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Counterpoint: Do Not Build the Mosque

Counterpoint: Do Not Build the Mosque

It would be a sacrilege to build the proposed mosque at Ground Zero.


A place is made sacred by a widespread belief that it was visited by the miraculous or the transcendent (Lourdes, the Temple Mount), by the presence there once of great nobility and sacrifice (Gettysburg), or by the blood of martyrs and the indescribable suffering of the innocent (Auschwitz).

When we speak of Ground Zero as hallowed ground, what we mean is that it belongs to those who suffered and died there – and that such ownership obliges us, the living, to preserve the dignity and memory of the place, never allowing it to be forgotten, trivialized or misappropriated.

That’s why Disney’s early ‘90s proposal to build an American history theme park near Manassas Battlefield was defeated by a broad coalition fearing vulgarization of the Civil War (and wiser than me; at the time I obtusely saw little harm in the venture). It’s why the commercial viewing tower built right on the border of Gettysburg was taken down by the Park Service. It’s why while no one objects to Japanese cultural centers, the idea of putting one up at Pearl Harbor would be offensive.

And why Pope John Paul II ordered the Carmelite nuns to leave the convent they had established at Auschwitz. He was in no way devaluing their heartfelt mission to pray for the souls of the dead. He was teaching them a lesson in respect: This is not your place, it belongs to others. However pure your voice, better to let silence reign.

Even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who denounced opponents of the proposed 15-story mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero as tramplers on religious freedom, asked the mosque organizers “to show some special sensitivity to the situation.”

Yet, as columnist Rich Lowry pointedly noted, the government has no business telling churches how to conduct their business, shape their message, or show “special sensitivity” to anyone about anything. Bloomberg was thereby inadvertently conceding the claim of those he excoriates for opposing the mosque, namely, that Ground Zero is indeed unlike any other place and therefore unique criteria govern what can be done there.

Bloomberg’s implication is clear: If the proposed mosque were controlled by “insensitive” Islamist radicals either excusing or celebrating 9/11, he would not support its construction.

But then, why not? By the mayor’s own expansive view of religious freedom, by what right do we dictate the message of any mosque? Moreover, as a practical matter, there’s no guarantee this couldn’t happen in the future. Religious institutions in this country are autonomous. Who is to say that the mosque won’t one day hire an Anwar al-Aulaqi – spiritual mentor to the Fort Hood shooter and the Christmas Day bomber, and one-time imam at the Virginia mosque attended by two of the 9/11 terrorists?

An Aulaqi preaching in Virginia is a security problem. An Aulaqi preaching at Ground Zero is a sacrilege.

Location matters. Especially this location. Ground Zero is the site of the greatest mass murder in American history – perpetrated by Muslims of a particular Islamist orthodoxy in whose cause they died and in whose name they killed.

No German of good will would think of proposing a German cultural center at, say, Treblinka.

Of course that strain represents only a minority of Muslims. Islam is no more intrinsically Islamist than present-day Germany is Nazi – yet despite contemporary Germany’s innocence, no German of good will would even think of proposing a German cultural center at, say, Treblinka.

Which makes you wonder about the good will behind Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s proposal. This is a man who has called US policy “an accessory to the crime” of 9/11 and, when recently asked whether Hamas is a terrorist organization, replied, “I’m not a politician....The issue of terrorism is a very complex question.”

America is a free country where you can build whatever you want – but not anywhere. That’s why we have zoning laws. No liquor store near a school, no strip malls where they offend local sensibilities, and, if your house doesn’t meet community architectural codes, you cannot build at all.

These restrictions are for reasons of aesthetics. Others are for more profound reasons of common decency and respect for the sacred. No commercial tower over Gettysburg, no convent at Auschwitz – and no mosque at Ground Zero.

Build it anywhere but there.

The governor of New York offered to help find land to build the mosque elsewhere. A mosque really seeking to build bridges, Rauf’s ostensible hope for the structure, would accept the offer.

Related Article: Build the Mosque

This article originally appeared in the Washington Post.

August 17, 2010

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Visitor Comments: 109

(106) Beverly Kurtin, September 12, 2010 10:33 PM

What's next?

Absolutely, build the COMMUNITY CENTER where it is planned to be. There was what amounts to a Mosque in the World Trade Center on the 17th floor of one of the towers. Muslims along with adherents of other religions. When we first arrived in Dutch New Amsterdam, we were denied permission to build a synagogue. Now we want to tell the Muslims what they can and can not do with property they own? How hypocritical. The ignorant lunkheads who insist on calling it "Ground Zero Mosque" ignore that is it not at "Ground Zero," nor is a Mosque per se; it is a COMMUNITY CENTER. It is NOT at "Ground Zero." So what is the problem? I'm Jewish; there are Jewish/Muslim organizations all over the country. Jewish organizations in New York are supporting the building. Who are the dullards who are fighting to prevent the First Amendment from being activated? I am ashamed to be an American if this is what America has become.

ladydi, September 6, 2011 6:54 PM

Building their mosque at that site is a slap in the face to all those innocent people MURDERED on 9/11. Where is your compassion? Obviously you didnt know anyone who was burned alive or crushed that day......shame on you!!!!!

Ephraim Dovid, July 31, 2012 8:42 AM

Not sure where you got your info

It IS a Mosque AND community center.. Not just a community center. The truth is that even this "community center" is being built for a sharia compliant community that they are planning on setting up right there in very close proximity to ground zero. Is it literally at ground zero? No. However, it IS literally a 2 minute walk from ground zero. No exaggeration, 2 minutes. The Imam who is pushing for the building of the mosque is Feisal Abdul Rauf, a known terrorist sympathizer,who has openly placed the blame for 9-11 on American policies,as opposed to it being placed(where it belongs)on the terrorists who decided to murder the innocent in an effort to spread Islam and enforce sharia law on the innocent,with an act of complete religious Intolerance. The Imam's plan to build this mosque,and so called community center to be Sharia compliant, is a clear sign that it will espouse the very same beliefs and intolerance towards other religions that the terrorists who flew the planes into the towers were exposed to. The Imam's plan isn't just to build a building close to ground zero, but to build an entire community of sharia law abiding muslims,all steeped and well versed in the hateful, intolerant messages of that particular brand of Islam, in the very area where they succeeded in carrying out their plans to murder thousands of innocent men, women, and children in the name of Islam. It is a slap in the face to the victims' families who will see a large Islamic community, centered so close to ground zero that there will be essentially no distinction between ground zero and this Sharia law compliant islamic community. Every surviving family member will see how the same brand of Islam that was responsible for the murder of their family member, is now flourishing and spreading their message of intolerance and hate at the exact place where their parent, or sibling, or child, etc was murdered in cold blood in the name of that same brand of Islam.

(105) Anonymous, September 7, 2010 3:36 AM

Yeah, but

Are you familiar with the area? The proposed site is not right at ground zero, it's a couple blocks away. The block is somewhat seedy, with cheap-o stores and ugly architecture. There is nothing "sacred" about the proposed site even if one accepts the rest of the author's argument. While I think it's rather insensitive to build the mosque there, and jewish groups should not be affirmatively advocating for the building of mosques anywhere (thank you very much Michael Lerner), the first amendment is WAY too important to US to be trampled upon in this manner. There is a huge difference between blocking commercial development by Disney and a religious institution. First they came for the muslims . . . .

Anonymous, July 31, 2012 9:35 AM

First they came for the Muslims?!! Really?

Actually first they (the muslims) came for the lives of any random American who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.But aside from that,I couldn't help my jaw from dropping after reading the last bit of your comment,twisting the words of the famous quote by Pastor Martin Neimoller (First they came for..),and some how trying to equate the horrors of the progression of the nazi's campaign of elimination of the communists,unionists,Jews,and then himself, to the efforts of many NYC citizens to prevent a Sharia law compliant Mosque from being built in the same spot where Islamic terrorists enforced their decree of death in accordance with Sharia law, on the innocent NYC citizens who were murdered that day. Nobody is telling these muslims that they can't have a mosque in NYC. All that is being asked, is that they move their location to somewhere a bit more distant from ground zero. I'm glad that you at least recognize that it's insensitive for a mosque to be built there.However, I disagree with your assertion that the 1st amendment will be trampled upon by preventing the mosque from being built. I would concede that it would be a violation if they were being told that they can't build their mosque anywhere in NYC. However, that's not the case at all. They are being asked to move the location further away from ground zero due to the obvious pain that it will cause the family members of victims of the 9-11 attacks. They have even been offered considerable monetary benefits. They are in no way being told that they can't practice their religion. They are being asked to be considerate. One last point, while the proposed site may not be exactly at ground zero,it IS a 2 minute walk from ground zero. Once they have built the Mosque/Community Ctr and grow a Sharia compliant community around the mosque,it WILL be a slap in the face to the victim's family members to see that the ideology responsible for 9-11, destroyed the towers and now thrives in it's stead.

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