Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The Ground Zero Mosque

(Note - In referring to Islam, I'm referring specifically to Islamic Expansionism and not the religion itself.  I have no quarrel with those Muslims who interpret their faith differently than do our enemies.  I hope and pray that Americans of every faith may stand united against the common threat to our freedoms so we may continue to live in respectful disagreement with one another.)

Readers of my blog (I assume there may be one or two of you out there) might expect me to come down against the proposed erection of a Mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. 

And they’d be right. But let me tell you why. 

We are at war!!! Like it or not, we were attacked by an enemy who desires complete and total victory.

The still-empty pit where the World Trade Center used to majestically stand is a constant and daily reminder of that horrible day almost nine years ago. That hole has become a fitting symbol of how deeply we were wounded that day and how the illusion of safety and security we enjoyed since the end of the Cold War had been suddenly swept entirely away.

We thought the war against expansionist Islam had been won. The Moors were driven out of Spain half a millennium ago, the Turk was turned back at the gates of Vienna shortly thereafter, and the Ottoman Empire, after ruling the remains of the once mighty Roman Empire for centuries, hitched its wagon to the wrong horse in the First World War and was forced to surrender to the Allies. We were satisfied, ever since, that the threat had been effectively if not essentially neutralized. Two-and-a-half generations had grown up with a decapitated Islam. We were taught that communism was the real threat to our freedom and security. Islam had lost the power to win the victory that had been its goal for so long.

Thankfully our policy makers continued to recognize the tenuous nature of the still existent threat in that remote and faraway part of the world. The tyrants and dictators of the Muslim nations were pitted against each other and when angst was directed against the west, it was directed against Israel. Israel was kept in a constant state of alert as it became a magnet for the aggression that would have otherwise been directed out at the rest of the western world. 

The moral reasons for supporting Israel against the Muslim threat are debatable. Its justification from an Evangelical Christian point of view is dubious. But the value of supporting Israel from a policy standpoint is unquestionable. From the end of the First World War to the present Israel has had to bury its own sons and daughters so the rest of us didn’t have to. Israel has held firm against a persistently aggressive Muslim force. Time will tell if they may fair otherwise than the crusading armies of Europe during the Middle Ages.

But now many western countries have forgotten what we benefit from our support of Israel.   They think our support is the cause of the war we now find ourselves in when in fact it's the other way around.  A strong Israel, supported by the west, has deflected the violence of the Islamic Expansionists and made our lives safer during the last century. Whatever peace we've therefore enjoyed in the interim was the result of that support.  Sans Israel the violence would have come sooner and more often.

My point is this… War did not begin in the early morning of September 11th, 2001. It was only the re-emergence of an old war on a particular front. Islam has been at one, long, untiring war with the whole non-Muslim world since the days of the Prophet. True, that Islam, where it conquered, usually respected the rights of the “People of the Book” to go on practicing their faith. But where was the toleration for Muslims apostatizing and becoming Christians or Jews?

The west (including Israel) has a long history of toleration. After the religious wars of the 16th and 17th centuries ended in a stalemate, tolerance of differing religious beliefs became necessary, and as time when on tolerance became easier and easier as each succeeding generation cared less and less and as the possibilities for effecting a victory for one side or the other became more and more remote. 

But toleration has limits. For the sake the preservation of the tolerant, it must end with those who do not wish to be tolerant in return. 

Tolerance is not a virtue. It’s a tactic used to get along in the world with people or in situations we can’t change or don’t really care to. It’s borne out of necessity and indifference. You’ll find that anyone who’s really tolerant is so either because the status quo is unalterable by any methods he’s willing or able to employ or because he just doesn’t think it’s a very big deal.

Toleration is not the same thing as respect. If a man's beliefs differ from my own I can respect and even defend his right to hold those beliefs so long as those beliefs don’t result in actions that threaten my person or my property. I respect a man’s right to smoke at the table next to mine but if I tolerate it it’s because I must or because I don’t care enough to move. 

We have a long history in this country of respecting the rights of others to believe what they want so long as they do so peaceably. Such respect is enshrined in the First Amendment of our Constitution. But our culture has an even longer history of toleration and that toleration, wherever it was prevalent, was always borne out of necessity or indifference. 

It may be true that Christians, if they could be united in belief and purpose, would cease to tolerate many beliefs and behaviors that they currently tolerate out of necessity--that is, because they aren’t able to change the beliefs or curtail those behaviors. It may be true that if this or that Christian sect had sufficient power they would find a way to change beliefs and curtail behaviors even if it meant the use of torture and execution.

But it isn’t certain, nor is there even justification to suppose, that any particular Christian sect as currently constituted  would resort to such tactics were they actually permitted to do so.

It is equally uncertain, but equally likely, that if the anti-faith minority in this country ever gained sufficient power or numbers they would resort to whatever tactics necessary to stamp out religious belief. They might resort to re-education, incarceration, torture, or even death to destroy an irrational and insidious faith which they tolerate now only because they must or because they consider it a matter of indifference.

But it is beyond mere intellectual certainty--it is a certain fact--that our enemies in this War on Terror, most of whom just happen to be Muslims, DO resort to such tactics. In Muslim countries, where converts from Islam to Christianity are executed, it is because toleration isn’t necessary and because one’s religious beliefs aren’t considered a matter of indifference. 

I haven't looked into it but I assume there are some nice Muslim countries where apostates from the Muslim faith--converts from Islam to some other religion--are respected and allowed to live. But if they're tolerated it's because the ruling party is powerless to do anything about it or because they just don’t care very much.

Our enemies are not THAT kind of Muslim. They care a great deal about that sort of thing and we can be certain that if they had the power they would NOT tolerate or even respect many beliefs and behaviors that we in the west respect or at least tolerate as a matter of course. 

We can be certain that if THAT sort of Muslim ever gained the majority in a western country toleration would be at an end. We may pray for their respect and hope to pay tribute. But I don’t think we have any reason to expect their respect in such matters. All the evidence points the other way.

The Muslims who want to build a mosque near Ground Zero may not be THAT sort of Muslim. While they may not consider apostasy from the Muslim faith to be a matter of indifference, were they given the power to execute apostates they might choose rather to respect the tradition of religious tolerance in this country than to kill the apostate. 

We just don’t have any reason to believe that Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, or the Taliban—our Enemies—if they ever assumed power, if they WON the war…we just don’t have any reason to believe that they would respect our traditions or tolerate our beliefs. And why should we expect them to when their professed beliefs demand that they don't?

We are at war and in a war there are always unintended victims. We didn’t start this war, no matter what anyone says. This war started long before the first European soldier ever stepped foot on Muslim land. This war started in the lifetime of the prophet and, though occasionally repulsed, the armies of the crescent moon have always found a new soldier to pick up the torch. Our generation has seen many disparate new torchbearers from the Muslim countries, most notably Osama bin Laden and the leadership of the Iranian Republic. 

This war will not be over until a world-wide Caliphate is established and the Catholic Mass, which is now offered perpetually over all the face of the earth, is replaced by the unceasing cry from the minaret.

We in the Church know that this war can never be won for the other side but we also know that this war must go on, in some form or another, for the rest of time. 

The best we can hope for in our own time is that the enemies of freedom and true religion are again repulsed, that their torchbearers are put to shame, and that we can enjoy another long period of relative peace. 

Those who are tolerant of the proposal to build a new mosque near the site of ground zero are respectful to a fault and are tolerant because they don’t care. They can’t or don’t see the big picture. 

Let them build a mosque with our blessings wherever they like after the current battle is won. But to build a mosque now at the site being proposed, when the whole world is embroiled in this war against a personified enemy we can neither capture, kill, nor find, would be to hand an ideological victory to that enemy. It would not be seen as a declaration of our respect but as a declaration of our indifference. And an indifferent enemy is a weak enemy. 

If our enemy is confirmed in his belief that we are weak, he and all who fight under his banner will be emboldened. They will gain new strength and will wage the war that much more intensely.

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