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August 26, 2010
Tax Dollars for Mosques!
This U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational & Cultural Affairs document itemizes the six million American tax dollars being spent to restore 63 historic and cultural sites, including Islamic mosques and minarets all over the world. Is the title of the article "Obama gives your tax dollars to rebuild Muslim mosques around the world" an inflammatory one or not?
With so many Americans teetering on economic ruin, why is this money leaving the country? It doesn't help the economy or the American worker. Is the restoration of a 19th century minaret in the ancient city of Tichitt, Mauritania going to help the laid off worker in Detroit, Michigan?
Nicole Thompson, a State Department spokeswoman, has said that this cultural preservation "is helping to preserve our cultural heritage. It is not just to preserve religious structures. It is not to preserve a religion. It's to help us as global inhabitants preserve cultures."
As multicultural Americans, isn't it important to be caretakers of the ancient world and understand and learn from these structures?
Still others would ask, if American doctrine entails a separation of church and state, why are tax dollars being spent to assist in any religious monument, however well meant. Isn't this a flagrant violation of American doctrine?
Apparently the funding of such projects became acceptable in 2003 when the Justice Department "declared that the U.S. Constitution's Establishment Clause did not preclude federal funds from going to preserve religious structures if they had cultural importance."
How, then, does one define "cultural importance?"
But how does one make sense of the Code of Federal Regulations which states that, "USAID funds may not be used for the acquisition, construction, or rehabilitation of structures to the extent that those structures are used for inherently religious activities."
Does the State Department ever follow up and investigate if the site is being used for religious activities? If it is, does the site gets closed down? What else is a mosque or church used for or are these sites meant for scholarly pursuits and tourists?
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton calls this diplomatic effort and outreach, "soft power." Whose soft power?
If Islamic cultural and religious sites are in disrepair, where are the wealthy oil-producing countries in all this renovation?
Why isn't the United Nations involved in such a project -- it would seem more appropriate that they, who represent all the nations of the world, would band together and fix the cultural antiquities of the global community?
Certain organizations are requesting that Americans contact their representatives to condemn this use of American taxpayer dollars to rebuild Islamic mosques overseas.
Still others who have a deep and abiding respect for the preservation of important cultural sites say it is wrong to politicize this outreach program.
What say you?
Eileen can be reached at email@example.com