City of Brass

City of Brass

my final word on Park51

The controversy over Park51 has long since passed the realm of tragedy and now is well into farce. This story has displaced far more pressing issues like the floods in Pakistan, the lingering environmental disaster in the Gulf, and of course the economic crisis which will still be the primary issue driving the November elections.

Part of the problem is how few muslim American voices there are in the debate. A few have come out against the project, like Asra Nomani and Zuhdi Jasser, but as a writer to TPM pointed out, the pundit class barely qualifies as representative of mainstream opinion. I’ve certainly done my own best to lend my perspective, on the radio as well as here on the blog. Here’s my final take on the subject, as an attempt to explain my own support for Park51 as well as my frustrations over the meta narrative.


Just to review, Park51 is a planned community center complex intended to serve the public needs of lower Manhattan. There is a mosque planned as part of the complex, which is located two blocks north of the site of the 9-11 attacks. The complex will include a swimming pool, an auditorium, art exhibition space, retail shops, and many other amenities and facilities that would be open to use by everyone, muslim and non-muslim alike, in the same manner as a YMCA or other community resource. The mosque aspect is just one portion of the plan, and would not be a towering structure with minarets and loudspeakers playing azaan, but would simply be dedicated prayer space for muslim observances, akin to a chapel in a hospital. That mosque is a critical element of the plan, as there is a severe shortage of prayer space in lower Manhattan. The developer of the project, Sharif el Gamal (SoHo Properties), has even publicly pledged to have non-muslims included on the board of directors.


The labeling of the project as the “Ground Zero Mosque” by Islamophobic blogger Pamela Gellar was admittedly an act of branding genius. But though she sowed the seed, she is hardly responsible for the fertile ground for hatemongering and bigotry that provided it nourishment to grow into the media monster we have right now. There’s no escaping the political dimension of this story. Republicans have largely demagogued the issue, exploiting it for partisan gain (though a small coterie of former Bush Administration officials and politically-conservative muslims have been trying to change this from the inside). The Democrats, meanwhile, preferred to stay silent on the issue, fearing it would be used against them in the upcoming elections if they were seen publically embracing muslims’ civil rights. I’m not sure whether their silence is more shameful or not than Senator Reid’s outright statement that the mosque should be built someplace else. Even the ADL abandoned its very founding principles and came out in opposition to the project. President Obama did do the right thing by strongly affirming the principle of religious freedom, though he later clarified that he wasn’t taking an explicit position on the “wisdom” of the specific project or not – which is still better than former president Bush’s flat refusal to comment at all, even on the issue of liberties.


My general take on the debate is that it really does boil down to an issue not just of religious freedom but also a means of putting into practice the very American values which Al Qaeda seeks to deny. A mosque in NYC, near to the site of 9-11, is not a “monument to the attackers” (a pernicious claim, which puts collective responsibility for the terrorist attacks on all Muslim Americans) but actually a repudiation of the Al Qaeda ideology. What they want is to make Muslim Americans reject American identity and follow their call to jihad – explicitly, as Anwar al Awlaki has repeatedly stated, and even succeeded (ref the cases of Fort Hood and Times Square). An American mosque, built for American Muslims, is literally the antithesis of what the enemy most desires.


The bigotry unleashed by this whole affair plays perfectly into our enemies’ hands.

That said, the majority of public opposition to the mosque stems from misunderstanding, not bigotry. The topic of 9-11 is an emotional one, and it is hard to have a rational debate when raw emotion is at play. I find it impossible to believe that 30% of the American public could be bigots at heart (the same percentage, coincidentally, of people who oppose the project as who believe Obama was born in Kenya and is a crypto-muslim). However, you can be a decent person and still hold some racist or bigoted views. In fact that percentage of people who carry such baggage probably approaches 100%, myself included.


When you combine the emotional impact of 9-11, the undercurrent of prejudice against Islam borne of fear of the unknown/centuries of Orientalism marking it as the quintessential Other, and then layer onto that the background signal of racial intolerance that is America’s original sin and persists to this day, then you are basically confronted with a pretty skewed playing field, against which the idealized rhetoric of universal rights and freedoms has a disadvantage. It’s to the credit of our national character however that we are actually having a debate. That suggests to me that these concepts can survive exposure to these obstacles. Were this another country, such as one Newt Gingrich feels should be the benchmark for our behavior, there would be no debate at all.


The question for Muslim Americans should not be whether Park51 gets built or not, but how to express our identity in ways that facilitate our acceptance by our fellow citizens without sacrificing our values or compromising on our beliefs.

American Muslims are mostly an optimistic bunch. We can concede there are prejudices at work against us here, but that’s part of the mix I described above. We have to be pragmatic and remember that every group before us, the Jews, the Catholics, etc had to face pretty much the same gauntlet prior to acceptance. I think the danger is that American Muslims will perceive unequal treatment and withdraw from civic engagement. The question isn’t why we are facing this hostility but rather whether that hostility makes our attempts at assimilation moot. That’s a debate we don’t want to be having, but is being forced upon us. I hope that as a community of communities, Muslim Americans don’t become disheartened and lose that essential optimism that really makes us American. Unfortunately, with precisely half of the American political landscape opposed to us, it’s going to be a tough fight ahead to stay optimistic.


Of course, the Muslim American community didn’t ask to be included in Park51?s project, but we have been dragged into it forcibly. In some ways it would be a relief if the issue went away. However, if the project does fail, then I think that the message that will be sent is that bigotry and fear of Muslims is not just permitted, it is effective. This may result in short term relief for Muslim Americans, but surely longer term pain. To be honest I don’t know what I prefer in that regard.

If the project is going to fail, maybe it is better it fail now than later. Certainly the Muslim American community will take a hit either way. If I sound cynical it’s only because I think that there’s a failure of leadership here and that has done as much damage to Muslim American aspirations as the most committed Islamophobes profiting from exploiting 9-11 passions.


Still, I subscribe to the view that the center’s existence would be a powerful symbol and repudiation of the ideology of Al Qaeda. So despite my misgivings about the cost to the Muslim American community, on a broader scale, I think it is good for America that the project succeed. This is why I still count myself a supporter of Park51.

Many thanks to Scott Payne for interviewing me about Park51 at his blog, The League of Ordinary Gentlemen, which provided me the framework for articulating my thoughts above. Go check out the interview there, and my own blog archives, for more of my ruminations on the topic.


Now, let’s change the subject. According to the UN, the floods in Pakistan have affected more people than the 2004 Tsunami, the 2005 earthquake in Kashmir, and the 2010 earthquake in Haiti… combined. But the response to those tragedies was far more immediate and sustained than the anemic response to this one. What can you do? Find out by joining the Pakistan Flood Action NOW group on Facebook and following @floodaction on Twitter. In Ramadan, our focus must be to act in service of humanity, and this is the tragedy of the hour that demands our attention.

  • Marsha Kelly

    I wish every knucklehead out there opposing the Park 51 project would just sit down, take a deep breath and read this blog. The terrible demagoguery that has characterized this “debate” is a disgrace to American politics and an embarrassment to those who truly believe in the principles our country supposedly represents–religious freedom, tolerance and diversity. I hope that your group does not back down and consider other locations; you have a right to locate where you wish, and now you have a moral duty not to reward the hate-mongers by caving in to their irrational demands.

  • Anon

    Ramadan Karim.
    Thanks for calling out the inept PR of this Park51 initiative. I personally am so thankful for your nuance in understanding that all who oppose this project are not bigots — some are just uncomfortable. However, I disagree with your conclusion. (That: “if the project does fail, then I think that the message that will be sent is that bigotry and fear of Muslims is not just permitted, it is effective. This may result in short term relief for Muslim Americans, but surely longer term pain.”
    I don’t think that the plan should go forward at its current location. I don’t think it will be a victory for bigotry and offer a sense that fear of Muslims can be permitted. I really see the central controversial issue of this project to be sensitivity of location — nothing more. I agree that American Muslims should not have to be associated with the evil acts of AlQaeda. Honestly though, we haven’t done enough to educate the public about us, so the idea that this may make people who are even liberal minded feel uncomfortable and squeamish is something we ought to not discount.
    I actually think that by agreeing to compromise and to relocate, the developers would show that Muslims want to partner with the community and not bow down and forsake their rights nor say to hell with everyone and continue forward. In the end, I absolutely disagree with you that “surely [it will bring] longer term pain.” If anything, I think it will be a good foundation for longer term understanding. This project is different from the anti-mosque uproars across the US. This one is specifically about the nostalgic painful memory of Ground Zero for Americans, including American Muslims. We are being unfair when we conflate the circumstances. And we ought not to be condescending and reactionary in our consideration.
    But to get to the part about ridiculous PR: the stubbornness of the organizers is to me a terrible reflection on American Muslims. Sherif ElGamal and the gang at Twitter Park51 deserve criticism for their unwillingness to even think about compromise and their public missteps.
    I can understand the reactions of Muslims, especially in New York. They see a lot of this from of the view point of people who have been wronged and harangued. American Muslims share the deep horror of 9/11. Our lives were impacted significantly as well — collective guilt was placed on our shoulders and a religion that teaches us compassion, which teaches us to be better human beings, was and continues to be hijacked. From that defensive position, it can be easy to feel reactionary.
    The intent of the developers, however hapless and naive their strategy has been, was one of good will: to help in the rebuilding process, to serve the community of Lower Manhattan, to build bridges of understanding and tolerance between cultures and faiths.
    So it is ironic, but not surprising, that a project whose end is to advocate understanding has set sail with stunning communication gaps.
    Muslim leadership right now needs a LOT of work. Daisy Khan said at the community meeting in NY that the location was “no big deal.” Well, it is. Sherif ElGamal is flat out twisting reality with his claim that the center is no where near Ground Zero. Um, it is. His slightly arrogant assertion that this will be the most famous mosque/cultural center complex in the world makes his stubbornness and unwillingness to relocate less sympathetic. The twiter folk at first were like, we’re not going to be engaging during Ramadan. They have improved since their early snarkiness, but they still need work. Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR recently blamed the tea party for “releasing the inner bigot” and blamed it for much of the anti-Islamic response. With that statement, Mr. Hooper is guilty of the same broad-based strokes of intolerance that he condemns on his own community. More frequently, a lot of Muslims, including the interns at the twitter account and other spokesmen for CAIR, keep saying “When a non-Muslim commits an act of terror, no one refers to his religion.” Look, if we’re honest with ourselves (and by the way, I completely agree with your position that Faisal Shahzad and Nidal were isolated from the Muslim community; communities are helpful to moderate views), Islam is linked to these radical acts in a way that is greater than whatever analogies are set forth, because they seek Islamic justification and buy into twisted tafsir more perceptibly.
    The sense of feeling victimized is what is leading the interns and organizers of Park51 to label everyone who doesn’t agree with them as bigots. They’re not. We can’t expect people to commiserate with us, and not commiserate with other people. I know it’s frustrating when people call this a monument to Muslim triumphalism, when if anything, Cordoba for Muslims holds connotations of cooperation, not conquest. And New York Muslims do face a discriminatory climate in their daily lives that leaves them feeling jaded more than those of us Muslims in suburban areas (I know because I’ve been there for a bit). But when we’re reacting from a reactionary posture instead of a compassionate posture, that reflects badly on all American Muslims.
    I like what Rami Nashashibi said: “Whether it’s the Niqab in France, minarets in Switzerland or mosques across the US, the deeper pathologies underlying these obsessions in turn generate an unhealthy and disproportionate amount of reactive posturing on part of the Muslim community and those coming to its defense. The end result is a lot of public discourse about Muslim rituals and places of ritual as opposed to the general effort of Muslims in this country to be forces for good and transformation.”
    The smarter course of action, the one that best serves all American Muslims, and our children above all who will face the ramifications of our actions, good or bad, is to urge the developers to compromise and to relocate. I believe it will make us look stronger, compassionate, and cooperative members of the American fabric — the exact goals that the center claims to want to promote.
    It’s frustrating, because I don’t know how to reach them with this message, and like you said, there has been a paucity of American Muslim voices to add nuance to the discussion.
    But I ask us to relay this message to the developers, and I urge them please, to relocate this center to a different part of Manhattan.

  • Ray in Seattle

    Anon, Thanks for the excellent comment. I am one of those liberals who is uncomfortable with the project. I have no desire to deny religious freedom to the developers or the Muslim community. They have the right of equal protection under the law. That’s our way.
    I want to believe there is a substantial Muslim community in the West that appreciates the freedoms guaranteed to us by our Constitution and Bill of Rights. But there are millions of Muslims who militantly hate us for those beliefs.
    The problem for us is you all call yourselves Muslims and claim yours is the true Islam. We don’t hear your peaceful sermons but we do see the terrible suffering of innocents caused by militant Muslims (Islamists) on the news. And we see them shout “Allahu Akbar” when they kill kafirs.
    The typical Westerner has little understanding of your religion – and even for those of us who try it’s pretty complicated. A few Americans hate all of Islam. That’s objectively wrong but evolution has made humans to instinctively err on the side of caution in the face of lethal danger. i.e. one is more likely to survive believing incorrectly that a good person intends to kill you – than incorrectly believing that an evil person doesn’t. And, there seems to be little effort by freedom-loving Muslims to clearly separate themselves from those Muslims who truly hate us. And so many Americans do react out of fear and assume the worst. My point is that that reaction is not unreasonable nor is it necessarily bigoted, although in some cases I’m sure bigotry is a large part of it.
    I think this could have been a great opportunity for the developers – who say they want to build bridges – to actually do so. Instead they have made the chasm deeper. I am personally tired of the demagoguery on both sides. It’s time to be as honest as we can with each other – as you have with your comment. I hope it helps.

  • Shortrun

    I think Aron makes a valid point that I agree with. Park51 needs to be moved to a new location and not funded by off-shore money.

  • An American

    Seventy Percent of Americans believe American Muslims would better serve Lower Manhattan by building a bridge to some other community, some place where Muslims proactively communicate with Americans. Americans now urge Muslims to rebuild your thought process of understanding Americans. Muslims could better understand American Tolerability, American Principles, American Compassions, American Cultures and its’ Faith. America has done its’ part in understanding Muslim culture and we do our best too tolerate it. Now its your turn, become the leaders, be the community of communities, shine the light of the Muslim compassion and tolerance. Be reasonable, show some Wisdom…. relocate the Ground Zero Mosque.

  • Linda

    This is what I think, I think all the money that would go to build “The complex will include a swimming pool, an auditorium, art exhibition space, retail shops, and many other amenities…” is really a waste of money and should be donated to help the poor Muslims in Pakistan devastated by the floods.
    Show real love and charity by taking care of your poor fellow Muslims in Pakistan instead of showing off your wealth in greedy America. Or maybe by building this expensive center you are showing the world Muslims are greedy and arrogant just like most Americans.

  • Linda

    Building this center is not building bridges it is burning bridges.
    My advice, take all the money for this center and donate it to the poor flood victims of Pakistan. Talk is cheap, put your money where your mouth is.

  • Anon

    Linda, I don’t think it shouldn’t be built — I just think it shouldn’t be built in that location. Because it’s not a symbol of opulence, it’s a way for the Muslims in that congregation in New York to feel like they are contributing to New York City, serving its people, building bridges with the broader community, and to maybe lessen the sense of discrimination and alienation they feel on a daily basis. So I think the center can be tremendously valuable, I just think it should be moved to a different location in Manhattan. But yeah, the Pakistan situation is truly a tragedy, and I hope they are granted greater assistance.
    Ray, thanks for your thoughtful comment. What you mention is absolutely correct. For those not part of it, Islam is a closed community. Even those who seek to understand it find it difficult to parse and unravel it and understand the variations in its practice. For most Americans, their first introduction to anything associated with Islam was in a violent, senseless way, on 9/11, by AlQaeda, the enemy of America and of Islam. They don’t see the Islam that we may experience on a daily level, that brings us joy and peace and inspires our sense of justice and moderation and compassion and respect, as women and men, and that we find beautiful.
    Islam is still, understandably, a controversial topic for most in America. Muslim American leadership needs to improve drastically. Most Muslim Americans shy away from controversy and just want to live their lives productively. It would be awful if they had to experience added resentment if this project continues forth. It doesn’t make the lives of American Muslims easier to have 70% of the American people, more than just the anti-Islam portion, resent Muslims further, and see them as uncompromising, uncaring, disrespectful to the victims of 9/11, communicatively inept, and strategically naive or unwise.
    I do think that toleration is a two way street. I just don’t see how I can expect people whose introduction to anything associated with Muslims was in a violent manner, and for whom the Islamic community seems closed and difficult to understand, to be sensitive and understand better, when I don’t do the same, and understand that many of these people may have never met a Muslim person before, or that their discomfort could be understandable given the fact that Muslim leadership has not done a good enough job in explaining who we are. There is a give and take when it comes to understanding people, and a for a building that is seeking to promote that understanding, well, they’re not the most adept.
    I certainly agree that the developers of this project are PR-clueless. Their lack of organization and foresight has only made things worse. One thing that is true though is that Muslim American leadership currently is still for the most part in the immigrant phase, and the next generation hasn’t yet assumed those roles. Those who were born here or experience suburban America may have a different sense than the developers in New York City who may have a more myopic view of the issue, see it as a local/New York thing, feel assaulted by the negative reaction, and don’t have a nuanced sense of the broader public’s sensitivities.
    My interest, similar to Rami’s quote above, is in showing Americans that we are cooperative parts of the American fabric, in establishing a positive image of American Muslims so that our kids grow up feeling comfortable and safe and so our fellow Americans develop trust in us and don’t feel 70/30 uncomfortable with us.

  • Roland

    The founders and developers of the Park51 mosque, 600 feet from the gaping hole in the ground that used to be the World Trade Center complex, say that the project’s mission is to:
    Uphold respect for the diversity of expression and ideas between all people
    Cultivate and embrace neighborly relations between all New Yorkers, fostering a spirit of civic participation and an awareness of common needs and opportunities
    Encourage open discussion and dialogue on issues of relevance to New Yorkers, Americans and the international reality of our interconnected planet.
    There are other bullets that follow, but those are the first three. Now, compare and contrast those bullets with this report from NBC New York:
    The developers of an Islamic cultural center that would include a mosque near Ground Zero have rejected Gov. David Paterson’s offer to help them find a different site.
    Paterson said today the group is apparently committed to building in the proposed site. “I think they would like to stay where they are, and I certainly respect that and I certainly respect them,” Paterson said.
    But, Paterson said the dialogue would have been useful as the project has ignited nationwide debate over freedom of religion and anger over the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. “Having said that, how much more foresighted would it have been if the Imam who is the developer of the project had been willing to hear what we are actually talking about?”
    Well, guv, maybe it’s starting to occur to you that you’ve been rolled. With rare exceptions, of which the mosque is not included, dialog with Muslims is one-sided (theirs). Almost always, their calls for respect, dialog and understanding come down to “dialog for thee but not for me.” Islam is inherently militaristic, triumphalist and imperialistic.
    That Park51’s program manager, Imam Feisal Abdul-Rauf, is not a terrorist does not somehow mean that these descriptions do not apply to him. Of course, “is not a terrorist” is faint praise these days, since Abdul-Rauf has steadfastly refused to renounce or denounce terrorist acts done by Muslims and has likewise refused to characterize violent Muslim extremist groups, including Hamas, as terrorist.
    The upshot? Abdul-Rauf is building a mosque almost touching the site of the terrorist, mass-murder of almost 3,000 people by 19 Muslims, done in the name of Islam, and Abdul-Rauf refuses to characterize the act as terrorism. Do not think for a moment that Abdul-Rauf does not mostly share the same goals as Osama bin Laden. He does. They differ only in means.
    But that should give us less comfort than one might think. Because Islam is fundamentally coercive and absolutist, the Cordoba House (the mosque part of the Park51 project) will serve only as the training ground for militant Islamists to operate inside North America. The symbolic value of the compound to Muslims around the world – and especially to Muslim converts here – is beyond measure: a mosque and Islamist training ground standing literally atop the debris field of the 9/11 attacks.
    Ralph Peters wrote today,
    Well-meaning Westerners are quick to point out that jihad doesn’t have to be violent. That’s true. Jihad expands Islam’s domain by any means available.
    The 13-story mosque complex to be built a home-run’s length from Ground Zero is jihad–not a gesture to promote inter-faith tolerance.
    We are also told that we must be sensitive to the feelings of Muslims. This, too, is true. But isn’t it equally true that Muslims should be sensitive to non-Muslims?
    Well, Ralph already knows the answer, and it is, “No, Muslims do not have to be sensitive to non-Muslims.” Islam is supremacist and formally acknowledges no equals, only inferiors. Abdul-Rauf is not in the slightest concerned about the feelings of Americans, of whom about 70 percent oppose this project. What he is concerned about is victory.
    War, wrote Clausewitz, is politics continued by violent means. Park51, with mosque included, is the reverse: the continuation of jihad by peaceful means. But jihad it is and we’d best understand that the intentions behind it are far from benign.
    There are a small number of Muslims to understand the broader scope of the issue and are publicly opposing the location of Park51. For example, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, “the general manager of Al -Arabiya television [and] former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al- Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine.” Al-Rashad thinks the project is a very bad idea for three main reasons. First, there was no mosque there to begin with, second there are no Muslims in New York who need to be served by the project at the intended location. Third, it’s really bad PR for Islam for “a mosque being built over the corpses of 3,000 killed US citizens, who were buried alive by people chanting God is great, which is the same call that will be heard from the mosque.”
    Would there were more voices like his.

  • An American

    Remember some of the many steps to steal a Republic: Convince the people that there is a problem, oppose the conditions and or policies creating the problem, and then create the want to no-longer fear the alternatives. As well, Evil will support the violation of widely held social values through prearranged “Operating Policies” hidden behind publicly stated “Official Policies”.

  • Ronald

    I would be interested on your thoughts of this book?
    “Reliance of the Traveller: The Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law Umdat Al-Salik” by Ahmad Ibn Lulu Ibn Al-Naqib and Noah Ha Mim Keller

  • Alicia

    Here is Goldblog on Imam Rauf’s speech at Daniel Pearl’s funeral:
    “We are here to assert the Islamic conviction of the moral equivalency of our Abrahamic
    faiths. If to be a Jew means to say with all one’s heart, mind and soul Shma` Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu Adonai Ahad; hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One, not only today I am a Jew, I have always been one, Mr. Pearl.
    If to be a Christian is to love the Lord our God with all of my heart, mind and soul, and to
    love for my fellow human being what I love for myself, then not only am I a Christian, but I
    have always been one Mr. Pearl.”
    As Goldlog points out, these words in themselves are enough for a death sentence to be pronounced against Imam Rauf by radical Islamists.

  • Alicia

    I also recommend this excellent bit on the Daily Dish today:
    A sample quote:
    “…every actual radical Islamist would know perfectly well that an imam who works with the FBI, tours on behalf of the State Department, denounces terrorism, defends the US constitution in an Arabic exchange with radicals from Hizb ut-Tahrir, has a good relationship with New York City rabbis, and preaches on behalf of women’s rights isn’t on their side. In fact, he is exactly the kind of imam that Islamist radicals target and kill when they dare to do these sorts of things in other countries.”
    I would add that Imam Rauf is also a good friend of Asra Nomani, the liberal feminist Muslim (her book, “Standing Alone” is very good) who has encouraged women-led prayers at mosques, who opposes the Cordoba House site, and who was in Pakistan working with her colleague Daniel Pearl when he was kidnapped and murdered.

  • Frank

    This community center has my unreserved support. That was an excellent post.

  • Frank

    The real story of the Ground Zero mosque is that the project only became feasible because of the appalling and astonishing fecklessness of the officials who were charged with the reconstruction of the site and the neighborhood all the way back in 2001.
    We’re just three weeks shy of the moment, nine years ago, when the landing-gear assembly from the plane that hit the South Tower smashed through the roof and two floors of 45 Park Place, which housed a Burlington Coat Factory.
    Imagine that, in the weeks following, you had expressed the opinion that in nine years’ time, that building would sit abandoned only 560 feet from Ground Zero — and there would be no memorial, no museum, no nothing on the 16 acres on which the towers themselves sat.
    Forget the whole question of whether there would be a mosque (or Islamic cultural center) in its place. Just imagine that you’d delivered the view that New York would so completely fail to maintain a sense of purpose regarding the salvation of Ground Zero. Imagine the scorn to which you’d have been subjected at the suggestion.
    Yet here we are. Memories of the last nine years have turned Ground Zero from a site of horror, to a reminder of grief, to an occasion for ludicrous artistic posturing — and now to something very close to parody.
    Grand and grandiose schemes floated in the immediate aftermath of the attacks — opera houses, museums, exact replacements of the Twin Towers, the tunneling of West Street, the memorial inside the “slurry walls,” the 1,776-foot building, the $2 billion PATH station — have vanished or shrunk to meaninglessness or transmuted into nothing.
    In retrospect, with the exception of finding the precious remains of the victims, maybe Ground Zero shouldn’t have been cleared at all. Maybe those 80-foot piles of twisted steel — which seemed to go on forever, and filled everyone who saw them with a kind of horrified rage almost impossible to put into words — should’ve stayed in place as a reminder of the evil, just as the hull of the USS Arizona sits in the waters of Pearl Harbor and always will.
    It seems certain now that the clearance of the horror led directly to the shameful dereliction of leadership that allowed the most important building site in American history to become a ludicrous testament to the ability of postmodern Americans to hamstring themselves and lose sight of what is most important.
    With the removal of the wreckage came a lassitude, a lack of urgency, that turned the silly arguments over whether this second-class dance troupe or that weird little museum should get a major venue on the site into urgent matters requiring months of public debate.
    Then, of course, there was the design competition that led to the preposterous and architecturally unfeasible Daniel Liebeskind building — which was basically scrapped two years after it was declared the winner.
    Oh, and how about that Michael Arad memorial, called “Reflecting Absence,” with reflecting pools and an “underground interpretive center” whose designer all but demanded control of the $350 million set aside to pay for it?
    Something will be there, something called a memorial. But it isn’t there yet. Nine years have passed. Nine years. Nothing.
    It’s safe to say that, had Ground Zero been handled better, or handled at all, the Burlington Coat Factory site wouldn’t have been sitting there fallow to be snapped up for a song and given to Imam Feisal Rauf. The buildings around the site would have been renovated in ways that would have been respectful of it and with some positive relation to it.
    It’s an unimaginable failure with many fathers: the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and the politicians who control it; the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., and others. But at the top of the list of shame sits former Gov. George Pataki, who had primary statutory authority for the site and whose idea the design competition was.
    Pataki’s forgettable 12-year governorship deserves to be remembered only for what he was unable, unwilling or just incapable of doing when history called on him to do something great. Instead, he dithered and fought and pouted when Rudy Giuliani got too much credit, and fantasized about running for president and finally faded away.
    Pataki called President Obama “dead wrong” for supporting construction of the mosque. But this wouldn’t be an issue at all if Pataki had done the job that posterity called upon him to do. His failure is our shame.

  • svh

    Great post.
    Have you seen this?
    Why America needs more Muslims:
    He goes a tad easy on Bush, who also made inflammatory remarks, but otherwise, this oped is excellent. I miss those funny kids who used to have an Onion-style column on Islamica News. Would love to hear their POV on this controversy. The community center has my support.

  • jesus 2.3

    Asalam Alakum,
    A very well reasoned article. I too see the Cordoba House as a beacon to religious freedom, and the notion that there be no compulsion in religion.
    I can think of nothing else to add to your fine piece. Except to say Peace be with you, and all your loved ones too.
    What will happen, will happen.
    Know that it WILL be GOD’s WILL.
    You can stake your life on it!

  • FreedomsName

    It’s the Islamification of America. Pelosi, one of the biggest threats to freedom on the Hill, wants an investigation into those who oppose this Mosque being built near ground zero. She seems to object to people bringing up zoning issues and such things, when those would be enough to shut down any regular construction project in that area.
    This Mosque is an intent to insult the loss of lives to radical Islam. It is meant to stand in effigy as a reminder of what one faith accomplished in bringing the great Satan to his knees 10 years before, when the Muslim Community Center opens it’s doors on the decade anniversary of 9-11.
    It’s nothing a few dozen barrels of pigs blood and guts won’t halt in it’s tracks.
    When America starts tolerating a radical message that wants to enshrine it’s victory by building a monument to glorify and house the religion that sent the message as close as they can, to the site where the message literally made an impact, we’ve then officially offered our throats to the sword.
    F radical Islam and it’s wholly immoral and lying Prophet.
    Now see, saying that officially gets me a death sentence from the religion of peace.

  • svh

    Radical Islam, Freedomsname? They’re Sufis! Trust me, not radical, in fact, more tolerant and peaceloving than you appear to be. Most Muslims are not radical and it is wrong to judge a whole group by the behavior of a few.

  • Where Have We Gone

    This argument, these posts break my heart. Where has America-the UNITED STATES of Amerca gone? The LAND OF THE FREE? We are a Christian based nation historically,and I find nothing offensive in that-are we not on ‘Beliefnet’-are we supposed to ‘Beliefnet’ in a certain way? Our history, OUR PRIDE is tollerance SO WHEN DID WE BECOME THE ENEMY? We ARE a conglomerate of all people. We are the EVIL EMPIRE WHY? Does anyone else wonder why we-the free people-are the enemy? SO-I believe-we owe homage to our fellow citizens that passed AND their families. The World Trade Center and surrounding “real estate” and future development should support our homage to our fellow citizens-our ‘fallen heros’-what would the 9/11 families want? THAT should be the question! WHERE are you Mayor Bloomberg-we already know where you are President Obama. Mostly-WHERE ARE WE AS A NATION?

  • nnmns

    Here’s some sense on this topic. Republicans are, in fact, willing to put our troops in needless harm so they can get some votes from foolish, frightened people.
    Fox News and their ilk are turning too many Americans into sniveling cowards. In your own interest, turn it off.

  • Juanito

    We should give ordinary moderate American Muslims a chance to prove that they are not a threat. let’s not forget that when Bush started the war in Iraq, he called Muslims our allies. Yes–Muslims are our allies in Iraq and Afghanistan–in a fight against extremism.How can Muslims be the enemy when we are there to “help” them. Remember the logic of Bush?
    Think of it this way–Al Qaeda is an extremist group. Let’s say Jim Jones and David Koresh or some similar goofy extremist Christian group committed some hateful act. Would it be fair to blame all Christians for what they did? The hysteria and hatred of Muslims after 911 is not too different from what we did to innocent Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

  • Alicia

    As I said above, Imam Rauf has identified himself publicly (at the funeral for Daniel Pearl) with Jews and Christians. Very similar to the statement made by Gandhi (“I am a Christian, a Muslim, a Jew,” paraphrasing Gandhi) before he was murdered by an extremist of his own religion. Here is the quote, in part:
    “We are here to assert the Islamic conviction of the moral equivalency of our Abrahamic
    faiths. If to be a Jew means to say with all one’s heart, mind and soul Shma` Yisrael, Adonai Elohenu Adonai Ahad; hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One, not only today I am a Jew, I have always been one, Mr. Pearl.
    If to be a Christian is to love the Lord our God with all of my heart, mind and soul, and to
    love for my fellow human being what I love for myself, then not only am I a Christian, but I
    have always been one Mr. Pearl.”
    Rauf has worked with the FBI and the State Department. His wife uses her own name, and doesn’t cover her head. He is friends with liberal Muslims and non-Muslims of all stripes. He’s made some questionable statements in the past, but, as Claire Berlinski has pointed out, his point about past U.S. foreign policy supporting dictatorial Muslim regimes is the same argument that was made by neoconservatives. The preponderance of the evidence, both of his actions and words, suggest that Imam Rauf is a moderate, just as he says.

  • frgough

    The ONLY reason to build this mosque in this location is to flip the middle finger to the United States. The imam building this knows full well how divisive it is. If he were interested in building bridges, he would be fund a monument to the fallen, publicly condemn terrorism in the name of Islam, and fight for the Orthodox church destroyed in the 9-11 attacks to be rebuilt (the Port Authority is denying them permission to rebuild because their building looks too much like a church – Oh. Wait. You didn’t know that?)
    The issue here is not painting peaceful terrorists, but painting muslim terrorists as peaceful.
    This Imam is a radical islamist hate-monger. Period. Grow up and deal with it, or more people will die in NYC from Muslim terrorists.

  • Erich

    //The ONLY reason to build this mosque in this location is to flip the middle finger to the United States.//
    I’ve said this elsewhere, so I guess we shouldn’t be allowed to build churches near the sites of abortion clinic bombings, right ?
    //This Imam is a radical islamist hate-monger. Period. Grow up and deal with it, or more people will die in NYC from Muslim terrorists.//
    ROFL, so the center will be used to launch attacks now?
    Breathtaking inanity.

  • shakim

    Stop the hate. Haters and those with anger in their hearts will never see the light. Its clear you that can’t see the clear path to enlightenment and are just afraid of Muslims. Don’t be afraid. You are afflicted with the the def dumb and blind like the three monkey. You will never see, hear or understand, you will never b guided and never will your anger or hatred be removed from your heart. That is something you don’t undertand about Islam. We know this as it is written clear to us. You are a hater and will never love anyone but yourself and this earthly life. you have no faith of beliefs. You will always have hate and anger in your heart and Never will you see the path to clarity or guidance for this is your destiny. For the truth is Islam and Islam is peace and peace be upon you. Even if you can’t see clearly. But one thing is for sure Allah knows, the GOD “Allah” of Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Mohamed (SLHS) is the true guide for humanity. This coumminty center is for everyone. Why would you hate so much hate and anger in your heart that you don’t want to allow others to pray to GOD? Its your choice is you don’t pray or if you are a non believer or polythiest or what ever you belief in, if anything. That is your your lot. For you will never see the true light and understand Islam or why someone would choose to be a Muslim. If only you knew, you continue your transgression and just have your heart sealed and filled with hate and blindness and deafness. May god have mercy on you and your sole on the day of judgement. Death is guaranteed, no one escapes death and if only you knew the truth of why you can’t see light or can’t understand why or how is Islam so attractive to a majority of the worlds populist. Peace Out and don’t worry be happy!

  • Ellie Dee

    May I ask why you believe we still have to prove that all Americans have rights? Isnt that a given? Havent you heard that most people believe completely in the fact that the Mosque has the right to be built, no different from a church or any other house of worship. Maybe your too wrapped up in your own defenses to see that thats not the issue. Nor is Islamaphobia the issue. The issue is, that the people who have lost loved ones on 9/11 which includes Muslims, still are having a problem as to what they want built at that sight. All that was asked of those building the Mosque, was to take their brothers pain, into consideration. Rather than fighting for what you already have guaranteed by our Constitution, wouldnt it have been more loving to communicate to the world, your understanding, rather than like a child…demand your rights?

  • Ummahstream

    Jumu’ah webcast LIVE now on facebook –

  • nnmns

    “For the truth is Islam and Islam is peace and peace be upon you.”
    I don’t think that message helps with most Americans. And you are not helped by the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban and their horrors.
    I’m in favor of them having the right to build this but I think Islam, in its current form, tends to be worse than Christianity in its current form. Fundamentalists of almost any religion make it look bad and fundamentalist Muslims are in charge in some countries. Fortunately fundamentalist Christians are not in charge, especially in the US, though all too many leading Republicans apparently are in bed with those who want them to be. If they were in charge we’d see their brand of horrors, probably not so different than the fundamentalist Muslim horrors.
    Christianity, Judaism and Islam all have terrible sections of their holy books which should be torn out.

  • Grahame Perry

    This was a very well written and thought out response to a truly repellent situation. That a community center (with some places for prayers and worhip) for Muslim American is garnering such controversy makes me ashamed. I am not Muslim but am Jewish, an immigrant, gay but more importantly American. I think that my membership in all of those groups informs me why this is so important. I cherish my ability to live here because I can see the special rights that we are all granted but often have to struggle for against those who will throw up false reasons that go against what this country has as unalienable rights.
    The amazing strength of the U.S American society is it’s ability to take people from all the world and give them a home. Often the process isn’t a simple one either for the individual, the group, or for even for the society BUT it happens and has happened since the beginning of this “experiment” of the United States. There have been many instances of resistance to allowing for the basic rights that are given by our constitution and the law eminating from it. We can look to the experience of many minority groups, but we do overcome. Most people just want the freedom to live their lives, build their families, love the ones they love and become successful in whatever way they define that. America continues to profit from each person who comes from another place to build a home here. It is this reinvention that makes us strong in so many ways.
    One of the first rights people sought in the country was the right to worship free from the interference from government and from violence from the majority. That’s what the Pilgrims sought and that is what we are in denying muslims in this act of making the Park 51 project a controversy. It is so heavily wrong caused by those who would use this for their own personal gain and personal emnity against people who are Muslim.
    Continue to press on – we must marshall ourselves with the freedom that we all have and with the right to worship how we choose. Denounce the religious intolerance being show, use out ability to speak out because that is our right. Remind those of this country’s history as a place of freedom. Remind them that when those freedoms have been restricted previous.y it came to be seen as a shame to rather than a defense of America. Maybe many of us do not have the ability to be on CNN or ABC or other media but we can make ourselves known in ways we can. In time this too shall pass, it’s the way this country works, sometimes slowly, imperfectly.
    “The arc of the moral universe, no matter how long, to slowly bend towards truth and bend towards freedom, to bend towards justice” Martin Luther King.

  • Thinker

    Freedom’s Name: what kind of intellectual midget spouts pre-digested hate he heard on the radio, practically verbatim, as his own thoughts? The minute he writes “Pelosi, one of the biggest threats to freedom on the Hill…” he has identified himself as a Hate Radio lemming. He is just one of the mindless, nativist uneducated in our country that are complete and total suckers for the lies and propaganda the right is using to gin up more voters for the fall.
    And let us not forget, THAT is what this issue is about, nothing more or less. August is the Stooopid American month–the month in the election cycle where Republicans drag out their latest culture war issue du-jour. Think of every divisive non-substantive issue they try to turn into a litmus test for the voter, it roiled in August, from flag burning to Swiftboating John Kerry, to Obama’s birth certificate.
    This issue is really a local issue, not a national referendum. Don’t let the rotten, dying Republican party, which doesn’t have a single answer for the American people on things that matter in their daily lives, highjack a good, decent community project for their own crass election purposes.

  • Thad Anderson

    You wrote that: “We have to be pragmatic and remember that every group before us, the Jews, the Catholics, etc had to face pretty much the same gauntlet prior to acceptance.”
    Good point, but as a Methodist, I want to bring up one thing that’s been absent from this whole discussion: almost every Protestant group that settled in the US during the 18th Century did so, at least in part, to flee religious discrimination in Europe. So even the American religious establishment is largely derived from groups who have experienced religious discrimination during the last 300 years.
    Everyone knows the story of the Pilgrims in New England. Similarly, the Scotch-Irish fled Ulster for the Western parts of the colonies because the Church of England wouldn’t recognize marriages performed by Presbyterian ministers (McCain, Webb, and Graham are examples of politicians with Scotch-Irish roots). The Mennonites fled persecution in Switzerland and Germany and settled in Pennsylvania, and then the Midwest (Gingrich is a Swiss Mennonite surname, though his biological father was Scottish or Scotch-Irish). The list goes on and on – the Huguenots, the Quakers, the Moravians, etc. In fact, the only early Protestant group I know of that _didn’t_ faced discrimination in Europe was the Church of England (later the Episcopal Church), which was the church of the English colonial elites in the coastal regions of the colonies. So it is incredibly hypocritical for the descendants of these dissenting religious groups (who are American only because of the religious freedom the colonies offered to their ancestors) to condemn the Cordoba House.
    And from a more pragmatic point-of-view, the colonies wouldn’t have been able to win the Revolutionary War or expand Westward without that influx of religious dissenters. Some colonial governors actively recruited religious dissenters in Ulster and elsewhere – going as far as placing ads promising land and religious freedom – as a means of settling the western parts of their colonies.
    Here’s a post I wrote on this topic re: the Scotch-Irish example, proposing a way Jim Webb could reference his own ancestry as a means of supporting the Cordoba House’s right to build in Lower Manhattan:

  • Crmac50

    I am so sick and tired of the following argument:
    “I agree that they have a right to build the mosque, I just wish they would reconsider the location because it’s insensitive to build a Mosque near Ground Zero.”
    What makes the mosque insensitive? In order for this to be true, there has to be SOME relation between Park 51 and the people who attacked us on 9/11. What is that relation? Did the people building this Mosque attack us on 9/11? Do they approve of or support the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11? Do they believe that Islam and America are fundamentally opposed to each other, like the people who attacked us on 9/11? Do they believe in an extreme interpretation of the Koran that justifies acts of horrific violence, like the people who attacked us on 9/11? Do they hate America, like the people who attacked us on 9/11?
    The answer to all these questions is no. The Muslims building this mosque had nothing to do with 9/11. Just like the Muslims who died AS A RESULT OF 9/11 had nothing to do with supporting, planning, or executing 9/11. They are just as much victims of the 9/11 attacks as any American christian, jew, buddhist, atheist, etc.
    So I ask again: how are the Park 51 proprietors and the people who attacked us on 9/11 related? What is the only basis on which this Mosque could be related to 9/11?
    The only remaining justification is the fact that they are Muslim.
    if that’s the case, here’s the logic of Mosque insensitivity:
    a) the people building the Mosque are Muslim
    b) the people who attacked us on 9/11 are Muslim
    c) because both (a) and (b) are Muslim, (a)’s houses of worship are offensive to the memory of 9/11.
    isn’t it the textbook definition of bigotry to hold an entire group of people responsible for the actions of a few?
    the only reason people are opposing the Park 51 community center is because it contains a Mosque. That is the only reason. If it had been a Christian church, or a Synagogue, there would be no controversy at all. But because the people who attacked us on 9/11 are Muslim, and the proprietors of Park 51 are Muslim, it is somehow insensitive for them to build the Mosque. in other words, you’re holding peaceful Muslims partially responsible for the actions of Islamic Fundamentalists, on no other basis than that they are both Muslim.
    how is that not bigotry? Why must peaceful Muslims who oppose Al-Qaeda modify their lives to apologize for the actions of people they despise? such a demand is absurd on its face.

  • Gwyddion9

    Personally I’m embarrassed by the hateful attitudes many have taken. Freedom of Religion is extremely important to all of us. And truth be told, I’m far more concerned about the conservative/Evangel Christians who have taken it upon themselves in demanding that all laws should be based on “their” beliefs and how “they” interpret things.
    These same people complain about the Sharia religious laws of Islam but from my point of view, it’s already here but under the name of conservative Christianity. At the present, conservative Christianity is far more engaged in creating a theocracy in this country and to hell with everyone else or their religions they don’t agree with or like.
    These same people are exactly the pot and kettle.

  • svh

    Rauf doesn’t condemn Hamas? Rauf doesn’t condemn a lot. I’ve read through the speeches and writing, and spoken to people familiar with Park 51, Haven’t seen much anger. I believe the Rauf approach is to be positive and loving, not thundering and angry. Hmmm. What would Jesus say?

  • svh

    It is misleading to cite a “worldwide” Islamic community when there are so many sects, shades of belief, national influences, and as many personal interpretations as persons, in Islam, Duh. It is also rather chilling, as it echoes the anti-Jewish rhetoric of the 1930s, with all its talk of “world jewry.” The anti-semites wanted to makes all the Jews one monolithic enemy, to justify their hatred and cruelty and use that externalized Other to unite others in common cause. In this respect, the anti-Islamic forces, perhaps unwittingly, seem to be following the same track. This is also one of the things the anti forces have in common with muslim extremists.

  • Aint no mo green beans

    We all need to do our research on our governing officials and then we will be able to understand why things such as this exist.
    Now, As we all know, or maybe a few, Obama is not a Christian. Remember this. He has very little knowledge of God’s purpose for mankind, as well as those alike who are in high governing positions.
    Obama not too long ago mocked the Old Testament during one of his speeches. This shows a bit of ignorance on his behalf.
    He is also part of the antichrist agenda. He is not the antichrist himself. He is just part of it.
    And Obama’s real name is Barry Soretoro. Why did he change his name?
    Also he is related to George W. Bush. Imagine that. Im going somewhere with this.
    George Bush is part of the secret society Skull and Bones, and he is also part of the Illuminati. See many people do not talk about this, or they overlook it because to some, they feel like this is not important, when in fact it truly is important.
    These demonic societies have everything to do with the hidden agendas they continue to conspire on a daily basis.
    Did you know Obama is for the New World Order?
    So it does not surprise me that Obama is for building this mosque.
    He is doing this out of ignorance.
    He also has descendants in the Middle East. So should this surprise any of us?
    I believe the religion that fits under the New World Order is the Muslim religion. And many will be forced to convert.

  • nnmns

    Anmgb is of the “throw it all against the wall and keep whatever sticks” school of conspiracy theories.

  • martin

    I believe in Americas principles of freedom of religion,I believe in the Muslim communities right to congregate(build a center of worship).I understand not wanting to be seen as being pressured to move elsewhere because of someone elses prejudices.What I don’t understand is why would anyone purposely provoke such a situation.This current debate is not about whether the Muslim community has the right to build near ground zero(of course they have the right),but rather should the Muslim community build near ground zero.I beleive that out of respect for the trajedy that happened there, and the perception that should have been obvious to anyone who was considering this project,it should never have gotten this far.Since this has reached this level of national debate the Muslim community should collectively demand that the Community center be relocated and in so doing garner the respect of non Muslims who will see this decision as an act of Peace,Respect and Compassion.Otherwise by going forward and building the center simply because you have the right and not wanting to be seen as bowing to bigoted pressure the Muslim community will be guaranteing that this debate will continue and will continue to grow.Part of being an American is learning to compromise,we have rights,we have the right to speech,but we don’t have the right to yell fire in a crowded restaurant,and essentially this is what the Muslim leaders who support the building of this center are doing they are yelling “FIRE” in an already sensitive and crowded situation.
    Thank you for allowing me to share my opinions and I hope that what I have said is not taken offensively.

  • nnmns

    martin the people who provoke this situation are Fox News and Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin and their ilk.
    You really should read this short column by conservative columnist Frank Rich.

    So virulent is the Islamophobic hysteria of the neocon and Fox News right — abetted by the useful idiocy of the Anti-Defamation League, Harry Reid and other cowed Democrats — that it has also rendered Gen. David Petraeus’s last-ditch counterinsurgency strategy for fighting the war inoperative. How do you win Muslim hearts and minds in Kandahar when you are calling Muslims every filthy name in the book in New York?

    You’d think that American hawks invested in the Afghanistan “surge” would not act against their own professed interests. But they couldn’t stop themselves from placing cynical domestic politics over country. The ginned-up rage over the “ground zero mosque” was not motivated by a serious desire to protect America from the real threat of terrorists lurking at home and abroad — a threat this furor has in all likelihood exacerbated — but by the potential short-term rewards of winning votes by pandering to fear during an election season.

    So if you think the Republicans hate America after watching them comfort our enemies, no, probably Republicans just don’t care about America as long as they can rule it.

  • Admiral

    It’s hard to see how Obama’s comment is better than Bush’s lack of one. Bush has consistently done this regardless of the issue… so he’s just staying out of Obama’s way like he has always done. Bush, like Obama, regularly went out of his way to reach out to Muslims, but unlike Obama, set the framework for real peace in the Middle East by advocating a two-state solution.
    I know it’s hard, but sometimes your politics may not fit the issue so well. The reality is that there’s no comparison between Bush and Obama on these sorts of issues and only one of them showed the kind of leadership we would expect from an American President: George W. Bush.

  • Alan Anderson

    A well-reasoned, thoughtful, and astutely written presentation.
    My congratulations on presenting the Muslim viewpoint so well, sir.

  • leener

    Here is a story I like to call “Fun with Irony” –
    In recent years, there were several groups of sports enthusiasts who were keen on experiencing the thrill of climbing Mato Tipila (or Devils Tower in English) in southeastern Wyoming. Mato Tipila is a sacred site to many tribes of American Indians located throughout the Great Plains, including my own, the Lakota. The hallowed nature of this site to Native peoples, however, held no interest for climbing groups and for years these activities continuted unabated and uncontested until Native groups organized a protest. Eventually, a “requested” ban was placed in effect during a holy time in the month of June; in spite of this, approximately 20 percent of climbers still choose to climb during this time, driving hooks and screws into the rock face and otherwise defaming the sacredness of the site right before our very eyes. In fact, certain groups have even SUED for the right to climb during our holy time claiming government interference in a religious matter. Indeed, a reaction of “HUH?” would be right on target.
    The point of my story? Those who would claim their “rights” to climb on our hallowed ground will indeed be those same who also claim their “rights” to have your Center relocated to some other spot. The hallowed ground of the majority must be honored according to their outcry; the hallowed ground of the minority and the oppressed is simply an inconvenient obstacle that must be eliminated.
    Stand your ground. If you give an inch, they will take, not just a mile, but EVERYTHING.

  • leener

    Aint no more green beans….If George Bush actually WAS a member of the Illuminati, I might have some more respect for him.
    May your God help you who refuse to become illuminated.

  • Bluenote

    Moving the center would be a gesture of compassion and respect only if you a.) believe that there is a meaningful link between mainstream Islam and the violent ideology of al Qaeda, or b.) are willing to affirm the arguments which insist on making this link. I genuinely hope that the center’s backers stay where they are because I believe that taking the latter course would be tantamount to appeasement. Please do not misunderstand my purpose in using this language — I am not calling any of the center’s opponents Nazis (I’m not even calling all of them bigots because I don’t believe that all of them are). But I do believe that the people behind this center are being bullied by the opponents, and appeasement is nothing more than giving in to a bully on a question of extraordinary moral importance, and doing so in the hopes that the bully will stop. The strategy might actually work, but its relative likelihood of success has no bearing on whether or not we give the strategy its proper name.
    I know that many people will disagree (vehemently) with my assessment and will say that this is not about relating al Qaeda and mainstream Islam (rather, it is about being sensitive to the victims’ families). Others will find it insulting that I say that the opponents are being bullies. I have several points to make in response:
    1) If you do not think there is a meaningful link between mainstream Islam and al Qaeda, then logically, why is the center’s location insensitive? Logically, you HAVE to think there is a link between the two (even if you do not believe that they can be fully conflated) if you think that locating the center near Ground Zero is insensitive. There is no other rational conclusion that one can draw.
    2) If we examine this question of insensitivity with greater precision, should we not include in the discussion a consideration of the feelings of the Muslim-American families whose loved ones are also buried in the dirt at Ground Zero? Is it sensitive to tell them that their loved ones’ beliefs are meaningfully linked to the beliefs of the people who murdered them?
    3) Third, is it not a form of bullying to say that the Muslim-American community’s claim of decency is predicated on its willingness to accept a point of view which meaningfully links it to al Qaeda?
    I feel very strongly about this issue. We do not draw any meaningful links between Timothy McVeigh’s radical anti-government views and mainstream conservatism’s commitment to small government. We do not do this because we know that — the kernel of philosophical similarity notwithstanding — McVeigh took his beliefs in such an unacceptable direction that linking him with good, decent people on the right is repugnant and perverse. The same is true of al Qaeda and mainstream Islam.
    Let’s not make Muslim-Americans’ full acceptance into our community contingent on their willingness to accept a view that links them to terrorists. Doing that to the average Muslim-American is mean; doing it to the Muslim-American families whose loved ones also died on 9/11 is cruel.
    I have so much sympathy for the non-Muslim families who oppose this center, and I cannot begin to understand the scope of their grief. As an American, I grieve with them, though my feelings are not, and cannot be, as personal as theirs are. Nonetheless, I cannot side with them on this issue because I do not believe their position is rational. Al Qaeda hit us on 9/11, and I do not accept that they are representative of Islam. Therefore, I do not believe that these families can make a rational claim of harm in this case. They can make an emotional case, but that is it. Again, I am so sorry for the losses they sustained and the grief they still feel (and will always feel), but I cannot support their opposition to this project.

  • Alicia

    Great comments above in support of Cordoba House. Blaming all Muslims for 9/11 is no different than those Christians who blamed all Jews for the Crucifixion. Collective responsibility for the sins of a few. It’s wrong in all cases. Newt Gingrich is like a bratty kid throwing stones at Jewish kids and yelling “Christ-killer.”

  • Erin

    This article actually changed my mind about the Mosque. I was against it, but now knowing more of the whole story, I welcome it. I think this will promote an understanding for Muslims and Non-Muslims. A place where they can both play, a place where both can learn more about each other and a place where Americans can be with Americans. I applaud this article wholeheartedly!

  • Paul Willson

    The amount of vitrol on this subject has been amazing. I can not believe that a nation with freedom of religon ingrained in its Constitution would re act to the building of a place of worship .
    Not to mention there were Muslims other than the hi jackers on those flights, working in the towers, at the Pentegon responding to give aid that lost their lives on that day .
    All the chatter about this Mosque seems to make the position that all Muslims are evil. Which is rediculous, would all Christians want to align themselves with some of our more “crazy”
    members . I would doubt it. Let the place be built .

  • Manas Shaikh

    ASAK Aziz,
    It is nice that you are writing, dear brother.

  • Alicia

    Via the Daily Dish, Jon Stewart connects the dots… brilliantly!

  • Rev. Ray

    Fantastic article here. Really sorted out fact and fiction for me. Thanks.
    As far as America’s original sin of racism, this “sin” is woven into our DNA. Push any group of people a little or a lot (theologically, politically, socially, or economically) and they will defend their own tribe and attack the other. Put Baptists and Catholics in the same room and they will sort themselves out given a push. Put NIV Baptists and KJV Baptists in the same room. Push them a little. Same result. Race, religion, wealth, political perspectives and more all become ingredients in our identity and reasons to distrust the other. Racism is but one expression of what I call tribalism (redefining the term a bit here)–the original sin of all humanity. This is the sin Jesus invites us to overcome through his example.

  • Phelps

    The Democrats, meanwhile, preferred to stay silent on the issue, fearing it would be used against them in the upcoming elections if they were seen publically embracing muslims’ civil rights.
    I think I have mentioned it before, but I still think that you are making a huge, strategic mistake with this line of argument. The argument is about whether or not the mosque should be built and how the average person will feel about it. To make this argument conflates it with whether or not the state should allow it to be built, which has never credibly been part of the argument.
    Your opposition knows when their claims are being exaggerated and intentionally misrepresented for effect and to inflame division. American Muslims should know this better than anyone — so why do you willingly step into that trap? If you really do aim to eventually persuade your opposition to your side (and I think you do) then you should recognize that picking up the very practices that made you oppose them in the first place is the worst way to accomplish it.

  • Antigone

    I think that Phelps is right. The question of whether Park51 should be built seems simple enough to me:
    There are more muslims living in that area of Manhattan than ever before, they deserve to go about their lives just as they would anywhere else in the USA and that includes building themselves a mosque to pray in. When people say that building a mosque in that neighborhood is offensive that is tantamount to saying that it is offensive for muslims to live in there in the first place – that it’s OK to live there but only if they behave like second class citizens.
    The first amendment provides the legal right that supports the moral right of any group to live in peace and engage in the pursuit of happiness anywhere in this country.

  • Brynna

    We will be discussing the controversy and other issues surrounding Park51 in a conversation at Pratt Institute on December 3rd 2010. For more information or to register, visit our blog here:

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posted 1:40:08pm Oct. 06, 2015 | read full post »

why don't they condemn?
Ever since 9-11, and well before it, this is the litany of accusation that ordinary Muslim Americans have had to endure: Muslims do not condemn - there is no million Muslim march against terrorism. Islam is an inherently violent ...

posted 1:47:45pm Oct. 02, 2015 | read full post »

a Republican, Muslim Mayor of St Louis?
Umar Lee is many things - a native ...

posted 1:09:57am Sep. 30, 2015 | read full post »

Abrahamic Convergence - inspiration, forgiveness, and tragedy
This week is a truly portentous one for Muslims, Jews, and Catholics. In one week, we have Yom Kippur, the Day of Arafat and Eid ul Adha, and Pope Francis' first visit to the United States. I like the term "Abrahamic Convergence" for this sort ...

posted 3:08:38pm Sep. 24, 2015 | read full post »


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