About the Park51 Islamic Center (aka Ground Zero Mosque)

Park 51 Islamic CenterI was hoping the idiocy surrounding the so-called Ground Zero Mosque (more accurately known as the Cordoba House or Park51 Islamic Center) would blow over once Obama made his statements in support of it and freedom of religion in general.  That was naive.  I favor the building of the Islamic community center because I believe we should never be in the business of telling any group where and when they can practice their faith.  I just read this NY Times article which quotes some more idiocy from the pols which I feel the need to address.

Firstly, Senator Harry Reid begins with doublespeak that would make Orwell proud.  He says (through an aide):

“The First Amendment protects freedom of religion.  Senator Reid respects that but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else.

I’m curious, what does Senator Reid think freedom of religion is?  Freedom to practice one’s faith over there? As long as it’s ‘not in my backyard?’  Really, Reid, I wonder how you have the nerve to call yourself an American.  Shameful.

Here’s the second fool, this time from the GOP:

“Ground zero is hallowed ground to Americans,” Elliott Maynard, a Republican trying to unseat Representative Nick J. Rahall II, a Democrat, in West Virginia’s Third District, said in a typical statement. “Do you think the Muslims would allow a Jewish temple or Christian church to be built in Mecca?”

Maynard, are Muslim-Americans not entitled to the same rights as you?  When you say “Americans,” are you speaking only of a White-European-Christian America?  Well, I hate to burst your imbecilic bubble but America isn’t your Christian-white-male fantasy porn nation the GOP wishes it was.  Many Muslims were killed in the September 11th attacks.  Why then isn’t Ground Zero a hallowed place for Muslims too?  Surely, you don’t believe that 1,000,000,000 people (the number of Muslims in the world) are represented by 19 airline hijackers.  That would be like saying all American students want to shoot up their classmates after the tragedy in Virginia.

But the real winner this evening is the perennial spewer of idiocy, Newt Gingrich:

Mr. Gingrich showed no sign of backing down on Monday. “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington,” Mr. Gingrich said on the Fox News program “Fox and Friends.” “We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor. There’s no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center.”

The problem here is that Newt’s analogy is flawed.  He is not saying that Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum, but instead he would be suggesting that any German should be denied from doing so.  Certainly we can say terrorists don’t have the right to worship near ground zero.  But that’s not what the opponents are saying.  What they do instead is more heinous.  They conflate Islam with terrorism.  To say a mosque is offensive simply because of its location is to say that the very notion of Islam is offensive.  And that rejects the basic assumption of the freedom of religion in this country, but it also, when you get down to it, and strip away all the rhetoric, is nothing more than fucking racism.

Come on.  Let’s call it what it is.

This is the type of religion-bashing, people-hating insanity that predated the Holocaust in Germany.  When you suggest that an entire people are not welcome simply because they are different, that they must move elsewhere, well that’s not the all-accepting country I learned about in elementary school, and not one I’m very proud of right now.

8 Replies to “About the Park51 Islamic Center (aka Ground Zero Mosque)”

  1. Thanks so much for this.

    The most astonishing thing to me is all the twisted rhetoric surrounding the name. People object to “The Cordoba Centre” because they see it as Muslims wanting to plant some kind of triumphant flag on Ground Zero? As if it isn’t being named for the Initiative funding it, itself named for a city famous for being a multi-faith centre, as exemplified by its mosque famous for having a cathedral in the middle of it! I don’t even know.

    Again, thanks. I’m seeing so little sense written about this.

  2. Amal, you’re very welcome. It needed to be said.

    Yes, this article clearly debunks theory that Cordoba was a symbolic “victory” city: http://gotmedieval.blogspot.com/2010/08/professor-newts-distorted-history.html?showComment=1281382285195

    Long before this controversy, I knew Cordoba as a city where many faiths intermingled and shared ideas and was home to Maimonides, one of the greatest Jewish philosophers. One of my friends recently visited there, where he told me it was hailed by the guides as a great multi-cultural learning center.

    What irks me even more about the issue is how many people who don’t live in New York City or even in the state feel the need to claim the location as their own, and tell us what to do with it.

  3. Who ever knew that the GOP was so pro-sensitivity? That’s the word of the week, you know: sensitivity. We should be “sensitive” to “the families of 9/11 victims” who irrationally conflate terrorism with all of Islam. “Sure, it’s not fair that they associate the mosque with terrorism, but we should be sensitive to their feelings.” Really? First, not all 9/11 families feel that way. They are not a monolith. In fact, as you mention in your blog, some are Muslim. Second, why should we ever legitimize bigotry by being “sensitive” to it?

    A multicultural community center where different faiths can come together is a symbolic punch-in-the-face to the radical terrorists.

  4. David, that’s a good response to the nonsense, since the opponents don’t seem to operate from a logical framework. Better to parry with the emotional argument:

    “Since when it is OK in this country to be ‘sensitive’ to bigotry?”

  5. I enjoyed and agreed with this article. Well put, all around.

    However, I disagree with the last paragraph: this episode smacks more of politically-interested nationalism, less of ideal-driven fascism, to me.

    Still, thanks for writing.

  6. Thanks for your comments, Peter. However, I believe this “politically-interested nationalism” as you call it is based on bigotry, and is exactly the kind of sentiment which led to the Nazi party.

    I’m not saying that all persons who oppose the center are Nazis, but we must not allow irrational fear of any culture to destroy hard-won American rights & values.

  7. I have to wonder what my father would have made of all this. Born in 1920, he grew up as a Jew in Nuremberg. It was nationalism (not necessarily sensitive) in the face of a depression and loss of face to the rest of the world that made his beloved home country, certainly one of the most sophisticated and wonderfully cultural, that led to his family being marginalized, ghetto-ized, and eventually slaughtered. (The story of his escape, and my mother’s from Prague, is epic.)

    In Germany they said “It can’t happen here.”

    Right. But it did.

  8. Jim, that sounds like a terrible and fascinating story. You’ll have to tell it to me one day.

    As for the Park51 center, that’s why I feel the need to speak out in support of it. It might seem a far leap from people protesting a mosque (or mosques) to the Holocaust, but in Nazi Germany, the Holocaust started in similar ways. One group was ostracized and blamed for all the ills in the country. That’s exactly what’s happening now.

    What’s really going on, and the psychologist Alice Miller writes at length about this, is the unwillingness of people to look at the dark aspects within their own psyche. Instead of seeing the hate within themselves, they project that hate onto other persons and therefore avoid dealing with the uncomfortable truth that the hate lies within.

    Why did otherwise good Germans permit the brutal murder of millions of Jewish people? Because they had repressed dark impulses, a product of culture and upbringing, which we all have to some extent, especially in Western cultures, and which the Germans and others projected onto the Jews, the objectification of their own self-hatred. It’s much easier to blame others for the darkness in one’s life than to admit at responsibility for it.

    In other words, these bigots who are against the Park51 center and other mosques, who see all Muslims as terrorists, are deluded. One needs only to listen to Sarah Palin talk for a few sentences to realize how far this self-delusion can go when left unchecked.

    As the biblical injunction goes, as well as the motto of the Sybils of ancient Greece (not to be confused with the Sybil’s of modern Garage), “Know thyself.”

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