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|Muslims, manners and the mosque|
When I deployed to Saudi Arabia with the National Guard for Operation Desert Storm in 1990, the military gave me and my fellow soldiers a crash course on manners in a Muslim country.
We were told not to do a number of things that seemed kind of silly, but are considered bad manners by Muslims.
Don't point upward, don't show the bottom of our feet, don't shake hands with our left hand and never give the "thumbs up" sign to an Arab—just a few of the things I can remember being told.
To do so would be an insult to people whose butts we would be saving by keeping the Iraqi army from crossing the border of occupied Kuwait, ravaging their country and taking over their oil fields.
We didn't mind. To treat Muslims with respect in an Islamic country would be good manners and we, after all, were Louisiana folks who knew our mommas would be proud that we were showing good manners so far way from home.
Maybe, we reckoned, that Muslims would return the favor if the shoe were ever on the other foot.
It looks like we were wrong.
The recent controversy concerning the proposed $100 million mosque to be built two blocks from where the World Trade Center stood before radical Muslims flew hijacked airliners into them and killed around 3,000 Americans has turned into a debate over religious freedoms.
For some, there might be some gray area concerning whether there Muslims have a right to build a church where they please, but there there should be no gray area over whether doing do would be good manners. It's not.
In recent polls, 70 percent of people living in this country are against the idea and those who are behind the mosque should pay attention to those polls and quit whining about religious freedoms they—most likely—don't believe in anyway.
Those who are planning the church are making a statement that has nothing to do with religious freedoms and should be told they can build it somewhere else.
It's telling that those who would like to build the mosque want it to open on Sept. 11, 2011 —ten years to the day of the fall of the the World Trade Center.
When you cut to the chase, the debate isn't about religious freedom.
The First Amendment to the Constitution assures that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..."
The Founding Fathers saw the danger of the government-sanctioned establishment of religion that excluded all others and that's what the First Amendment is all about.
No one is telling Muslims they have no right to practice their religion or that they can't attend another one of the dozens of mosques in New York City.
The right to build a church in a particular location is not guaranteed by the Constitution.
Churches are prohibited from being built in certain places, usually for economic reasons.
Zoning boards can easily restrict construction of a church—a tax-exempt entity—in a location that would better benefit a municipality and do so.
The proposed mosque would occupy some of the most coveted real estate in the world.
I have little doubt that a Christian church wanting to build on the same site would be turned away in favor of something that would be much more lucrative to the city coffers.
New York is a place, however, that is so steeped in political correctness that the idea of telling Muslims "no" to their outrageous plan would be unthinkable to those in power.
Our countrymen who support the mosque on constitutional grounds are mistaken and those who are behind its construction are dishonest when they say it is being built to foster tolerance and understanding.
I wonder how they would feel about a synagogue being built in Mecca?
Our country has spent blood and treasure protecting Muslims from radicals and despots in places like Bosnia, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan.
It's time for a little humility in the Muslim world and time for a lot more Muslims to start standing up against the radicals who have some to define their religion.
Maybe those who propose the mosque should concentrate their energy on giving women more of a voice in the Middle East.
That way their mommas could teach them a little more about showing good manners when they are far away from home.