|August 16, 2010
An Islamic Mosque at Ground Zero?
An Islamic Mosque at Ground Zero? Well, not exactly at Ground Zero but two blocks north of Ground Zero—so like “off-Broadway” theatres, we are actually talking about “off-Ground Zero.” And it is not actually a mosque but a Muslim Community Center! Imam (i.e., like a preacher/pastor/priest/rabbi) Feisal Abdul Rauf has received permission to build a 15 story Muslim Community Center, “Cordoba House,” at 45 Park Place. It will include a prayer space, a 500 seat Performing Arts Center, a culinary school, a swimming pool, a restaurant, and more. It is the kind of project any community would be happy to have—or so it would seem. Two things are wrong with the project. It is a Muslim project, and it encroaches on what has become in the popular imagination “hallowed ground.”
Ground Zero is, of course, the former site of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Both towers were destroyed when two hijacked civilian airliners were commandeered by Islamic fundamentalists and crashed into the twin towers in the name of “holy jihad” (holy war).
The popular case for denying the imam’s project was recently made by the right-wing political pundit, Charles Krauthammer (Build mosque anywhere -- just not near Ground Zero). His argument is this: Ground Zero has become sacred space by virtue of the fact that it was the place “of great nobility and sacrifice.” The site belongs to those who died there and we who remain should “preserve the dignity and memory of the place.” He raises the specter that while the current imam may possibly have benign reasons for the project, that is no guarantee that it will not become a terrorist center at some future date. He questions Rauf’s “good will” and notes that Rauf once called U. S. Policy “’an accessory to the crime’ of 9/11,” and he criticizes him for side-stepping a question about the terrorist organization Hamas. Others have objected that the project is insensitive to the feelings of those who lost loved ones there.
It strikes me that Krauthammer’s rationale for opposing the project amounts to little more than a cover for religious discrimination. If any other group, not identified with Islam, wanted to build a similar project two blocks “off-Ground Zero” it would scarcely have met with a ripple of protest. Objections are raised only because it is a Muslim project. What I consider the gaping hole in Krauthammer’s argument is this: the proposed project is not located at Ground Zero—but two blocks away! But even that appears to be too close for its opponents. Krauthammer’s logic begs the question: exactly how far from Ground Zero would the aura of “sacred ground” extend—four blocks, five? At what point does the turf become neutral?
I get it! Buildings associated with Islam are unwelcome in the neighborhood!—but let’s not conceal religious discrimination with the subterfuge of “holy ground.” If we aim to sully the constitution let’s at least be honest about it.
Charles W. Hedrick
Posted by Charles Hedrick at 8:59am
To add to both the absurdity and irony of the current debate, there is already a mosque within one block of "ground zero" which has been there for many years. The conservative objections now being raised, in effect, demand that Islam as a whole take responsibility for Islamic terrorists. Clearly, this is not logical and it is contrary to our Constitution and national self understanding.