 7, 2005.

      You might be able to think of a few more tidbits if you try.



        1. Er, no. Not exactly.

          Because numerous Muslim states have official support for genocide and terrorism as part of their stated and followed policies and because the most widely followed Muslim religious authorities regularly issue execution orders for people they don’t like and because the most prolific mass murderers and perpetrators of non-state-sponsored mayhem for the past couple decades have been Muslims acting at the command or urging of those same Muslim states and authorities, we should take very seriously any threat of violence made in the name of Islam.

          Damn, do I really need to spell this out?

          The Torah, the Gospels, and the Qu’ran are all despicable, reprehensible, vile examples of the violent hatred prevalent in the Bronze Age and the Iron Age. The difference between the three religions that revere the corresponding works of filth is that Jews and Christians have a millennia-old tradition of redefining their holy works into irrelevance, whereas vast numbers of Muslims pride themselves on strict adherence with the worst parts of the Qu’ran — and the rest of the Muslim world tacitly supports the fundamentalists.

          Returning to your original thesis: yes, the West could trivially do the modern equivalent of “push[ing] back an unwelcome Moorish incursion.” With one phone call, the leader of any of a half-dozen nations could reduce the entire Muslim world to slag — or, if preferred, only the major military installations, or only the industrial centers, or whatever.

          I hope I don’t have to explain why such a “final solution” is, to put it in the mildest of terms, absolutely unacceptable.

          I also hope I don’t have to explain the obvious conclusion that the problem is not one that can be solved through force of arms.

          Humanity has almost no experience solving problems of this nature and severity without resolving to armed conflict, which means we’re making this up as we go along. Whatever the best solution, it isn’t obvious.

          But one thing is for sure: before we do solve it, a lot more people are going to die in the name of Islam.

          And, yes, that is a reasonable source of fear.



          1. You’ve read my brain and published it! I won’t sue you only because you expressed my thoughts much more concisely and elegantly than I ever could.

          2. So you are saying that Muslim society is comparably worse. That still doesn’t explain why we would have to “run around” scared.

            It’s the “beware of the vikings” mentality without there being actual common occurrences of vikings. And I don’t like it, for obvious reasons.

            Encroaching or pervasive forces is, despite the claims to the contrary, something humanity have faced many times before. In fact Europe has a history of nothing but this.

            Why this would be any different is never explained (but I appreciate the effort).

            “Cry wolf!” Um, no please.

          3. And, yes, that is a reasonable source of fear.

            No. It might be a source of fear for you, but it’s not reasonable. Unless of course you are frightened to fight for what you believe is right.

            1. Since when is it unreasonable to fear death and dismemberment?

              And since when is it wise to either act blindly based on fear or refuse to do anything at all because one is afraid of being afraid?

              The West is rightly afraid of Islam. That doesn’t mean we should bomb them into the stone age, and it doesn’t mean that we should welcome them with open arms.

              It means that we should take reasonable precautions to ensure that Islamists are unsuccessful in their stated intentions to continue their violent terror campaign against us, and that we should do what we can to resolve the problem at its source: by convincing them of the fundamental errors of their ways.

              But you’d have to be a blithering fucking idiot to not be afraid of a people who dream of enslaving the world and killing those who resist.



            2. But you’d have to be a blithering fucking idiot to not be afraid of a people who dream of enslaving the world and killing those who resist.

              I think your arguments start to break down when you have to resort to insulting those who disagree with you. Do you cry yourself to sleep every night because of your fear of Islamists?

          4. Which Muslim states have official support for genocide as stated and followed policy, and exactly how many of such states are there?

    2. Cordoba itself is an example of somewhere that once was part of a Caliphate, but is now part of democratic Spain. If the Spanish were able to push back an unwelcome Moorish incursion, why are New Yorkers so scared that they won’t be able to do the same?


      Great, let’s take a lesson from the Catholic fanatics who “pushed back” against the Muslims of those horrible cities like Córdoba and Granada. (They also violently expelled the Jews and launched the Inquisition; brought mass slaughter, exploitation, and slavery to the Americas; and established the latifundia system and Church power in the region.) “Democratic Spain” came (returned) not long ago following decades of a ruthless confessional dictatorship. After Franco’s victory in the Civil War (they had practiced their brutality in Morocco), anyone connected to democratic values was killed (priests turned people in and some blessed the guns of Franco’s firing squads) or imprisoned and had their children taken away, no opposition to the Church and its laws was allowed, censorship was the rule, education was controlled by the Church, women had few rights, gay people were persecuted, and the Vatican was thrilled.


      Yeah, that’s definitely a history of “pushing back” that New Yorkers should emulate and skeptics should support. You might want to try finding some other examples.

    3. Why does everyone speak and act as if they are scared of Muslims?

      Everyone? Who are you talking about?

      What unstoppable force has Islam got that every time they want to build a mosque it is seen as an encroachment upon other people’s liberties?

      Christian bigotry and stereotyping fomented by right-wing organizations lead many people to see it this way. Not everyone, by any means.

      why are New Yorkers so scared that they won’t be able to do the same?

      Who? What do you mean by an unwelcome incursion? What do you mean by “push back”? I’m really not sure what you’re arguing for here. On the one hand, you seem to be saying – and I would agree – that this “Community Center of Death” rhetoric is hyperbolic and silly. On the other, you write of pushing back incursions. If there’s nothing to fear from the center, why should it be seen as an incursion (on what?) to be pushed back?

      1. Ok, “Everyone” was rhetoric. What I wanted to convey was why isn’t liberal democracy seen as strong enough to see off Islamic intransigence?

        It’s the framing of the debate that somehow Muslims are seen as so scary that they cannot be tolerated. It is perfectly possible to find moderates, go out and speak to Muslims who live in your communities. They won’t be the Imams, just ordinary folk who want to build a life for themselves.

        I don’t have a view on the centre itself, I don’t live in New York and so I don’t feel it is for me to say who builds what and where. But you can’t pretend this is not a territorial battle about who is allowed to build in specific places.

      1. The one that’s contained the regimes of Franco, Pinochet, the Duvaliers, Salazar, Trujillo,…, the Ustashe, the Catholic-dominated countries where hundreds of thousands of women die because they don’t have basic reproductive rights and hundreds of thousands more because they can’t use condoms? The enormous evangelical movement in the US that sees military conquest as a religious crusade? That works (effectively) to deny human rights to women and gay people? The Christian organizations that have fomented antisemitism for centuries?

  16. I’ve followed this discussion, among others on this fine web site, with keen interest. The issue of whether a Muslim community center should be built in the shadow of the World Trade towers isn’t really the issue for me. Legally, of course they have the right to build it.

    And I’m afraid that the way this issue is being framed in the MSM is obscuring the more important one about religion vs. secularism that needs to be debated. Where does one draw the line regarding freedom of religion? The first amendment clearly protects the free exercise of religion, but is silent on the more pernicious aspects of such an exercise, i.e., religious intolerance practiced by religious groups, religious proselytizing to the point of disrupting the free speech and assembly rights of others, etc.

    Most freedom of speech advocates would accept that free speech doesn’t extend to “shouting fire in a crowded theater” and yet that is the kind of extreme religious freedom that we tend to put up with by extreme religionists over and over.

    Is disrupting the funerals of fallen soldiers with “God hates fags” protests within the realm of free religious expression? Does the free exercise of religion cover direct involvement in politics? What about the fundamentalist religious groups lending their time and money to the defeat of global climate change legislation? When does the exercise of religious freedom become the equivalent of shouting fire in a crowded theater? Or does it ever?

    I’d suggest as a rational first step toward equilibrium that we, at the least, abolish the tax exempt status of all religious institutions in this country. The messages and causes these groups espouse is bad enough, but doing so on the public dime is particularly galling.

    1. Is disrupting the funerals of fallen soldiers with “God hates fags” protests within the realm of free religious expression?

      Disrupting anyone’s funeral is not really on. In the UK this would be termed a breach of the peace, and so could be dealt with by the police. Strange that you should want to protect peoples’ rights to be obnoxious at any place and any time.

  17. I really don’t like Islam. I think it is one of the more evil religions, and too many of its practitioners use their ignorance and stupidity as an excuse to be the world’s most repulsive creatures. Anybody who proudly claims association with such a hideous corruption, in my opinion, is either unforgivably stupid or monstrous beyond fiction. I find Christianity an only slightly less repugnant and pathetic way to see the universe, so I am not trying to bash squarely on the Imams.

    That said, I believe with a level of fervor approaching religion that certain rights can never be forced from people. The First Amendment is, as far as I am concerned, the most sacred penmanship in the history of civilization. Will granting the mosque cause problems? Undoubtedly. So then? So then we deal with those problems.

    The only thing worse than being a Muslim is being the guy denying rights to Muslims.

    1. I flatly deny the right for Muslims to murder cartoonists.
      This is not only a right in many Islamic countries, but an obligation.

      Does that make me “worse than a Muslim”? If so, I plead guilty.

      And I trust that by “rights”, you do not mean those rights that apply only in the USA, surely?

    2. Besides the obvious problems, see Michael Kingsford Gray’s comment, I like this.

      But “First Amendment is,…, the most sacred penmanship” puts a question. (And of course it isn’t. It is a national document, for one.)

      If it was that important, why was it an amendment? I’m not up to the history of the US constitution, but something seems amiss.

      1. Well, just a thought, but maybe it’s due to that well attested phenomena whereby the human race seldom gets anything quite right the first time. But it does fix things up and make improvements as time goes by.

        Not being a Mercun citizen myself, I can’t be sure, but just saying.

    3. ‘granting the mosque’… It is not a mosque. Can we not get things right?
      And one should beware of making anything – even the First Amendment – sacred.

  18. “…he continues to point out that the Imam behind the Cultural Center, Feisal Abdul Rauf, may not be as moderate as everyone thinks.”

    “But it does seem to me that many moderate Muslims—this excludes ex-Muslims like Salman Rushdie and Ayaan Hirsi Ali—are strikingly silent on many of these excesses.”

    “…but I haven’t heard much about the pervasive repression of women and homosexuals in Muslim states, about freedom of expression, or about the lunacy of fatwas for publishing “offensive” books, drawing pictures of Mohamed, and naming teddy bears after the Prophet.”

    “The Qur’an doesn’t seem to have been subject to nearly as much liberal or metaphorical interpretation as the Bible.”

    I wonder if you really hear yourself when you speak like this. Jerry, you really do disappoint when it comes to this subject. You are no different than the Glenn Becks of the world. Sad and pathetic.

    1. “Glenn Becks”?

      Glenn Beck is a conservative media commentator [Wikipedia]. Why would qualification, something commonplace when discussing facts, be tied to him? And what consequences would that have (the “sad and pathetic”?)? Elucidate.

      1. He’s made it clear that he believes Islam, not a bunch of radical douche-bags, was responsible for Sept 11. Beck would agree.

        And Jerry’s “qualifications” sound to me like “I’m not sayin’… but I’m just sayin’!” He hasn’t heard, it seems to him…etc. Beck does the same thing all the time in an attempt to make utterly ridiculous points. Watch his show.

  19. it does seem to me that many moderate Muslims … are strikingly silent on many of these excesses

    Well, yes, if we abstract this to the general case, there is a limit where something like nazism becomes repugnant every which way you turn it. If the above is really the case (and that is my media impregnated impression), then one would have to act accordingly.

    However, I don’t see how that, which isn’t yet the common opinion on the religion, ties back to specific cases. Hopefully there are rules in such cases; if they are followed, fine.

  20. No, there are no easy answers. But it really doesn’t do to blame ‘Islam’ for 9/11, as opposed to a group of fanatics who partly owed their existence to American money and encouragement. It’s men who do things, not religions. This is not to say that some pernicious Islamic ideas had no influence on what happened. Obviously they did, just as pernicious Christian ideas influenced the Nazis. There’s a great satisfaction in meting out blame, but there is the reality of millions and millions of people who adhere to the Muslim faith and with whom we have to deal. Islam does possess numerous very pernicious ideas, and these should constantly be stood against and Muslims should be made aware that they are unacceptable. But surely the best way to do this in Western societies is to insist on the essentially secular nature of our societies and laws, and ensure that these laws are applied fairly and firmly. I also agree that we should be much better off if religions lost their tax-exempt status and if such institutions as those faith-schools, against which Dawkins has been rightly and eloquently speaking out, were discouraged or at the very least not encouraged.

  21. And, incidentally, since the treatment of homosexuals in Muslim societies has been brought up, it might be a good idea to look into the history of homosexuality in Muslim countries, to read, say, Ten Pillars of Wisdom, to examine the present situation, or plight, of the dancing boys of Afghanistan, to look into the treatment of homosexuals in the most populous Muslim state in the world, Indonesia, and finally to look into the influence of Christian and colonialist attitudes towards homsexuality on Muslim attitudes.

  22. And one final shot: the theocratic government of Iran is tyrannous and terrible, but I do not recall much fuss in the West years ago over the tyrannous and terrible nature of the Shah’s rule – rather, there was consternation at his overthrow; nor was there much fuss over the tyrannous and terrble nature of Saddam Hussein’s regime until he invaded Kuwait. I don’t like Islam, and think with Hitchens that Muslim leaders should be pressed regarding the more pernicious Islamic tenets, but I think things are a bit more complex than ‘nasty Islam’. Because of the ‘nasty Islam’ attitude, a New York taxi-driver narrowly escaped being murdered the other day, and there have been numerous other incidents and ‘hate-crimes’, as Keith Olbermann made very clear on his programme the other day. Olbermann and his guest spoke also of the way demagogues have been stirring this controversy up.

  23. It sounds to me like Hitchens is saying “Give de’ nigger an inch and he’ll take an ell” and although I don’t disagree with him in this situation – what can we do about it? Tell the mohammedans “sorry, you can’t build your temple because you don’t poo-poo terrorists enough”. All religions promote the fuzzy-mindedness which encourages loonies. Got voices in your head telling you to kill? It must be god! Do we ban mohammedanism? Well, we’ve really got a religious war on our hands then. Don’t forget we need help from mohammedans to rat on the terrorists – piss ’em all off and good luck catching the bad guys. I say let ’em build their temple and stop making a big deal of it. If there are any genuine security concerns, then you can post surveillance teams.

    The chief problem I see in Europe is that governments are giving religious institutions money to promote their bullshit. Just put an end to that – no more money to, say, “educational” institutions with religious affiliations, and tax the churches like any other corporation. The same is happening in Australia and some christian groups are clamoring for more money. I tell ’em it’s a great idea and I’ll help the muslims work out how to get a bigger share – it’s really funny watching the expression on their faces because on the one hand they want their government handouts and on the other hand, they don’t want the muslims getting any.

    1. Oh, and unlike, say, the catholics, there’s no equivalent of the pope for the mohammedans. Think of the group as a version of the Southern Baptist church that follows mohammed. Even where some imams speak out, they’re pretty much ignored in every other church on the planet.

  24. Hitchens commits the slippery slope fallacy. When Muslim leaders call for censorship or sexual segregation, just say no. Religious tolerance with respect to the cultural center does not imply tolerance in all areas.

  25. I can recall after Sept 11th there were demonstrations in the Islamic world both supporting and condeming the attacks.

    I do know that in Tehran there was a street demonstration to express sympathy with the US, and to condem those who carried out the attacks. Now in part the Iranian authorites will have allowed the demonstration since they had (and still have) their own differences with the Taliban and AQ, but it was well supported and the BBC correspondent at the time said he believed it indicated the genuine views of many Iranians.

    One of the biggest criticisms I have of Bush is that he squandered that good will when invading Iraq.

    1. I’ve never found a christian that would flatly state that they wouldn’t commit murder for their god-idea.

  26. For the record, Imam Rauf’s theological argument for why “[g]ender equality” should be considered “an intrinsic part of Islamic belief” is set forth at pages 216-20 of his book “What’s Right with ISLAM” (Harper/Collins 2004). Among other things, he writes: “In surveying the women who have been prominent in the history of the Islamic world, it becomes increasingly clear that there is a strong prototype for Muslim women and that women’s rights are alive in the very theology of Islam. But, as in most countries the world over, the reality for women does not match the ideals we know are right and just. As American women are fighting for equal pay for equal work, for reproductive rights and affordable childcare, Muslim women are fighting for compulsory education (in Afghanistan), the right to drive (Saudi Arabia) and the right to cover their hair (in France and in Turkey).” He thinks the main problem is entrenched custom, not a theology compelled by the Quran, and that the solution is more democracy. Elsewhere in the book, he offers Islamic defenses for freedom of religion, freedom not to believe in any god, free speech, universal human rights, pluralism, and tolerance. I’m not saying his theology is right or wrong. But he’s not silent. And he’s willing, at least on some matters, to treat problematic aspects of Islam in the same sort of way that liberal theologians treat problematic aspects of Christianity and Judaism. This foray into McCarthyism (Say it: I am not now and never have been an immoderate Muslim) is an embarrassment.

    1. Really? Is the feminist struggle in the West comparable to the Afghan women struggle for the right not to be burnt with acid? Is driving a car ther most Saudi women can aspire to? As for the “right” to cover their hair, what sort of idiot would call a mysognistic imposition a “right”? Not to mention the fact that this “right” should be conquered in France, of all places.

      1. Really? Is the feminist struggle in the West comparable to the Afghan women struggle for the right not to be burnt with acid?

        Yes. Yes, it very much is. The fight of women in many parts of “the West” is to have basic human rights – to control their sexuality and reproduction, for example. The power of the Catholic Church and evangelicals have militated against this in much of “the West” (and elsewhere). It is misleading to talk about the worst countries dominated by one religion and the most liberalized dominated by another. Or to ignore the role of right-wing militarism and imperialism in the US in the growth of extremism in Islamic countries. Feminists in Afghanistan have common cause with feminists in South and North America. Cooperation is always tricky; but given that there are very few (openly) non- or anti-Muslim feminist or gay groups in Muslim countries or communities, and that any rights activists are violently persecuted in those countries, I don’t see a justification for not working with progressive Muslims (while maintaining a very critical distance and being vocal about disagreements).

        1. SC, I agree with everything you said, but you are missing the point. Or rather, I did not make my point clear. Of the thousands of instances of horrible oppression of women in Muslim countries (and not just Afghanistan, by the way), Raouf chooses to mention those that might give the impression that Muslim countries are, on the whole, comparable to Western ones. That’s obfuscation. I am sure women in Saudi Arabia would be better off if they were allowed to drive, but maybe they’d rather be allowed to walk the streets alone first. I am sure Afghan women would be better off if they had access to education, but maybe they’d rather not be killed or maimed first.

          I am Chilean, and I am fully aware that as a country we still have a long way to go in securing women’s rights. But in my country domestic violence is a crime, honour is not a justification for murder, stoning someone to death is unthinkable, we have abolished the death penalty, our last President was a woman. Other South American countries, such as Argentina and Uruguay, have even more advanced legislation. So do not turn your comparisons into hyperbole.

          Finally, Raouf’s dishonest attempt to sneak in a stab at the West is frankly unacceptable. The right to cover their hair in France? Wasn’t he making a parallel between the situation of Muslim women in Muslim countries and Western women in Western countries? If so, what has the situation of Muslim women in Western countries got to do with it? Shouldn’t he then, in order to keep the parallel balanced, proceed to mention the situation of Western women in Muslim countries? And more importantly, how is covering your hair a woman’s right? With that twisted logic, he might also present the prohibition to leave their house unaccompanied as “the right of women to be accompanied at all times”.

          Be careful with the allies you pick, lest Raouf turn to be your Osama.

          1. @Piero. Forcing anyone to do something against his/ her will is unacceptable. But why do you assume that every muslim woman who is covering her head is forced to do so? If she is forced to do it, it is wrong and I condemn it. But if this is her decision, she has every right to do it. Who are you to decide that it is wrong that a woman is covering her head? Like every woman has the right to show off her body, she has an equal right to cover it as much as she wants. Why are our ideas of freedom of expression and action so limited.

            1. Tehmina, I don’t know in your country, but in mine it’s illegal to disclose your vote. Why, you may ask. Why should I not be free to divulge how I voted? Because that curtailment of freedom protects you from blackmail and threats. If you are forbidden by law to disclose how you voted, no-one can force you to vote the way they want you to. The situation concerning the burqa in France is analogous: how can you protect women from being forced to wear it? Asking them whether they freely chose to wear it is silly: a subdued woman will have to say she did, or face the consequences at home. By forbidding it, you are actually preventing abuse.

            2. @Piero. I don’t think protection of the freedom to vote is analogous to the burqa situation. By curtailing your freedom to disclose your vote, they are not taking away anyone’s freedom to vote the way they want to which is more important.

              I guess we should agree that our definitions of freedom are different here. You define freedom by what “you” think is right. I define freedom as the right of a person to do with his body and life (and his own only) whatever he wants to do, even if it doesn’t agree with what we believe in.

              In Saudi, they are attacking women’s freedom by taking away their right to take off the hijab. In France, they are attacking women’s freedom by taking away their right to wear a hijab if they want to. In principle they are both the same acts of oppression. I don’t see the justification of fighting the oppressors by taking away someone else’s freedom. That’s where all the problems arise. We always think we are right and laws should be based on what we believe in. Media has misused the image of a female body in the name of female liberation which has led to many social issues. Does that mean you will take away every woman’s right to do with her body as she pleases? I don’t need anyone to tell me what I can’t wear by law. Its my right to wear a bikini when i want to or a hijab when i like to. You or anyone else has no right to tell me I can’t do any of those.

            3. Tehmina, the situations are indeed analogous. The difference is only the degree of contrast between the curtailed freedom and the prevented abuse. The freedom to disclose one’s vote is not that important to people, so they happily comply (though usually they have no clue about the motivation of that curtailment, but let that pass). In the case of clothing, it appears that dictating what people should or should not wear is quite beyond the pale, but bear in mind that the restriction only applies to full-body coverings. Do you really care that much about not being able to dress in a bag? Is your right to dress like that so important that we have to defend it at all costs, even if it means that many women will be forced to walk the streets like living letterboxes, unable to establish meaningful communication with her fellow human beings? You know full well that nobody in her/his right mind would ever choose to wear that contraption, and in fact nobody in any other society has ever worn it. Would you not be willing to forgo a theoretical, never-to-be-exercised right in order to help in a small way some of the most oppressed human beings on earth?

            4. @Piero. Again, you are assuming that anybody who doesn’t agree with you or thinks differently is “not in his right mind”. That itself comes across as a kind of extremism. I don’t know who you are speaking for. I know many women who are forced to wear hijab. But discarding hijab is not the solution. There is a whole mentality behind forcing women to cover themselves which manifests itself in many other ways and not just hijab. And then I have many female friends and family who chose to wear hijab with their own free will despite their families being opposed to it. These are very liberated, well-educated and successful working women. I haven’t seen hijab hindering their success in life (and they are living in muslim as well as the UK and the US). A piece of clothing does not determine how liberated or educated a woman is. I personally am against hijab but I respect a woman’s right to wear it if she wants to with her own free will.

              I think we are spamming this blog. Stop sounding so angry. My point is that we should not impose our opinions on others because we think we are right and they are wrong.

            5. Tehmina, I am not angry. In fact, I think you’ve been very reasonable, and I’ve tried my best to be reasonable in return. However, I was afraid we might be derailing the thread, so I’ve tried to be as concise as possible; I probably ended up sounding inadvertently blunt.

  27. Thank you, SC, for your good sense. Other people’s struggles are not just other people’s struggles, and there is surely every justification for working with progressive Muslims, while, as you say, maintaining a critical distance and stating disagreements. Otherwise, we surely end with the despairing and counter-productive position that all religious people are equally incorrigible and all equally our foes.
    And why, Piero, the quip “France, of all places”?

      1. Mr. Piero: I respectfully suggest that you (and some others) read Imam Rauf’s book more carefully. Among the “pre-Islamic ideas” that “continued erode human liberty and freedoms” in the Muslim world after the death of Muhammad, he specifically identifies the “ruling that apostasy, being equivalent to treason, was punishable by death” and the “mistreatment and oppression of women.” (p. 31). He is particularly critical of the treatment of women in Saudi Arabia, where “Wahhabism resulted in selective interpretation of Islam that tried to filter out most of what it viewed as introduced by foreign elements, especially philosophical rationalism, spirituality, and foreign cultural elements.” (p. 196). For instance: “Wahhabism’s excesses were most cogently expressed by the recent incident at a girls’ school in Saudi Arabia where a fire broke out and the ikhwan (religious police) refused to let the girls climb out unless they had their veils on. The result was that many girls were killed in the fire, an incident that provoked an uproar in Saudi Arabia and has led to soul searching among the Saudis.” (p. 198). Imam Rauf blames some of the rise of this kind of extremism on the “historically close relationship between the Saudi government and the U.S. government.” (p. 241). He does not give the West a pass because the West does not deserve one.

        1. I suggest you read the Koran and then tell me whether characterizing the punishment for apostasy as pre-Islamic is justified.

          Anybody can condemn Wahhabism. Those who do, however, do not usually seek their financial support.

          The West is not the US Government.

          1. 1. “The Meccans got tired of the Prophet’s insistence on preaching his message and in 622 hatched a plot to assassinate him.” (p. 179). Wouldn’t that count as at least one example of pre-Islamic punishment for apostasy?
            2. The New York Times had a story on funding for the proposed Islamic center. Most of the money is supposed to come from the selling of bonds.
            3. The U.S. is a big part of the West. We could spend a lot of time, of course, discussing the record of France and other Western countries on sexism, racism, imperialism, religious toleration, and human rights. My point is simply that Imam Rauf has not been silent on these issues and he has not been uncritical of abuses in the Muslim world, as certain pundits have implied.

            1. 1. No. It’s a pre-Islamic example of attempting to get rid of a troublemaker.

              2. Right.

              3. I don’t care about the record. I happen to be living now, not in medieval Europe.

            2. That was not the finish. The finish was “I live now, not in the Middle Ages”. The point was that you can find horrible things anywhere if you go back far enough. What the point of that would be, I am at a loss to say.

  28. A lot of people here are being blinded by their hatred of religion. There’s a lot of talk about terrorism and Islam so I guess no one here is much of a Chomsky fan then. Chomsky states very clearly and backs it up with facts and figures that the USA is the number one terrorist state on the planet.

    1. Thank you, Atheist.pig. We are no different from extremist terrorists if we start punishing innocent people because they share a common religion.

  29. Hitchens has been one of the worst offenders at whipping up fear, hatred and warmongering against Arabs and Muslims. That you, Jerry, would be willing to endorse his garbage is really disappointing.

  30. It is ridiculous to support the idea that the a religious center should not be built in this country because its leader hasn’t said what we want him to say. We are free to criticize the imam, Islam and the Koran any time we want to but it is not our right to tell someone what to say particularly when he hasn’t supported any kind of terrorist activity or any other barbaric acts. Millions of Americans criticize the US international policies and if the imam thought so, it is his right as an American citizen to say so. We are being extremely narrow-minded if we criticize him for expressing his opinions just because he is a Muslim.

    Outside the US, our government is considered guilty of violation of many human rights. A significant portion of people all over the world consider Israel guilty of state terrorism. Does that mean we should protest every time a church or a synagogue is built somewhere in the world?

    I do not support many a things that are practiced in the name of Islam in many Muslim countries and at the same time I do not support many other things that are practiced in the name of Christianity or Judaism in other parts of the world. But sometimes we have to keep our own emotions aside and try to understand differences in cultures before starting to criticize them or expecting them to change. There is no discrimination based on color of your skin in the muslim countries. They had a woman prime minister in the last century while we are still debating if a woman or a black man should be the president of the United States!

    How many Muslim friends do you personally have or how many Muslim countries have you really been to before you decided to define what a “moderate muslim” should be like?

  31. The true scandal here is that Islamic center opponents have been so abysmally lacking in candor about the nature of their opposition and so slow to disavow its genuine (and growing) pathologies—leading perfectly sane and tolerant people to worry whether anti-center moderation even exists. Still, if they fess up and fly right, I promise to give them a pat on the head. Seriously, I will. Even I’m not so important that I couldn’t take time out to bless their little hearts.

  32. I am not only in favour of them being allowed to build the mosque – I am actually in favour of them doing it.


    Because I think it is insensitive, because I think they shouldn’t, because so many people are upset and protesting, because the reasons for me not wanting it run counter to freedom of religion.

    What use are rights if you cannot exercise them.

    What kind of person would I be if I did not stand up against my own intolerance?

    As Voltaire may have said: I may disagree with what you say but I shall defend to the death your right to do it.

    Or as I say: If what you do with your property harms no-one else and brings you pleasure, have at it.

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