Monday, August 16, 2010

the "ground zero mosque"

The proposed mosque--actually, it's more of a cultural center--at or near the World Trade Center site presents a complicated issue. If I had been the lawyer for The Cordoba Project, I might well have advised them to seek a different site, or at least to explain themselves better to the public than they have done. And it may be that some sort of compromise is still possible.

Still, there is a certain kind of issue that--even if one would have preferred it never be posed--requires a clear-cut answer once it actually is. Whatever the political wisdom of the project, it is simply inadmissible to bar something on the grounds of religion, no matter how strongly felt the opposition may be. That the project is pretty clearly intended as a refutation of the mentality of the 9/11 bombers--Cordoba was a city in Spain noted for at least temporarily good relations between Jews, Christians, and Muslims--makes the case that much clearer. That doesn't mean opponents don't have a right to be heard, or that they should be called racists, or bigots, and so on; but only that their arguments should not trump religious freedom in this particular case.

The role of the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) in opposing the project strikes me as especially unfortunate. Does is not occur to Jewish groups that arguments made against Muslims--they are alien, they are violent, they pray to a god of fear rather than a god of love--are exactly those made against Jews in times past? All this kind of position will do is convince your average secular American that, as the expression goes, "they're all crazy"--Jews, Muslims, anyone in that part of the world; not a long-term winning hand.


At 9:56 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see your point. However well-meaning they are though, they are misguided in this attempt to build their cultural center in the midst of the WTC land.

To me, it smells of insincerity. It is as if Germans built an Aryan Race multicultural center on top of a concentration camp. It is in poor taste and because no one could possibly be so idiotic as to believe this would not inflame the American public---it again brings me to question the sincerity of the so-called peaceful intent.

I don't buy it.


At 4:50 AM, Blogger Annette said...

Okay--I read up a little more on the location of the multicultural center and since I read that it is 2 blocks away from the towers-it completely changes my opinion.

I now agree with you that the motives for the location of the multicultural center may not be a slap in the face to those who mourn all of the lives lost at ground zero.
Mea culpa!
I also agree that locating this center 2 blocks away is still a little less sensitive than if it were located say 7 blocks away, but considering that we massacred millions of Indians in order to form the U.S. I think we should show a bit more tolerance.

At 3:21 PM, Blogger Neil McCarthy said...

Well said!

At 12:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you need to get over your liberal bias as a law professor (as do 99.9% of law professors) and realize America is not going to be tolerant anymore. It is just disgusting the way our American culture is being forced to accommodate other cultures. I have nothing against foreign cultures, as I myself have a different culture on my father's side, but they learned to adapt, and still kept their culture alive. This Mosque business is ridiculous. Build it somewhere else! This is like saying, let's put up a KKK house on Auschwitz. Now, I know that is not right to you or anyone else.

At 1:51 PM, Blogger aisforanxiety said...

Anonymous, what do you mean by the term "American Culture'? You take ownership for this term - ''our' - but you don't explain at all what you mean by it. Rhetorically, what you do is to set up a binary system of 'us' and 'them'. (1) As human beings, we all have certain similarities and differences. (2) In politics, groups may define themselves by arbitrarily promoting certain differences and giving them a privileged status. So we have various interest groups, such as the Irish-American lobby etc. This may be extended on the world level by the notion of national citizenship (3) We 'naturalize' such differences and do not tend to question how arbitrary such notions are. (4) It is not in the interest of those who have a vested interest to question the basis of citizenship etc. (5) Geo-politics is based on an almost universal madness. We draw lines on maps, give names to certain geographical areas and proclaim right of dominion. In my humble opinion, 'the native American', had a much clearer notion about our place on this planet. The idea of selling New York State was laughable!
But I do wonder if the whole idea of statehood, nationhood and tribal differentiation is nothing but a form of idolatry when it us used to promote privileged interests.

At 7:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

TO aisforanxiety:

As for "our," I mean RED, WHITE, AND BLUE patriots. I know that encompasses a lot of religions and people, etc. . . but I think if you have any dignity at all you will NOT build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. If you want to, clearly, you do not value AMERICAN CULTURE, only your own. America is a group, and a group, and one religion SHOULD NOT defeat the sentiment of the majority. (That also goes for the stinkin' health care crap Obama put through)

Oh, and by the way, all the mumbo jumbo scholarly crap in your post, don't ever do that again. I got bored of it after #1. No one reads that junk except you elitist/scholar snobs. Get real!

At 4:23 PM, Blogger aisforanxiety said...

Wow. Anonymous, I understand why this issue creates so much feeling but there are a few things I want to get back to you on.

Let me be clear, I am a non-American who does value 'American Culture.' How could I not..., the music, the literature, the political ideals set forth by the founder father's are noble.

I want to say something about 'political violence' however. The attacks on the twin towers were awful acts that can never be justified. The human consequences are truely terrible.

The apparent randomness of terrorist violence creates fear, and 'works' from the terrorist perspective, when ordinary citzens want to lash out and respond in simplified ways.

The majority of those from the Islamic faith are peace loving human beings. The danger, however, is treating all such individuals as potentially suspect. Such a response only gives momentum to conflict. It is in the 'terrorist's' interest.

We are of course talking about real suffering. I am not just talking from some academic ivory tower. I am not an "elitist/scholary" snob. I live and work in Belfast. I know about political violence and have first hand experience of how identity politics works. Yes, I am educated to Master Degree level - but I come from a working class background and put myself through university. I remember soldiers walking through the streets, I have first hand experience of random bombs going off, of shootings, of innocents being killed in the name of some apparent cause.

The religious divide in the city I live is maintained through fear. There are, however, real friendships that exist across 'the divide.' Whether I be nominally Protestant or Catholic, is of no real significance in respect of such friendships. What is more important is the ability to laugh at the small things, to enjoy a beer or recognize the humanity of the other. This is not to say that peoples' faith is not important to them. It just doesn't 'of necessity' exclude such friendships.

The implication of a violent response to the ground zero mosque, is that Muslum's are being blamed for the twin towers attack as a group. Those who planned and took part in such attacks were nominally Muslum but there is real danger of scapegoating Muslum's on a whole for what happened. This is deeply disturbing.

When trying to defuse the violence associated with identity politics, one should never talk about winners and losers. Issues such as this will only be resolved when it is recognized that it is in everyone's interest to pursue a peaceful outcome. That means confronting our pain in ways that does not perpetuate what has happened in the past.

At 5:09 AM, Blogger aisforanxiety said...

A few points.

(1) American culture is rich and diverse and is interconnected with other cultures globally. Without American literature, music, philosophy and films etc - the world would be a much poorer place. It is a nonsense to suggest that I might hate 'American culture.'

(2) I can understand the strong feelings that this issue brings to the surface. But ask some very simple questions. What connection, if any, do the the people who are building the mosque have with those responsible for 9/11? If there is an actual connection, this is a non issue - the Mosque should not be built. If it is simply a matter that the people concerned nominally share a religious name, that they are 'Muslims' - there is a real danger of scapegoating. Does it need to be said? Those responsible for the 9/11 attacks did not represent the vast majority of Muslims worldwide.

(3) As for me being an elitist/ scholarly snob who needs to 'get real.' - I live in Northern Ireland and have experienced bombs going off randomly, soldiers walking the streets, shootings etc. I know about the ills of identity politics first hand - it is not something I have just picked up from books.

Yes I do have a Master's degree - but I come from a working class background. I am the first in my family to get through university and most certainly do not live in an ivory tower. I have deep sympathy for those people who passed away after those attacks.


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