Trophy Mosque

August 31, 2010

At lunch, yesterday, I wandered by this building in downtown Manhattan.  There was a cluster of people in front, including a couple holding signs defending the rights of American citizens to build a mosque and community center if they want to.  I asked why they were protesting there and was told that this was the building where the mosque was to be built.  Clueless to time and space as usual, I had not even noticed what street I was on.

A stocky white woman was ranting to a lithe black man with a video camera about how this project is an offensive “trophy mosque.”   She compared it to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, the oldest Islamic building in the world, which she said was built as a commemoration of Moslem conquests in that region.  Wikipedia makes no mention of this, saying it was built as a shrine for pilgrims to the site that is holy to Christians, Moslems, and Jews, and was not even planned as a place of regular worship.

It’s hard to imagine the local community boards and zoning reviews allowing a structure as eye-catching as the golden dome to be built on Park Place in Manhattan, but I guess that’s what people in the No-Mosque crowd fear.  The ranting lady conveyed with winks, nods, sarcasm and other broad rhetorical devices her absolute dismissal of the notion that the backers of the project are anything but evil agents of a foreign power – nation? religion? terrorist group?  Obviously they are not what they pretend to be – Americans who want to build a cultural center near where many of them work and live. 

It wasn’t too long ago that Jews were subject to this same sort of vile bigotry in America.  Being Jews, they must be loyal to a foreign entity.  Before the state of Israel existed, it was supposed to be some sort of international cabal of cannibals and bankers.  And Catholics too were treated the same way.  After all, they are not true Americans since their allegiance is actually to the pope.  JFK was rumored to be under the pontiff’s thumb.  A fifth-column of popery in DC!

Assimilation of the white race

August 2, 2009


To all the white  people (or pink-skinned, as my daughter called us when she was young) of the USA and the world, here’s a bit of news:  we are a distinct minority.  Regarding this fact, I have three words:  big fuckin’ deal.

Now that we have established that fact, neutral in its import, let’s move on to the anxiety and hysteria that seems to grip some people when this fact is brought to light.  In the USA, people talk darkly of the country turning Hispanic, ceasing to be a white-christian nation.  (See Frank Rich today.) Well, the census tells us that by mid-century, the USA will certainly be a non-white majority nation.  And what will be lost?

In this country, there have always been anti-immigration forces, know-nothings, nativists, and the varied scattering of racist and bigoted groups, but as powerful as they have been from time to time, any fool can see that the basic principles of the Constitution just don’t jive with that point of view, and the entire history of the country is one of immigration.  This makes these groups, however ferocious, laughable in a way.

In Europe, the worry is about the influx of Moslem people.  Well, have more babies if you don’t want them coming in to prop up your welfare state economies, or get over it!  A review of a new book, supposedly quite sane and balanced, concludes:

It is hard to argue with his ultimate observation about Europe today: “When an insecure, malleable, relativistic culture” (Europe’s) “meets a culture that is anchored, confident, and strengthened by common doctrines” (Islam’s), “it is generally the former that changes to suit the latter.”

I wonder what it will look like thirty years from now?  What about the economic power of the existing European establishment – is that going to suddenly convert to Islam?  If Islam is so confident, why are people not staying in their homelands and making a life there?  And, finally, what if European culture changes?  Is that bad?  Is it so transcendentally valuable as it is that any change would be a terrible loss?  I don’t think so.

It is so reminiscent of debates over Jewish assimilation in America and elsewhere.  The horror of it all if Jewish culture were to be diluted and “lost” to the more powerful stream of the host culture.  If that’s how people feel, they are free to make their own ghetto, but I couldn’t care less.

A postscript:

Looking through some websites about this question, most of them revolting, I was struck by the frequency of the juxtaposition of images of beautiful white women with slogans like, “Save your race!”  Granted, these people are a sick and twisted minority, but I find the durability of the link between sex, race, and fear of being overwhelmed by “the other” quite interesting.  Here are two images of women that were compared on one website that was so confusing, I’m not sure that it wasn’t a parody:

ziv_mulatto nordic_white

(The one on the left is supposedly far less beautiful than the one on the right.) Is it fair to compare the headshot on the left, from a book cover, with the cheesecake on the right?  Men will be men, and these sites all seem to be written by men, surprise.  Is there anything to be said about these two other than that they are both beautiful young women?  If one appeals more than the other to some male libido, well, that’s a matter of beauty being in the eye of the beholder, and not the manifestations of eternal principles of human perfection and racial purity.  Such drivel.

Equal Opportunity Madness

December 20, 2004

Since the World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorists from Saudi Arabia, I have seen the occassional editorial piece, commentary, review, etc., make the point that “there is something wrong with those…Arab countries.” Well, who can deny it! Many are impoverished, others have great wealth and bizarre social arrangements. Their cultures uneasily straddle the chasm between modernity and traditional society, and at this point in history, they are churning out murderous fanatics at an alarming rate. But these commentaries often push further, intimating that there is something fundamentally violent, deranged, or fanatical about these societies and the Moslem religion. Ah, how short is our historical memory!

In my parents’ generation, a lunatic loser led a great and civilized nation into a suicidal quest for world domination. In the process, his nation systematically murdered in cold blood six million people, simply because they were Jews, and another five or six millon becuase they were Slavs, Gypsies, homosexuals, or some other despised category. He espoused a visionary mythology that seemed lifted from a Classic Comics version of The Ring, and he was quite successful, for a while. Right in the heart of the West!

Can we, citizens of the free, democratic West, seriously maintain that there is something intrinsic to the Arab countries that has put them in this mess? Does the history of Christianity reveal a steady roll call of peacemakers, saintly statesmen, and reasoned negotiation throught the past two millenia? Or does it contain endless brutal slaughter of minorities and fellow Christians for G*d knows what all reasons?

Let’s face it, human beings of all races, creeds, colors, and religions share at least this one common trait: they are capable of doing horrific wrongs to their fellow human beings and claiming that God is on their side as they do it.