Profiles in Principle

By now you may have heard that Fareed Zakaria has returned an award given him by the Anti-Defamation League because of the ADL’s backward position on the Islamic center near Ground Zero. It’s good to see someone display principle.

On the other hand, the “listen to us DFHs next time, bozo” prize goes to Joe Klein, who has concluded he was wrong to support the invasion of Iraq. what he says is mostly right, and it would have been brilliant if he’d written it eight years ago. It would have been commendable if he’d written it six or seven years ago. Now it’s just — yeah, Klein, right. Thanks for catching up.

And the “WTF?” prize goes to a person named Neda Bolourchi, who claims to be a Muslim opposed to the building to a mosque (it’s not a mosque, bleepit) near Ground Zero. Her mother was on one of the planes that slammed into the towers, and no doubt she has profoundly deep emotions about the 9/11 attacks. However, she writes,

From the first memorial ceremonies I attended at Ground Zero, I have always been moved by the site; it means something to be close to where my mother may be buried, it brings some peace. That is why the prospect of a mosque near Ground Zero — or a church or a synagogue or any religious or nationalistic monument or symbol — troubles me.

This is puzzling, Ground Zero is surrounded by prominent churches. I can’t see how anyone could go there and not notice. Some of the larger churches are marked on this satellite image of lower Manhattan. The churchyard of St. Paul’s Chapel is directly across the street from Ground Zero, for example. Unlike where the Islamic center will be, St. Paul’s is very visible from Ground Zero, and Ground Zero from St. Paul’s. Likewise St. Peter’s Catholic Church and several smaller churches.

And if we want to talk about nationalistic symbols — again, going back to the satellite image, you see that right across Vessey Street from where the World Trade Center used to be is a big huge honking and fairly ugly federal building that houses the New York offices of several state and federal agencies. That building is festooned with nationalistic symbols, including American flags, as I recall.

So while I don’t want to disrespect anyone who lost a loved one on September 11, I have to question if Neda ever actually went to Ground Zero. Or maybe she went there just once several years ago and doesn’t remember it well.

“I know Ground Zero is not mine alone; I must share this sanctuary with tourists, politicians, anyone who chooses to come, whatever their motivations or intentions,” she writes. Well no, Neda, what you need to realize is that Ground Zero is a big hole in the middle of a vibrant and living city, and the people who live in that vibrant and living city, and who travel past that hole and have seen it every bleeping day, for nine bleeping years, are way past ready to bring that misbegotten bit of real estate back into the land of the living, and fill that barren space once more with the daily life of New York.

Life does go on, if we don’t get in its way.

21 thoughts on “Profiles in Principle

  1. Actually I am pretty sure there is a prayer niche in the Center though that is not its main function. I am unsure if this constitutes a mosque in a technical sense (I believe it actually does going by current Sunni orthodoxy) but regardless it remains a small part of the overall structure.

    • MN–Yes, there will be a “prayer niche” in the Islamic Center. (BTW, did you know there is a Muslim “prayer niche” in the Pentagon now?) And there already are Muslim “prayer niches” in lower Manhattan already, some even closer to Ground Zero than the center. And there are “prayer niches” in most hospitals, but we don’t confuse hospitals with churches.

  2. I suppose the wrestling over whether the proposed building is a mosque or a cultural center is one more indication of how much we have to learn about each other. I think that your point that the proposed building lacks the formal elements of a mosque is well taken, along with the fact that worship is not the primary function of the building. A prayer niche is certainly to be expected in a building accommodating people who are called to prayer several times a day. In fact I think it is called “reasonable accommodation”.

    I have an moslem acquaintance who deals in carpets. At the appointed times he puts a prayer rug down and conducts his prayers. He has some extras on hand for muslims who wish to join him. I guess some would say that his flea market stall is a mosque. I certainly wouldn’t.

    Newt and Sarah would have people envision Hagia Sophia, built squarely on top of the ashes, rubble and bodies. They’ve read their Edward Bernays. And who is the “Father of Lies” ? I don’t think I quite got the name.

  3. For everyone who is confused about where construction on new office towers is, go to

    Look at photos of the work going on. It’s a construction site. The Liberty Tower is at 32 floors now, other buildings are at various stages of work, being anchored into the ground.

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  5. An old friend from High School has become an anti-Islamic crusader – we have done verbal combat on Facebook. At open forums, they also preach their hate. And it alway starts the same ‘Have you read the Koran?” (No, but I have read the Constitution.)

    There are 1.5 million Muslims in America. That’s one-half of one percent. Yet my friend is convinced they are poised to impose Shahira law on the 98.5% that aren’t Muslims. How? Jihad – acts of violence & terrorism. OK. In the last decade, you would be hard pressed to find acts of violence from Muslims directed at the US as a political act.

    If someone was to declare there is a conspiracy to build a bridge across the Grand Canyon next week, I would ask to see the plans, the concrete, the steel. Show mw how they’re gonna do it. If the only evidence is the canyon itself, I would treat the claim as a paranoid fantasy.

    Quotes from the Koran – out of context, I’m told – amount to pointing at the canyon. Acts of violence by radicalized Muslims around the world are proof we do NOT want to radicalize Muslims in the US. (Like with religous discrimination – duh). The claim that a fraction of one percent of the US population, historically industrious & peaceful in the US, is poised to take over with domestic violence – this claim offered with NO proof – is also a paranoid fantasy.

    I probably lost an old friend by calling him out in public for the claims he made about Muslims. This is not trivial – I don’t have many friends. But Frank is usually rational and trustworthy – his irrational claims would carry a lot of weight if not opposed at once with facts to persuade those who would not think it through.

  6. Joe Klein’s timing might be off, but I welcome all who contribute to tear the mask off that disgraceful episode of American history of our invasion of Iraq regardless of when they see the light. I’m disappointed that Klein glosses over the extent of the human suffering inflicted upon the people of Iraq. He’s a little too gentle in exposing the crimes against humanity committed by Bush, Cheney, and their minions.

    I don’t profess any acclaim to being an historian, but with my rudimentary knowledge of historical monsters, I know, without doubt, that Bush and Cheney rank within the top 5 through out history. They are despicable human beings. For Bush I can find some understanding because he’s a simple mined buffoon who probably doesn’t fully understand his crimes, but Cheney is so vile that even God himself couldn’t sufficiently punish his wickedness.

    P.S. God did a pretty good job on Ariel Sharron though.. that’s if Sharron is conscious of his diaper changes. That’s what Cheney needs.

  7. Wow! Sometimes I rethink things I have written and wonder where my mind was. I realized in a cold sweat that I suggested that Sarah Palin has read Edward Bernays. What was I thinking? I think aside from JBS literature she probably spends long hours reading “Old Testament Cliff Notes”.

  8. “P.S. God did a pretty good job on Ariel Sharron…..”

    When I select my on line name, I picked “Erinyes” for a reason.
    They are the avenging furies of greek mythology, stories I loved as a kid.
    I don’t believe in magic or gods, but retribution against the Bush/ Cheney crime family is a fantasy I could indulge in:”divine justice”. Sadly, there will be no consequences for the criminals other than to grow old and die slowly from disease, like Ariel Sharron.
    My gravitar is a better representation of my personality. “Erinyes” is a bit creepy.
    “life does go on ,if we don’t get in its way”
    How true, the world recovered from the hell of WW2, and most since then.War and hate seem to be species specific, limited to the bipedal.

  9. erinyes …The idea is to offend the maximum amount of religious conservatives in the minimal amount of words… And in the immortal words of former New York mayor Ed Koch…”How am I doing?.” 🙂

  10. Completely irrational – and therefore completely human – that the ADL, an organization dedicated to combating defaming of Jews, would now be defaming Muslims.

  11. @Swami :

    Top five? Throughout all of history ?? …That’s more a little bit of a stretch.

    Just starting with the obvious, how about:

    1.) Hitler
    2.) Stalin
    3.) Mussolini
    4.) Emperor Hirohito
    5.) Sugiyama Hajime, Hata Shunroku, Matsui Iwane, Prince Kotohito, Prince Hiroyasu, Yamamoto Isoroku, Nagano Osami, and other key players in the militarization of Imperial Japan, the conquest of much of East Asia, and a slew of war crimes including mass executions, rapes, and the use of biological and chemical weapons.

    Obviously, you could find many others. Bush and Cheney did a lot of bad shit, but putting them in the same league as the top five worst villains of all time is hyperbole. Just considering flat number of casualties and long term damage, you’re going to have to indict LBJ and Nixon for Vietnam before you can go after Bush on any “top” lists.

  12. kagerato,
    Hirohito and Bush have a lot in common. Both born Princes, who listened to militarists. Hirohito was much smarter, though…
    Bush & Dick are close to the top 5, if not in there, because they involved the worlds oldest democracy in the most undemocratic moves since FDR, who at least had the excuse of a World War to imprison Japanes citizens, and then topped them with torture, domestic spying, and needless wars.
    Yeah, and Mao too. Also Walter O’Malley, who moved the Brooklyn Dodgers to LA. Just ask Pete Hamill, he wrote that the 3 most evil men of all time were: Hitler, Stalin and Walter O’Malley. I agree! 🙂
    Just kidding about the last one.

  13. Hirohito would qualify for sainthood in comparison to Bush. I would have included Pol Pot in consideration for a top slot.

    kagerato… Of course there is a small bit of hyperbole included in my subjective assessment of the historical monster Bush. But not much.

  14. I wrote Sen. Chuck Hagel just before the invasion of Iraq, pleading the case against the invasion, stating the invasion would have history elevate Bush to the level of barbarism demonstrated by Genghis Khan and Tammerlane.
    I got a letter back, but he didn’t agree with my opinion.
    Some think the war in Iraq has settled down, but its still a simmering pot that could boil over.

  15. I’m not sure how common it is for hospitals to have prayer niches

    Oh, most hospitals have them. They’re called “chapels” and they are non-denominational, usually. The point is that just having a section of a building set aside for prayer does not make the building a mosque, a church, or a synagogue.

  16. @maha :

    Mao Zedong is a difficult case. I would probably, no, almost certainly be offending millions of Chinese to put him onto such a list. Nonetheless, he was an extremely brutal and totalitarian leader, and very probably deserves a high rank. The incidents of execution and torture under his leadership were numerous enough to be difficult to count. Additionally, he was much too forceful and adamant regarding policies that were failing. I do not think he intended to kill millions of Chinese by famine in the “Great Leap Forward”, but he should have been aware that something was going terribly wrong and tried to reverse course.

    Mao Zedong may be the world’s best example of “the ends justify the means” taken to absurd heights. He unified and industrialized a diverse nation, but at a terribly steep price paid in blood.

    • Mao Zedong is a difficult case.

      I’d say the bare historical facts of the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution make it not difficult at all. Whatever Mao intended, those episodes cost millions of lives and set China back economically, culturally and socially, and it should have been obvious to anyone with his head screwed on all the way that they would do so. And I think for world-class dictators, an insanity defense does not cut it.

  17. The issue, of course, is that it wasn’t obvious to many Chinese at the time. Even today, many support his legacy. That is why the case is “difficult”, not because the facts of the matter are somehow vague.

    Ultimately, the extremity of his policies created moral force for reformers to come in and take control of the government. The question today is whether the reforms have gone far enough in opening up China’s political and economic processes. Even Deng Xiaoping, who principally lead the reform movement through the 80s into the early 90s, is quoted as having said Mao was “70% right and 30% wrong”.

    If one were to judge by body counts alone, it seems like it should be around 99.999% wrong and 0.001% percent right, but who’s counting, right? You have to wonder.

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