A recently had lunch with professor Byerchen and as usual it turned out to be a very educational experience. A few days ago, Pat Buchanan wrote a column on the subject of the proposed Islamic center being built 2 blocks from Ground Zero. He stated that if Japanese Shintoists wanted to build a temple in any of the fifty United States that would be no problem, but if they tried to construct one on Ford Island, directly opposite the wreckage of the USS Arizona, there would be a major uproar. After what Professor Byerchen said to me, you could have knocked me over with a feather. As we talked about the Islamic center and I related Buchanan’s comments, he told me that there were already two Shinto shrines near Pearl Harbor and close by the wreckage.
Happily enough, the tone of those small temples were not “All hail the Son of Heaven Hirohito,” but more in the spirit of “We attacked and killed your people, and then you attacked and killed our people, and we’re sorry about that. It was a bad thing.” After hearing that, I had to completely revise my opinion about the Manhattan Islamic center. While I would be a whole lot more comfortable if they built it one mile away, on the other side of Broadway, they are certainly entitled to build it on private land.
Furthermore, Frank Rich makes an excellent point in a recent NYT op ed column (I don’t think much of either Rich or the NYT, but he’s got a point in this one). He observed that if we are fighting a war in an entirely Islamic country like Afghanistan, it does not make general Petraus’ job any easier to hear about protestors trying to block the construction of an Islamic center in the United States.