The “Ground Zero Mosque”

For the past few days I have been intending to do a big post about the proposed “Ground Zero Mosque,” in which I would gather up and comment on what various other people had said. Alas, I have not had time for that. So let me instead just do a quick post.

I have no problem whatsoever with the proposed cultural center (it’s not a mosque for heaven’s sake, though it would not change my opinion if it was). They have an absolute right to build it, and if they decide to exercise that right it will be a complete non-story as far as I am concerned. Of course, as an anti-religion kind of guy I do not especially like it when any building is used for a religious purpose, but that is neither here nor there. Frankly, as a rebuke to all the hateful rhetoric I have been hearing on the news channels recently, I’m at the point of hoping they built it thirty stories tall.

The notion that somehow there is a radius around Ground Zero that is now a Muslim-free zone is obscene and bigoted. This isn’t even an issue of freedom of religion. It’s about being innocent until proven guilty. There have been attempts by the right to demonize the fellow behind the project, but as far as I can tell it is all just a standard Fox News smear job.

Meanwhile, the standard political story of our time — Republicans are evil, Democrats are cowards, people are clueless — has played out to grim perfection on this issue. There have been a few bright spots. Al Franken proved once more that he’s the best Senator in the body. It took some courage for President Obama to weigh in on the project at all, though he did undo some of the impact by backpeddaling the next day. But those are the exceptions.

You know what? Now that I think about it I hope they build it fifty stories tall.

For a characteristically intelligent take on this, consult Keith Olberman’s Special Comment.

Comments

  1. #1 Elf Eye
    August 22, 2010

    A church abuts my property, and it irritates the heck out of me that the congregation gets a pass on noise and traffic issues when the city police jump all over student gatherings that generate the same problems. It also irritates the heck out of me that the church pays no property tax. I imagine I’d feel the same way about a mosque next to me and for the same reasons. That said, there is absolutely no reason that an Islamic community center should be blocked simply because it IS Islamic, and that is the real objection, as can be seen when bigots try to block mosques hundreds–even thousands–of miles from ‘Ground Zero’. If that community center passes zoning muster–and apparently it does–then it should be treated exactly the way any project should be treated. (Of course, I still look forward to the day when mosques AND churches lose special privileges such as tax exempt buildings.)

  2. #2 Dave M
    August 22, 2010

    Actually, Jason, I think you just about covered it.

  3. #3 george.w
    August 22, 2010

    The notion that somehow there is a radius around Ground Zero that is now a Muslim-free zone is obscene and bigoted.

    Perfectly said! I’ve had conversations where I sort of stumbled to explain why opposition to the “Mosque” is wrong-headed. Hope you don’t mind if I steal that phrase next time someone brings it up. At minimum it should result in a much shorter conversation.

  4. #4 Cuttlefish
    August 22, 2010

    I wasn’t going to post this; I hate feeling like I am blogwhoring. But then I read Craig’s inanity, and I just had to.

    http://digitalcuttlefish.blogspot.com/2010/08/america-beautiful-redux.html

    I pity you, Craig. The real world is very different from the one you perceive; I hope you get to visit it some day.

  5. #5 Historyscoper
    August 22, 2010

    Sorry, but there is far more to the Ground Zero Mosque than the rights of Muslims. It’s not about another mosque, it’s about their insistence on that particular site. There is a great deal of historic significance to their deliberate site selection that makes for very disturbing associations. Of course Muslims don’t want Americans to know about them, but why find out the hard way when you can learn now the easy way? Whether you’re a Christian, Jew, or atheist, you need to spend time studying the little-known history of Islam going back to the 7th cent. to understand the implications of the GZM. The Historyscoper’s online Islam history course is free to all at your own pace, just click http://go.to/islamhistory

    Get the daily world news on the GZM et al. free at
    http://tinyurl.com/islamwatch

  6. #6 mxh
    August 22, 2010

    This is blatant racism and most of America is guilty (if the polls are correct). It’s sad that were turning back to the 60’s where people of certain backgrounds aren’t allowed to be in certain places.

  7. #7 Jason Rosenhouse
    August 22, 2010

    Just to be clear, I’ve been deleting comments that are excessively obnoxious or unconstructive. For any future commenters, the definition of excessively obnoxious is determined solely by me. Criticism is fine, telling me to move to Iraq (which was part of one of the comments I deleted) is not.

  8. #8 Elf Eye
    August 23, 2010

    One comment I’ve been seeing a lot of runs along the lines of ‘When churches can be built in Saudi Arabia, then it will be time to build a mosque at ‘Ground Zero’. I really don’t get the ‘logic’ of that kind of assertion. We’re not supposed to do the right thing because somebody else is failing to do the right thing? We’re not supposed to follow our Bill of Rights because some other country lacks the rights and protections written into our constitution? Good thing we’re not holding off on rights for women until the Saudis get around to that because my daughter and I would be screwed (hopefully just metaphorically).

  9. #9 Tyler DiPietro
    August 23, 2010

    “One comment I’ve been seeing a lot of runs along the lines of ‘When churches can be built in Saudi Arabia, then it will be time to build a mosque at ‘Ground Zero’. I really don’t get the ‘logic’ of that kind of assertion.”

    The logic there is that all Muslims live in Saudi Arabia and like every law on the books there.

  10. #10 Pam Ronald
    August 23, 2010

    We need to start a new group “Atheists for religious freedom, peace and prosperity”

  11. #11 Jud
    August 23, 2010

    Historyscoper writes:

    It’s not about another mosque, it’s about their insistence on that particular site. There is a great deal of historic significance to their deliberate site selection that makes for very disturbing associations.

    #1 – Who, exactly, are “they”? Do you mean the cleric who’s done speaking tours at the request of the Bush Administration, including appearances with Condi Rice and Karen Hughes? The one who gave a moving eulogy at the funeral of Danny Pearl, the murdered Wall Street Journal reporter?

    #2 – It’s not a mosque, in case you hadn’t heard. It’s a community center (think YMCA for Muslims). Yes, it will have prayer space (if a Y has a chapel, does that in your mind serve some sinister purpose?).

    #3 – “[I]nsistence on that particular site:” Umm, you do realize we’re talking about a location ~4 blocks from the actual Ground Zero, right? The nearest major structure is a former Burlington Coat Factory building. Are you saying there is something about Burlington Coat Factory that drives Muslims to want to put up community centers near Burlington’s buildings? If not, what exactly are you saying?

    #4 –

    [Y]ou need to spend time studying the little-known history of Islam….

    Little-known? A religion with 1.6 billion members, and they’re keeping it a big secret? Is there something about Burlington Coat Factory in that little-known history?

  12. #12 eric
    August 23, 2010

    Historyscoper: It’s not about another mosque, it’s about their insistence on that particular site.

    An old department store several blocks away?

    As far as I can tell, they are institing on building it on their own property because that’s the property they own.

    Of course Muslims don’t want Americans to know about them…

    Many Muslims ARE Americans. Your statement sounds a lot like standard anti-semitic conspiracy theory applied to Islam.

  13. #13 hoary puccoon
    August 23, 2010

    History scoper @5– “It’s not about another mosque….”

    Too right. It’s not about a mosque– it’s about a *community center.* You know, like a center. For the community. A place people in the community can use.

    So, what it comes down to is, you don’t want Muslims to do anything nice for the people of the city of New York, because it makes you uncomfortable with your own self-righteous bigotry. Well, sorry, but protection for self-righteous bigotry is not a feature of the constitution. Freedom of religion is.

  14. #14 Rieux
    August 23, 2010

    Tyler:

    The logic there is that all Muslims live in Saudi Arabia and like every law on the books there.

    That’ll make for one helluva commute–all the way to Manhattan!–just to use the basketball court and swimming pool.

  15. #15 Mxh
    August 23, 2010

    Lets not also forget that the Muslims promoting this building are Sufis, the mystical, artistic sect that Wahhabis like alqaida hate more than Americans. The arguments used by people like historyscoper are either due to ignorance or racism (neither is excusable).

  16. #16 OrneryPest
    August 23, 2010

    Hey, make that at least sixty stories! Their religion is almost as idiotic as mine (the ultra-liberal wing of the Episcopal church) and they fully merit the same rights I’ve got!

  17. #17 Reginald Selkirk
    August 23, 2010

    Pretty much every argument against the Islamic center I have seen equates the Muslims who carried out the 9/11 attacks with the Muslims who wish to build an Islamic center, even though the latter have specifically condemned the actions of the former. This is stereotyping, pure and simple.

    Sam Harris wrote some commentary on this issue that is way over the top in demagoguery. It diminishes my view of him. Basically, he accuses anyone who disagrees with him of being dishonest. Look around you, Sam. Your allies on this issue include Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. Do you really think these people know anything about honesty?

  18. #18 SLC
    August 23, 2010

    The campaign by the fascist news channel to smear Imam Rauf is outrageous, as are its Rethuglican sycophants. As an example, the Rethuglican candidate for Governor of New York, Rick Lazio, went on Meet the Press yesterday and repeated some of the lies being spread by the right wing. Attached is a link to a blog post by Jeffrey Goldberg, not known as a supporter of Osama bin Laden, where he demonstrates that the Lazios of the world are not interested in the facts, just like the global warming, evolution, and now relativity deniers in addition to the troofers and birthers are not interested in the facts. I agree with Mr. Goldberg, Lazio, along with Gingrich, Palin, Geller, et al are demagogues.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/08/rick-lazio-demagogue/61896/

    Here’s another link to a blog post by Mr. Goldberg, who knows Rauf well, blasting the smearers.

    http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2010/08/ground-zero-imam-i-am-a-jew-i-have-always-been-one/61761/

  19. #19 James Sweet
    August 23, 2010

    Of course, as an anti-religion kind of guy I do not especially like it when any building is used for a religious purpose, but that is neither here nor there.

    FWIW, this building is barely even for a religious purpose. I have been sorely disappointed at how many people in the atheist/skeptic community have been successfully bamboozled by Christianist theocrats into badmouthing this YMCA community center.

  20. #20 Merlin
    August 24, 2010

    The US Congress should pass a law to abolish all future permits for new mosques in the entire US, while existing mosques should be phased out within 5 years. Yes, the day churches and synagogues can be built in Saudi Arabia, then we can permit mosques to be built here. The argument that we are “more civilized” is very naive, self-serving and even dangerous. Should we allow the communist party to form in America just because we are very confident in the superiority of our democracy and capitalism?

    You people advocating the “rights” of Muslims do not have a clue. You have lived all your lives insulated from Muslim violence other than imageries you see on TV.

    The fact that we are even having this argument in America is a victory for Al-qaida. Even if the mosque is not built, now they know that some of us are naive enough to forget so soon, making it easy for them to attack us again. “Oh yeah, if only the mosque was there on 9/11, Osama bin laden would not have attacked us because he would have seen that we love him.” Very sad indeed.

  21. #21 Jud
    August 24, 2010

    The US Congress should pass a law to abolish all future permits for new mosques in the entire US, while existing mosques should be phased out within 5 years.

    That’s right, and since the next-worst act of terrorism in U.S. history was carried out by a member of right-wing racist groups, we should deport all right-wingers and racists in order to protect ourselves. See ya.

  22. #22 eric
    August 24, 2010

    I call Poe on Merlin. The communist party mention gives it away, since they are in fact allowed, and some even run candidates in political races.

  23. #23 Merlin
    August 24, 2010

    Eric says:
    “The communist party mention gives it away, since they are in fact allowed, and some even run candidates in political races”.
    ___________________________________

    Ok, so the Communist Party of the USA exists only in name. How much influence do they have, how many of them are elected even at the lowest level in a city or county? How many of them appear in political debates with other candidates? The press shuns them and no one wants to be seen with them. Their rank is infested with FBI informants. McCarthy witch-hunted them into oblivion. The reason we tolerate them today is because they have zero prospects of ascendancy in our society, unlike what the Muslims are attempting. Does that not prove my case against the Muslims, Mr. Eric?

    If you study the history of Islamic jihad, you will learn that whenever they achieve victory, they build a mosque at the site. It is unbelievable that there are Americans willing to take sides with Islam against the victims of 9/11.

  24. #24 Blaise Pascal
    August 24, 2010

    Merlin, isn’t it the case that one of the first things Christians do when moving into a new territory is to build a church? Don’t most new Jewish communities build a schul when they are able?

    And what, pray tell, does mosque building practices have to do with the building of a non-mosque community center?

  25. #25 Merlin
    August 24, 2010

    Blaise says:
    “isn’t it the case that one of the first things Christians do when moving into a new territory is to build a church? Don’t most new Jewish communities build a schul when they are able?”
    _________________________________________

    That may be true but Christians do not, at least in the modern day, fight bloody battles to kill innocent people before building the churches. Christians generally go in peace and if they are not wanted, they leave.

    What do you have to say about the six christian doctors and health workers who were killed a few weeks ago in Pakistan by the Taliban for “teaching christianity to Muslims”? These luckless people were out there treating the poor and sick muslims even at a great peril to their lives. The muslims did not appreciate it, so they murdered the doctors. Don’t talk to me about the “rights” of muslims in America, I’ve heard more than enough.

  26. #26 Steve Reuland
    August 24, 2010

    Should we allow the communist party to form in America just because we are very confident in the superiority of our democracy and capitalism?

    Yes?

  27. #27 Merlin
    August 24, 2010

    Steve, then why did we witch-hunt the communist party into oblivion? If you are so in love with the communists, why not join them? If you are so in love with islam, why not join them?

  28. #28 Blaise Pascal
    August 24, 2010

    I say than the six christian doctors killed in Pakistan by the Taliban are a nonsequitor in a discussion about a community center being built by a Sufi cleric in the US. They have about as much relevance to each other as the Catholic child abuse scandals in Boston have to the building of a Quaker meeting house in Seattle.

    I would also say that intolerable behavior on the part of the Taliban does not justify or excuse bad behavior on the part of Americans, certainly not a reason to reject the ideals of Religious Freedom to persecute a group not affiliated with the Taliban except loosely being coreligionists.

  29. #29 Merlin
    August 24, 2010

    Blaise says:
    “the six christian doctors killed in Pakistan by the Taliban are a nonsequitor”
    _________________________________________

    I beg to differ, it is not a non-sequitur. There is relevance in the sense that we ought to recognize the actions of our sworn enemies, even in distant places. Your position is like stating that during WWII, Pearl Harbor bombing by the Japanese had no connection with the Nazi campaign in Europe.

  30. #30 Blaise Pascal
    August 24, 2010

    Merlin,

    What is the equivalent of the Tripartite Pact between the Sufis and the Taliban?

  31. #31 Merlin
    August 24, 2010

    Blaise,
    It is not my concern to distinguish between the fundamentalist muslim groups. The fact that there may be discord between the factions does not mean that some of them love Christians.

  32. #32 Merlin
    August 24, 2010

    And even if Sufis are sworn enemies of the Taliban, what about other Muslim groups that hate America? Is there anyone naive enough to think that the Taliban will be mad at Sufis for building a mosque, any mosque, near ground zero? Is there any muslim, whether they love sufis or not, that will not be proud of that mosque near ground zero?

  33. #33 Blaise Pascal
    August 24, 2010

    Merlin,

    It is evident that we are talking cross purposes here.

    As near as I can see it, you see this whole issue as an aspect of a holy war between Christians and Muslims, and there is no distinction, in your mind, between different groups of Muslims; to you, they are all answerable for the crimes of any. As such, murders of Christians committed in the name of Islam by the Taliban in Pakistan are relevant to the construction of an Islamic community center by a group lead by a Sufi cleric in lower Manhattan because to you the Sufi’s and the Taliban are essentially one and the same: Muslim. Do I have this right?

    The problem is I object to just about every part of that. I am not Christian, nor is my country (the US) Christian. This is enshrined in the Constitution and reaffirmed by the Treaty of Tripoli, among other places. Neither Christianity nor the US is at war with Islam. Muslims are not a monolithic group with the same beliefs and goals. The divisions between Shia, Sunni, Sufi, Wahabi, and other sects are similar to the divisions between Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Baptist, and other sects of Christianity. Each group and individual is answerable for its own actions, not the actions of the collective whole.

    I feel that the gulf between our worldviews is so great that nothing stands to be gained by continuing this discussion.

  34. #34 Merlin
    August 24, 2010

    Blaise says:
    “…you see this whole issue as an aspect of a holy war between Christians and Muslims, and there is no distinction, in your mind, between different groups of Muslims;…Sufi’s and the Taliban are essentially one and the same: Muslim. Do I have this right?”
    __________________________________________
    Yes you have it right. The Muslims have since declared war against Christians by word and deed, even as recent as the Pakistan killings. Some Christians just refuse to acknowledge they are at war with Muslims.

    Blaise, you have a right as non-christian to defend the rights of muslims, but no one has a right to tell me as a christian not to defend myself against muslims, whose “holy book” tells them to wage war against me as an infidel. And they actively comply.

    You are asking me to distinguish between Shia, Sunni, Sufi, Wahabi. Yet these groups when they are killing christians see no difference between Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Baptist, and other sects of Christianity.

    Thus, any christian would be naive to try to distinguish between the muslim factions. The muslims constantly slap christians in the face as payment for our kindness to them. I have never seen any muslim charities working with distressed christians.

    We agree on one thing – to disagree and discontinue the discussion.

  35. #35 Reginald Selkirk
    August 24, 2010

    You are asking me to distinguish between Shia, Sunni, Sufi, Wahabi. Yet these groups when they are killing christians see no difference between Catholic, Protestant, Orthodox, Baptist, and other sects of Christianity.

    “I’m going to act more like this group, which I despise.”

    Should we allow the communist party to form in America just because we are very confident in the superiority of our democracy and capitalism?

    Communist Party USA

  36. #36 anon
    August 24, 2010

    Here are some photos of various sacred American shrines in the Ground Zero neighborhood.

    http://daryllang.com/blog/4421

  37. #37 eric
    August 24, 2010

    The muslims constantly slap christians in the face as payment for our kindness to them.

    You’re right – clearly this demands a response! Its just a shame Jesus didn’t leave Christians some advice on what to do when they’re slapped in the face. If he had, you all could follow it.

    [Can’t take credit for this, someone else on another blog came up with it]

  38. #38 Merlin
    August 24, 2010

    Eric says:
    “You’re right – clearly this demands a response! Its just a shame Jesus didn’t leave Christians some advice on what to do when they’re slapped in the face. If he had, you all could follow it”.
    ____________________________________________________
    Jesus never advocated not to recognize your enemy; Jesus never advocated not to take precautions against your declared enemy.

    When they hit the towers on 9/11, maybe we should have done nothing to protect and defend ourselves. We should have apologized and turn the other cheek; maybe we should have pointed out to them that they missed the Chrysler bldg, the Sears towers, too. Last week they killed six christian doctors/humanitarian workers in Pakistan; maybe we should send the Taliban flowers and wave a white flag.

    This argument that “oh, we’re more civilized than them therefore we should tolerate them” is just self-serving, infantile and dangerous.

  39. #39 eric
    August 24, 2010

    You are, of course, welcome to your opinion of turning the other cheek, and welcome to reject it as bad advice. And you’re even welcome to try and convince yourself that retaliating against what you perceive as a slap in the face would be what Jesus would want you to do.

    But personally, I think watching Christians using the ‘slap in the face’ metaphor to justify taking away the legitimate rights of other citizens is pretty good satire.

  40. #40 Merlin
    August 24, 2010

    It is a great misconception that the constitution seemingly grants unlimited rights to individuals. My rights are limited to the extent in which they begin to infringe upon the rights of others. Muslims have no right to practice a religion that advocates the killing of non-believers, especially if they have demonstrated again and again that they have no problems actualizing the tenets of that religion.

    You cannot tell me as a non-muslim not to feel threatened if Islam sets up a mosque next door to me.

  41. #41 Tyler DiPietro
    August 24, 2010

    Why is anyone here talking to Merlin as though he were an individual worthy of attention and rebuttal?

  42. #42 386sx
    August 24, 2010

    Jesus never advocated not to recognize your enemy; Jesus never advocated not to take precautions against your declared enemy.

    Well he did advocate “resist not evil”. We all agree it’s stupid advice. So maybe you should aim the snark up there in the sky somewhere. If he travels at the speed of light then he hasn’t left the galaxy yet. (Or maybe he went into orbit. I don’t know.)

  43. #43 Merlin
    August 25, 2010

    “Why is anyone here talking to Merlin as though he were an individual worthy of attention and rebuttal?”
    __________________________________________

    You just proved it.

  44. #44 hoary puccoon
    August 25, 2010

    “Why is anyone here talking to Merlin as though he were an individual worthy of attention and rebuttal?”
    __________________________________________

    You just proved it.

    Posted by: Merlin

    Yes, dear, you got all the grownups to listen to your little song and dance. Now put on your jammies and go to bed.

  45. #45 eric
    August 25, 2010

    Merlin: Muslims have no right to practice a religion that advocates the killing of non-believers, especially if they have demonstrated again and again that they have no problems actualizing the tenets of that religion.

    But that is the problem, Merlin; as Blaise said, you conflate the people who want to build a muslim community center with terrorists. Its one giant “they” to you. You’re practicing both guilt by association, and guilty until proven innocent.

    These individuals building the center are responsible for their behavior and no others. If you think they are planning on committing a crime, tell us what that evidence is. But what OBL planned and does is not evidence against them, any more than what those proud Christians James Kopp or Scott Roeder did is evidence against you.

    You cannot tell me as a non-muslim not to feel threatened if Islam sets up a mosque next door to me.

    I feel threatened by your comments. You’ve proclaimed yourself a Christian and around 75% of the people in U.S. jails identify themselves as Christians. Is that sufficient reason to take a way your first amendment rights?

    Of course not! That would be ridiculous. If I want to take away your rights, I have to show pretty strong evidence that you – not your co-religionists, but Merlin the individual – have done or intend to do something illegal. The same goes for your neighboring Muslims.

  46. #46 Merlin
    August 25, 2010

    Eric,

    I appreciate your reasonable arguments, but I speak from practical experience. A very close friend moved into a house across from a mosque in a country with about equal number of muslims to christians. He was forced to abandon the house because a few times the muslims came across and threatened him and his family, for no other reason than that he’s a christian. They made that very clear to him. He had to move across town to the Christian part of the city.

    I personally have years of experience in muslim countries, I can give plenty of personal examples. It is not by accident that I feel very strongly about this issue of mosque near ground zero.

    We live by our life experiences. My friend and I can chose to continue to love muslims and not dislike them, but one cannot blame us if we become wary of muslims based on personal experiences. In fact it would be foolish not to learn from these experiences.

    If you’ve never had a bad experience it’s easy view the world through rose colored glasses. Even then, it should be possible to empathize with those who have been burned before, even if you disagree with them.

  47. #47 eric
    August 25, 2010

    Even then, it should be possible to empathize with those who have been burned before, even if you disagree with them.

    I do not empathize with taking away the rights of peaceful, innocent people because they happen to share a religion with violent people. I consider that bigotry.

    If 99% of crimes were committed by a minority of the population, would you consider that “experience” justification for restricting that minority’s rights? 99% is a much, much stronger indicator of violence than being Muslim. There is simply no other group that even approaches the 99% mark, except this one. Think about it for a second. For the record my answer is no, which is why I think your position on Muslims is bigoted. Do you have your answer? Okay, keep reading.

    This situation is not hypothetical. The group is “males.” Still think that society should limit the rights of individuals based on whether they belong to a violent group? Or is it unfair to judge individual males based on their inclusion in that group? Maybe you think its wrong in the case of males but right in the case of Muslims, a much weaker correlation? By all means, tell me why you think we should limit people’s rights based on a weak correlation while ignoring a much stronger one.

  48. #48 Kevin
    August 25, 2010

    Since I continue to take heat every time I make this point, I consulted a law professor who teaches Constitutional law on this.

    He agrees with me. It’s not the 1st Amendment that is at stake here — it’s the 14th.

    The issue is whether a particular group can be denied the rights afforded to other groups. According to the 14th Amendment, everyone has an equal right to protection under the law.

    Religious freedom is not the issue, except that opponents would use religion to deny people their 14th Amendment rights. In that regard, the First Amendment applies in that it would define a class (a religious group) that cannot be denied rights guaranteed by the 14th.

    Those on both sides who call it a mosque or who focus on the “prayer space” are pandering to their bases – for quite different reasons, but pandering nonetheless.

    The project, while being funded by a religious group, has no more a religious intent than the local mall which sets up a chapel. Or the Catholic-run hospital in my area which has TWO chapels. Or Chicago O’Hare airport (among many), which has a chapel in Terminal 2.

    The project should be looked at on that basis…a community center with a chapel. Or a Wal-Mart, which has no religious “set-aside” at all.

    That being said, there is no Constitutional right for a religious group to build whatever they want, wherever they want, however they want. The right is to have the project considered fairly regardless of who is proposing it.

    Even church projects can and do get turned down by local communities. One can google “New Life Church Ann Arbor” for one specific example that happened in 2004. The church wanted to expand its auditorium for services and was turned down several times by the Planning Commission. I found that example in 20 seconds of searching, and went no further because it proves the point. Invoking a “religious freedom” exception or privilege is incorrect.

    I really do wish people who support the project would get this “religious freedom” argument out of their heads.

    If your argument either for or against this project would survive if you substituted “Wal-Mart” for “mosque”, then it’s a good argument. If it doesn’t survive that substitution, it’s not a good argument.

    I still contend that the organizers of this proposal did a piss-poor job of stakeholder development, and that the opposition could have been shut off even before it got started with the right combination of supporters and organizational infrastructure. Wal-Mart certainly knows how to enter a community over local and/or distant opposition. This group could have learned a lesson or two.

    BTW: I’m probably the only person active in this “debate” who has personal experience with that particular venue. I still have a jacket (red, fall-weight, nice but with a button missing) that I bought from that Burlington Coat Factory location back in the 1998-99 time frame. Still fits.

  49. #49 Jud
    August 26, 2010

    Kevin writes:

    I still contend that the organizers of this proposal did a piss-poor job of stakeholder development, and that the opposition could have been shut off even before it got started with the right combination of supporters and organizational infrastructure. Wal-Mart certainly knows how to enter a community over local and/or distant opposition. This group could have learned a lesson or two.

    Not sure Wal-Mart has Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and a few truckloads of Republican Congresspersons to contend with when they enter a community.

  50. #50 Kevin
    August 26, 2010

    Jud:
    But there certainly are a ton of anti-Wal-Mart activists who oppose any Wal-Mart project on principle. And yet they continue to move into communities and continue to have tremendous success in those communities despite that opposition.

    When I say “stakeholder development”, that means identifying both likely supporters and likely adversaries prior to the finalization of plans and announcement of the project. In stakeholder development, you identify the supporters and get their PUBLIC buy-in at the announcement; and identify the always-adversaries and find ways to neutralize them.

    One, just one, right-wing supporter standing side-by-side with the imam at the time of the announcement would have cut Rush Limbaugh off at the knees.

    For example, the imam in question probably knows George Bush on a first-name basis. Having *him* support the project would have been ideal. And since Bush always made it a point to state that Islam wasn’t the enemy, but rather radical terrorists acting perversely in the name of Islam, I’m rather stunned that he wasn’t involved at the outset.

    Heck, I would bet that if the imam had approached Rudy Guiliani with the idea before it was announced, he would have signed on. Because Rudy’s all about getting his name in the papers – not about any particular ideology.

    Get one of those guys, or former US Senator Al d’Amato. Any one or more of the “big names” in Republican politics. John McCain could have been counted on before it became a political football. (Not Palin; she’s bag of hammers whose first original thought will rattle around lonely for years before encountering the second.)

    If the name of the project had been the “George Bush Community Center” or the “Guiliani 9/11 Remembrance Community House”, the left would be ones furious at the idea. But they wouldn’t be harassing people on their way to work (shameful, abhorrent).

    It’s politics, pure and simple. You can’t imagine it being any other way because that’s the way it is now. I can certainly see how the entire controversy would have been forestalled.

    Let’s be honest. The site was chosen *because* of its proximity to “ground zero”. It was chosen specifically to make a political point. There *were* political motivations behind the project. If the project had been in Harlem or Brooklyn or even above Houston St, the political point would have been lost. The organizers wanted that proximity in order to make a statement.

    If you’re going to do that, then you need to do a much better job of “working the room” than they did.

    Some have suggested that since the imam did work with the Bush Misadministration that this is all some sort of right-wing plot to energize the “base”. Why someone would want those people as your “base”, I don’t know, but the name certainly fits.

    I, however, have to believe that Hanlon’s razor applies: Never attribute to a conspiracy that which can be explained by incompetence.

  51. #51 Jud
    August 26, 2010

    Kevin writes:

    Let’s be honest. The site was chosen *because* of its proximity to “ground zero.”

    I dunno – haven’t heard the folks behind the community center say why. If they did this to make some sort of brotherhood-of-man-including-Muslims point, it seems pretty tone-deaf. (Which isn’t necessarily shocking, I grant you.) Maybe the chance to locate in Lower Manhattan at rock-bottom prices also had something to do with it.

    Regarding how the politics was handled: Badly (understatement).

    OTOH, was there a plausible way it could have been done better, other than locating the center elsewhere? GW Bush was no way dumb enough to have his name associated with this (yes, yes, dumb – but not that dumb). Condi Rice and Karen Hughes, who appeared with the Imam in various public forums when he was being trotted around by the Bush Administration, would not have sufficient cred with the Limbaugh Wing, and Giuliani wouldn’t even be close. I’d say the chances were pretty low of finding anyone who would both support the community center and have enough Tea Party cred to “cut off Rush Limbaugh at the knees.”

  52. #52 Tommykey
    September 3, 2010

    Let’s be honest. The site was chosen *because* of its proximity to “ground zero”.

    And all these years there was a mosque operating on Warren Street 4 blocks from Ground Zero that couldn’t even accomodate all the Muslims who attended prayer services. They would end up on the sidewalk outside praying. All thoese years, just 4 blocks away, and no one seemed to notice or care. But now a community center two blocks away, that will be located next to a bar by the way, suddenly is a national crisis.

  53. #53 Abhijit sharma
    September 9, 2010

    I am from India and I am here to give a very important message to Americans,don’t allow a mosque around Ground zero, it’s like they are marking their “terror”tory. You US citizens are standing at the start of another catastrophe, people in India who are against terrorism and radical Islam look towards US, and it’s a warning from us, that don’t allow US to be an India,don’t give people of extreme religion any kind of control in your country,it starts with small things and leads to very drastic results,do so, or your coming generations will be slave to extremism and US will be another muslim nation. It’s not an exaggeration, it’s an advice, learn from Indian and Asian history and avoid the bad-luck.

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