Monday, May 24, 2010
Anger grows over plans for mosque near Ground Zero
PLANS to build a 13-storey mosque and Islamic centre two city blocks from Ground Zero in New York are provoking an anti-Muslim backlash in America.
Muslim organisations picked the site of a former Burlington Coat Factory shop damaged in the September 11, 2001, attacks. The building at 45 Park Place has been vacant since it was hit by the fuselage of one of the jets flown into the World Trade Centre by Islamic terrorists.
"We want to create a platform by which the voices of the mainstream and silent majority of Muslims will be amplified. A centre of this scale and magnitude will do that," said Daisy Khan, director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, which is behind the project.
The financial district committee of New York Community Board 1, representing local residents, gave the proposed Islamic centre a vote of confidence at a meeting on May 5.
The $US100 million project would include a swimming pool, a basketball court, a 500-seat theatre and possibly a daycare centre. About 2,000 Muslims are expected to attend Friday prayers there.
The plans, however, have stirred a groundswell of opposition, with a group called Stop the Islamicisation of America calling for a street demonstration on June 6. "What could be more insulting and humiliating than a monster mosque in the shadow of the World Trade Centre buildings that were brought down by an Islamic jihad attack?" said Pamela Geller, the group's director. "Any decent American, Muslim or otherwise, wouldn't dream of such an insult. It's a stab in the eye of America."
Ms Geller's group said that Islam had a history of building mosques on top of the holy places of other religions as a symbol of Muslim dominance. It cited al-Aqsa Mosque on top of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Ayasofya Mosque in the former Hagia Sophia basilica in Istanbul, and the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus atop what was once the Church of St John the Baptist.
"The only Muslim centre that should be built in the shadow of the World Trade Centre is one that is devoted to expunging the Koran and all Islamic teachings of the violent jihad that they prescribe, as well as all hateful texts and incitement to violence," she said.
Paul Sipos, a member of Community Board 1, also questioned the symbolism. "If the Japanese decided to open a cultural centre across from Pearl Harbor, that would be insensitive," Mr Sipos told the New York Post. "If the Germans opened a Bach choral society across from Auschwitz, even after all these years, that would be an insensitive setting. I have absolutely nothing against Islam. I just think: why there?"
Some critics have been more extreme in their views. Mark Williams, a leader of the right-wing Tea Party movement, provoked controversy with an incendiary post on his blog.
Mr Williams, the chairman of the Tea Party Express, wrote: "The monument would consist of a mosque for the worship of the terrorists' monkey-god." Urged to apologise, he said: "I owe an apology to millions of Hindus who worship Lord Hanuman, an actual monkey god."
His comments drew a sharp rebuke from a spokesman for Michael Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York, who noted that the building had planning permission for a variety of uses, including a religious centre. Some families of September 11 victims have also voiced misgivings about the project. "I don't like it," said Evelyn Pettigano, who lost a sister in the attacks. "I'm not prejudiced. It's too close to the area where our family members were murdered."
After years of wrangling, work will soon be under way on every building project within the 16-acre Ground Zero site. The frame of the skyscraper once known as the Freedom Tower, which is to be the tallest in the city, is now 25 storeys high. A second tower has also risen above ground level; work has begun on the foundation of a third block and will soon begin on a fourth.
How town hall snoopers are watching Brits: Councils use anti-terror laws to spy on charity shops and dog-walkers
Council snoopers have used a controversial Big Brother anti-terror law to spy on people making unwanted donations to charity shops. Covert cameras were placed inside shop windows to film anyone who left bags of books, clothes or CDs outside a branch with a view to prosecuting them for 'fly-tipping'.
The extraordinary operation was among 8,575 instances of town halls using covert surveillance rights granted under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act against the public in the past two years. It is the equivalent of 11 secret missions being carried out by bureaucrats every day.
They range from undercover patrols for dog walkers whose animals are suspected of breaking dog-fouling rules to spying on their own staff and on smokers believed to be flouting the nationwide ban.
But replies to Freedom of Information Act requests show that, according to council records, fewer than 5 per cent - or 399 investigations - ended in a prosecution - let alone a conviction. Big Brother Watch said it was proof that thousands of innocent people were being spied upon needlessly every year - with the public picking up a vast bill for the operations.
The civil liberties campaign group called for town halls to be stripped of the power to use RIPA altogether. The coalition government is suggesting only that they should be made to obtain a warrant before using the powers.
The law was brought in by Labour nine years ago ostensibly to fight terrorism and serious crime. But access to the spy powers has since been extended to 653 state bodies - including 474 councils.
In its report, published today, BBW reveals a string of 'absurd and excessive' examples of how RIPA is being deployed by 372 councils in England, Scotland and Wales.
Bromley Council in South East London used the law to try to catch people leaving unwanted items outside charity shops. Officials first placed CCTV systems inside the windows of two charity shops for ten days, then parked a 'covert CCTV vehicle' outside one shop for two weeks.
Despite the 34-day investigation, no prosecutions followed. A council spokesman said that leaving items outside the shops constituted fly-tipping.
More than 12 councils admitted using the Act to check up on dog owners whose animals were suspected of fouling public places, with Allerdale Council in Cumbria reporting six such incidences of surveillance.
It said the purpose of one of the investigations was 'to obtain evidence to see if (a) person is walking their dog, cleaning up after it but then depositing the poop bag in trees, grass, or on the road'.
Alex Deane, director of BBW, said: 'These powers have to be taken away from councils. If the offence is serious enough to merit covert surveillance, then it should be in the hands of the police.'
Another mixed up feminist
AT THEIR age she was comfortable naked in a room full of desirous men, but Catherine Millet does not approve of today's scantily-clad young women.
"For me, how you are dressed is something like a signal," the French author and art critic, 62, said. "They learnt a lot from feminism and it's why they know exactly what they want to do.
"They know exactly their power and what they can accept from men and what they can refuse and they are much more sure about themselves than we were."
Millet, whose best-selling The Sexual Life of Catherine M candidly detailed her body's journey through orgies and swingers parties in the 1960s and '70s Paris sexual libertine underground, has returned to Sydney for the writers' festival this week.
Two years ago, she publicly confronted another private topic in Jealousy, a book inspired by the emotional "crises" she battled after discovering her partner, Jacques Henric, had lovers.
She explains how over years she was forced to grapple with the apparent contradiction in her own proclivity for multiple sexual encounters and her covetous feelings about her partner.
But she sees no incongruity in her disapproval of today's raunch culture - "you won't find any low-cut or tight-fitting dresses in my wardrobe", she proclaimed in The Sexual Life - and her autobiographical writing.
"They are much more puritan than I was when I was a teenager," she told the Herald. "They show more … but I think they do less. They can be very sexy [but] that doesn't mean to a guy 'come to me'. To be [almost] naked in the street is, for me, 'I'm ready to make out with you'."
Ms Millet, who describes herself as a moralist, feels compelled to tell the truth. "It's a writer's duty … and [in doing it] you have to tell about the intimacy."
But the Paris-based founder of Art Press magazine says she could not have led the same life now. "I hope I would have done the same but I'm not sure of that because … I think society is less permissive than in the '70s because a lot of people are afraid of … the pornography industry."
Despite a public and personal life dominated by sexual activity, she said she is at peace "doing less" in the bedroom. "Of course I'm older, of course my body is not like it was … But in my mind and my heart I feel much better. That's the benefit of age; I'm freer."
Catholics reach back to church tradition
With extensive input from Australian Prelates. Cardinal Pell is Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney
A NEW translation of the mass soon to be celebrated by more than 100 million English-speaking Catholics reaches back to church tradition, replacing the more colloquial and dumbed-down liturgy that was adopted by the Vatican 40 years ago.
The Weekend Australian today provides an exclusive and comprehensive preview of the changes, which are the biggest revision since Pope Paul VI approved the current Roman Missal in 1969 after the Second Vatican Council. In style, the new translation of the mass is reverential and traditional, restoring emphasis on the transcendent and the sacred, and replacing words such as "happy" with "blessed" and phrases such as "this is" with "behold".
It revives a classical style of liturgical language rarely heard for 40 years, using such words and phrases as: oblation, implore, consubstantial, serene and kindly countenance, spotless victim, divine majesty, holy and venerable, and "command that these gifts be borne by the hands of your holy Angel to your altar on high".
Cardinal George Pell said the new mass had a "different cadence" to the translation of the Roman Missal that two generations of Australian Catholics grew up with, and which was a "bit dumbed-down".
"The previous translators seemed a bit embarrassed to refer to angels, sacrifice and perpetual virginity," Australia's senior Catholic cleric said. "They went softly on sin and redemption."
The new translation places a heavier emphasis on Christ's sacrifice and underlines the dependence of individuals on God. In one of the most controversial changes, the words of the consecration in the mass specify that Christ shed his blood "for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins", rather than "for all" as the present translation puts it.
Cardinal Pell said the change reflected the official Latin version of the Roman Missal, and although Christ died for everybody, this would remind worshippers of the need for personal repentance.
In the creed, the faithful will now say "I believe" rather than "we believe", emphasising the importance of personal belief.
Most of the changes are in the parts of the mass said by priests, with changes in the laity's responses deliberately kept to a minimum to avoid confusion.
A new Latin edition of the missal was published under Pope John Paul II in 2002, and the next step was to produce authentic vernacular translations.
After a major education program that will start later this year and is already under way for priests in some dioceses, the new translation is likely to be introduced from Pentecost Sunday in June next year. Several DVDs have already been produced to explain the changes across the English-speaking Catholic world.
The translation, which has taken more than eight years to prepare, was written by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, which is chaired by Bishop Arthur Roche of Leeds in northern England.
The project was guided and overseen by the Vox Clara (clear voice) committee of cardinals and bishops from the US, Canada, Britain, Ireland, India, Africa and the Caribbean. Vox Clara was chaired by Cardinal Pell.
Canberra's Archbishop Mark Coleridge also played an important role in the translation, chairing the editorial committee of the commission.
In secular terms, the new mass is a triumph of tradition and intellectual rigour over post-modernism. Leading Australian theologian Tracey Rowland, of Melbourne's John Paul II Institute, said that after 40 years of "liturgy wars", it would put paid to what Pope Benedict refers to as "parish tea-party liturgy".
Professor Rowland, author of Ratzinger's Faith: the Theology of Pope Benedict XVI, said the new translation was "theo-centric liturgy", focused on the worship of God, rather than "self-centric liturgy", focused on community celebration of the parish, the Year 7 class, or the netball team.
She said the new translation of the mass was close to Pope Benedict's heart. "He has complained about 'sacro-pop' and 'emotional primitivism' in liturgy, and said everything associated with the Eucharist must be marked by beauty."
Professor Rowland said the new translation was in accord with the Church's 1963 text Constitution on the Scared Liturgy. That instruction called for the rites of the mass, which dated back to the Council of Trent in the mid-16th century, to be simplified with "due care being taken to preserve their substance" so that "devout and active participation by the faithful may be more easily achieved".
Professor Rowland said the Second Vatican Council's call for renewal was widely misinterpreted in the 1960s, with pushes from some for outlandish changes that were never envisaged at the council. In 1966, for example, an article in a prominent Jesuit magazine in the US called for Catholic worship to employ "the language of the Beatles".
"The new translation of the missal settles the issue," Professor Rowland said. "I'm not surprised it has taken almost nine years. They had to get it right, and they have."
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.