Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Polls Shouldn't Matter When it Comes to the "Ground Zero mosque" and Personal Freedoms.

I'm frustrated with opponents of the Cordoba cultural center saying we shouldn't allow this mosque to be built because certain polls show that people oppose it. Thankfully we don't base peoples' freedom of religion and freedom to own private property. A majority of Americans opposed interracial marriage before the Supreme Court rightly upheld mixed couples their constitutional right to personal freedoms. Prior to President Truman desegregating the military a poll done by the Pentagon showed that 82% of white enlisted men in the Air Force believed that African-Americans should have separate training schools. Seventy-six percent of them wanted separate combat crews and 74% thought there should have been separate ground crews. And only 7% thought the military should be full integrated. See video below of Rachel Maddow to get more on the polls:

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Monday, August 23, 2010

Chris Matthews on Obama's Religion. Also, Matthew's Views on the Islamic Cultural Center near "Ground Zero."

Chris Matthews is one of the best in the business when it comes to stripping down to the core of a lot of political spin. He leans left politically but he does grill the left a lot for their own garbage. I appreciate that integrity and balance. Irregardless of party, I do not like people playing political games and tricks; nor pushing wedge issues to divide the country as the right-wing is hard at work doing right now.

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TPJ: The following is Chris commenting, interviewing guest and analyzing the madness that's been happening over this Islamic community center in NYC:

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TPJ: I'm with Chris, "How far away should we move it before it no longer "offends?" Two blocks, five blocks, ten? My suspicion is that this less about being offended by the cultural center being near "Ground Zero" and more about being offended by Muslims--period. Because supposed we do move the center out of Manhattan to New Jersey. What if someone there says it offends them too? Do we move it again? How many times would it be o.k. to ask these LOYAL AMERICANS to move their cultural center and house of worship before it constitutes a violation of their first amendment protection to freedom of religion? As well as property rights.

Notice how that opponent of the center in this last video said it pains many "Americans" to see this center built, which places those on the other side of the issue (the Muslim-Americans who want this center built) as being seen as non-American. Somehow their emotions and feelings don't matter because they belong to religion that had some radicals amongst them who attacked us. It's guilt by association and is utter and complete bigotry.

And everyone still blows off the fact that innocent Muslim AMERICANS died at the same site (Ground Zero) these reactionaries claim this Islamic center is dishonoring? So, the cultural center is dishonoring their own fellow Muslim-Americans who died at "Ground Zero" too? It doesn't make sense and that's because more than likely is this about race and being anything considered, "foreign" or "non-American."

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Dozens of Interfaith Leaders Back Muslim Center in NYC.

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- A group of 60 interfaith leaders in California will come out Friday in favor of a controversial Islamic center near ground zero in New York City. "Christian, Jewish, Mormon and Muslim leaders will address the rapidly expanding epidemic of Islamophobia across the nation -- from Temecula to Tennessee to New York to Connecticut -- which they view as a threat to religious freedom and rights of mosques, churches, and synagogues to exist," the group said in a statement.

"We Americans, whether Muslim or Christian, whether Jew or Hindu, whether of faith or no faith, were all attacked on 9/11 by terrorists who can only be described as criminals," the text of the signed statement provided to CNN says. "We oppose the exploitation of the pain and suffering of 9/11 by political opportunists. They only divide our country and undermine the principles of pluralism, religious freedom, and security by fostering hate based on fear."

TPJ: Being a former Mormon, I am not surprised that religion is represented in this interfaith group. The Mormons have faced a lot of persecution and intolerance from their fellow Americans in the past, which is in large part what pushed them to move West. Eventually they ended up in Utah, which was then not even American territory!! I have my problems with Mormonism but I will stand up and defend their right to, "worship how, where, or what they may" as stated in their 11th Article of Faith. The same goes for any religious belief that finds freedom here in America. I will defend Evangelical Christians for their religious rights too even though I often find their ideology to be distasteful. We would all do well to remember that America was founded in part by the Pilgrims who fled an intolerant King in England who actively quashed minority religions such as the Christianity practiced by the Pilgrims. It is part of the reason that freedom of religion is part of the first amendment in the much revered Bill of Rights.

Addendum: Last night while my wife and I were talking about the rights of this Islamic center to build in NYC I remarked how interesting it was that two atheists (her and I are Buddhist Atheists) were defending a religion's rights. I'm sure there are plenty more atheists doing the same--how ironic. Atheists defending a religion's rights over many hardcore religious types. Also, consider this; if we allow the religious rights of Muslims to be subjected to the whims of the majority then what will keep people coming after other religions?

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Islamic Cultural Center Ignorance Blazes on.

(Above: Map showing that the Cordoba House mosque and cultural center isn't "AT" ground zero, as some are saying but rather blocks away. It's signified by the small green square and the large red area on the map is ground zero).

One of the reasons I question the authenticity of the opponents of the Cordoba House (the so-called, "Ground Zero mosque") is because there are already several mosques in the area. Including one just five blocks away called, the Manhattan Mosque. It has been there before this planned Cordoba cultural and interfaith center and yet there were no slick propaganda campaigns on FOX News about it. Or the half dozen other mosques dotted around the city. My ears scream for relief from all the talk from mostly the Republicans that this mosque and its Imam are clandestine agents of Osama bin Laden to take over America, etc. The Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg (who is a current Independent but use to be a Republican) studied this organizations and it's leaders but found no reason to suspect anything untoward. The beloved NYPD (New York Police Department) that lost many of their own on 9/11 found nothing either.

"No one has established a link between the cleric and radicals. New York Police Department spokesman Paul Browne said, 'We've identified no law enforcement issues related to the proposed mosque.'"

TPJ: Imam Rauf is no Islamic radical. In fact, he has chastised his faith when appropriate, "He has denounced the terrorist attacks and suicide bombing as anti-Islamic and has criticized Muslim nationalism. In the same address, he spoke of prospects for peace between Palestinians and the Israelis – who he said 'have moved beyond Zionism' – and of a love-your-neighbor ethic uniting all religions." Would an Islamic radical committed to al-Qaeda say such things? Of course not. He has also said some critical things of America's policies toward Muslims that aren't helpful either but can any of us honestly say that America has never done anything to provoke or upset Muslims? Nope. Like with any nation, America can always do better. To say otherwise is naive, engaging in denial and risky just like a successful company rests on it's laurels and never asks themselves, "What can we do better?

If Islam is a faith of intolerance and Muslims are hell bent on killing all Americans, (as some Republicans and conservatives claim) then why does our military allow Muslims to serve along side other American troops? "U.S. armed forces field Muslim troops and make accommodations for them. The Pentagon opened an interfaith chapel in November 2002 close to the area where hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 slammed into the building, killing 184 people." It should also be said that some conservatives see the stupidity in opposing this mosque. "As it relates to religious buildings in the vicinity of ground zero, it's either all or nothing -- churches, synagogues and mosques should be treated the same" said uber-conservative Grover Norquist. Republicans keep isolating the growing diverse groups in this country: Latinos, young people, and now Muslims. They may win some points in the short-term elections but long-term this exclusivity and intolerance will dwindle their numbers until they become a minority party without much influence. To that end, consider the concerns of conservative Muslim-Americans:

A group of conservative Muslim and Arab American officials on Tuesday went further than most in the GOP to accuse their Republican colleagues of trying to exploit the so-called "Ground Zero mosque controversy" for electoral benefits. In a letter to Republican leaders, the group of authors criticized members of the party for abandoning the principle of tolerance that has defined the GOP from Lincoln to Bush. In the process, the authors -- who include former Bush administration official Randa Fahmy Hudome and former Reagan administration official and prominent D.C.-based lawyer George Salem, as well as David Ramadan, who worked on both of George W. Bush's campaigns -- make similar philosophical and substantive arguments as other defenders of the proposed Cordoba House.

TPJ: Islam has long been welcome by certain Americans including our third president and founding father, Thomas Jefferson who owned the first Qu'ran in the Americas.
As to the invocation of Jefferson, we know that when he and James Madison first proposed the Virginia Statute on Religious Freedom (the frame and basis of the later First Amendment to the Constitution) in 1779, the preamble began, "Well aware that Almighty God hath created the mind free." Patrick Henry and other devout Christians attempted to substitute the words "Jesus Christ" for "Almighty God" in this opening passage and were overwhelmingly voted down. This vote was interpreted by Jefferson to mean that Virginia's representatives wanted the law "to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahomedan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination." Quite right, too, and so far so good, even if the term Mahomedan would not be used today, and even if Jefferson's own private sympathies were with the last named in that list.
TPJ: The day we stop tolerating diverse religious beliefs is the day we stop being America. In a related story, the number of Americans who wrongly think Obama is a Muslim has nearly doubled but even if he were Muslim I'm sure founding father Thomas Jefferson would be just fine with it. And, thus, so should we. By the way, Obama is a Christian. By the way, why does the internet and bloggers always get blamed for stuff like this? The mainstream media loves to blame the internet for their mistakes and happily use it to distract attention from their own manipulations of the viewing public. I'm not saying the internet is always accurate but we're not as crazy as they like to play-up.

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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Republicans Regressing over Islam.

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If you've been reading my blog since the bleak days of the George W. Bush administration you'll know that I find him to be one of the worst presidents in American history. In modern history I'd rank him just barely above Richard Nixon but I do give him credit for a few things: Going after al-Qaeda following 9/11 by attacking them in Afghanistan, (the situation now is different but that's for another post) funding HIV/AIDS prevention programs in Africa, increasing trade to Africa, getting Libya to give up it's WMD program and the Indian Ocean tsunami relief. Like him I also support the right to own and carry guns. However, for the purposes of this post the thing that I agree with him the most was his refusal to pit the war against al-Qaeda as a war against Islam. For example, consider the following two quotes from former President Bush:
  • “I’ve made it clear, Madam President, that the war against terrorism is not a war against Muslims, nor is it a war against Arabs. It’s a war against evil people who conduct crimes against innocent people.” — Remarks by President George W. Bush and President Megawati of Indonesia The Oval Office, Washington, D.C. September 19, 2001
  • “Islam is a vibrant faith. Millions of our fellow citizens are Muslim. We respect the faith. We honor its traditions. Our enemy does not. Our enemy doesn’t follow the great traditions of Islam. They’ve hijacked a great religion.” – Remarks by President George W. Bush on U.S. Humanitarian Aid to Afghanistan Presidential Hall, Dwight David Eisenhower Executive Office Building, Washington, D.C. October 11, 2002
TPJ: In addition, (as I noted in a previous post) Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf heading up the "Ground Zero mosque" worked with Bush administration official Karen Hughes on improving U.S./Islamic relations but that doesn't seem to matter much to reactionaries in the Republican and Tea Parties. Governor George Pataki (N.Y.) threw the context deficient line out on cable news t.v. today that Imam Rauf has not condemned Hezbollah. A terrorist group that has attacked Israel on many occasions. Being a good deceiver the good governor failed to provide the reasons why Rauf does not condemn them. This is the context (the why) of the Imam's lack of condemnation--in his own words I might add:

"I'm not a politician. I try to avoid the issues. The issue of terrorism is a very complex question...I'm a bridge builder. I define my work as a bridge builder. I do not want to be placed, nor do I accept to be placed in a position of being put in a position where I am the target of one side or another...

"The targeting of civilians is wrong. It is a sin in our religion. Whoever does it, targeting civilians is wrong. I am a supporter of the state of Israel. ... I will not allow anybody to put me in a position where I am seen by any party in the world as an adversary."

TPJ: It's kind of hard to be a bridge builder between two waring camps if you condemn one side versus the other. Did president Bush condemn all of the Sunni terrorists in Iraq? No, he worked with some of them to build bridges, which resulted in the successful "Sunni awakening" that helped "the surge" in Iraq be successful. In his book, "The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One (Oxford University Press, 2009), p 179" David Kilcullen argued that the surge was successful in large part because of that "Sunni awakening." The tribal revolt was arguably the most significant change in the Iraqi operating environment in several years. Kilcullen was General David Petraeus's counterinsurgency and troop adviser.

Besides, how could Imam Rauf be a supporter of Hezbollah when he's publicly said that he's a supporter of the state of Israel? Especially since one of the stated missions of Hezbollah is the elimination of the State of Israel!! He was simply stating that he doesn't want to be a pawn for either side because it would damage his credibility as a bridge builder and neutral party. It is illogical to make a claim otherwise simply because of his Islamic faith. Just because someone is Muslim doesn't mean they automatically support Hezbollah; the same is true of a Muslim if he chooses to not comment on Hezbollah at all. It might be a politically safe answer but lots of people take those positions, especially people in a religious position who wish to stay out of politics.

I turned on the Dylan Ratigan news show today (which is great by the way) and heard two interesting points on this matter that I hadn't considered before. While not all Republicans and Conservatives oppose this mosque, the ones who do are from a party that ironically believes strongly in supporting decisions made at the local, neighborhood, city and state level versus control of issues by the federal government. Yet this mosque has been approved by the local government!! They are also from a party that supposedly supports the rights of private property owners, which this Muslim cultural center happens to be!!

It's also telling to me that most local New Yorkers have no problem with this "mosque." Whereas the opposition increases outside the city. This isn't the first Muslim house of worship to exist in New York City either; there are several and one that's not very far from this proposed new one. So, if it's not about politicizing "Ground Zero" then why hasn't anyone said anything about those previous mosques? I think some of the confusion outside of the city stems from people thinking the mosque is directly next to the "Ground Zero" site. It is actually down the street and around a corner about half a block. This hysteria of "Us vs. Them" has got to simmer down in America or we'll end up in another civil war. A large faction within the right-wing parties in this country seem to have increasingly become hate mongers seeking to turn all Americans against Latinos, Muslims, Atheists, homosexuals and seemingly anyone who isn't white, male, Christian and rich. This narrow-mindedness has got to stop. And if they are spurring on these divisions out of political expediency then that's shameful because in the process they are tearing this nation apart at the seems.

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Monday, August 16, 2010

Obama's Remarks About the "Ground Zero Mosque."

At a dinner Friday celebrating the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, Mr. Obama said Muslims have a right, as a matter of religious freedom, to build a religious center near Ground Zero. "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country," he said to applause.

TPJ: Yet religious bigots, Obama haters, the ignorant and paranoid conspiracy types ignore the constitutionality of his argument and jump straight into this conjured up lie that President Obama is some secret Muslim radical. "Conservative blogger Pamela Geller, founder of a group called Stop Islamization of America and a vocal opponent of the mosque near Ground Zero, blasted Mr. Obama in a statement. The president, she said, "has, in effect, sided with the Islamic jihadists."

Gary Berntsen, a New York Republican Senate candidate, fired off a statement Friday criticizing the president's comments. In an interview Sunday, Mr. Berntsen, a former senior Central Intelligence Agency officer who served in Afghanistan, said a mosque near Ground Zero would become a national security risk. "He missed the point that people found this offensive because it's very, very close to Ground Zero," he said. "That mosque will become a magnet for militants. They will be drawn there in large numbers, and they will seek to impose themselves on that mosque, regardless of who the leaders are."

TPJ: First of all, the idea that this mosque will become a magnet for Islamic militants is a huge conjecture on Mr. Berntsen's part, and is a classic example of the logical fallacy that is the slippery slope argument. It ignores the possibility for middle ground; especially in this case because the proposed Imam is considered by even people in the George W. Bush administration to be a moderate Muslim. The idea that hoards of militant Muslims would be welcomed at a mosque whose stated goal is interfaith dialogue is more than a little ludicrous. As for imposing themselves on the leaders, that only works if you assume that the leaders wouldn't simply tell them to leave, which in keeping with the slippery-slope fallacy ignores the possibility of judicious behavior by said leaders. In other words, the middle-ground.

By these mosque opponents logic I could use a slippery-slope argument of my own. I could say that because there is a past of radical Christians blowing-up abortion clinics that churches have to be build within so many miles away from the site of a bombing; and or the site of any existing clinic. It's irrational reasoning as is much of the opposition to this mosque in downtown New York City.

The irony here is that some of the same people who are opposing this mosque, (and criticizing President Obama's constitutionally based arguments about it) is that they accuse him of shredding the Constitution at every turn!! And yet, here he is defending the constitutional right to freedom of religion, which doesn't have an asterisk next to it saying, "Except Muslims." These are also some of the same people who want to abolish the 14th and 17th amendments!! So, I think they have it backwards as to who is making a mockery of the U.S. Constitution.

It's called psychological projection where a person unconsciously denies their own biases and unacceptable feelings by projecting them onto someone else who gets the blame. In this case, it is established as a means of obtaining or justifying certain actions that would normally be found atrocious or heinous. "This often means projecting false accusations, information, etc. onto an individual for the sole purpose of maintaining a self-created illusion." The illusion being that a lot of opponents of the mosque are likely in denial of bigotry they might hold toward Muslims of all types. As well as perhaps pure xenophobia. Of course such ignorant, reactionary behavior is frowned upon in civilized societies. So they project this illusion that recasts themselves not as bigots but as defenders of American freedom and guardians of the hallowed ground of "Ground Zero;" who could be oppose such a pure ideal, right?

So, with their illusion fully established they turn their energy toward trying to convince others that the proponents of the mosque are somehow the ones defending atrocious behavior. A moderate Muslim center is twisted into being labeled as a "proud outpost for militancy steps away from Ground Zero in America." They probably sincerely believe this because inside their subconscious they feel that defending a mosque and Islam is atrocious because of their likely bigoted beliefs. It's sad, frustrating and dangerous because it pushes these moderate Muslims closer to embracing radicalism out of their own frustrations and resentments from being rejected by an America, which they want to embrace and assimilate into.

Then you have potential Republican presidential candidate in 2012, Newt Gingrich who compared supporters of the mosque to Nazis and the Japanese who attacked Pearl Harbor:
"Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next to the holocaust museum in Washington," Gingrich insisted, speaking of the museum where just a year ago a guard was killed by a white supremacist trying to enter the building with a gun." And, "we would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor."
TPJ: Wow, where to begin? In his example, Gingrich is equating ALL Muslims to Nazis and terrorists. As well as ALL Japanese to General Tojo's bombers of Pearl Harbor, Islamic terrorists and Nazis!! It's horrifying to think that Gingrich is being talked about as a credible presidential candidate for the Republican party. However, given the Republican shift to the hard right with the Tea Party movement I guess it shouldn't be surprising. Gingrich went on to say that New York shouldn't allow the "Ground Zero mosque," "so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia." What do the Saudis have to do with a mosque in downtown New York? Our constitution does not hold one groups' religious freedom hostage until another country agrees to allow for freedom of religion. I'm telling you, for a party that claims to love the Constitution they sure don't seem to understand it very well.

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Thursday, August 12, 2010

"Ground Zero Mosque" Imam Worked with Bush Administration.

(ABOVE: Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf and Bush administration member Karen Hughes)

To hear conservatives and Tea Party brewers tell it the "Ground Zero mosque" is a Trojan horse that will be the headquarters of al-Qaeda to take over America. The irony of this religious intolerance is that it is coming from mostly people on the conservative end of the political spectrum in America, which means that most likely a large portion of them are Christian. And of course, Christians came to America in the early days to flee religious intolerance in 17th-18th century England!! One of the big reasons for religious freedom in a democracy like in the United States is so minority religions have the same chance to worship how they want without being oppressed by the majority. The other irony around this issue is that the Imam who is poised to head up this cultural/interfaith center and mosque is that he was part of a Bush administration's outreach to moderate Muslims to show that not all Americans are intolerant of Muslims!!

If one were to hearken back to the halcyon days of the Bush Administration, one would remember that, when Bush adviser Karen Hughes was appointed Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, the Bush Administration saw improving America's standing among Muslims abroad as a part of its national security strategy. And, as such, Hughes set up listening tours, attended meetings and worked with interfaith groups that -- shocking, by today's Republican standards -- included actual Muslims. One of those people was Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf.

Contemporary press accounts indicate that Rauf and Hughes were part of the February 2006 U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar. He was part of a delegation that met with her in March 2006 and held a joint press conference. A letter to then-Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in November 2007 indicates that contacts with Hughes and Under Secretary for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns had continued apace.

TPJ: To quote the Imam:

I have had meetings with Karen Hughes. However, I would welcome the opportunity to have further, deeper, and more nuanced discussions with other members of the Bush administration on how they need to understand religion and how it intersects with political affairs. To not understand the role of Islam and faith as a motivator is to be incapacitated in shaping a foreign policy that achieves the objectives of the United States.

The perception in the Muslim world is that the West wants to impose a secularism upon it, which to them is equivalent to the erasure of religion in society. As an American, I know that is not the intent of the United States at all. But thats the perception. The perception in America is that when people say they want an Islamic state, they want something like the Taliban. And that is not true at all.

TPJ: If the good Imam was acceptable, American and peaceful enough to be apart of a Bush administration group seeking to improve relations between the United States and Muslims then I think his heading up a mosque near Ground Zero isn't worrisome. Remember, Bush was the president who went to Ground Zero to stand on the rubble of the twin towers to put the perpetrators of those attacks on notice that we were out to take them down. I don't think a conservative, Evangelical like Bush would allow a "radical," "al-Qaeda in disguise" Imam to work with his administration on improving dialogue with the Muslim world. The Tea Party conservatives who are attacking this Imam and this mosque and cultural center are bad for America's image abroad. What kind of "defense" of America are they offering when they are fighting moderate Muslims?!! The moderates are the very people we want to win over to show Muslims that we aren't their enemy!! The LAST thing we should be doing is pushing them away and into the hands of the radical Muslims!!

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Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Ken Buck: Tea Party Choice.

The Tea Party is one of the most radical movements in modern American political history. They show up to rallies with signs that ignorantly but proudly proclaim their paranoid conspiratorial beliefs that President Obama is not an American citizen and that he's a secret Muslim out to turn American into both Fascism and Communism. The irrationality of the later half of that conspiracy is disturbing on several levels but not the least of which is that fascism is an extreme political movement on the conservative spectrum of politics and communism is an extreme political movement on the left. It's impossible to be both at once yet the fact that the Tea Party constantly lumps him into these categories tells you all you need to know about how rational these people are.

Ken Buck has embraced the Tea Party since day one like a pig rolls embraces a stinking pile of mud. When radical conservative Tom Tancredo called President Obama the greatest threat to America, Buck said there was some truth in that statement. What about Iran, terrorism or the weakening economy? Some might laugh such a statement off but what kind of tone does that send? That kind of immaturity isn't going to change the tone in Washington D.C.; and while his opponent Michael Bennet isn't as "colorful" he certainly at least knows how to take his job seriously.

He knows that over-the-top rhetoric isn't going to create jobs or help people with their medical expenses. This isn't a joke--America is in need of real leadership and talking like a paranoid conspiracy nut isn't going to cut it. One thing to know about Colorado is that it's full of moderates--It's kind of the New Hampshire of the Western U.S. to a certain extent and moderates are increasingly turned off by the Tea Party's radicalism and lack of discipline.

In a recent poll, only 22% of the Tea Party said they are moderates while an overwhelming 70% are conservative. Another poll, out today showed only 30% of Americans have a favorable view of the Tea brewers. Republicans and Conservatives only make up a third of Colorado voters, so if 70% of the Tea Party overall are conservative, you have to wonder where Ken Buck plans on getting enough supporters to win. Radials aren't going to bring you to victory and nowhere is that radicalism in Ken Buck more self-evident than in his belief that abortion shouldn't be a choice if a women was raped. He doesn't think a woman has a right to choice an abortion either if she was raped by her father. Now that's heartless.

I guess he's not counting on getting many votes from women, and especially women who have been violently raped. He wants to make that poor defenseless woman the enemy--not the rapist!! Maybe he'd be more compassionate if he was the one raped. So much for the government getting out of our lives. Buck not only wants it in our lives he wants it inside a woman's womb!! The Tea Party love to say how much government is interfering in our lives but they have a whole set of ideas that they want the government to enforce. To them it's only government over-reach when Democrats and Liberals do it. Now that's just good old fashioned hypocrisy. Ken Buck is not the kind of moderate that Colorado is use to. I don't want to swing to either extreme and Michael Bennet is pretty moderate as Democrats go. Andrew Romanoff (who lost to Bennet in the primary) was the liberal choice between the two. I'd rather go with a moderate than a paranoid, conspiratorial, misogynist like Ken Buck.

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Monday, August 09, 2010

Ground Zero Mosque Opposition Ignores the American Heritage of Religious Freedom.

One of the best ways of demonstrating that the frantic slavering over "Ground Zero mosques" is nothing but a ridiculous display of pearl-clutchery is to point out that the proposed Cordoba House would actually be the second mosque in the vicinity of "Ground Zero." But over at Salon, Justin Elliott does me one better by unearthing this 2007 Washington Times article:
Navy imam Chaplain Abuhena M. Saifulislam lifted his voice to God as he called to prayer more than 100 Department of Defense employees Monday at a celebration of Ramadan at the Pentagon. God is most great, sang the lieutenant commander and Islamic leader, in Arabic, as iftar -- the end of the daily fast began. Uniformed military personnel, civilians and family members faced Mecca and knelt on adorned prayer rugs chanting their prayers in quiet invocation to Allah. Yes, Muslims have infiltrated the Pentagon for their nefarious, prayerful purposes -- daring to practice their religion inside the building where 184 people died on Sept. 11, 2001. These Muslims at the Pentagon probably even have security clearances! (Because they are Department of Defense employees who protect America from al Qaeda death cultists).
TPJ: Why didn't anyone protest the "Pentagon mosque?" So, if the Pentagon, (America's defense department headquarters) doesn't see a hidden agenda or threat from the average, American Muslim then I think it's safe to say that the vast majority of Muslims here in America are loyal Americans. Did anyone hear the Pentagon come out an oppose this "Ground Zero Mosque?" Did the FBI, CIA or NSA warn us that the people behind this mosque were potential terrorists? No, and no. So, given all of that I think it's clear that most who oppose this mosque are (again) hiding behind the flag to spew their intolerance, xenophobia, bigotry and ignorance all over innocent, American, Muslims.

If they really want to prevent terrorism then they should be embracing this mosque. The leaders of which seek to have interfaith dialogues at their mosque and cultural center to see how to defuse radical Islam. We should be working with them and not against them. We should be embracing such opportunities to further integrate moderate Muslims into American culture--not push them away.

If American Muslims feel that no matter how American and moderate they are in their Islamic beliefs that the rest of America will never accept them then those feelings lead to resentment. That leads to anger from not being accepted and increases the chances that they'll be more willing to listen to radical Muslims. By blindly hating all Muslims, these Americans opposing the "Ground Zero Mosque" are ironically pushing them closer toward the terrorists than pushing them toward assimilating into American culture!! Their sectarian intolerance is actually exactly what I'm sure the terrorists want us to do!! They want us to hate Muslims so we push all moderate Muslims into the hands of Osama bin Laden and his ilk.

A new study by Duke and North Carolina universities found that, "the creation of robust Muslim-American communities may serve as a preventative measure against radicalization by reducing social isolation of individuals who may be at risk of becoming radicalized." And, "It asserts that "the stronger such communities are, in terms of social networks, educational programs, and provision of social services, the more likely they are to identify individuals who are prone to radicalization and intervene appropriately."

: We don't need a study, however, to tell us that if we want to win over a group of people we certainly shouldn't go about it by insulting them. Or at least we shouldn't need such a study if we were raised right by our parents. Unfortunately there is one group that should be on the side of religious freedom and against intolerance; but they oppose this "Ground Zero mosque."
The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a human rights organization devoted to fighting anti-Semitism, has been accused of hypocrisy for joining the ADL in opposing the Ground Zero mosque, while funding the construction of a "Museum of Tolerance" on top of Palestinian grave sites. Rabbi Meyer May, the center's executive director, told Crain's New York that building a mosque near the site of the 9/11 attacks was "insensitive" to the people still dealing with the wounds of that tragedy. “Religious freedom does not mean being insensitive...or an idiot,” May said. “Religion is supposed to be beautiful ... Why create pain in the name of religion?” Critics say Meyer should be asking himself the same question. The Wiesenthal Center has provoked outrage by funding the construction of one of its Museums of Tolerance on top of 12th-century Palestinian graves in Jerusalem.
TPJ: The Rabbi seems too blinded by hate to remember that many (non-terrorist) Muslims died on 9/11 as well. So, using his logic the families of those dead Muslims on 9/11 should be opposing this mosque too. However, I highly, highly doubt that they are opposing it.

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Friday, August 06, 2010

Gay Marriage Fight isn't Just Left vs. Right.

It's also (and perhaps more importantly) generational. While this assessment isn't accurate in every case, it seems like those younger than about 40 have already decided that gay marriage should definitely be legal. In fact, a lot of younger people see not granting homosexuals all the same marriage rights as heterosexuals to be pure discrimination.

I have even talked to young Christians who really don't have much of a problem with the personal choices of a fellow American who should be free to pursue happiness in their life as proclaimed in the Declaration of the Independence. When it comes to social issues the young people are no where near where the current Republican and Tea parties are. If the conservatives aren't careful they'll lose much of the younger generations and probably most of the growing and thriving Latino population. They're painting themselves into a political corner and they could wake up one day and realize their party is more of a club than a party.

With the recent ruling in California knocking down Proposition 8 the conservatives are grasping at threads to defend their increasingly out of date social policy. One of the points of this recent court case that social conservatives are jumping all over is that the judge is homosexual. They cry that he should have recused himself from the case. This just points further to their illogical, out-of-date, desperate attempts to hold onto a past that was good for them but bad if you were not white, a woman or gay. If the judge should have had to recuse himself for being gay then wouldn't the same hold true of a heterosexual judge? Of course. This is what I mean about desperate arguments that don't hold up to the light of even the most basic scrutiny.

One person stated, "I feel like I don't live in America." Well, maybe that's because the America you were use to was dominated by your culture but times are changing and that's not tyranny; It's called change, which is inevitable. Don't you remember your parents telling you that the country was going to hell when the 50s rolled around with all that rock n' roll and girls wearing pants? Yet for you it was a great era, right? Well, you had a good ride and we'd still like you to join us in making this country better but we are entering a new era and you've gotta learn how to adapt of you'll be a bitter person for the rest of your life.

You can disagree with homosexuality--no one is saying you have to agree but sooner or later gay marriage will be legal. I just fail to see how gay marriage threatens anyone elses' marriage. I'm married and yet feel no threat to my marriage. In fact, it's an absurd worry if you ask me. Another point to note is that no one is asking or forcing you to marry gays in your church or whatever religious building you prefer. Do what you want in your church but the rest of the us move on. In the end marriage isn't about politics, or at least it shouldn't. It's about love, and who are we to deny two loving people the right to marry? I'm certainly not about to stand in the way of love and the need that all of us have to spend our lives with that special partner.

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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Ground Zero Mosque Gets "O.k." but Still Faces Opposition.

So the much ballyhooed "Ground Zero Mosque" will go ahead and be built, which isn't just the right thing to do--It's the American thing to do. The opposition to this mosque said that it was too close to the "Ground Zero" site and was thus a slap in the face to the memorial of those Americans who died during the September 11th terrorist attacks. First of all let's clear something up right away; there were Muslims who died on 9/11 along side Christians and Jews. Including innocent Muslims upon the planes used as missiles. So when they say this mosque is spitting upon the memory of those who died I guess they only mean Judeo-Christians. This is intolerance disgustingly hidden behind the American flag to soften the face of their hatred toward all Muslims. Increasingly Americans are packaging radical beliefs behind symbols of good old Americana, which unfortunately often legitimizes such extremist ideologies to the vulnerable.

The people who are opposing the building of this mosque and cultural center are also standing in opposition to religious freedom in America, which we supposedly hold dear. This reverence for the freedom of religion is ironically often espoused by the very same people who are protesting this mosque!! They say this mosque is a monument to radical Islamic terrorism, which is beyond insulting and embarrassing to listen to as an American who works hard to be inclusive. It is the height of arrogance, stupidity and bigotry to lump all Muslims of the world in with Islamic terrorists who probably consist of less than one percent of the worlds BILLIONS of Muslims. Sadly, however, this is the kind of ugliness you often hear from Americans whose only connection with Islam is the 9/11 terrorists and the wars against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

Anyone who has interacted with an average Muslim knows the truth; that most Muslims are peaceful, kind and tolerant of others. I spent two years living in West Africa where Islam is a popular belief system, and some of the nicest people I met there were in fact Muslim. The Muslims I met would invite me into their homes off the street and feed me like a welcome guest. And the irony perhaps to some was that I was there in West Africa as an official Christian missionary!! But that wasn't important to them or myself. I was a guest in their country and guests are treated with great respect in many Muslim households.

Out of respect for that invitation I refrained from talking religion but when the subject was raised by them, I would discuss it. However, it was always respectfully discussed by both sides. And interestingly, when we did converse about faith it was often about what we had in common rather than apart. Rather than preached to or insulted for my religion at the time, I was often shown the passages within the Qu'ran that speak reverently about Jesus Christ. And I, in turn, asked respectful questions to learn about a religion that was new to me at the time. Islam isn't an "evil" religion and most people would find that if they had an open, respectful and honest dialogue with the average Muslim that they'd find more in common than not.

In the end, Americans need to come to terms with what it means to be an American. If you think it's o.k. to ban a mosque because of 9/11 then by that same logic we should ban churches close to the sites of abortion clinic bombings too.

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Monday, August 02, 2010

For a Group that Claims to Love the Constitution the Conservatives Have a Funny Way of Showing It.

Something interesting and somewhat annoying I've noticed lately as a historian is that a lot of people on the right of the political spectrum seem to be over-night "experts" on American history and the Constitution. They will shout at you until spit hits your face about Thomas Jefferson being the 18th century equivalent of a fundamentalist Christian despite the reality that Jefferson wrote his own version of the Bible complete with the miracles chopped out. Hardly the stuff of an Evangelical. Or they'll babble on about a conspiratorial tale that ends with cries of "Restore the Constitution." As if there was a secret Constitution that was written by Rush Limbaugh's colonial era ancestor. However, for all their flag waving, wearing of Revolutionary War costumes, and obsession with tea they're actions are quite different than their rhetoric. You see, while they distract you with their sickeningly sweet America they are working to chop the Constitution into pieces.

The surgical knife first came out for Republicans when Rand Paul slashed at the Civil Rights amendments to the Constitution but now we have high-profile Republican politicians calling for the end of the 14th Amendment, which defines American citizenship. It was enacted during Civil War reconstruction to broaden the definition of citizens so that blacks were there after considered American citizens. Tea Baggers and Republicans are seeking to chop it out of the Constitution because of a knee-jerk response to illegal-immigration. They don't like that the 14th Amendment says as long as you are born on American soil, you're an American citizen. They think illegal immigrants are taking advantage of it, so they want to repeal that amendment.

However, they either don't realize, take into account or care what the effects of this drastic action would mean for not just American children born to illegal-immigrants but for legal immigrants and their children. If the amendment were chopped out, it would sweep up American born children to legal immigrants as well. And could lead to some wacko making a case that blacks are then therefore no longer be considered citizens since the amendment is gone. Don't think a wacko like that could make it happen? Just look at Rand Paul and his insanity revolving around the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But think of the humanitarian side of this rash decision by Conservatives.

Imagine being a child born to illegal immigrants here in America. By birth you are a citizen like any other American child. So you live the typical life of an American child; going to school, learning to read and write, meeting friends, dating and planning for college. Now imagine if this amendment were repealed. Suddenly you're now an illegal alien and life as you knew it ends. Your plans for college gone, your prospects for a career throw into doubt and now you're running from the law. How can we punish children who were born (of no fault to their own) to parents who are illegal immigrants? Suddenly the 3 year old child brought into the U.S. illegally by their parents is now a "criminal?"

Does that sound like America or a fascist regime? Do we really intend to deport children who have grown up their entire lives living as legal Americans to the country of their parents nationality regardless of whether or not that child even has any connection to it? Or skills to enable them to live there? A lot of first generation Latino children are so Americanized that don't speak any Spanish!! How are they supposed to survive if they suddenly find themselves in a foreign country? So, if that wasn't bad enough the so-called, "Strict Constitutional Constructionists" want to slice off the 17 amendment as well, which would take selection of U.S. Senators out of the hands of voters and put it in the hands of state governments. According to these anti-17ers it would give more power back to the states to "increase liberty from Washington D.C." So all this reverse engineering of the Constitution talk makes it real hard to swallow the rights's claim that they revere the Constitution. Yeah, perhaps the Constitution of your dreams that's parred down to about one amendment--the right to have and use weapons.

Watch out for this crowd--they're trying to pull a fast one us and it's sadly working more than it should because of the general ignorance in this country toward history and the Constitution. This is the result of years of neglecting our eduction system (especially the loss of civics classes), which really picked up steam under Ronald Reagan.

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