Yesterday’s open
thread was unusually rich in people’s contributions – I enjoyed all of
them.  All.  (Ron -I only excise spam and
vituperative stuff that does not rise to the level of a coherent argument.  You are safe!) One thread carried on an
interesting discussion on the controversy surrounding a proposed mosque close
to Ground Zero in New York.  At the
same time, particularly in Europe and Quebec, there is a raging controversy over whether
or not to ban wearing the burqa in public.  The burqa is a all enveloping covering worn by conservative
female Muslims that leaves their eyes and hands exposed, but nothing else.  It is not a head scarve.

I am for the
mosque and against the burqa. 
Since I am usually lumped with liberals, let me explain my seemingly
anti-liberal position first.  I
started out in favor of Muslim women wearing the burqa in public.  I am no longer.


Countries are
cultures as well as individuals. 
Each makes the other what it is, and neither exists absent the
other.  Not all cultures can easily
become democratic and relatively tolerant of diversity, and as the ‘Christian’ right is demonstrating, some cultures can lose
their ability to function democratically. 
Fundamental to stable democracy anywhere is general acceptance of
people’s equality in legal and moral status.  Take that away and democratic institutions exist on thin
ice.  The people within a culture have to discover this truth on their own – it does not seem able to be imposed and trying to do so simply ennobles the defenders of the old bad ways in the eyes of some.  

This observation means that while people are equals in a free society, cultures are not.  Cultures that support and practice slavery or the systematic denial of moral and status equality are simply inferior in those regards to cultures that reject these attitudes.  They may have other strengths, but politically, in their ability to cooperate with others, they are toxic.  If they get strong enough they are the equivalent of invaders, not immigrants. We benefit greatly from the cultural and religious additions immigrants bring to our shores, but we should not confuse these benefits with efforts by some to reject what it is that makes us who we are – as well as being able to offer a place to live for people with different religions, values, and ways of life.  

The burqa arose
and is perpetuated within cultures that have so far proven themselves absolutely incapable
of democratic institutions.  In
addition, it expresses a view of women’s status that denies them public
.  Women but not men are arrested by Saudi thugs for the crime of sitting in public with members of the other gender who are not family.   In Saudi Arabia and other barbarous places American women have to at least cover their hair lest some religious fanatic be

Some of these
fanatics, seeking to benefit from institutions their own beliefs would destroy and wealth their own societies have not created,
immigrate to Western countries. 
At the same time they  seek to perpetuate customs  toxic to our institutions
and values, as in the sickening number of so-called “honor killings” that happen
among conservative Muslim immigrant families when their kids dare to become culturally native to the place
where they live.  This makes these families, or the leading male members at any rate, not immigrants but invaders. Hostile invaders.  It tells you what they would do to us if only they had the power.

If burqas are
allowed, it is easy for tight knit immigrant communities to police their
members and keep straying women in line before they learn what life is like on
the ‘outside.’  And the longer
these communities perpetuate these attitudes, the more danger they pose for
their host countries and the cultures that gave rise to the conditions that
attracted them. And the more innocent kids will be murdered in the name of ‘honor’.

Outlawing public
wearing of burqas means that Muslim women who are not ultra conservative can
have  access to the rest of the world in which they live without fear of easy
policing by the spiritually depraved elements in their own communities.  It encourages Islam and the world of
equal status among women and men finding some common ground, as has a good
Muslim woman friend of mine.  If a
woman wants to perpetuate a custom dangerous to the country in which she lives,
she is free to do so in her own home, and can stay there, like an obedient
member of her culture.  Or she can return to where her values are in keeping with the dominant political attitudes.

In my mind we can revisit whether or not to outlaw burqas when conservative Muslim nations make it OK for women to go outside without them.  Until then, they should be verboten in public.  What is good for the goose is good for the gander.


My argument in
favor of building the mosque is simpler. 

We have
religious freedom in this country, despite the best efforts of the ‘christian’
right.  There would not be a
similar outcry raised if the proposed building were a church.  Remember, over 5 million Americans are Muslims.   If the pope sponsored Catholic attacks on abortion centers would we want to abolish cathedral building?  I think not.  The Catholic Church is far more centrally organized than Islam, Sunni or Shiite.  

Muslims are not guilty of 9-11.  Does anyone remember the thousands of Iranians who held candles in solidarity with us and the victims
after 9-11?  I do.  The site I linked to provides plenty of other documentation that the criminals
of 9-11 were in no way acting in the name of most Muslims, just as ‘christian’
terrorists do not act in the name of most Christians.

There is one possibly defensible reason for not allowing the mosque to be built there – but it applies equally to any other new building.  The proposed
mosque would be on the site of an old building now being proposed for landmark
status. The legitimacy using this as a reason to ban the mosque is debatable.  On the one hand, the proposal for
landmark status has been around for a long time.  On the other, for 20 years nothing has been done about the idea.  It’s clearly not a priority. 

I have no
problem with saving old architecture that is historically or artistically
important.  It may be that nothing
was done for so many years because nothing threatened the old building.  But the arguments against the mosque
rarely if ever refer to the building’s status as a historical landmark.  Instead they wave the bloody flag of
9-11 and spout the un-American principle of collective responsibility. I think
these arguments reflect us at our worst, or when the best of us allow our anger
at 9-11 to spill over into other fields.

Having a
mosque near ground zero states as clearly as even the most blinded Christian or
Muslim bigot can see that religious liberty is a genuine principle in this country. 
We play into the
hands of bigots and fanatics on both sides by blurring the dividing line
between Muslims and terrorists.  In my view that in itself should be enough for Pagans to not oppose building the
mosque, but if more argument is needed here it is.

A great deal of
the vehemence against building the mosque comes from conservative
Christians and ‘cultural conservatives’.  Does any Pagan
seriously believe these people would not find reasons to oppose building a Pagan temple
to Hecate in the midst of a city? 
If so I want to buy what you are smoking, to help tide me over times
when I am down.

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