Blogging Forgottonia

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Contra Bennett Regarding Park51 Project

with 3 comments

Jim Bennett, minister at the Rozetta Baptist Church & regular editorial commentator at the Review Atlas, is from what I can tell a truly decent & good human being.  Unfortunately he decided to weigh in on the whole “ground zero mosque” fiasco.  I really wish he hadn’t.  Here is the response that I gave to him, posted in the comments of his Review Atlas editorial.  I have added some links here so that my points may be clarified & expanded.  None of this will make much sense unless you read his editorial first.

The NRA convention was held LESS THAN 2 WEEKS after the Columbine shootings.  It has been almost 9 years since September 11, 2001.  Certainly one could make an argument regarding the scale of the respective events, but I still don’t think you’re making a valid comparison.

Muslims have been worshiping in the Pentagon for years, the prayer room they use a matter of feet from where Flight 77 crashed into the building.  The building that is being renovated for the Park51 project in New York is ALREADY IN USE for Muslim worship and has been for some time.  In December 2009, Imam Rauf’s wife appeared on Fox News & received glowing commendations for what they had planned.  That segment recognized that the project had broad support from community leaders, including Christian ministers & Jewish rabbis.

Imam Rauf is widely recognized for his condemnation of terrorism and his interfaith activities with Christians & Jews.  Yes, he has made some inflammatory statements, but actions speak louder than words and he & his wife have done a lot of good work.  They don’t deserve to be demonized by you & others like you.  Islamic charities and communications with Islamic countries are HEAVILY monitored by our intelligence services, and Rauf has NEVER been implicated in any wrongdoing.

Let’s also clarify that the Park51 project is going to be a community center WITH a mosque.  From Wikipedia: “Plans are for the facility to include a 500-seat auditorium, theater, performing arts center, fitness center, swimming pool, basketball court, childcare area, bookstore, culinary school, food court serving halal dishes, and prayer space for 1,000–2,000 Muslims.”  Ooooh, a BASKETBALL COURT.  A DAYCARE!!!  Oh my lord, the horror!!! (ROLLING EYES).  Yes people, Muslims work out, swim & play basketball.  Shockingly, they are human beings, and they do the things many other New Yorkers do.  Like many in this country they also pray, and one of the central requirements of Islam (the Five Pillars) is that one should pray five times per day.  Of course this Islamic center is going to have a prayer room – and a rather large one for such a large facility in one of the largest & most diverse cities on Earth.

Let’s clear up a few more facts, like the fact that more Muslims were victims of the 9/11 attacks than perpetrated it.  American Muslims serve in our armed forces loyally & have given their lives for their country.  All of our soldiers in Iraq & Afghanistan are fighting ALONGSIDE Muslims to DEFEND other Muslims, in the hope that we can start those countries down the path toward freedom & democracy.  Don’t you think that honoring those Muslims is “simple human decency”?  Instead you spit on their graves & their service to their country.

Essentially what you’re doing, Mr. Bennett, is to lump all Muslims together and to blame them for the 9/11 attacks.  This is both ignorant & entirely unfair.  Because you are a Christian, would it be right to blame you for the crimes of the Crusades?  The Inquisition?  The Salem witch trials?  The 30 Years War?  You would have quite a lot of blood on your hands by those standards.  You’re a Baptist minister, so do you hold the same opinions as Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church?  Get my point yet?

You are also fanning the flames of ignorance & hatred that PUT THE LIVES OF OUR SOLDIERS AT RISK.  This may surprise some of those commenting here, but Muslims can read.  They can watch TV & get on the internet.  They can see & hear all the ignorant and hateful things being said about them, all the crass generalizations being made about them by people like WAKEupAMERICA.  How do you think that affects our troops in harms way in Iraq & Afghanistan and other Islamic nations???  There’s a group of local National Guard in Egypt right now – our own sons & daughters.  Ignorance like this makes their job a hundred times more difficult.  It puts their lives in danger.

What I read here & from many other conservative pundits is a bunch of hand-waving & excuses that cover up the true underlying problem: intolerance of the “other”, hatred & fear of a “foreign” religion, and frequently racism.   I’m saddened to see you publicly wallow in that cesspool, Mr. Bennett.


Written by Matthew

August 23, 2010 at 2:02 am

3 Responses

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  1. Dr. Weidman, while I respect your opinion, there are several statements in your post that should be addressed.

    First of all, you seem to find a significant distinction in the fact that the NRA convention was scheduled two weeks after Columbine, and the 9/11 attacks occurred almost 9 years ago.

    I don’t believe the virtues of discretion and propriety have an expiration date.

    Furthermore, you acknowledge – and rightfully so – that “one could make an argument regarding the scale of the respective events,” but then you summarily dismiss that very salient point and give no reason for doing so. The difference in scale is highly significant regardless of whether or not you are willing accept that. More to the point, the September 11th attacks were an act of war; I’ll see your nine years and raise you nearly three thousand innocent lives.

    Imam Rauf’s vile statements blaming America for 9/11 are not unlike blaming an attractive woman for “provoking” a rapist. Those declarations have never been retracted by him, nor has he apologized for them. The fact that he made those incendiary comments and actually believes such nonsense is, above all else, why I object to his building project and his role as a State Department cultural envoy. It is not, as you so disappointingly insinuate, because I am a bigot, a racist, or a hatemonger, but more about that later.

    You wrote, “Because you are a Christian, would it be right to blame you for the crimes of the Crusades? The Inquisition? The Salem witch trials? The 30 Years War? You would have quite a lot of blood on your hands by those standards. You’re a Baptist minister, so do you hold the same opinions as Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church? Get my point yet?” I certainly do get your point. Now get mine: Every example you cited is something to which Christians ARE still being connected to this day, despite the fact that centuries, not just a few years, have passed since the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials and the 30 Years War. As for your reference to Fred Phelps and Westboro Baptist Church, I would say that this is an example that makes my own point, not yours. Does Phelps have the right to make his reprehensible statements? In America, he does. Does he have the right to make them in close proximity
    to the funeral of an AIDS victim or a dead soldier? Though the matter is still under legal debate, currently the courts affirm that he does have that right. But SHOULD he? He most certainly should not!

    You wrote, “Muslims have been worshiping in the Pentagon for years, the prayer room they use [sic] a matter of feet from where Flight 77 crashed into the building. The building that is being renovated for the Park51 project in New York is ALREADY IN USE for Muslim worship and has been for some time.” I don’t dispute that, though I do find it irrelevant. That statement glosses over some very significant factors. Again, even the most cursory reading of my column reveals that my objections to the Ground Zero Mosque are not aimed against Muslim worship at that location per se, but largely against the man proposing it. You also make a glaring omission of the fact that Park51 will require the razing of a building that was damaged by wreckage from one of the hijacked planes, all to make way for a towering 13-story spectacle that many of those who lost loved ones in 9/11 view as confrontationally symbolic.

    You wrote of Imam Rauf, “Yes, he has made some inflammatory statements, but actions speak louder than words and he & his wife have done a lot of good work. They don’t deserve to be demonized by you & others like you with innuendos of terrorist connections.”


    It’s hard to know where to begin with that.

    With all due respect, a platitude like “actions speak louder than words” is breathtakingly disingenuous in this case. Doctor, you surely know that rhetoric has meaning and in the case of a preacher and commentator, his words ARE his actions. To pretend that the Imam, who has pursued and accepted the role of a spokesperson, should have his explosive utterances negated by what you perceive as his admirable “actions” is, quite frankly, ridiculous. I am both a preacher and, in my small way, a commentator; I understand and accept that in those roles, I have a heightened responsibility for what I say. Indeed, all of us are, and should be, as accountable for what we SAY as we are for what we DO.

    You write, “Essentially what you’re doing, Mr. Bennett, is to lump all Muslims together and to blame them for the 9/11 attacks.” Are we discussing the same column, Doctor? I was very careful to confine my commentary to the secular issues at stake here. I deliberately wrote in strictly political, historical, cultural, and social terms. YOU, sir, are the one who has erroneously inferred the religious context, not I. Why are you unwilling to make your case on its merits? Why must you resort to distortions and insults?

    More to the point, you have subjected me to a double standard: In your view, the Imam’s heinous public statements in the wake of 9/11 are waved away because his “words speak louder than his words,” but my own comments are “fanning the flames of ignorance & hatred that put the LIVES OF OUR SOLDIERS AT RISK.” Doctor, I mean you no disrespect, but I have grown weary of this cheap tactic. I am disappointed that what began as your reasonable, albeit incorrect, response deteriorated into a pathetic ad hominem attack. The only “demonization” going on here, it seems, comes from you. In your world of extremes, taking an opposing point of view constitutes hate, religious bigotry and racism. Sir, if you must sling slander, could you at least do it correctly? You are ascribing views to me that I do not hold and views that were in no way communicated in my column. Are the many Arab Muslims who share my objections to the Park51 project racists and bigots? How about the general manager of Al-Arabiya television, Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed? In his column titled “A House of Worship or a Symbol of Destruction?” published A-Sharq Al-Awsat, he criticized the wisdom of building a mosque so close to the “burial site” of 9/11. He wrote, “Muslims do not aspire for a mosque next to the September 11 cemetery.” Is he an anti-Arab racist? Is he an anti-Muslim bigot? When author Raheel Raza, a board member of the Muslim Canadian Congress, says, “I oppose [Park51] along with other members of the Muslim-Canadian Congress because it’s confrontational. It is in bad faith. And it doesn’t really set up any kind of dialogue or discussion on tolerance,” is she an anti-Arab racist? Is she an anti-Muslim bigot?

    Also, I find nothing in my column that could be confused with “innuendos of terrorist connections.” If you are referring to my statement that the Imam has been “evasive” about his financial backing, I was making a fiscal observation. If you are referring to my statement that Rauf refused to characterize Hamas as a terrorist organization, that is not an innuendo, it is a fact and a matter of public record.

    A visit to your very well-written and engaging blog, however, showed me that I am not the only one subjected to your extremist vitriol. For example, of those who are involved in establishing a Christian school in Roseville, you write, “If some Roseville residents want to contribute to the degradation of public education in Warren County and spit in the faces of their fellow villagers who can’t afford a private education for their children … by all means, start a new private Christian school.”

    Let me get this straight: You are objecting to the establishment of a religious institution (the Christian school) at least in part because it will upset some people (“villagers who can’t afford a private education for their children”) but you can’t stand the fact that I object to the establishment of a religious institution (Ground Zero mosque) at least in part because it will upset some people (the families of those killed in the September 11th attacks).

    Great googly-moogly.

    (This is beside the point, but how does starting a new private Christian school degrade public education? By reducing class sizes and increasing the teacher student ratio in public schools? How do those starting said private Christian school “spit in the faces of their fellow villagers who can’t afford a private education for their children”? Some people can’t afford a computer and an internet connection; does that mean you are spitting in their faces by writing a blog? And why is it that anyone who holds a view that you reject “spits in the faces of their fellow villagers” or “spit[s] on their graves & their service to their country”? Is it not possible, sir, that one can hold a view that differs from yours without being characterized as a malicious expectorator? There’s a whole lotta spittin’ goin’ on.

    But I digress.

    Lastly, though I am loathe to do so, I must address your disgusting assertion that I am a racist, a bigot, and that I spit “on the graves” of American Muslim soldiers and “their service to their country,” by writing what I have written. This is my final word on this entire matter: May I humbly suggest, Dr. Weidman, that my commitment to my fellow veterans and my support for the freedom of Arabs and Muslims were both established when I left hearth and home to defend Saudi Arabia and liberate Kuwait as a United States Marine?

    Do those “actions” speak loudly enough for you?

    Jim Bennett

    August 23, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    • You are correct in stating that my comments above are vitriolic. I unfortunately have that tendency when I get fired up about a topic. It’s been a while since I blogged on a regular basis, and I forgot the lessons that I learned from my previous blogging experience at A Knight in Dragonland – namely, take a deep breath first. There was, well put by you, way too much spitting going on. My apologies.

      While I don’t know you personally, I don’t believe that you are a racist or a bigot or a hate-monger. However, when you characterized the Muslims involved in the Park51 project as lacking “basic human decency”, that struck an angry cord in me. These Muslims had NOTHING to do with the 9/11 attacks, but your characterization served to de-humanize them and lump them in with the 9/11 hijackers, whether that was your intent or not. When I watch the clips of what many of those protesting the Park51 project are saying & doing, it disgusts me. Some of the comments made in response to your editorial disgust me, since those statements are CLEARLY racist, bigoted & hate-mongering. Some folks in this country are apparently OK with denying one group’s fundamental Constitutional rights based solely on their religion &/or ethnicity … and that’s the team you batted for in your editorial. Yes, I said some things above that, in retrospect, were ugly, unnecessarily ad hominem and better left unsaid, but the anger fueled by guilt by association brought out the worst in me. I need to remember that wrath is a deadly sin. Please let me re-focus and bring this discussion to a more intellectual & less personal level.

      Regarding Imam Rauf’s statements which you characterize as vile and blaming America for 9/11, I have a different interpretation. In my opinion he CLEARLY condemned the terrorist attacks and said that the victims did NOT deserve what happened. He did go on to say that U.S. POLICIES were an “accessory to the crime” – government POLICIES, not the people of this country, and certainly not those who died on 9/11. That’s a clear distinction that you fail to make.

      Unfortunately the statement that the policies of our government contributed to the events of 9/11 is quite true. Our country directly & indirectly funded Muslim extremists in Pakistan & Afghanistan during the Cold War, including Osama Bin Laden himself. The funds & training the C.I.A. provided those extremists have come back to haunt us, just as our government’s interference in the the internal affairs of many other nations, especially Iran, haunts us to this day. The C.I.A. helped to put the Shah on the throne of Iran over the legally elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 – just like our government supported August Pinochet in Chile, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, the apartheid government of South Africa & Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Are you surprised that many Iranians and others around the world resent our country when our government’s interference subjected them to years of dictatorship? That resentment was potent fuel for the anti-American extremism of the Islamic revolution in Iran.

      But I digress, since it was Sunni extremists who perpetrated 9/11, and not the Shi’a of Iran. In that regard, our government turned a blind eye to the Saudis spreading Wahhabism all over the globe because the Kingdom kept the oil spigots flowing & backed us against Soviet influence during the Cold War. Other policies poured fuel on the anger of the “Arab Street” and the rest of the Muslim world. The sanctions our government placed on Iraq caused a great deal of harm to the people of Iraq while the Baathist elite suffered very little. Our government’s support of the continued illegal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian Territories has generated enormous ill will in the Muslim world. The presence of thousands of our troops in close proximity to the holiest cities of Islam LONG after the Gulf War was over was far more inflammatory to Muslims than building an Islamic community center in New York is to most Americans.

      Imam Rauf blamed the cynical policy decisions that our government made, mostly during the Cold War, that were clearly contrary to our country’s founding principles and “basic human decency”, to coin your phrase. Our government’s policies supported dictators because the primary objective was to have stable regimes that opposed the Soviets & provided our country with the raw materials that it needed. To that end our government made some nasty deals with some nasty devils, with Saddam Hussein & Osama Bin Laden high (or would that be low?) on the list. The average American obviously had nothing to do with these policies. The people who died on 9/11 had nothing to do with these policies. So I just don’t get how that translates into Imam Rauf “blaming America”, or more specifically the victims of 9/11. Your “attractive woman provoking the rapist” comparison clearly indicates that you think Rauf did just that – blame the victims of 9/11. In my opinion, & for the reasons I’ve given, that’s a completely unfair characterization.

      More civil? I took a deep breath …


      August 24, 2010 at 1:37 am

    • Regarding the Roseville Christian School, I have several objections, here given sans vitriol.

      1) The school was founded out of anger toward M-R 238 for closing RES & not out of a desire for Christian education in Roseville. Methinks those involved with Roseville Christian who protest the opposite doth protest too much. The hundred plus who showed up immediately after the decision to close RES dwindled to only a few as the initial anger faded & they saw the price tag.

      2) Private education in general has been responsible for sapping resources away from free public education in this country, and I think that free public education is one of the fundamental pillars of our Republic. I want my children to go to public school, and I want those schools to be the best they can be. I don’t want my children to be around only those who share their culture, their beliefs & their socioeconomic status. It’s good to be confronted & challenged by those with different backgrounds than yourself.

      3) Decreased overall enrollment in the public schools means decreased funds from the state & federal government and more difficulty for the public school system. It compounds the fiscal & demographic problems already present.

      4) Private education favors the wealthy over the poor. How many in Roseville can afford to pay $3000 per year to send one child to school? Yes, there are apparently scholarships available, but that serves only a small minority and neglects the vast majority. It’s yet another wedge between the haves & the have-nots in our increasingly dichotomous society.


      August 24, 2010 at 2:18 am

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