Friday, July 23, 2010

Much Ado about Nothing

I have been following the debate on the Cordoba House (aka Ground Zero Mosque) for the past month and just when things seem to calm down, tensions flare up again. What started out as a local issue for the City of New York, has turned into a national one. Even Sarah Palin joined the debate five days ago with a series of tweets stating:

Ground Zero Mosque supporters, doesn't it stab you in the heart as does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims pls refudiate

Grammar mistakes aside ("refudiate" is not really a word), the level of opposition to this project is growing day by day. Two New York politicians,  Representative Peter King and Rick Lazio, candidate for governor have already expressed opposition to this project. Another candidate, Carl Paladino has placed this issue at the center of his political platform, highlighting it in a number of attack ads (see below).

In a similar vein, the National Republican Trust Political Action Committee, the fund raising wing of the Republican National Party launched a delightfully bigoted attack advertisement intent on rallying opposition to the proposed project. Fortunately, both CBS and NBC decided against its broadcast, on the grounds that some of the language used was too vague. According to NBC  advertising standards manager Jennifer Riley:

"This ad which ambiguously defines 'they' as referenced in the spot makes it unclear as to whether the reference is to terrorists or to the Islamic religious organization that is sponsoring the building of the mosque,"

And let's not forget about right-wing talk show host Michael Berry's (ATRH AM, Houston Texas) comments hoping that someone blows the NY Mosque up.

I'm not going to feign ignorance about the reason behind there is opposition to this project in the first place. After all, there is no denying that the perpetrators of the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11th 2001 were Muslims. But the argument that Ground Zero is somehow sacred and building a Mosque/Community Center two block from it would be an insult is sorely lacking. For one, there are other not so sacred establishments in the vicinity of Ground Zero including a strip club which is also happens to be a mere two blocks from the sacred site. Secondly, what distance would be considered sufficient for the Mosque/Community Center? Five blocks, ten, half a mile, two miles...?

It seems to me that the problem with this project isn't the perceived defilement of the hallowed area of Ground Zero, but the fear against a project that is "Muslim" in its roots. The fear and animosity towards all things "Muslim" in this opposition is scary to say the least. The conflation of Islam and Muslim with the "other" or as being diametrically opposed to "American" is disturbing. It is unfair towards the American Muslims numbering in the millions who work and live within the confines of American culture and society. This type of dialogue deters tolerance and progress and encourages violence, hate and racism. Let's calm down and think  rationally, logically and without bias for a minute. Building a mosque two blocks from ground zero is not a celebration of the tragedy of September 11th, nor is it an affront to the victims. It is nothing more than an exercise of the constitutional rights guaranteed to every American. Let's not make it a bigger deal than it already it

Here is sample what the opposition sounds like:

Here is the full testimony of Public Hearing on the Landmark Designation Proposal Regarding 45-47 Park Place (site of proposed Mosque/Community Center)

Part 1

 Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5