I typically don't get very many email forwards, but I received one yesterday that begged a response. Since I spent a couple of hours thinking, researching, and composing, I figured I should go ahead and post it here, a little expanded, as well.
Whenever anything is forwarded to me, I always double-check Snopes.com to see if it's legit. The email consisted of this statement posted on Gingrich Direct on July 21. Go forth and read the whole thing - I'll excerpt my responses below.
Gingrich says: "There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.... In fact no Christian or Jew can even enter Mecca.."Is he seriously suggesting that we should use Saudi Arabia as an example for how the United States of America should behave regarding religious tolerance? That because "no churches or synagogues are allowed" in that country, that we should do the same? I find that deeply offensive - the first amendment to the constitution guarantees freedom of religion, and it is one of the founding tenets of our nation. Saudi Arabia is ruled by a deeply corrupt, totalitarian regime. I would hope that we wouldn't follow their example in anything.
"If the people behind the Cordoba House were serious about religious toleration, they would be imploring the Saudis, as fellow Muslims, to immediately open up Mecca to all and immediately announce their intention to allow non-Muslim houses of worship in the Kingdom. They should be asked by the news media if they would be willing to lead such a campaign."Mr. Gingrich conveniently overlooks the fact that Cordoba House is being built by an American organization, for Muslim Americans. They are not Saudi Arabian citizens, nor religious leaders in that country, and it's doubtful they have much say in the policies practiced in that country.
“Cordoba House” is a deliberately insulting term. It refers to Cordoba, Spain – the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosque complex.On what basis does Mr. Gingrich assert this? This historian gives a much more compelling and accurate account of the history of the Great Mosque in medieval Cordoba, and a much more logical reason for the name:
"So it's easy to see why a group of Muslims creating a community center in the heart of a majority Christian country in a city known for its large Jewish population might name it "The Cordoba House" They're not, as Gingrich hopes we would believe, discreetly laughing at us because "Cordoba" is some double-secret Islamist code for "conquest"; rather, they're hoping to associate themselves with a particular time in medieval history when the largest library in Western Europe was to be found in Cordoba, a city in which scholars of all three major Abrahamic religions were free to study side-by-side."Gingrich refers several times to "American elites" as being ignorant, timid, and apologists. If it's elitist not to take insult when there is no evidence that any is intended, to adhere to the principles of our nation, and to evaluate information based on fact, I'm afraid I qualify. The notion of "elitism" is one I intend to explore further in a future post.
"We have not been able to rebuild the World Trade Center in nine years. Now we are being told a 13 story, $100 million megamosque will be built within a year overlooking the site of the most devastating surprise attack in American history."I'm curious why Mr. Gingrich brings this up: considering the commotion being made about a cultural and religious center being constructed 2 blocks away, is it really so surprising that it takes more than 9 years to determine an appropriate structure for that site, come up with funding, and begin construction? That argument has nothing to do with whether Cordoba House should be built.
The last two paragraphs of the email were added by some unknown originator of the forward:
"If, after reading this, you agree with it, please pass it on to others. This is the most clearly stated, sensible, and historically accurate statement that I've read on this issue. Why can't we have a President as intelligent, educated, and patriotic as this former Speaker of the House?"I obviously disagree entirely with this statement being clearly stated, sensible, and historically accurate. It's a disingenuous statement designed to spread fear, distrust, and misunderstanding for political gain. As to his being patriotic, I finding infinitely more so to hold true to the founding principles of religious tolerance and freedom upon which our country was built. If it is truly considered patriotic to be intolerant and discriminatory to our fellow Americans because they do not share our religious beliefs, than our country has sunk low indeed, and perhaps a comparison to Saudi Arabia is sadly appropriate. Finally, considering the sad history of other instances of religious intolerance in our nation's past, I'd hope that we would learn from those mistakes and move towards a more enlightened future.
With regard to past religious intolerance, I refer specifically to the LDS Church, to which the person who sent the email belongs. Having been raised in that faith, I am intimately aware of its history and the persecution they faced, and in some places, continue to face. I'm always surprised to find how easily some people justify the persecution of other religions when it's such a major part of their own history.
FactCheck.org posted an in-depth look at questions regarding Cordoba House that is definitely worth a read.
I personally don't have an opinion on whether Cordoba House should be built, but I firmly believe that religious intolerance should spoken against whenever it is encountered.