There’s a lot of squawking about how the proposed Islamic center in lower Manhattan would cause pain to the families of September 11 victims, so it should not be built. But some of those families are Muslim. And notice that most of the people presuming to speak for the families of September 11 victims do not belong to families of September 11 victims, who as far as I know have not been polled for their opinions.
The Families of September 11 have made no statement about the Islamic Center that I could find on their website. The September 11 Families’ Association website hosts some news stories about the Islamic Center, but I could find no opinion or position about it on that site, one way or another.
I realize some individuals who lost family members on September 11 have vocally opposed the Islamic Center, but it’s a leap to assume that they speak for anyone but themselves. So I say again to Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and the rest of the buttinskys who don’t live in New York and have no personal connection to those who died there — MYOB.
Today New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is expected to reject a proposal to designate as a “landmark” the property at 45-47 Park Place in lower Manhattan. That is, of course, the proposed site of the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” that would not be a mosque and would not be at “Ground Zero.” And of course the proposal was made in an attempt to stop construction of the Islamic Center That Would Not Be a Mosque and Would Not Be at Ground Zero.
Via a deceptively headlined article by Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard, I learned that that a Quinnipiac poll found 46 percent of voters living in Manhattan support the Islamic Center project; 36 percent oppose it, and I assume the remainder are undecided.
However, people living in the other four boroughs are less supportive, especially Staten Island voters, who oppose the center by 73 to 14 percent. All five boroughs put together show that 52 percent of New Yorkers oppose the center, but nearly as many either support it or don’t care.
This is interesting:
A mosque near Ground Zero would “foster understanding and teach people that not all Muslims are terrorists,” 42 percent of New York City voters say. Of this group, 68 percent support the mosque.
Another 42 percent of voters say the mosque “is an insult to the memory and families of 9/11 victims.” Of this group, 93 percent oppose the mosque.
So New Yorkers overall are split evenly between people who think the center (which would not be a mosque) would be a positive thing or a negative thing. But notice that a hefty minority of people who thought the center would be a positive thing still oppose building it. This suggests to me the effects of peer pressure, or perhaps people who are not personally bothered by the center oppose building it because other people are bothered. That’s not exactly a reason for trashing the Bill of Rights, though.
There have been plenty of times in American history that big majorities of Americans supported causes and policies that would appall later generations. Slavery and Jim Crow come to mind, and so do Wounded Knee, much of the Philippineâ€“American War, and the internment of Japanese Americans in World War II. Opposition to the Islamic center obviously fits into the same shameful, hateful category.
So sometimes a majority are wrong, which is why the Founders did not establish a purely majoritarian government. Stopping Muslims from doing something lawful just because they are Muslims obviously violates the First Amendment and is something that government has no power to do, even if it’s the will of the majority.
But conservatives, for whom the word “liberty” refers to their assumed license to stop other people from enjoying liberty, have formed a virtual mob to try to intimidate New York City officials into stopping the building of the center, Bill of Rights or no Bill of Rights. And if they succeed, they’ll go off to make speeches about how they support the rule of law over the rule of men.
Elsewhere — William McGurn writes for the Wall Street Journal about the Auschwitz nuns. These were Carmelite nuns who turned a building on the edge of the Auschwitz concentration camp site into a convent, intending to pray for the souls of the victims. Jewish groups took offense, and eventually Pope John Paul II asked the Carmelites to move into another convent. I infer from the WSJ editorial that the new convent is in the same city (OÅ›wiÄ™cim) as the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial, just not within site of it. In any event, McGurn’s argument is that the Islamic Center is analogous to the situation of the Auschwitz nuns, and the Islamic center builders should follow Pope John Paul II’s example and take the center elsewhere.
Except that it isn’t analogous. The proposed Islamic Center will not be visible from the old Trade Center site. And the people taking offense at the building of the Islamic Center are not a clearly defined group with a special connection to the site, but just people who don’t want it there.
Essentially, McGunn is saying that we can ignore the Bill of Rights whenever a big enough mob says we can.
And in associating all Muslims with the September 11 terrorists, the opponents are acting a lot more like, well, those who associated all Jews with some nefarious plot to undermine Germany. You do know who I’m talking about, I assume.
Update: Holy Joe should put the brakes on his mouth. Senators from Connecticut, not New York, should butt out.
Update: As expected, the Landmarks Commission decided the building on Park Place is not a landmark. I doubt very much that the mob will be able to stop the building of the Islamic Center. Unfortunately, the city may have to keep the construction under guard so that busloads of out-of-town yahoos don’t take it on themselves to stop construction.
Update: I can’t read the article because it’s behind a subscription firewall, but the blurb is bad enough — “An Open Letter on the Ground Zero Mosque: The location undermines the goal of interfaith understanding.” Translation: Those Muslims should understand they can’t get away with something that’s not conservatively correct.
Update to the last update: I picked up from a rightie blog that the WSJ article linked above says this:
Our deeper concern is what effect Cordoba House would have on the families of 9/11 victims, survivors of and first responders to the attacks, New Yorkers in general, and all Americans. As you have seen in the public reaction to the Cordoba House, 9/11 remains a deep wound for Americansâ€”especially those who experienced it directly in some way. They understandably see the area as sacred ground. Nearly all of them also reject the equation of Islam with terrorism and do not blame the attacks on Muslims generally or on the Muslim faith. But many believe that Ground Zero should be reserved for memorials to the event itself and to its victims. They do not understand why of all possible locations in the city, Cordoba House must be sited so near to there.
Again somebody presumes to speak for the families of 9/11 victims, who have pretty much been rendered voiceless in all the noise. “They understandably see the area as sacred ground. … many believe that Ground Zero should be reserved for memorials to the event itself and to its victims” — there’s a bleeping strip club south of Ground Zero (the Pussycat Lounge and Shogun Room, 96 Greenwich St.) that is about as close to Ground Zero as the Islamic Center would be. There are many, many bars closer to Ground Zero than the Islamic Center would be. There’s all kinds of stuff between Ground Zero and the Islamic Center site that don’t have a bleeping thing to do with September 11. So since when is all that territory “reserved for memorials”? Give me a break.
Another update: “If He Could, Bin Laden Would Bomb the Cordoba Initiative” by Jeffrey Goldberg.
I know Feisal Abdul Rauf; I’ve spoken with him at a public discussion at the 96th street mosque in New York about interfaith cooperation. He represents what Bin Laden fears most: a Muslim who believes that it is possible to remain true to the values of Islam and, at the same time, to be a loyal citizen of a Western, non-Muslim country. Bin Laden wants a clash of civilizations; the opponents of the this mosque project are giving him what he wants.
Updated Again: My nominee for Flaming Useless Idiot of the Hour … I started to say of the Week, but the Right cranks ’em out way faster than that … is Jennifer Rubin, who writes for Commentary —
The left continues to feign confusion (it is hard to believe its pundits are really this muddled) as to the reasons why conservatives (and a majority of fellow citizens) oppose the Ground Zero mosque. No, itâ€™s not about â€œreligious freedomâ€ â€” weâ€™re talking about the location of the mosque on the ash-strewn site of 3,000 dead Americans.
No, Jennifer, the center will not be on the ash-strewn site of 3,000 dead Americans.. It will be two city blocks away and hidden from view behind two larger buildings. It will actually be much closer to the New York Dolls topless bar and “gentleman’s club” than to Ground Zero.
And we’re not at all confused about why you righties are hysterical about the Islamic Center. It’s because you’re a pack of bigoted cowards who are so fearful of a few moderate Muslims you’d sell out every value this country stands for to keep them out of your sight.
It is interesting that the word mosque is not employed by those excoriating the mosque opponents. As a smart reader highlights, why is it described as a â€œcultural centerâ€?
Because it’s going to be a cultural center and not a mosque. A mosque is a particular kind of building that conforms to a specific format, and the cultural center will not be that. Instead, it will be modeled after the 92nd Street Y, a Jewish cultural center that nobody ever calls “synagogue.”
FYI, there are a number of locations in lower Manhattan in which Muslims gather for prayer services. This has been going on for many years, long before the 9/11 attacks. No, they are not mosques, either, just rooms set aside for the purpose.
Obviously, Jennifer, you are terribly confused, and about many things. If you need anything else explained to you, let me know.
Uppity Uppity Update: Mayor Bloomberg delivers stirring defense of Islamic center that Salon editors still confuse with a mosque.