Aug 4th, 2010 by ravi
Analogies about the WTC Islamic Centre and the ADL

More than one writer has criticised the Anti Defamation League’s stance against the proposed Islamic Center near “Ground Zero” in Manhattan, using analogies such as the below from Peter Beinart:

The ADL’s rationale for opposing the Ground Zero mosque is that “building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain—unnecessarily—and that is not right.” Huh? What if white victims of African-American crime protested the building of a black church in their neighborhood? Or gentile victims of Bernie Madoff protested the building of a synagogue?

These analogies are erroneous, and I believe the error is non-trivial. African-American crime is not committed in the name of “African-Americanism”. Similarly Bernie Madoff did not scam his clients as a claimed act of Judaism. However, if I recall correctly, the attackers on 9/11 did (among other claims) consider their act to be on behalf of Islam; and the act was masterminded by an Islamic organisation or entity. The oft-repeated caution that these individuals do not represent Islam is the point that is missing in the analogies. A better analogy, that brings out this point, would be:

What if a Unitarian church was proposed near the location of the Stonewall Riots (or another location where homosexuals where victims of an attack)? Given the virulent homophobia of the Westboro Baptist Church, a Christian entity, does it make sense to ban the Unitarian church in order to spare pain to the harmed community?

Aside: someone like Christopher Hitchens might argue that given that any form of religion, even a progressive, inclusive one like the Unitarian Universalists, are the root cause of a good part of the violence and terrorism we see around the world, due to their basis in irrationality.

Update: as Allogenes points out in the comments, the Unitarian Universalist do not identify themselves as christians, so my analogy is as flawed as the one I criticise. Just desserts! The reader is encouraged to substitute a mild, tolerant denomination (the Episcopalians?) for the UU, in the above.

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2 Responses

  • Allogenes says:

    The Unitarian Universalist church (to which I belong) does not identify itself as “Christian;” your analogy would be more appropriate if, rather than a mosque, something like a Bahai temple (which only the uninformed might associate with Islam) were being proposed for Ground Zero. (I’m not sure even Hitchens has had anything to say against us, though I’m sure he could come up with something given his talents.) Also, even Westboro Baptist can’t claim responsibility for Stonewall; the NYPD did not claim to be acting on behalf of any form of religion.

    • ravi says:

      Allogenes, thank you for the correction about the UU. I apologise and will update the post. The mention of Westboro Baptist is not to suggest that they have claimed responsibility for Stonewall. Rather, they are proudly associated with homophobia and are, in name, a Christian church. Ergo, by the current reasoning, a church near the Stonewall site would bring up images of Christianity, which equates to the Westboro Baptists, which equates to homophobia, and hence pain and suffering for victims.

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