2010/08/18

The Cordoba House/Park51/Ground Zero mosque proposal

In response Sachio Ko-yin's call for dialogue.

I was extremely pleased to see the editorial in the Inky today. Unfortunately, it was followed (As of 12:30pm) by 81 comments, most of them blindingly stupid and bigoted. According to a few of the comments, the mosque, to be located inside a recreational center located two blocks away from the border of the 9-11 Ground Zero, is opposed by 60% of the population. That explains why the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has taken the incorrect position on the subject and probably why the President has taken such a wishy-washy stance himself.

In the case of the proposed Cordoba House, or as the blog Daily Kos refers to it "The Burlington Coat Factory Mosque" (The site is currently occupied by a coat factory), we would be well-advised to remember the views of James Madison:

“In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever characters composed, passion never fails to wrest the scepter from reason. Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.” Federalist no. 55, February 13, 1788

The CATO piece on Madison and his musings on mob rule continued:

But Madison did not share the naïve faith so common today that the people can do no wrong. He knew that majority rule, like all unconstrained political power, posed its own dangers for individual freedom.
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In pure democracies, such as ancient Athens, individuals quickly discovered common interests, formed factions, and oppressed their fellow citizens.

No, I don't regard the polls as being the appropriate final word on guiding Americans on how to consider the proposed mosque. I respect the people who oppose the mosque, but I strongly support New York's Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who took a very strong and uncompromising stance in favor of allowing the mosque to be built.

"The proposed mosque is to be built only two blocks away from Ground Zero!!!1! That's insenstive to the families of the 9-11 victims!11#!1!!" [paraphrased from numerous comments]

The History Eraser Button blog has a series of photos showing what the neighborhood around Ground Zero looks like. I'm sorry, but a 13-story building (It's going to be shaped like a regular rectangular box, it won't have towers from which muezzin can call out the adhan) two blocks away is not going to even stand out, much less will it be a hulking, looming presence. The same blog includes a map of where the photographed places are along with a number of positive and negative comments.

I wrote a letter in response to a column by Charles Krauthammer:

I have a problem with Charles Krauthammer's comparison of 9-11 and Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor ("...the idea of putting [up a Japanese cultural center] at Pearl Harbor would be offensive"), as the nation of Japan took ownership of the attack on Pearl Harbor right away, just as the nation of Germany took ownership of the horrors of Treblinka as soon as they was revealed to the world at large. Islam as a whole has not taken ownership of 9-11 for very good reason. 9-11 was launched by a group of Muslims, but these Muslims constituted a very, very tiny fraction of a single percentage point of the world's nearly one & a half billion Muslims. To say that the US can't permit any mosques within an undefined distance away from Ground Zero (The proposed cultural center, which will include a mosque, will be two blocks away, this is obviously not considered good enough by Krauthammer and his fellow critics) is to claim veto power over, well, who knows how far they want their veto power to extend?

I understand Krauthammer's descriptions of Disney's proposed Civil War tourist attractions as being sacrilegious because they were designed to directly overlook and to directly comment upon the sites they were next to. The Cordoba House has no such intention. Two blocks may seem very close to people who have never been to Manhattan, but having been to Manhattan many times, I can testify that two blocks in that section of New York City is pretty much "out of sight, out of mind." Besides which, the building will be designed as a standard rectangular box, more or less indistinguishable from all of the surrounding buildings.

As Representative Jerry Nadler (D-NY) put it, the Cordoba House will be built by "moderate Muslims," not by jihadists, despite Krauthammer's attempt to lump in Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf with every other Muslim group of "bad guys." Krauthammer gives us a very slanted and partial picture of Rauf by quoting only one statement of his, one that is less than fanatically opposed to the very existence of Hamas. It's very easy for a Westerner, halfway around the world from the Middle East, to take a strictly black and white, ideological view of Hamas. It's asking a bit much of a man connected to the Middle East as Rauf is, to do the same.

I found it very distressing that many of the commenters to the Inky's editorial today seem oblivious to the initial point I made in my letter here and insist on conflating all Muslims with the 9-11 hijackers. It's precisely this refusal to draw distinctions between the 9-11 hijackers and the nearly one and a half billion Muslim people that convinces me that the 60% of the public is wrong and that the 40% is correct.

Update: Karl Rove proves that progressives are absolutely correct to accuse conservatives of bigotry by comparing Muslims peacefully practicing their religion to Nazis harassing Jews.

How do politicians best combat this wave of feeling? The solution is thousands of years old. Stand up! Take a forthright and uncompromising stand as Mayor Bloomberg has and be firm! There's even a term for that. It's called leadership.

Further update:

Howard Dean "From the Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party"


Sez: "move the mosque." *Sigh!* Well, Dean was once a standardbearer we could count on.
Today, former Reagan Solicitor General Ted Olson -- whose wife, Barbara Olson, was killed on 9/11 -- said he saw no reason for Park51 to move. And Peter Beinart, expediting his ongoing transformation from TNR Seriousness Guardian into shrill liberal blogger, today called on Democrats to -- as he put it -- "Grow a Pair" by standing up to this increasingly toxic campaign.
It's very important to understand the Park51 issue as a national security issue. This is a guerrilla war/"hearts & minds" issue that the US can win, but only if we respect our Muslim brothers and sisters. If we treat them like suspect outsiders, the consequences will not be good ones.

Video of person walking from Ground Zero to Park51.

Howard Dean responds.

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