Voice of reason missing as we mourn Sept. 11

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by L. IAN MacDONALD
Sun Media, Friday, September 10, 2010

The biggest argument in America this summer has been over the Ground Zero mosque that isnít at Ground Zero, and isnít a mosque.

But then, cable news and talk radio arenít known for letting the facts stand in the way of a good story, especially one on which they can whip people into a frenzy.

Itís not a mosque, itís a proposed Islamic community centre with a prayer room; and itís not at Ground Zero in New York, but two blocks away from the site of the fallen Twin Towers, in the shadow of the World Trade Center site, but not in its footprint.

Saturday, on the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, demonstrators near Ground Zero on both sides of the controversy will wave placards and shout at one another.

A debate based on emotions rather than facts is not going to be very enlightening. But then, 20% of Americans think Barack Obama is not a Christian. This is about the same number of people who think Elvis hasnít left the building.

The same people will tell you Obama wasnít born in the United States, and is thus constitutionally barred from serving as president, even though his birth certificate states he was born in Hawaii in 1961.

It serves him right for having big ears and a foreign sounding name like Barack Hussein Obama.

Such is the lamentable level of public discourse in America. Obama tried to step in, with an eloquent endorsement of the cultural centre during remarks at a White House dinner to mark the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

There was such a furor over this he went out the next day, and said he hadnít meant his endorsement to be construed as one, not a great Bully Pulpit moment.

The mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, who is Jewish, has made the most courageous statements supporting the cultural centre, but apart from a few ecumenical voices in the clergy, he has been a pretty lonely voice of reason.

Man behind the centre

The moving force behind the proposed centre is a New York imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf, another guy with a suspiciously foreign-sounding name.

Until this week, he hadnít been heard from in the swirl of his $100-million project because he was out of the country for the past two months on a goodwill tour of Muslim countries sponsored by the U.S. State Department. He is, by the way, the imam of an actual mosque in Lower Manhattan, but no one seems offended by that.

Surfacing with an op-ed in the New York Times on Wednesday, Rauf wrote the centre would include play areas and a swimming pool, as well as ďseparate prayer areas for Muslims, Christians, Jews and men and women of other faithsĒ as well as ďa multifaith memorial dedicated to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.Ē

He acknowledged there would be ďinterest in our fundingĒ and promised full disclosure. You wouldnít want people thinking the centre was being financed with cash donations from the gang over at al-Qaida.

Fortunately, it looks like Florida pastor Terry Jones wonít join the irrational outbursts and intellectual nonsense in the air, saying he now wonít publicly burn the Koran.

Still, intelligence, judgment, discernment and taste all seem to have gone missing in America. Maybe itís the heat.

 
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