When I read the facts about the Islamic mosque planned for a site a few blocks from "ground zero," a.k.a. the spot where the World Trade Center towers once stood, it's difficult to understand what all the fuss is about.
There already is a mosque four blocks from ground zero. So what's the big deal with having one two blocks away? Plus, the proposed development actually is a cultural center, which will include a mosque.
As a Washington post story says (registration may be required to read it):
The plan is for a cultural center that would contain a mosque.
The project's organizers have said that the center would be modeled on Manhattan's 92nd Street Y, a community center open to all New Yorkers. The center would house meeting rooms, a fitness center, a swimming pool, a basketball court, a restaurant and culinary school, a library, a 500-seat auditorium, a mosque and a Sept. 11 memorial and reflection space. The organizers have estimated that the mosque could attract as many as 2,000 worshipers on Fridays.
So again, what's the big deal?
There's talk about one or more of the people involved with the Islamic cultural center being unduly radical. Well, if he's a terrorist, charge him with something. But if he isn't breaking any laws, isn't free speech still allowed in the United States?
Some people rant on about mosques being hothouses of Al Qaeda'ish radicalism. OK, if this is true, why are any mosques allowed to stay open in this country? Why isn't there a call for the existing mosque four blocks from ground zero to be shut down?
I think a big part of the answer is found in two words: hallowed ground. This phrase comes up a lot in stories about the proposed "Park51" cultural center/mosque. Hallowed ground is sacred, holy, revered. It isn't plain old ground; something supernatural has been added on to it.
This shows how religiosity complicates social and political issues, introducing metaphysical nonsense into debates that should be carried out much more calmly and rationally.
Those opposed to the cultural center say it is disrespectful to have a mosque so close to the World Trade Center site. I can't understand why. There already are mosques close to ground zero. Why not have another one?
The reason, so far as I can understand it, seems to be that some people imagine that a "hallowsphere" extends out from where the World Trade Center towers stood. Nobody can see or sense it, like God. But they believe that it exists and makes the ground underneath it hallowed.
If people have strong feelings against a mosque in the area, they should simply say: "I object to a mosque anywhere near ground zero." And then give their reasons why. Arguing that a mosque can't go on hallowed ground is to say nothing -- it's just gibberish.
I loved my mother. I still love her. However, following her funeral I've never been back to where her ashes are interred. It has no meaning for me. My mother isn't there. My mother lives on in my memories of her, not in the cemetary ground.
(In fact, I'm not absolutely sure that her ashes are even there. I can't remember whether the granite marker has anything underneath it.)
Similarly, there's nothing sacred about the ground under or near the World Trade Center site. "Sacred" exists within the minds of human beings, not in objective reality. So I don't like all this talk about hallowed ground.
There's no such thing as hallowed ground, sacred ground, holy ground.
There only are people who feel that some places are hallowed, sacred, or holy. So it'd be a lot better if the debate over the mosque didn't include any "hallow" talk. Then we could focus on the real issues -- not supernaturalism.