Follow Up to My Post on the Park 51 Community Center

My post about the Park 51 Muslim Community Center has created quite a stir on some of our industry message boards. Since I wrote the post that is at the heart of these heated discussions, I think that I should probably chime in and make a couple of comments and address some of the issues that some of the posters are raising.  Because the posts were made on industry message boards that are for the meetings and events community I have opted to post my open reply here so that they are available for all to read.

My goal with the original post was not to make this a thing, but a thing is what it is. I am open to any all discussions on the matter, that is my way. I have never steered away from a good debate. In fact, I relish them. I find that it is good to be proven right and that it can be just as fun to be proven wrong by the simple act of discussing facts and opinions. The one thing that I hope is that all of the discussions on this matter can be open and honest and fair. We can certainly have it in the comment section here or if anyone is local to me, we can always have a cold beer and sit and debate, that is one of life’s small pleasures.

I firmly believe that it is our responsibility as Americans to live up to our American values, it is that simple. Being an American and supporting these values means sometimes having to support something that you disagree with. Again, just because you don’t agree with something does not make it wrong.  While the choice of where to put the Park 51 Muslim Community Center near Ground Zero was probably short-sighted, it is the developer’s choice to make, not ours. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times has an excellent post regarding the Cultural Center that I think everyone should take a minute and read.

First, let me hit you with my quote of the day:

“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves”.

This is a quote by Abraham Lincoln, the words still ring true today. Perhaps many right-wing Americans don’t think Mr. Lincoln was a patriot but I for one think that he would be sickened by what we are doing and how we are acting. As a country, we are taking 10 steps in the wrong direction here.

While I understand the anger of many Americans toward what happened on 9/11 (I knew people who perished that day so I don’t need that lecture, the attacks angered and sickened me) I also feel that it is our responsibility as Americans to be bigger than the act. That is why we are American. This is why so many people from around the world long to live here and be a part of our culture and share our values. To come here to escape the very people who attacked us and then have their fellow Americans turn on them as well should keep us awake at night. Think about this, we, their fellow Americans are now the source of their fear.

It is also the responsibility of Americans to be informed and educated on a matter before we judge.

Many of the comments that were made on a couple of great industry boards are lazy and filled with a few hazy half-truths. The hazy half-truths are what are driving the radical right and getting people all worked up into a lather. These hazy half-truths seem to make some  abandon their  American values in defense of America, this to me, is unAmrican. I am sure you are familiar with these hazy half-truths, they give rise to those frightening emails that friends send us that range from “a President that is not an American” to “Poisonous spiders from India that live on toilet seats” (Yes, I actually got this email).  That is a major problem today,  if Glenn Beck says it is so, then many, many, people are quick to believe it without checking the facts behind the story. That is sad because a simple Google search of almost anything will uncover the lie that is hidden behind the story.

One poster on a message board  mentioned the al-Quds Mosque that was shut down in 2010 by German Authorities because it was believed to be a place where terrorist activity was taking place. This is correct, this is the truth. Bravo to the German authorities for taking action against people that were breaking the law and wanted to harm innocent people. This Mosque was indeed full of bad people. Looking deeper, though, you will find that this does not mean that all community centers and Mosques are breeding grounds for scum-bag radicals  that want to destroy the world. Looking deeper you will find that most Mosques are occupied by nice people that are saying prayers before they have to rush back to their jobs as Doctors, Lawyers, Cab Drivers, Judges or Car Mechanics. They are simply like you and me.

To use the al Quds Mosque seizure as an example to ban the building of the Park 51 Islamic Community Center is ridiculous. In America you are innocent until proven guilty, is it not our responsibility as Americans to honor this? If we use this example are we not convicting this group before a trial simply because of who they are? Is it not the job of law enforcement to determine if there is illegal activity (and from what I have seen lately, law enforcement is doing a pretty good job) or is it now vigilante justice that we seek? Are they to blame for the actions of others and we the people in order to form a more perfect union will kick their asses to the curb because Rush Limbaugh said they are bad people.

The fact that Radical Islamists are recruited in Mosques should surprise no one, this should be self-evident. Anyone that wishes to radicalize members of a community do so where that community meets, in the case of Islam, that would be a Mosque. I am sure that they recruit in other places as well, but right now we are talking about Mosques and community centers. This does not mean that all Mosques (or community centers) are centers of radicalization.

If this were true, the same argument could be made that we should shut down all Christian churches because of Violent Radical Christian Groups. Yes, there are plenty of Hyper-Violent Radical Christian Groups, and I am not talking about those good ol boys from back in the Crusades, I am talking recent history.

Should I name a few? Let’s try some on for size. The Westboro Baptist Church, The National Liberation Front of Tripura, which by the way has been classified as one of the 10 most active terrorist groups on the planet, they forcefully convert people to Christianity in India and also force women into pornography to support their operations. They are some real honeys. Then there is the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. These lovelies have killed thousands in the name of God. Wanna know what some of these shiny happy people do? They wear the Rosary and recite Bible passages before they enter battle…. oh and they rape and have recruited, by some estimates, 10,000 children to do their fighting. To get the children, they kill the parents or teachers.

Let us also not forget the Paramilitaries on both sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland… where do you think that they recruit?? The pub?  well yeah, I guess they do, but they also recruit in the church of their faith. We should also talk about our homegrown Christian Brothers like The Branch Davidians, Concerned Christians and the good ol’ Hutaree
from Adrian, MI…. they are currently accused of Seditious Conspiracy and attempted use of weapons of mass destruction……

I guess we better run right out and start blocking churches and denying building permits because I don’t want freaks like that in my neighborhood. I wonder if Glenn Beck knows about these guys…..oh wait, I think he supports some of these guys.

If you use the logic that the center will be utilized for recruiting, as you can see, I can raise the argument that you should not build or rebuild a church in the United States or anywhere else for that matter. I would never do that; it is contrary to the 1st Amendment and therefore, contrary to my beliefs as an American. I am also clear on the concept that just because a group is religious, it does not make them radical. If you believe this, you are demonizing.

What do both radical Islamists and radical Christians share? They practice a corrupted, perverted version of their faith. We must compare apples to apples if we are going to crucify the builders of the Park 51 Community Center….. (yes, the pun was intended).

Half-truths and lies, lies, lies. This is what the radical right would like you to believe, I enter into evidence that Glenn Beck had a joint appearance with Imam Rauf, the leader of this Community Center and implied that he was a good Muslim, yet now that they wish to build a community center in lower Manhattan, the fine Mr. Beck has caught the rating bug and is making the Imam into a villain. Blessed are the Nielson’s baby, we all have to worship something, and I would argue that the Nielson’s are more Mr. Beck’s God than what he reads in the good Book of Mormon…

Oh and about those Mormons of which Mr. Beck is a member, there is the Mountain Meadows massacre where a whole bunch of immigrants from Arkansas was slaughtered by the Mormon Militia, any surviving children were given to local Mormon families (bet they were treated well). I guess that using the community center logic we can forget about building a Mormon Church near that tragedy… oh, wait, I guess it is OK for them, they are Christians and that makes their tyranny and villainy OK.

Another person made the comment that Muslims have a directive to build Mosques on the site of conquered lands. That is actually completely inaccurate and accurate at the same time. If they had actually studied their history they would realize that all cultures build their houses of Worship on conquered lands, it is what conquerors do. Christians build churches, Muslims build Mosques, the Aztecs built pyramids, The Romans built…You get the picture. This is the nature of conquering. If you don’t build your house of worship and subjugate the masses it is called visiting, and that is just a vacation.

Other posters specifically reference the Mosque at Cordoba and that this was a “hidden reference to conquering America”. Cordoba was indeed the original name of the Park 51 Community Center but the posters may have their history a little off…half truths people, half truths.

The Mosque at Cordoba started life as a Christian Visigoth church in about 640 AD, after the Islamic Conquest of the Visigothic Kingdom, the church and land were PURCHASED and it was then converted to a Mosque (and its name was originally the Aljama Mosque, after the founder’s wife). The Mosque was then converted back to a Christian Church in 1236 when the area was reconquered by the Christians. The Christians did not purchase the Mosque back, by the way, these were the Crusades and we all know what happened to people on the wrong end of a crusader’s sword.

Let’s dive a little deeper, this was not an area that was originally Christian and conquered by Muslims as the poster implies. This area had a history before the Christians came, it was the local seat of Roman Power, then conquered by the Byzantine Empire, then conquered by the Visigoths, then conquered by the Muslims and then conquered by King Ferdinand during the Crusades. After this, a Catholic Church was built on the land.

Let’s not try and make this out like some sweet Christians were singing Kum Bay Ya and along came the big bad evil Muslims…. The Christians were conquerors and were then conquered by the Muslims and then returned the favor. This was the nature of the times. There was a whole lotta conquerin’ goin’ on by everyone.

What most people do not realize is that while the Muslims had control of Cordoba, it was actually one of the most advanced cities of its day and held one of the largest libraries in the known world at the time. It was a center of learning, art, and progressive thinking and then came the Crusaders.

Another person, on a different site, commented that the Imam from Park 51 Community Center said that America was an accessory to the crime that happened on 9/11. Well, let’s be honest, this is a yes and no thing. He did make a comment on 60 Minutes, but the poster, the radical right and all of the other talk radio schmucks are taking his statement way out of context.

What the Imam said was that America did not deserve 9/11, but America’s policies were an accessory (implying that America’s foreign policy actions are what make Radical Islamists hate us so much). Glenn Beck actually made the same statement on April 15th –  BECK: “Did we deserve 9/11? No. But were we minding our business? No. Were we in bed with dictators? … Yes”. Here is the video of his statement.

You see, they both made the same statement but Mr. Beck is a patriot and the Imam is a terrorist. Hmmmmm, sounds like a double standard to me and yet more half-truths pushed by idiots that only want to further their own agenda.

Let’s move on to what another person said,  that building the Community Center is an insult to the 9/11 families… think that this Community Center, not visible from the 9/11 site is an insult? The plans for the 9/11 site include a shopping mall that will be below ground level in the very spot where thousands of innocent Americans lost their lives. That is beyond insult, WTF, are we going to buy a freaking t-shirts and fridge magnet that celebrate the attack or perhaps we will grab a new pair of Gap jeans or Victoria’s Secret undies to commemorate our visit.

Finally, in the ultimate insult, that goes way beyond a Community Center with a pool and basketball court, here is what Glenn Beck had to say about the 9/11 families:

BECK: You know, it took me about a year to start hating the 9/11 victims’ families. It took me about a year. Um, and I had such compassion for them and me really, you know, I wanted to help them, and I was behind — let’s give them money, let’s get them started, and all of this stuff. And I didn’t — all the 3,000 victims’ families, I don’t hate all of them, I hate about, probably about ten of them. But when I see 9/11 victim family, you know, on television, or whatever, I’m just like, ‘Oh, shut up.’ I’m so sick of them. Because they’re always complaining. And we did our best for them. And again, it’s only about ten.

I think Mr. Beck has said all there is to say about insulting the 9/11 victim’s families. The audio is in the video below if you want to be sickened.

Enough Said.

Keith Johnston

Keith Johnston

Keith is the Managing Partner of i3 Events but is most widely known as the outspoken publisher of the event industry blog PlannerWire. In addition to co-hosting the Bullet List and Event Tech Pull Up Podcasts, he has been featured in Plan Your Meetings, Associations Now, Convene, Event Solutions, and has appeared on the cover of Midwest Meetings Magazine.

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