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Monday, August 23, 2010

Mosque at Ground Zero: It's the American Way

I'm always a little squeamish when the media picks up a story like the one about, to hear the first reports, a mosque in the Freedom Tower we'll supposedly build someday at Ground Zero.

Like coverage of the so-called Tea Party, the coverage focuses on knee-jerk reactions lots of people can identify with which immediately segue to Ugly American moments which conveniently allow the garden variety lefties who comprise a silent majority in The Media to paint a nugget of inconvenient common sense as a portrait of bigotry or jingoism.

Full disclosure, my own bigotry, I'm not a fan of Islam. When I think of that religion, the first things I picture are that maniac running Iran (and worse, that asshole with The Bomb, women who aren't allowed to show their faces in public, and suicide bombers.

Then again, to counter my own knee-jerk reaction that a mosque in Manhattan isn't a matter of rights, but the notion that Islam has nothing positive to offer the world, I think of Rory Stewart's The Places In Between.

Rory walked across Afghanistan in 2002, relying on a few bucks in his pocket and the hospitality of people who not only didn't know him, but many didn't know what Coca Cola is. The Taliban and their victims alike took him in without fail, despite his obvious value as a kidnap for ransom, all based on Islamic Law. I wouldn't try to cross Kansas afoot with so few resources.

When I was in NYC a few years ago, I walked from a brewpub in Greenwich Village to Ground Zero and back to the Village Vanguard because I didn't understand the bus schedule.

And on this trip, I passed the 'House of Sufism,' a Muslim house of worship in the Village.

At some point in my adventures, I drank espresso at a coffee shop cleverly named 'Drink Me.' And as I prepared to leave, I asked the barista how to get about three blocks away, and was told, 'I wouldn't know, I don't get out that way very often.'

So 'two blocks' sounds like 'really near' to us midwesterners, but in reality there are New Yorkers who spend their whole lives without going two blocks in a particular direction. And they definitely wouldn't notice an Islamic center even if it was painted blue with gold glyphs that probably describe magic carpet rides.

Lighten up, folks, Islam might be wrong (or, worse, it might be right), but we're a country that respects freedom of religion, even unpopular ones. And lest Christianity by judged by snake handling cults and the Ku Klux Klan, maybe we should go easy on the ragheads.

See what I did? I called them ragheads, let the PC police commence to flog me.

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