Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Islamic Center

I have a problem with the Islamic Center near "Ground Zero." It's the same problem I have with St. Patrick's Cathedral, Temple Emanu-El, and even the perpetually liberal Riverside Church: none of them pay taxes.

Burlington Coat Factory, the putative but discredited "historic monument" that currently occupies the spot of the new Islamic Center, paid both corporate income taxes and property taxes. The new center, being "religious," will pay neither.

Fully half the tax-deductible "charitable contributions" declared on United States income tax forms are to religious organizations. Some of that money goes to people — people who really need help — but much of it goes to maintaining the institutions, their propaganda, and their denigration of competing religious traditions. (How much of the opposition to the Lower Manhattan Islamic Center, one wonders, is funded by tax-deductible contributions? How much is funded by the tax-deductible ADL, for example?)

Like other religious institutions, the Islamic Center probably will deserve part of its tax-free status. If it provides a food bank, relocation of the homeless, day care, dental clinics, or other non-denominational services, support for those projects ought to be tax-deductible. It is entirely reasonable to give tax preference to organizations that benefit the public at large — but not to those which aggrandize their own agendas at the expense of others.

By the way, as I understand it, the Muslims who are sponsoring the Islamic Center are Sufi — ecstatic, non-political, non-violent Muslims who are pretty much the exact opposite of the Salafists of Al Qaeda. That means nothing to Republican opportunists, Fox News, or Harry Reid (who is in a tough re-election campaign.) For the Great American Public, of course, it's all black and white. Muslims are black. So is Obama.

Too bad.