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The Druid case against the Ground Zero mosqueBY: Dan Rottenberg 09.06.2010
To me, as an observant Druid, all the arguments against the “Ground Zero mosque” have really hit home. How do you think my people feel whenever we must pass that humongous Catholic cathedral on Ben Franklin Parkway? And why now, when memories of the Spanish Inquisition are so raw?
Are you truly, deeply, utterly
Everyone agrees that American Muslims have a right to build a mosque on their own private property. But why would they needlessly offend so many people by building a mosque barely a stone’s throw from the hallowed soil of Ground Zero so soon after 9/11, when the Twin Towers were destroyed by Muslims? And must the mosque be so tall? As Robert Zaller put it in BSR, “The question is whether it’s appropriate.”
Everyone also agrees that all Muslims aren’t terrorists. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the proposed Park51 mosque, is a moderate fellow who envisions a Muslim community center that would build bridges to the non-Muslim community. But only one faith will be able to worship at Park51, unlike the Pentagon’s chapel, which is open to all. And as the syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer has pointed out, there’s no guarantee that Rauf wouldn’t be succeeded in his pulpit by Osama bin Laden.
What’s more, as Phyllis Bove of Blue Bell, Pa., observed in a letter to the Inquirer (Sept. 4), “The fact that they are digging in their heels and adamantly sticking to that site frightens me. What is their real motive and how can we trust them if they refuse to disclose where the funding is coming from?”
To me, as an observant Druid, these arguments have really hit home. For one thing, we Druids understand that when Robert Zaller agrees with Charles Krauthammer about anything, the end of the world is near.
More important, this controversy reminds me how deeply offended I feel whenever I drive past that gargantuan Roman Catholic cathedral on Ben Franklin Parkway, in the very heart of Philadelphia and just a stone’s throw from Independence Hall. Talk about in-your-face religious triumphalism! I mean, couldn’t they put it out by the airport?
Or try to imagine how painful it is for us Philadelphia Druids to drive past that giant multi-gabled Keneseth Israel synagogue in Elkins Park. Did they have to hire Frank Lloyd Wright to stick a thumb in our eye? Couldn’t they just worship in somebody’s living room?
And don’t get me started about the Ethical Society building, which I must confront whenever I cross Rittenhouse Square. If I weren’t a godless heathen myself, I would ask, “Have those godless heathens no sense of decency?”
Here comes Father Coughlin
These religious groups say they want to build bridges to the community. But when was the last time they invited Druids to hold ritual sacrifices on their premises? And why won’t they tell us where their funding is coming from?
The people running these houses of worship seem pleasant enough. But who is to say that someone like Father Coughlin or Rabbi Moshe Aryeh Friedman won’t be in charge in the future?
We do not deny their legal right to build cathedrals, synagogues and meeting houses on their own private property. But when memories of the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition and the Battle of Jericho are still so raw, why pour salt in the wounds?
Founding Fathers’ perspective
You may say I’m oversensitive— that there’s nothing in the Constitution forbidding offensive speech or worship. But that’s only because it never occurred to the Founding Fathers that people would offend each other. Back in Colonial times, everyone was nice to everyone else (except slaves, indentured servants, hired hands, apprentices, blasphemers, women, Catholics, Jews, Spaniards and the French). If the Founding Fathers were here today, surely they’d exempt offensive speech and worship from First Amendment protection.
Above all, as a member of an offensive religion, I am offended by people who are offended. Yes, we Druids used to sacrifice virgins in order to ward off oil spills and nuclear meltdowns at power plants. It worked, didn’t it? And after we stopped (to avoid offending the community), guess what happened?
This controversy isn’t about legal or constitutional rights. It’s about the insensitivity of constructing houses of worship at a time when Philadelphia desperately needs more vacant lots for parking. You have to be utterly tone-deaf to the temper of this country and to the pain to think otherwise.
Besides, we were here first.♦
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