Friday, May 28, 2010

The Cordoba Controversy

In early April, when I first heard about the plans by New York's Muslim community to build an Islamic cultural center called Cordoba House a few blocks from the World Trade Center site, I had two immediate reactions.  Sunny Optimistic Zaki thought it was a great idea -- a terrific way to increase interfaith and intercultural understanding, while Jaded Cynical Zaki wondered how long before the usual suspects started their requisite freak-out.  Well, the freak-out has officially begun, and TPM is there with a compilation of some of the nuttier comments that have emerged.

For example, there's talker Michael Berry, whose irony detector is clearly on the fritz when he says of the center: "I hope it's blown up, and I mean that."  Then there's our old friend Pamela Geller, who, in another of her rants a few days ago on HN's Joy Behar Show, referred to "hundreds of millions of years" of Islamic oppression.  Now, Geller has a long history of what can most charitably be called Islamophobia, but when she refers to "hundreds of millions of years" of anything, it becomes clear that history doesn't include an actual knowledge of, y'know, history.

Now, I've seen enough of these tempest-in-a-teapot situations emerge whenever any Muslim-related something-or-other enters the public sphere to know that these folks don't need much help to hang themselves with their own rhetorical ropes.  And the comments above pretty much prove my point.  What I do worry about though is the meme they're so actively -- one might even say desperately -- trying to disseminate, hoping against hope that it'll harden into the cement of our collective thought and thus scuttle the Cordoba House plans.  It can actually be divided into two related parts.

One, that this center is being built on Ground Zero.  Common sense says that would never be the case.  I doubt any Muslim group would want that, and I doubt any zoning board would ever allow it. Moot point.  Next, and related to the first, that building a mosque on Ground Zero lets the terrorists win.  We've already dispelled the "Ground Zero" part, but let's talk about the whole "terrorists win" thing.  That canard has been a favorite since 9/11.  So nebulous, so ill-defined, and yet trotted out with regularity to successfully stifle not just dissent, but even discussion.

And let's face it, discussion is what this center is really about.  It's about creating a physical space where Islam's moderate voices can also be given a face.  It's somewhere those with questions can ask them, and those with answers can present them.  The symbolic value of Cordoba House's proximity to Ground Zero is considerable, but not for the reasons those gathered against it would have you believe.  It puts into cement in as visible a way possible that New York's Muslims share not just the grief from September 2001, but just as much they share a legitimate stake in that city's continued growth.


Eric San Juan said...

"The symbolic value of Cordoba House's proximity to Ground Zero is considerable, but not for the reasons those gathered against it would have you believe."

I agree wholeheartedly. The idea that it could, would, and WILL stand for the kind of unity and understanding we should all strive for is completely lost on these people.

Symbolically, it's only a slap in the face to the 9-11 victims if that's what you WANT it to be ... and if that's what you want it to be, it's clear you have no real interest in getting past the problems that plague us.

Hank said...

You know how The Terrorists Win? By getting us to spend ourselves out of power fighting dumb wars, and on absurd TSA processes, and every other little thing that chips away at our liberty. Bin Laden learned from Ronald Reagan - get your enemy to spend themselves out of existence. Too bad that's lost on Reagan's disciples.

Diahni said...

Although it would be nice if we could all hold hands around Ground Zero and sing "We Shall Overcome," the fact remains that the hijackers killed thousands of Americans, including Muslims, in the name of Allah. Seems a little clueless to be unaware of how inappropriate and tasteless it would be to have such a center near hallowed ground. And if you think that many Muslims didn't rejoice at the attack, radical politics or not, read Orhan Pamuk's essay, "Anger of the Damned."

Anonymous said...

While a lot of people may be able to realize where you are coming from, I do not think it is impossible to see why this would upset others. To build a mosque so close to this site is, simply, incendiary, and that is no secret. Why even do it? Build a nice big mosque/community center a few miles away. The American people have taken a lot of heat over supposed racial profiling. But the fact remains that the attacks were carried out by people of a specific group. The same group that comprises most of the world's terrorism and anti-American sentiment. Now I am enlightened enough to know that not everyone in this group feels this way. I, in fact, have developed relationships with people of the Muslim faith who I do not believe hate this country, nor would they kill for the same reasons the terrorists have. However, the fact remains, humans are humans. And if anyone is to blame for the plight that peace loving Muslims are going through today, it is not Caucasion Americans, red necks, fringe right wingers, fringe any wingers. No, the ones that are to blame are the terrorists themselves. They gave everyone of their faith/race a bad name. And based on the severity of their crimes, it's asking a lot for complete and total tolerance so early in the game, and so close to such a physical loss, like ground zero. I blame Muslim terrorists for a Muslim's problems at the airport, not the angry white man.