Monsignor Harry J. Byrne, JCD * * * Comment/

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Location: 3103 Arlington Avenue,, Bronx, NY 10463, United States

September 5, 2010


My last three posts expressed my reasons for opposing the site of the proposed mosque near Ground Zero. I have received many plaudits for this position, but also some negative comments from friends and individuals, whose intelligence and judgment I respect. They feel that the proposed builders' First Amendment rights trump other considerations.Therefore, some rethinking is in order. My first post clearly affirmed their right to build, but questioned the lack of sensitivity towards those for whom Ground Zero was an execution ground for their loved ones, the killers crying out in the name of Islam. The second post judged that it would be seen in Moslem countries as a symbol of victory, following Islamic tradition of mosque building at the site of their victory, as carried out at Jerusalem's Temple Mount and Spain's Cordova. The proposed site was initially named "Cordova House", but was recently changed to "Park 51", apparently after it was remembered that Cordova had become the capitol of Moslem Spain after the victory of Moslem armies in 711AD. Its cathedral was replaced by the Mosque of Cordova. My third post opposed the mosque site on the ground that Islam is much more than a religion: Islam, full blown, is an ideology and a form of government, a theocracy. Simply look at Saudi Arabia and other Moslem countries in their treatment of women and their denial of the freedoms of religion ,press, and the arts.

In reply to those who disagreed with my position, I observe that a deep-seated fear arises in many of us at the word, "Islam". Our minds have been conditioned by the word, "Islam", connected to the belief and motivation of the 9/11 terrorists, the suicide bombers so frequently in the media, and the fatwahs - death sentences - lodged against Salman Rushdie and the Danish cartoonist for their depiction of Islam. US Army and Air Force chaplains with our troops in Saudi Arabia have told us of Mass celebrated under tight secrecy, of the disabilities of women, and the amputations of the hands of thieves under the shahira. All this is perceived by many of us as part of Islam. Today, newspapers report from Iran the ninety-nine lashes inflicted on an adulteress instead of her being stoned to death, a punishment deferred because of an international outcry. History records the elimination of Christianity in North Africa under Islamic rule in early centuries. In Moslem Spain, Christians and Jews paid a head-tax in addition to various legal disabilities. This is what causes fear; the peaceful Islam is overwhelmed in public consciousness by Moslem activities at present and in history.

This fear is not bigotry. We know the peaceful quality of our Moslem neighbors here in NY - health care and other professionals, shop keepers, livery and cab drivers, and government officials, including a NY State judge. We know them as peaceful citizens. We get along fine. This is NY! But some basic doctrines of Islam are invoked by the terrorists. The resulting fear and distrust are not signs of bigotry, although some such expressions have been triggered by the lack of good manners on the part of the mosque proposers. They are perceived as "in your face" intruders on a sacred space. Some respond similarly.

Accordingly, the mosque initiators, in their own self-interest, must educate the public in their "peaceful Islam". Generalities are not enough. How do you feel about the Koran's permission for husbands to beat their wives up to blood-shedding? Its proclaimed goal of world domination by conversion for all; The death penalty for apostasy? Amputations,flogging, and stoning to death as punishment? The replacement of parts of our civil law by portions of shahira, especially in domestic matters, as has been seriously sought in England? Given the emergence of jihaddists from mosques in England and recently in Newburgh, NY, what provisions are in place to insure the exclusion of extreme or border-line Moslems from this mosque?

One might think these question should be quickly dismissed as impolite and the correct answers obvious. Not so. They should be answered. The spectrum of Islam is wide, from the peaceful downtown mosque-builders to extreme fundamentalists. Where are the lines that separate one group from another? Who are the board members for this mosque? Where is the money coming from? Hisham Elzanaty, according to his lawyer was a "significant investor" in developer Sharif el Gamal's $4.8 million purchase of the proposed site. El-Gamal himself has refused to disclose where he obtained the funds. Elzanaty is listed as a 1999 contributor of $6,000 to the Texas-based Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, later shut down because of its ties to terrorism. In 2008, five of its leaders were convicted of giving material support to Hamas. Hamas recently endorsed the controverted mosque site!

Many of us look forward to these person and money trails being followed and are hopeful that somehow the above questions will be asked and responded to satisfactorily. Even if all trails and questions play out well, good manners would still require that the site be relocated!