Wednesday, April 04, 2007

What to do?

(Hat tip to Gates of Vienna for this story. This post is a bit of a fleshing out of a comment I made there this morning.)

It seems that in an obscure city in England, there's a crisis brewing. An old, long-disused Methodist church is about to be turned into a mosque. And there are some people that view it as a step in Britain's long surrender to Islam. Others see it as being an indication of how far Christianity has fallen, as the article GoV links to discusses the falling attendance at religious services there. All worthy topics for discussion.

However, it appears that some folks are worried about the social implications. Is it a good idea to turn an old church into a mosque?

Why not?

Here's my comment from their page:

"I'm of 2 minds on this story. (I won't address any of the Great Debates on religion from the comments). On the one hand, Mr. Arshad does seem like one of the mythical "Moderate Muslims" of which we've all heard. But on the other hand...

From what I've read here, it seems that there is a legitimate need for a mosque in the area, and those that oppose it are merely anti-Muslim. Of course, fear of Islam is legitimate- I don't know that I would want a mosque going up in my neighborhood either.

But let's face it, they're making an issue of a building that has not been a "church" in years, granting that it's still sanctified.

So you have moderate Muslims wanting to have a mosque for their community. Doesn't sound unreasonable, on paper. If you refuse to allow it, fight it, or protest it, then doesn't that risk sending the message that Muslims truly are second-class citizens? I doubt the locals would protest if a CofE congregation tried to take over the building.

But still, there's the legitimate fear: is Mr. Arshad fronting for a different group, one that is more extreme? Even if not, isn't there a chance that his little mosque will be usurped by the folks that control the larger mosques in places like London?

So what should be done? On the one hand, if you fight them, you risk turning moderates against you. On the other hand, you also risk allowing the terrorists a base in your town.

Hard call, but having given it some thought this morning, I think the chance has to be taken. Allow it, if for no other reason than the likelihood the Muslims will be moving in anyway. When they do come, do you want them to have a grudge, or do you want them to feel like part of the community?

Besides, worst case scenario is they'll go someplace else to blow things up. Don't think they'd attack their own town, would they?

Wow. Almost feel like I should be breaking out into a chorus of "Kumbaya". But I'll refrain."


I've given it a wee bit more thought, and I still think I hit the central point pretty well. One of the problems that the British have is that the Muslim community seems to think that they are second-class citizens (or at least claims they think so). This alleged grievance is used to press the government for more concessions to them. For instance, according to Fjordman (posting this article at Gates of Vienna)

"In August 2006, following the unveiling of a plot to blow up several airliners between Britain and the USA, Muslim leaders summoned to talks with the Government on tackling extremism made a series of demands, which included the introduction of sharia law for family matters. Dr Syed Aziz Pasha, secretary general of the Union of Muslim Organisations of the UK and Ireland, said: ‘We told her [the minister] if you give us religious rights, we will be in a better position to convince young people that they are being treated equally along with other citizens.’"

So, as he points out in the article, "moderate Muslims" are demanding that the Government give them religious freedoms not granted to other groups (including the Church of England, which is the Official Religion there), in order to prove that Muslims are being treated equally.

"Give me more money for the same work as the guy working next to me, or I'll accuse you of not paying me equally." Doesn't really work, does it?

So there are legitimate fears of Islam- God knows I have some. But what do you do? They do have a right to exercise their religion. And you have no proof of any terrorist leanings among the folks that want to build the mosque. So you can't really deny them or even protest their plans, can you?

I still think that the best approach here is to sit back and let them build their mosque. Somebody mentioned the concern over a cemetery, if there is one there. Fair enough. If the local Moslems are as moderate as they seem to be, then it shouldn't be difficult to work something out. If they refuse to work towards a fair solution, then that shows a potential problem.

In the end, I don't think anyone can stop the mosque from being built. The Town Council has approved it, and from what I read, there isn't enough "religious feeling" around town to inspire much more than petty vandalism.

In the end, it all comes down to taking a chance. Back in the '80s, I recall reading an editorial by Richard Nixon. The topic was an offer by the Soviet Union for some type of easing of tensions. (I wish I could recall more details, but it's been well over 20 years. Sorry). In the end, Mr. Nixon said that yes, there was a chance that it wasn't a sincere offer. But in the end, if it helped ease US/Soviet relations, it was worth the risk.

No guts no glory. I think that Mr. Arshad seems sincere. If he wants a mosque, then he has the right to build one. If it turns out to be a base for Islamic Fundamentalism, then so be it. Won't be the first, and I doubt it would be the last. But if he's sincere, and if "his" mosque is actually a moderate one....

Then who knows. Perhaps it's the first step towards Peace in Our Time.