September 11 is right around the corner, and this year it is likely to spike the hysteria over the planned construction of a community center two and a half blocks from the World Trade Center site.
Doesn’t that sound a lot less creepy and threatening than “a mosque at ground zero”? That’s the gist of the problem.
A Muslim group in New York City wants to build a community center, including space for religious observance, at 45-51 Park Place in lower Manhattan, a site near the hole in the ground where the Twin Towers stood. Google the address to see the distance between it and the pit. There have been complaints from people who find the idea of a mosque at ground zero appalling and insensitive, and in some cases a symbolic victory for the people who carried out the September 11 attacks (and who are, it is true, still at war with the United States and plotting our destruction). It’s not been made clear (to me) if there are objections to the swimming pool and meeting rooms in the plan, or just that there would be areas for Muslim religious activity.
I don’t follow how building a community center shows insensitivity to the victims of a terrorist or criminal act, unless you blame the builders of the center for the attack. The man behind the Cordoba House has some questionable beliefs, but no associations with Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda. If the people behind this proposal aren’t directly connected to the 9/11 hijackers, is the objection some sort of guilt by association? I’d like to believe that association with Islam is not the cause of the opposition, since Islam didn’t attack us—that was done by some people with a perverted interpretation of Islam. They’re no more representative of Islam than the (insert name of your favorite religious fringe group here) are of Christianity.
People who commandeer passenger jets and use them as missiles deserve our attention. The last president let his administration turn that attention into fear, and enough of the fear became irrational enough to be exploited as a wedge to grab power and start a war that had nothing to do with finding the people who attacked us, merrily ignoring civil liberties along the way. It’s not too big a leap to say that irrational fear, and political opportunism, are pumping up the volume in this case.
Charles Krauthammer makes a compelling point about preserving sacred ground, although he doesn’t say how far away would be far enough, and Ross Douthat has an interesting column about how the constitutional America and the cultural America are in conflict on this issue, and I see his point. But I’m no culture warrior: no one’s made an argument that the proposed construction is illegal, the necessary governmental authorities have approved the plan, neighborhood and business groups approve, we’re not religious bigots…and it’s two blocks down and around the corner, for crying out loud. Let’s move on.
Want more? William Saletan does a skillful job taking down the anti-mosque arguments on their face, and their proponents with them.
How about a joke? This is ridiculously close to a real news item:
The Statue of Liberty was briefly evacuated today after a faulty sensor in an elevator shaft falsely indicated smoke. While there were no immediate reports of injuries, the very idea that someone might build a Muslim community center just across the water from the site of that undamaged sacred ground was compared to a stab in the heart by a bunch of racist yahoos.