No Mosque At Ground Zero – For Starters, Because Nobody’s Proposing One

Update 1/4/11: Additional discussion of the potential basis for the East Mountain Tea Party’s apparent bias against Islam can be found in our article East Mountain Tea Party Officials and Islam.

by John Weckerle

We had initially thought not to address the construction of a Muslim community center in downtown Manhattan (the Park51 Project, or Cordova House, commonly but mistakenly called the “Ground Zero Mosque), but since the East Mountain Tea Party has apparently decided to make this an election issue, we’ve decided to add some thoughts to the debate.

We’d like to begin, though, with a caution regarding a particular set of practices of discussion that seem to have become popular in certain quarters.  The first is the device by which those who disagree with a particular position attempt to turn the argument back on the originator as some sort of personal critique.  In spoken conversation, we often refer to this as the “I know you are, but what am I?” method, and have little use for it.  The second is to just outright attack the person originating the position or those who agree with it in general.  We’re not big on that one, either.  We invite our readers to post whatever comments they like, but be aware that we will probably ignore these two literary devices where responding to comments is concerned.

We also have something to say to the nebulous “teapartynm” who posted the article: We don’t think you should have to put your money where your mouth is, but you should certainly put your name there if you truly believe in what you’re saying.  To twist a line from the movie “Beetlejuice:” “Never trust the unidentified.”

Location, Location, Location

Let’s dispense with the easy part of the question first, and that regards the location and proximity of the proposed project to the former site of the World Trade Center.  The location has been identified as two blocks from the Trade Center location; this is technically accurate “as the crow flies,” but in reality it’s nearly a three block walk – two blocks, a right turn, and the better part of another block to get to the front door.  It’s about a two minute walk.  Now, those who are not familiar with downtown Manhattan might think this isn’t much of a distance.  Those of us who are familiar with the area – your editor included – perhaps have a different understanding.  Two blocks and part of one “over” can be a long way, in terms of real separation.  The proposed site is not visible from the former World Trade Center location, and is not located along a walking route between “Ground Zero” and any major transportation stops needed to access the Trade Center property.  Readers do not have to take our word for it; there is a good treatment of the subject, including a video walkthrough, in Matt Sledge’s Huffington Post article.

Here A Mosque, There A Mosque…Where A Mosque?

Further, the proposed project is a community center, not a stand-alone mosque.  Technically, if one adheres to the simple definition of “mosque” as a Muslim prayer space, then one might attempt to characterize the center as containing a mosque, but it’s a stretch.  Factcheck.org’s article perhaps states this well, describing the proposed project as a “cultural center with a mosque inside.”  Some have made the point that there are other mosques in the area.  Well, maybe there are, and maybe there aren’t other mosques operating in the vicinity.  That’s not to say that there aren’t mosques nearby; there are.  However, it’s important to note that, if one accepts that a mosque is a Muslim place of prayer, the mosques in the neighborhood aren’t “other;” Muslim services have been held at the subject property since 2009, according to the Factcheck.org article, so there’s technically already a mosque there.

And So What?

Let’s face it, folks; this is the United States of America, and we do have some rights, here.  The subject property is private property, and the people who own it have a right to develop it as they see fit.  We also have a little thing called the First Amendment, which for all intents and purposes guarantees us all the right to practice our various religions and spiritual traditions without interference from government.  Muslims have a right to build a community center with or without a mosque in it as they see fit on property they own or might buy, as long as they develop the property in satisfaction of requirements for development in the place in question.  The local authority has determined that the project is legal.  Suggesting that the project is offensive simply because the proponents are Muslims seems more bigotry than substance, and we find the entire debate disappointing.  As a nation, we are bigger than this – and if we are not, then shame upon us all.

In a trip back east last month, I spoke to a number of current and former New Yorkers about this, a good number of them conservatives.  Every single one of them supported the rights of the proponents to build the community center, and all but one or two of them knew people who had died in the September 11 attacks.  We should not blame all Muslims for the acts of a few, any more than we should blame all Christians for the acts of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.  The folks who want to build the center in Manhattan have every right to do so, and we support that right – a right that belongs to all of us, and that we should all recognize and protect.

All things considered, we see the furor as political manipulation, and it remains to be seen who are the manipulators and who are being manipulated.  Elections and ideology notwithstanding, we should remember that we are a nation built on a Constitution, and that Constitution protects all of us, regardless of our beliefs.  Let us not search unnecessarily to divide ourselves, because if we do, then we will be searching for the means of our own destruction (paraphrasing, there; maybe it was on a blog under the pseudonym of lincoln-IL or something of that nature).  The long and short of it is simply this: our nation and our world have serious problems with which we must deal.  Solutions are seldom born of anger and posturing. So let’s not.

8 Responses “No Mosque At Ground Zero – For Starters, Because Nobody’s Proposing One”

  1. So cold, so cold, so cold.

    Absolutely Muslims have a right to build a mosque near Ground Zero. Should they do so? NO. To do so is heartless and deliberately provocative to Americans across the nation who suffered that day and in the days that followed, who had witnessed people jumping from windows to escape the heat and the horror, who witnessed the anguish of others as they posted pictures and flowers and fought through crowds seeking for word any word, of their lost loved ones. Remember the suffering of the news anchorwoman who cried out in pain and dropped to her knees when she was asked for news of a friend that she hadn’t known was in the buildings?

    We have not forgotten. We have not yet forgiven. Perhaps in time, this will pass and we will feel differently. But in the meantime, this IS an issue to Americans. We love the families who were left behind and we do not want more harm to come to them, nor to the memory of their loved ones. We honor our fallen, many who fought their way up the stairs, determined to rescue. To even think of putting a mosque there, from the cordova (victory in Islam) group, is totally unacceptable.

    It is an issue for the election because it is an issue from the heart of America. What is the opinion of the man or woman running for office in your district? Let them answer this question, and you will get a good look at what angle they will come from in other issues.

  2. As far as this topic is concerned, you are not in a position to forgive anything, because there is nothing to forgive with respect to the people who are proposing this project. The people who are looking to build the community center are not the people who were involved in the attack, and had nothing to do with them. The overwhelming majority of the Muslim world (a billion and a half of them) condemned the attack. And all your anonymous emotionalism (which seems a little familiar) aside, you have not addressed or countered a single point in the article, including the part about the credibility of anonymous authors.

  3. There was not a rousing cry of condemnation from the Muslim community after 9/11, and there still isn’t. Most within the community make no comment about the insensitivity of putting this mosque here.

    I read an article this last week that headlined, “Muslims are divided over mosque”. I thought, oh good! They are considering the pain of choosing that particular location. NO. Not one word in the article about the pain of the victims; the entire article focused on the division between American muslims on whether or not they are being treated in a rascist manner because the majority of Americans do not want the mosque there. Where was their care and feeling towards Americans, as you purport by claiming that the majority condemn the attack?

    It looks as though we are not likely to agree on this issue. That is America, and I welcome the differences. Still, this is a question I would ask of a candidate before I considered voting for him/her. Any candidate who cannot understand this concern, may well miss other issues coming from the heart of We The People.

    • There certainly was a widespread condemnation by Muslims, whether those with an agenda like to admit it or not. Here are a couple of references, among many:

      http://www.cair.com/Portals/0/pdf/September_11_statements.pdf

      http://www.eons.com/groups/topic/2234556-Islam-s-condemnation-of-9-11-events-?page=1

      Muslim organizations and heads of state throughout the world condemned the attacks, and as far as we’re concerned, statements to the contrary are both false and deliberately inflammatory. It is exactly this kind of misrepresentation that distorts people’s view of the issue and creates a misdirected sense of outrage. And again: the fact that the people who committed the mass murder were Muslims has nothing to do with the people who are proposing the community center or Muslims in general. You are clearly taking the position that Islam is equivalent to terrorism, which it is not. There is nothing provocative about the proposal, and no legitimate reason the proponents should not do what they’re setting out to do.

      I’d personally appreciate it if you’d stop putting words in the mouth of “We The People.” You don’t speak for all of us.

      Remembered your name yet?

  4. Thank you, John, for speaking out. Setting an example. You shame the rest of who know better but have, shamefully, opted to let sleeping baggers lie.

    Anon Bagger might sneer at the Guardian’s intelligent and well thought out response but surely ought to respect New Yorkers’ opinions on the subject. The post “Hallowed Ground” (http://daryllang.com/blog/4421) on an NYC blog, History Eraser Button, consists of photos of locations the same distance from the World Trade Center as the “Ground Zero Mosque” accompanied by brief commentary, “What’s my point? Look at the photos…. This neighborhood is not hallowed …. At this point the only argument against this project is fear, specifically fear of Muslims, and that’s a bigoted, cowardly and completely indefensible position.”

    Anya Cordell , the recipient of the 2010 Spirit of Anne Frank Award, imagines what Anne Frank would say about all this: http://www.tikkun.org/article.php/20100825053912401

  5. Barenziah58 says:

    First you Islamoprobic Racist teabagger know nothing about the religion of Islam it is thjan peaceful religion which accept me after 9-11 as than person born with than brain damage speech center as than equal. Since my ex-wife murder my baby daughter many years ago they are looking for than righteous muslim woman to be my wife.

  6. In addition to myself as the author, there are two other people who have participated in this discussion. It would be helpful if you could be specific about which party you’re addressing. Since I’ve been clear about supporting the rights of Muslims, I’ve come out against religious bigotry, and I’m certainly not a Tea Party member, I suspect you’re responding to the person using the name “East Mountain Tea Party.” For what it’s worth, I have no way of knowing whether they’re reading responses to this article, as it’s been a while since it was published. Please feel free to comment here, but you might want to copy them at their site, eastmtteaparty.com. Thanks for commenting!

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