Muslims at the WTC

Oh for crying out loud.  Apparently y’all need my assistance in the common sense department again.

It seems that a whole bunch of people have their knickers in a wad because there are plans for a mosque to be built down the street from the World Trade Center.  Unsubstantiated claims, carried by no reliable news source I’ve been able to find (feel free to prove me wrong), claim that the mosque plans to open on Sept 11th 2011, the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

And people are ticked.

Me?  I’m ticked at the reasons people are giving for why they are ticked.

(See this?  This is my sense-beating stick.  First I shall try reason, but when that fails, I shall impart sense to your cerebrum through the most direct route.  While wearing a Snuggie.  Therefore, your argument is invalid.)

All right, so why don’t you want a mosque built down the street from the WTC?

“Muslims want to put a MOSQUE WITHIN 600 FEET “GROUND ZERO”! This page’s opinion is this mosque is a symbol of conquering America; they could have put it somewhere else away from Ground Zero – hallowed ground – but they chose this spot for a reason.”  –the anti-mosque Facebook page

“I don’t have any problem with them building a mosque, just not so close to the site,” said Ashley [founder of the Facebook group opposing the mosque], a stay-at-home father from Rochester, N.Y.  “It’s saying, ‘We destroyed the Twin Towers and we’re planting our flag right there for the rest of the Islamic world to see.’”

“You have to take into consideration what the site means to people,” said CB1 member Paul Sipos, who does not serve on the Financial District Committee. “It’s an inappropriate setting. It’s sacred ground, and I just think you have to respect the sanctity of the site.”

“How can you build a shrine to the very ideology that brought down the World Trade Center?” asked Geller, whose group is planning a June 6 rally to protest the project.

Claim One: Muslim = Terrorist

Let’s tackle the middle quote first.  Do you notice the subtleties of what Mr. Ashley is saying?  “It’ssaying, ‘WE destroyed the Twin Towers and WE’RE planting our flag [the mosque]…'”

So, the implicit message is, the ones who are building the mosque are the same ones that destroyed the Twin Towers.

It’s an interesting claim, especially since I’m pretty sure the ones who destroyed the Twin Towers, some nineteen hijackers, died in their own suicide attacks.  But, before you yell at me for being facetious, I get that there’s a larger nonliteral meaning.  Nevertheless, the claim here seems to be that the ones building the mosque (Muslim clerics) are in the same category as the ones who destroyed the towers (Muslim terrorists) merely because both are Muslim.

This claim is also found in the first quote, “this mosque is a symbol of conquering America.”  Actually, a mosque is a holy house of God in Islam.  So to say that a mosque is a symbol of conquering America is to say that a symbol of Islam is a symbol of conquering America.  The fourth quote, too, says that the ideology of Islam is the “very ideology” that brought down the towers.  Again, the implicit message, Muslim = terrorist.

This is, of course, abject nonsense, equivalent to saying that Christian = KKK.  The 9/11 hijackers were motivated by political aims as much as if not more so than religious mores.  And we can argue until we’re blue in the face over whether the militant Muslims or the “silent majority” are the true face of Islam–we can argue over which group you think accurately represents what the Prophet taught.  But regardless of what you believe there, you have to at lease concede that there are pacifist Muslims, patriotic American Muslims, Muslims of all political stances across the spectrum.  It is inaccurate, discriminatory, and unfair to infer that all Muslims are terrorists.

Claim Two:  Sacred Spaces

The second claim is that we shouldn’t put a mosque near the WTC because it’s “sacred space,” made so by those who died there.  You can see this in the third quote, “It’s sacred ground, and I just think you have to respect the sanctity of the site,” and the first quote, which calls the WTC “hallowed ground.”

What’s ironic here is that, when we’re talking about a mosque, we’re talking about a house of God.  I’m no follower of Islam, but nevertheless, I can recognize that a mosque is one religion’s groping out towards the Almighty.  What the protesters are saying, then, is that you can’t build a house of God near a sacred space.

See, to me, I think our approach to God is the best way we can honor a sacred space.

Of course, the protesters will object because this particular approach to God is the same approach the hijackers claimed to follow.  To which I reply, “…And?”

Have you visited the concentration camps of Germany?  I have.  Did you know there’s both a Protestant church and a Catholic chapel (as well as a Jewish chapel) on the grounds of Dachau?  Even though the Nazis who ran the concentration camps paid lip-service to a form of Christianity?  These chapels are there to honor the sacred space where prisoners died; they are also there because some who died there were of that faith.  Just because the Nazis claimed Christianity as their own does not mean that a church is a symbol of the Holocaust.  Likewise, just because the 9/11 hijackers claimed Islam as their own does not mean a mosque is a symbol of terrorism.  Nor does it mean that a church therefore “violates the sacred space” of where people died.

What makes a place more sacred: the death of a human, or the presence of God?

And besides: there’s been a mosque on West Broadway since long before the 9/11 attacks.  There’s already a mosque down the street from the World Trade Center: this isn’t a new thing.

Also: 59 Muslims died in the World Trade Center attacks, not counting the hijackers.  (Worldwide, Islamic terrorist organizations kill more Muslims than nonMuslims.)  If the WTC is sacred for those who were murdered there, then it is sacred for Muslims too.

Claim Three: They’re Doing It On Purpose

The final claim is the easiest to dismiss.  The first quote says that “they” [the Muslims] “could have put it somewhere else away from Ground Zero – hallowed ground – but they chose this spot for a reason.”

Or did they?  All you had to do was ask.

Khan said the Cordoba Initiative did not pick the site just because of its proximity to the World Trade Center.  “In New York City, it’s not that easy to find real estate,” she said. “This was the right kind of footprint — height, width, what we could build. We didn’t say, ‘We have to be right next to the memorial.’”

Even if they were doing it on purpose–and even if they were opening their doors on the 10-year anniversary of the attacks–I still don’t think it would be a bad thing.  We often complain that, if there is a peaceful “silent majority” of Islam, they’re not speaking out against the violent radical terrorist branches.  Well, you know what?  This guy’s trying to.  And we’re not letting him.

Rauf insists the effort is meant to help heal the wounds of 9/11, “We’ve approached the community because we want this to be an example of how we are cooperating with the members of the community, not only to provide services but also to build a new discourse on how Muslims and non-Muslims can cooperate together to push back against the voices of extremism.”

Pushing back against the voices of extremism is what we want.  So everyone shut up and let the man build his mosque.

As I’ve said before, I feel that 9/11 is used as an excuse to do and say things otherwise unconscionable.

 I’m a New Yorker.  I was there.  I saw the smoke billow up from Manhattan.  I smelled the burnt hair and skin.  I have friends who lost relatives or friends.  But all these people who weren’t there, didn’t lose people, or weren’t affected beyond their loss of sense of safety–they seem to claim the right to speak on my behalf.  To which I say, No Thank You.

So.  Is everything crystal?  Or must I go for my sense-stick and Snuggie now?


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