More On Mosques – Reverberations of Obama’s Remarks – Freedom Tower

Freedom Tower - What Will It Stand For?

An article today by Victoria McGrane and Siobhan Gorman in the Wall Street Journal today discusses the reverberations of Obama’s remarks supporting the rights of Muslims to build mosques in the U.S., including in downtown Manhattan.

One conservative blogger, Pamela Geller, said that the President “has, in effect, sided with the Islamic jihadists.”

I understand that many are upset at the idea of a mosque near Ground Zero.  For some, it feels almost immoral  – like a murderer inheriting under their victim’s Will.  That discomfort may stem in part from President Bush’s original and unfortunate characterization of the events of 9/11 as the opening salvos in a war involving foreign statelike entities rather than as a crime by heinous criminals with no independent statehood.  That backdrop has become such a part of the overly simplistic body politic that for some Americans, anything that seems to favor (or even to not disfavor) Muslims is deemed to give aid and comfort to a broad and amorphous enemy.

Putting that aside (which, frankly, is almost impossible for many), the current attacks on President Obama just don’t make sense:

  1. Jihad means holy war.  By supporting freedom of worship, Obama is saying that the U.S. is not fighting a war about religion, but a war against terrorism, a war, moreover, in favor of democratic values.  What’s being constructed on Ground Zero is called the Freedom Tower, after all.
  2. Security.  Gary Berntsen, running as a Republican candidate for New York State Senate and a former CIA officer (oh yes, the CIA did a great job for security around 9/11), has charged that the proposed mosque would be a national security risk: “[Militants] will be drawn there in large numbers, and they will seek to impose themselves on that mosque, regardless of who the leaders are.”   This one is also illogical.  First, disallowing fundamental freedoms is one sure way of fueling anti-American propaganda among extremists.  Secondly, a known extremist Muslim center would seem almost a boon to the FBI rather than an additional security risk.  (Instead of having to track extremists all around New Jersey and Buffalo, they could just set up a couple sets of cameras in downtown NYC.)Further, if, like many NYC downtown residents, Berntsen worries about the new Freedom Tower becoming again a target for terrorists, then what better insurance against massive attack than having an extremist mosque a couple of blocks away?!
  3. “Seemliness.” For some a mosque near Ground Zero is simply unseemly. They understand the political rhetoric but wonder why not just build the mosque somewhere else?  I guess a primary answer is that this is New York City–all kinds of things are jammed together – -on the Lower East Side, you’ll see old synagogues now housing Dominican dress shops; the Limelight was an abandoned church turned into a night club; the homeless sleep on heating grates on Fifth Avenue.What I frankly find unseemly about Ground Zero is the fact that they are rebuilding on the site at all (rather than turning it into a memorial park).  It’s amazing to me how the rapidly rising construction has diminished the sense of “hallowed” as quickly as it has swallowed up ground.  It looks increasingly like almost any New York City construction site.  (Tourists standing right in front of it ask me where Ground Zero is.)I am very sorry that the victims’ families must feel that they are once more political pawns.  Unfortunately, the deaths were politicized from the start – from all the heroes funds to the use of victims as a justification for war.

    5.   Some object to U.S. mosques, when what they truly oppose are Muslims in the U.S.  But their ire is misspent – freedom of worship for Muslims already here is simply a different issue than immigration policy.

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2 Comments on “More On Mosques – Reverberations of Obama’s Remarks – Freedom Tower”

  1. David Feldman Says:

    Seems to me this comes down to a value even more basic than freedom, namely the rule of law. The Center must go forward if the owners of the property so choose, because there exists no valid legal ground for anyone to oppose them. We must not suffer demagogic politicians and media figures to blame executives in the government simply for doing their jobs and upholding existing laws, no matter how unpopular the consequences.

    If legislators now draft and debate laws restricting the post-attack development of future scenes of terrorism, well let us listen and consider. But future legislation cannot speak to the present situation, and existing pertinent existing laws seem clear.


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