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My Thoughts on the "Ground Zero Mosque" - Mo's Journal
August 19th, 2010
09:29 pm

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My Thoughts on the "Ground Zero Mosque"
I've been both appalled and baffled to see a proposal to build an Islamic Community Center in lower Manhattan turned into a cause celebre and thought I'd offer my thoughts on the topic. I'm distressed to see the right wing using this non-issue to stir up both anti-Islamic and anti-liberal elements. It seems so transparently calculated to me and the campaign so full of lies that I can't understand why people are falling for it.

This is from the National Republican Trust: "On Sept. 11, they declared war against us. And to celebrate that murder of 3,000 Americans, they want to build a monstrous 13-story mosque at Ground Zero."

There have been lots of calls not to build a "9/11 Victory Mosque" and other demagogic statements. The building under question has been called "Hallowed Ground."

Okay, so what is the project really?

First of all, it's going to replace a defunct and boarded up clothing store: Burlington Coat Factory. It's a couple of blocks from where the World Trade Center stood. Downtown Manhattan was my work neighborhood for close to 30 years, and I can tell you it has never been hallowed ground - not before or since the 9/11 attacks. The few blocks around the WTC site have an assortment of office buildings, discount shops, fast food places, a strip club (I assume, from the sign, I've never been inside), a library. And yes there are also a couple of mosques and a few churches in the area.

I'm including a picture of what the proposed site looks like now.
What they're proposing to build there is not a 13-story mosque but a 13-story Islamic community center. Its organizers say it will be similar in scope to The 92d Street Y, a wonderful Jewish community and cultural center on the Upper East Side. Like the 92d Street Y, it will have auditorium space, recreational space (a basketball court and a swimming pool), classrooms, meeting rooms, and prayer space. And, like the 92d Street Y, it will be planned for and accommodating the practices of a specific religion (there will, for example, be a cafeteria with only halal food) but open to all.

How could there be anything to object to in this plan? I can't see it. There's no connection between the people building this and Al Qaeda. To say that because they are Muslims they're connected to terrorists makes as much sense as saying all Christians are terrorists because some anti-abortion terrorists have killed doctors and claimed their crime was required because of their Christianity.

The only reason that anyone would object to this imo is anti-Islamic bigotry. As an American that sentiment offends me. As a member of another minority religion, it frightens me.

(11 comments | Leave a comment)

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From:realpestilence
Date:August 20th, 2010 02:47 am (UTC)
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If it's not a mosque, why are they calling it one? Seems a bit slanted.
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From:mofic
Date:August 20th, 2010 02:49 am (UTC)
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They're calling it a mosque and saying it's at Ground Zero because that's what they think will get people up in arms. And it seems to be working. There's enough anti-Islamic feeling in this country that just saying "Mosque" gets people riled up.
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From:ironkite
Date:August 20th, 2010 03:32 am (UTC)
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To quote the movie Men In Black "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals"

The bad press people managed to really get some spin going on this thing, to the point where when I was arguing the same point as Mofic's post (It's not a Mosque!), some of my coworkers thought I was siding with Them, or that They thought they changed it from a mosque to this use to appease the masses. Because you know that the people who are probably trying to organize this are not US citizens who are probably hard working people just trying to do better for their community.
When I also point out that such dislike/hatred towards Islam provides the terrorists with recruitment material they get even more displeased.

Edited at 2010-08-20 03:33 am (UTC)
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From:mofic
Date:August 20th, 2010 02:52 pm (UTC)
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I'm sorry you had that experience with colleagues. What kind of work do you do?

I'm sure you know but it was always planned to be a community center. The change they did make to appease the naysayers is the name: it went from Cordoba House to the much more American, more New York sounding Park51.
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From:ironkite
Date:August 20th, 2010 08:27 pm (UTC)
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Facilities maintenance. We have a lot of talented tradesmen who have very narrow viewpoints. Many of them mean well and they do worry for their country, but they forget what made this country great, diversity. Some also lack the one extra step of seeking the truth and questioning things they see. Especially when it's news that is perfectly spun to fit all of their fears.

But many of these guys have decent outlooks, and have the same outlook as many, that America is great because of it's diversity. It's just a few, but there will always be a few.
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From:rebeccaam
Date:August 20th, 2010 03:08 am (UTC)
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I've consistently said I'm agnostic on whether it gets built, but opposed to the opposition.

However, I didn't realize it would have a swimming pool and would have open membership like the "Y" -- if that's really the case, bring it on! It would be right by the train station nearest my office and by far the most convenient solution to my eternal dilemma of how to integrate swimming into my weekly routine.
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From:mofic
Date:August 20th, 2010 03:14 am (UTC)
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I must admit that I do keep thinking "But there's going to be a pool! How can anyone object to a building with a pool?" But perhaps not everyone loves swimming as much as I do.

I hope you manage to get a swimming routine, Park51 or elsewhere. I'm so happy to be back at our local Y and really hope to find time to swim when I'm working full time.
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From:soukup
Date:August 20th, 2010 02:39 pm (UTC)
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I keep trying to understand this conflict, to make sense of all the name-calling and finger-pointing going on. But no matter how long I listen and watch, I can't seem to wrap my head around one single, simple fact: the rest of the world considers Christianity and Islam to be entirely separate -- and even somehow opposite -- religions. DO NOT GROK.

All of which is just my way of saying that I agree completely with you that this all makes no sense whatsoever.
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From:mofic
Date:August 20th, 2010 02:50 pm (UTC)
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Well, they are separate religions, albeit both in the Abrahamic traditions. And they've both had a history of spreading the faith through conquest. It's crazy to me for *Christians* to bring up Islam's military history. Crusades, anyone?

FWIW Jews have historically fared much better under Muslim rule than Christian rule.
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From:davidfcooper
Date:August 20th, 2010 05:34 pm (UTC)
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For a historical perspective see Jonathan Sarna's Forward article When Shuls Were Banned in America.
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From:mofic
Date:August 20th, 2010 06:05 pm (UTC)
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Good article. Hasia Diner's book on American Jewish history talks about a lot of this. One thing that amused me, in a macabre way, was that the first Jews in the colony of Georgia got permission to practice their religion because the colonial charter said that all residents were free to pray to God in the way they chose, except Catholics.

Have you been to the Touro Synagogue? It was carefully constructed to not look like a shul, as was typical of a lot of early American synagogues. And, as recently as when our own shul was built, it was designed with a "sukkah room" with removable ceiling so that the congregants wouldn't have to do something so conspicuously Jewish as build a sukkah in the yard.
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