COLUMN: Proposed mosque raises the question: Are we a nation of intolerance?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 11:49 a.m. CDT, Monday, August 23, 2010

“We have to let them build their mosque. But we don’t have to buy the project’s phony rationale.” —George Jonas, The National Post.

“I see no problem with the mosque being built and believe those complaining about it are hypocrites. Maybe they should … stop acting as though everyone of the Muslim faith had something to do with 9-11.” —Sheilah Etheridge, business management and accounting consultant, Anchorage, Alaska.

“I favor religious freedom," but not "right at the edge of a place where, let's be clear, thousands of Americans were killed in an attack by radical Islamists.” — Media Matters, quoting Newt Gingrich.

“There never were plans for a mosque at ‘ground zero.’ The entire story is made up by a public relations agency working with the Israeli government and the GOP.” — Gordon Duff, Veterans Today.

“As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.  This is America.  And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable.  The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are.  The writ of the Founders must endure." — President Obama, August 13, 2010

Why should we in the middle of Middle America be so concerned about the use of private property at 45-47 Park Lane in New York City? In part, what happens in New York will decide the validity of the Constitution of the United States.

I have a personal relationship with the World Trade Center. I grew up in New York when the complex was built. Flying back to NYC from anywhere, the sighting of Towers 1 and 2 was the sign that home was near. The buildings were a part of me. When the World Trade Center exhibit came to Kansas City, I found myself crying in a corner for the loss of the lives and of the buildings.

Last week I asked members of my LinkedIn network for opinions concerning the building of the proposed Muslim civic center and mosque and received more than 40 responses in three days. No one was neutral and the split between to allow and not to allow the new building was about even. Those against the mosque often exclaimed that the building should be allowed if a mega Christian church were built in Saudi Arabia or likened it to “a S/S training temple in Tel Aviv.”

Some reports have distorted the location. If you do not know Manhattan, you may not understand at least this part of the argument: 45-47 Park Lane, to be renumbered 51 Park Lane, is two blocks north and one-half block east of the World Trade Center site. It is not on or next to ground zero. One would have to have the super power to see around corners or through the 26-story building across the street blocking the view. As one New Yorker reminded me, “Two blocks away in New York is like being in another country.”

This is a great test of three of the clauses in the First Amendment; the freedom to practice one’s religion, the freedom from a state-supported religion, and the freedom of speech. Things we deal with every day in our own county and city.

By virtue of its colleges and the university, Columbia has a substantial diversity of beliefs and houses of worship, like the African Methodist Episcopal and the Unity Church. The spectrum of belief in Columbia is amazing. Somewhere in the mix is the Islamic Center of Central Missouri, and please do not forget the American Atheists of Columbia. Not one of these faiths preaches intolerance of other religions. They may have the calling to convert others into their faith, but not intolerance. That is the grand question; is the United States a nation of intolerance?

If you are saying, “But Columbia is not an intolerant city,” I am afraid you are wrong. Islamic students have told me about incidents of name-calling, spitting and threats. An employee at one of our banks told me that the Jews hold most of the world’s money. I have heard the term “rag-head,” referring to those of the Hindu faith, too often.

If we are to honor the Constitution, our founding founders and the consciousness of our collective faiths, it is clear: Intolerance cannot be accepted, no matter the reason.

Those who preach intolerance are nothing more than cowards and the most unpatriotic citizens in the United States.

David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at and New York Journal of Books.

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Ray Shapiro August 18, 2010 | 11:16 a.m.

My parents taught me not to tolerate abuse and ignorance.
There's a heavy price to pay for being an enabler of abuse or remaining silent and not cluing in those who are oblivious. Even worse are those who think that sharing this planet means we should accept and embrace cultures which do not take a stand against destructive behaviors. Being a warm and fuzzy teddy bear, towards those who are evil, just might get the stuffing knocked out from you.

My Social Studies teachers taught me that those who do not understand history are destined to repeat it.
Hence, do not tolerate, appease, ignore or practice isolationism while an enemy gathers strength. Nazi Germany and Twelvers in the Middle East come to mind. Perhaps the "intolerant" Israelis will protect us from the Mahdi.
I wonder how tolerant a society we would have in America with Sharia Law instead of our centuries old Constitution.
(Is old a bad word? Is that why Obama advocates "transformation?" Did McCain lose because we chose not to tolerate an old guy in the White House and chose someone with socialistic, lefty progressive leanings to help bring us together? And yet how tolerant is BHO to criticism? To opinion contrary to his own agenda? To those different from himself? Couple arrogance with intolerance and you don't become a leader, you become the great divider. Such is the divisive nature of our current President.)

So, let's not condemn those who choose to express their preferences and opinions as racists and bigots, or even intolerant prejudiced discriminators. It is abusive to do so and attacks our sensitivities, and our wisdom.
For there's nothing wrong with people formulating opinions or initially prejudging based on experiences, or for individuals to be concerned about quality and have discriminating "tastes." This is not intolerance. This is one's culmination of book knowledge, information through interaction, observation, life experiences, self-preservation, protectionism and logic.
In fact, perhaps America should have a ban on any further Mosque building. At least until we figure out how far the tentacles of Iran have reached amongst the uber-tolerant.
Or the Muslim community can become more vocal about Islamic-Facists and perpetuate a reformation amongst Jihadist clerics and bring about fundamental transformation to the truly intolerant.
It might be a safer world to defuse the real enemy. The belief that violent destructive differences don't matter. That all ideologies have equal consequences.

(Report Comment)
Jim Jones August 18, 2010 | 12:32 p.m.


You said "Those who preach intolerance are nothing more than cowards and the most unpatriotic citizens in the United States.".

I think I would argue your choice of two words in that sentence. I don't think that they are cowards. I would be more inclined to describe them as 'afraid' and that feeling being aggravated by the fact that they don't know who the "enemy" really is.

I don't think that they are unpatriotic, I think that they love their country and want what is best for it, and in many cases would be willing to die for it, but again, can't clearly see what "enemy" to fight.

If we condemn all of the Muslims for what happened on 9-11, are we any different that those Muslims who hate us - U.S. - and refer to us as the devil, etc?

During WWII we put the Japanese in the U.S. into 'camps' because of what some other Japanese did at Pearl Harbor, yet we did not do the same to the Germans against whom we were also at war. Was that because the Japanese looked different' and were easy to spot, while the Germans looked just like the guy down the block?

We spend too much time and energy being against those that are different from us. And, WAY to much time on pointing fingers at others whom we see as 'not like us'!!!

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 18, 2010 | 2:39 p.m.

("Jim Jones August 18, 2010 | 12:32 p.m.
You said "Those who preach intolerance are nothing more than cowards and the most unpatriotic citizens in the United States."

"We spend too much time and energy being against those that are different from us. And, WAY to much time on pointing fingers at others whom we see as 'not like us'!!!")

-So like where are the truly skilled bridge builders?

(Report Comment)
Joy Mayer August 18, 2010 | 3:00 p.m.

A reminder: First and last names are required as part of our comments policy. I've removed a couple of comments from this string. The entire policy can be viewed here:

Thanks, everyone.

— Joy Mayer,

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 18, 2010 | 8:18 p.m.

La suerte de los tontos. Need a translation? Don't worry, Missourian, it's not at all vulgar or obscene.

Are we now going to engage in name calling contests? The column in question says far more about the writer than about the column's subject. That's frequently the case.

Ray, I think your comments were on target.

(Report Comment)
Tim Woemmel August 18, 2010 | 10:56 p.m.

I whole-heartedly agree with Mr. Rosman on this issue. This is one of many issues of intolerance our country is facing right now. However, this is easily solved by the establishment and free exercise clauses of the Constitution. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or the free exercise thereof" Seems pretty clear to me. Refusing to let any religious group build a place of worship anywhere in this country would be a violation of this principle.

If you still don't believe Americans are intolerant, look no further than the 39 states that prohibit gay marriage and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. I don't wish to turn this into a debate for gay marriage but as a gay American I have to live with the intolerance of others.

Whatever happened to live and let live. I see bumperstickers around town in Columbia that say "Coexist" with the symbols of major religions--they always make me smile. Why is it so hard to coexist?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith August 19, 2010 | 8:04 a.m.

@ Tim Woemmel

Want to get married? Drive to Iowa. The best route is I-70, I-435, I-35. Takes five hours, longer if you make stops.

Why do some states allow gay marriage and some do not? Look up the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution.

It's a popular pastime to speculate as to what the framers of the Constitution meant by this or that amendment. I think there was one thing they surely meant, and it's that all amendments should be regarded as being of equal worth (otherwise, why are they even there?). The amendments in total are NOT a Chinese restaurant menu: you can't just choose the ones that suit you and ignore the ones that don't!

PS: When reading the Tenth Amendment, keep in mind that the name of this country is the United States of America, not the United State [singular] of America.

(Report Comment)
David Rosman August 19, 2010 | 12:02 p.m.

Thank you all for commenting and I look forward to continuing the conversations.

Mr. Shapiro - The "Twelvers" have no relationship to the National Socialist Party of Germany. The term relates to the majority (85%) branch of Shi'a Islam who believe that the true faith is based on the twelve imams who were the spiritual decendents of The Prophet. It is no different from the more orthodox branches of Christianity or Judaism.

According to various sources, including the Encyclopedia Britannica, the Russian Dictionary and Encyclopedia, and Islam Today, there appears to be no overt intolerance to other beliefs (there is towards governments however), though proselytizing is, as with Christianity, part of their beliefs. During the Ottoman Rule, Muslims (mostly Shi'a) would allow Jews and Christians to believe and pray as they wish, as long as they paid a "protection" tax.

Mr. Smith - Can you elaborate as to your statement? I am not sure how it connects with the premise of the column. Though Mr. Woemmel refers to gay-marriage, it is only to emphasis the intolerance of the people of this nation. Though he spoke to sexual orientation, the question remains concerning religious intolerance.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 19, 2010 | 12:53 p.m.

(But in Islam, the literal force of the Qur'anic passage is paramount.

"Saudi court mulls verdict to cut defendant's spine," from Emirates 24/7, August 19:

"A court in Saudi Arabia is seeking medical advice on whether it is possible to cut the spinal cord of a man as a punishment after he was indicted of causing paralysis to another man during a fight, a local daily reported on Thursday.")

("So the mosque has nothing to do with the Ground Zero site, eh? In reality, El-Gamal is (surprise of surprises!) lying. Last December the New York Times reported that Ground Zero mosque Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said, "New York is the capital of the world, and this location close to 9/11 is iconic" and was happy that the mosque would be on the site of a building "where a piece of the wreckage fell." Pamela Geller has recently noticed that the Times has now scrubbed Rauf's quote. It didn't fit the mosque leaders' new line, as reflected in El-Gamal's words above, and so down the Memory Hole it went.")

Europe's unknown genoide

Everyone knows what happened to Polish Jews. Very few people know what happened to Bosnian Serbs during World War II. Powerful forces were hiding this appalling slaughter of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies by Croat Nazis, known as ustashas, and their Bosnian Muslim Islam fundamentalists.")

(Report Comment)
Carlos Sanchez August 19, 2010 | 1:11 p.m.

Thank you Mr Shapiro for reminding us of the Boznian slaughter at the hands of radical Muslims.

(Report Comment)
Ray Shapiro August 19, 2010 | 1:33 p.m.

("Tim Woemmel August 18, 2010 | 10:56 p.m.
I whole-heartedly agree with Mr. Rosman on this issue.

Whatever happened to live and let live. I see bumperstickers around town in Columbia that say "Coexist" with the symbols of major religions--they always make me smile. Why is it so hard to coexist?")

That bumper sticker makes me smile too...because it's a manipulative method to stop questioning, seeking and ignores any discussion of the issue on quality of beliefs and the consequences which ensue when those beliefs are put into action.

Chanukriswanzaibuddhanosticveganatheisticramalamadingdonghugatree is not a religious holiday.

And what scares the bajeebas out of me is that the one world order of liberal lefty progressivism seems to be religiously followed.

Have a blessed day.

(Report Comment)
Carlos Sanchez August 19, 2010 | 1:57 p.m.

Mr Shapiro what scares the hell out of me is a lot of inmates in prisons across this entire nation converting to Islam and wanting to follow the Qur'an in a feverish mantra of pseudo religious fervor. That scares the hell out of me and it should this entire nation too. Can you just imagine all of those inmates or any of them on the loose and wanting to do what the Qur'an says in killing all infidels?

Scary since a lot of them could be or are in for violent crimes to begin with.

(Report Comment)

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