The Ground Zero Mosque Is Not Like a Strip Club

 

In your latest for Forbes, Conor, you make a remarkable claim: Cordoba House — you think “the Ground Zero Mosque” inapt — should be analogized to New York Dolls, an establishment we are as little entitled to call the Ground Zero Strip Club for conducting business just two blocks away from the fallen Towers:

The closest strip club to Ground Zero happens to be two blocks away, a fact that has nothing to do with our reverence for the place where so many Americans were killed by terrorists. As you’ve probably noticed, it doesn’t even make sense to call it The Ground Zero Strip Club. But it makes no less sense than naming an Islamic community center “The Ground Zero Mosque”–as much of the media have done–because it’s going to be located a couple blocks away.

Yes, yes, only — Cordoba House isn’t called the Ground Zero Mosque because it’s close to Ground Zero. It’s called the Ground Zero Mosque — I think — because it’s as close to Ground Zero as the Cordoba Initiative could possibly get, and because the Cordoba Initiative is building it as close to Ground Zero as it can get explicitly to advocate “for Islam” in a specifically “post-9/11 environment.” The idea is simple, if controversial: there ought to be a very large building, very near to Ground Zero, full of people dedicated to helping Americans understand that they should think well of Islam and of Muslims, precisely because Ground Zero is currently such a painful and potent source and symbol of American ill will toward Muslims who, as a matter of religious doctrine, wish harm on America and death on Americans.

As I said, this more and less than a mosque. A house of worship, plain and simple, is not at all the goal of this project. The location of Cordoba House, the size of Cordoba House, and the goings-on to be conducted at Cordoba House are all, quite deliberately, of a piece. Indeed, if you accept the stated goals of the Cordoba Initiative, posted prominently on its website, you will agree with this characterization, because you will think, as its officials think, that it is a good and needful thing.

The only strip club that would be like the Cordoba House would be possibly the most wondrous strip club in the history of Man: a thirteen-story, sex-themed community center, dedicated to the practice and promotion of erotic dancing, constructed as a soberminded matter of high-stakes public relations in direct response and in closest attainable proximity to the scarred footprint of a collapsed living landmark destroyed on national television by a murderous, fanatical band of fundamentalist strippers, naughty girls in the grip of a kamikaze certainty that the truth about erotic dance is that innocent Americans, as many as you can kill, need to die a fiery, hideous death.

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  1. Profile Photo Member
    @

    James,

    If disagreeing is going to provoke writing as entertaining as that I hope we do a lot more of it. Question one is why people are calling this the Ground Zero Mosque, and I don’t think the reason is the true intention of the people building it, because that’s something with which the vast majority of Americans who’ve heard and used the moniker are completely unfamiliar. Take the subject of my column: the anti-“Ground Zero Mosque” ad produced by the Republican Trust PAC. It isn’t right that they object because they think the Muslims building this want to force Americans to think well of Islam, because they explicitly claim that the Muslims building the mosque are doing it to build “a shrine to the 9/11 terrorists.”

    They also claim that a location two blocks from Ground Zero is “sacred ground.” I invoked the strip clubs in similar proximity to Ground Zero to demonstrate the absurdity of acting as though the stuff that operates near the old WTC site somehow bears on the respect we show the dead. It doesn’t. And when mosques aren’t at issue no one thinks otherwise.

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Member
    @JohnDavey

    I grow tired of the total lack of sentiment that those supporting, or not objecting to, the construction of this monstrosity, exhibit. I realize that we are closing in on a decade since this happened, but is it not the defining moment of this young century? Don’t these people remember how that day felt?

    The people behind Cordoba House are implementing the “Oh, is that my thumb in your eye?” gambit.

    Conor wants to reason away this gamesmanship , and attributes his position as a nuanced evaluation of the peaceful intent of the creators of Cordoba House. Nuance fell over in the heart of Manhattan nearly nine years ago, in a pyre fueled by AV Gas and hate. The murder of thousands of innocents by a savage enemy is not some transgression that can be wished away by fey proclamations of pundit reasoning.

    ‘With us or against us’ may not be very nuanced, but neither is flying a plane full of innocent travelers into a build full of other innocent souls. If Conor were punched in the mouth, I trust his reaction wouldn’t be very nuanced either.

    • #2
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    @

    John,

    I vehemently object to the implication that those of us who support or don’t object to this mosque were somehow less horrified than you on September 11, or that we don’t understand the emotions of our countrymen. I assure you that we watched the Twin Towers fall with every bit as much anger and outrage as you. And that goes double for the members of the community board in Lower Manhattan who live beside Ground Zero, and overwhelmingly approved this project.

    Our disagreement, or at least mine, is with your seeming assumption that in the “with us or against us” formulation, the Muslims at the Cordoba House are somehow on the other side. It isn’t they who “punched us in the mouth,” as you put it. And their intention is not a thumb in our eye. If you can produce any statement they’ve made suggesting otherwise, I eagerly await it.

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DevinCole
    Conor Friedersdorf:

    If disagreeing is going to provoke writing as entertaining as that I hope we do a lot more of it.

    I agree. I thought I knew what I thought about the Cordoba House, but now I have managed to twist myself in knots.

    Connor, I do think that the issue of sacred ground would arise if the strip club in question represented an initiative the size and scale of the Cordoba Initiative. I do think it is a mistake to call the initiative a “shrine to the 9/11 terrorists” though.

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Wow, a few hours off the Internet, and lots to engage.

    Mollie Hemingway: …the idea — advanced by Conor — that the published statements of the imam are reason enough to feel comfortable about the mosque is just silly.

    I mean, the Washington Post‘s go-to guy for Ramadan in the aftermath of 9/11 was Anwar al-Awlaki. Yes, the terrorist. He was actually quoted by more than a few media outlets at the time. Nothing he was quoted as saying made him seem like a cause for concern. Now, of course, we know that he is an enemy of the American public. · Jul 23 at 6:47pm

    Your logic seems to be that if one Muslim pretended to be a moderate, but wound up being a radical, we should therefore mistrust a totally different Muslim who had nothing to do with the bad guy. Other commenters ask, “Why doesn’t he denounce terrorists.” I show where he does. And the response is, “well we can’t trust his words.” What proof exactly would satisfy you? For all I know he’s a Peruvian spy. Absent any evidence of that, however, his public words and actions are our best guide.

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Member
    @

    The biggest problem I can see behind the Cordoba Initiative is that it is asking the wrong questions. Well, not only wrong, but insulting. From the link in James’ post:

    Americans want answers about Islam: To what extent do violent extremists actually speak for the opinions of Muslims everywhere? Is Islam a violent religion? Does it hinder freedoms or present an obstacle to democracy? Are Muslims in America a threat to Americans’ security?

    Americans largely aren’t asking these questions. I dare say that Americans have a pretty good handle on the answers, based on events they can see with their own eyes. What Americans really want to know is: Will Muslims who claim to be peaceful work as hard to stop their co-religionists from killing us as we will? From what I read at the Cordoba Initiative website, they’re not terribly interested in answering that question and until they do, their mosque is, intentionally or not, an unnecessary provocation.

    • #6
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    @JamesPoulos

    Doubtless, Conor, that ad is a disservice to any fairminded American thinking about this question in good faith. There’s got to be a better way to stand foursquare against jihadism and question the appropriateness of the GZM. And I do take your point about sacred ground. My guess is that most people would consider New York Dolls to have been grandfathered (dirty old manned?) in. But it’d be interesting to learn how many people would be profoundly bothered by a new commercial center built as close to Ground Zero as opportunity permits that included, say, a Ground Zero-inspired 13-story strip club. I bet the number isn’t trivial. More controversially, I bet that the number would be larger than the number of Americans opposed to a mere mosque that really did just happen to be built near Ground Zero. Quick — to the pollsters!

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Devin,

    I know that a 13-story center sounds like it’s enormous in scale. But you have to remember that this is the Financial District, where there are giant skyscrapers dozens of stories tall everywhere. And as I note in my column, the plans include “a single floor of prayer space, a swimming pool, a library, a child-care center, a concert hall, a gym, a culinary school and a restaurant.” This doesn’t strike me as the kind of stuff you’d include in a “thumb in the eye” provocation or a nefarious center of extremism.

    Finally, I want to be clear that the ad I objected to also included this: “A mosque at Ground Zero must not stand. The political class says nothing. The politicians are doing nothing to stop it.”

    I’m a 1st Amendment guy. And when a high profile campaign starts to assert that the government had better start discriminating on the basis of religion, I insist that forceful push back is necessary. (Still, I find myself amused by picturing a 13 story strip club, which would have to have a firehouse style pole running from top to bottom.)

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Member
    @
    thekansascitian Conor, if a neo-nazi son of German SS proposed building an Aryan unity group just blocks away from Auschwitz in effort to “achieve a tipping point in Aryan-Jewish relations within the next decade, steering the world back to the course of mutual recognition and respect and away from heightened tensions,” would you still be so open-minded about the project? · Jul 23 at 3:53pm

    Being a neo-Nazi is unavoidably abhorrent and necessitates the same Jew-hating-by-definition ideology that caused Auschwitz. In contrast, there is nothing inherently wrong with being a Muslim, and that religion isn’t incompatible with love of America and loyalty to it. Millions of loyal American Muslims live among us, many in NYC.

    In other words, the analogy is extremely inapt.

    Several comments here are prejudging all Muslims based on the actions of a vanishingly small percentage of them, and demanding that they affirmatively prove their loyalty in a way that isn’t asked of any other group, including immigrants from nations whose regimes are hostile to us.

    When prominent people advocate violating the Constitutional rights of a minority group, the right thing to do is defend them.

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Inactive
    @FeliciaB

    This is fun. Please continue.

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Member
    @
    What Americans really want to know is: Will Muslims who claim to be peaceful work as hard to stop their co-religionists from killing us as we will? From what I read at the Cordoba Initiative website, they’re not terribly interested in answering that question and until they do, their mosque is, intentionally or not, an unnecessary provocation. · Jul 23 at 1:55pm

    Here is The Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg: “I spoke at a program co-sponsored by Cordoba last year, and I came to understand that the organization is interested mainly in battling extremism within Islam, and in building bridges to non-Muslim faiths.”

    He founded this organization in 1997.

    Also, just got tipped off that he did a TED talk. Haven’t had time to listen yet.

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Inactive
    @thekansascitian

    I think the very idea of the Ground-Zero Mosque is disgusting, but what is more disgusting to me is that nearly 10 years later, we still have not rebuilt the towers or a suitable replacement.

    In the time since 9/11 China built the three gorges dam. In Brazil they are literally moving an entire river 16 miles from its current location. In Dubai they’ve not only built the world’s tallest building, but they have created entire islands in the middle of the ocean. In a few short months we won’t even be able to put a man into space with out bumming a ride from another country.

    What has happened to the can-do American spirit?

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Inactive
    @MatthewGilley

    I’m not sure whether I agree or disagree with Conor about building the mosque, but he’s onto something with the tortured rhetoric describing it (“sacred ground,” “Ground Zero Mosque”). These terms are imprecise and allow people who oppose the mosque to do so without describing their opposition in terms that may be inconvenient or uncomfortable. In reality, I think the discomfort over this mosque stems from genuine concerns whether Islam can coexist alongside or within a liberal democratic society, but for one reason or another opponents don’t feel comfortable discussing those concerns directly. Instead, we get the kind of debate that Conor has criticized.

    Switzerland recently had a national referendum with a frank airing of views about banning the construction of spires and minarets (which definitely featured some ugly undertones). That “solution” is not available in the U.S., but it does raise the question – could the U.S. host a similarly frank discussion?

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Member
    @

    What specifically disgusts you about it? (Agreed that the ongoing lack of something at actual Ground Zero is troubling.)

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Member
    @JohnDavey
    Conor Friedersdorf: John,

    Our disagreement, or at least mine, is with your seeming assumption that in the “with us or against us” formulation, the Muslims at the Cordoba House are somehow on the other side. It isn’t they who “punched us in the mouth,” as you put it. And their intention is not a thumb in our eye. If you can produce any statement they’ve made suggesting otherwise, I eagerly await it. · Jul 23 at 1:34pm

    The ad you cite itself is incorrect in tenor – we agree. This isn’t about religion, it is about the creeping systematic tactics of terror supporters.

    My assumption is that the people behind Cordoba House (not the Muslims) are on the other side. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf will not offer that jihad is inherently evil, & won’t refute the terror Hamas does in the name of jihad. He reasons Shari’a fits well with Western law. That’s political, which the whole effort in creating this seems to be. My friend, just back after 12 years in S.E. Asia assures me that is the Islamic perception in Asia. They’re cheering.

    • #15
  16. Profile Photo Member
    @

    John,

    Any “they” that is supposed to encompass all Muslims doesn’t make any sense. Its a religion that includes Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Osama Bin Laden. Here is Amam Feisal Abdul Rauf in the NY Daily News: “My colleagues and I are the anti-terrorists. We are the people who want to embolden the vast majority of Muslims who hate terrorism to stand up to the radical rhetoric. Our purpose is to interweave America’s Muslim population into the mainstream society. People who are stakeholders in society, who believe they are welcomed as equal partners, do not want to destroy it. They want to build it.”

    Strange words for someone who is on the other side. As are, “I have been the imam at a mosque in Tribeca for 27 years. I am as much a part of this community as anyone else. Our mosque is as much a part of the neighborhood as any church, synagogue or surrounding business. My work is to make sure mosques are not recruiting grounds for radicals.”

    • #16
  17. Profile Photo Member
    @JohnDavey
    Conor Friedersdorf: John,

    I vehemently object to the implication that those of us who support or don’t object to this mosque were somehow less horrified than you on September 11, or that we don’t understand the emotions of our countrymen. I assure you that we watched the Twin Towers fall with every bit as much anger and outrage as you. And that goes double for the members of the community board in Lower Manhattan who live beside Ground Zero, and overwhelmingly approved this project.· Jul 23 at 1:34p

    I don’t mean to imply that you weren’t horrified on that day, or don’t comprehend the emotions of those objecting. What I mean to imply is that you’ve either forgotten the immediate sense of the day, or you’re marginalizing it in effort to support the kumbaya-ism of this project. I want tolerance, we all do. But coddling the efforts of people that begrudgingly offer protest, & not full throated denouncement of terror keeps it alive. We need to defeat it. I don’t live in NYC, & understand the board approved it but this reeks.

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Member
    @

    John,

    Again, the leader of this group said, “My colleagues and I are the anti-terrorists. We are the people who want to embolden the vast majority of Muslims who hate terrorism to stand up to the radical rhetoric.”

    Identifying yourself as antithetical to something, and saying that you hate it, is precisely a full-throated denouncement. Yet you characterize it as “begrudging.”

    Why?

    • #18
  19. Profile Photo Member
    @JohnDavey
    Conor Friedersdorf: John,

    Any “they” that is supposed to encompass all Muslims doesn’t make any sense. Its a religion that includes Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Osama Bin Laden. Here is Amam Feisal Abdul Rauf in the NY Daily News: “My colleagues and I are the anti-terrorists. We are the people who want to embolden the vast majority of Muslims who hate terrorism to stand up to the radical rhetoric. Our purpose is to interweave America’s Muslim population into the mainstream society. People who are stakeholders in society, who believe they are welcomed as equal partners, do not want to destroy it. They want to build it.” · Jul 23 at 3:04pm

    When I state “they are cheering” I should state that radical Islamists, & terror supporters are cheering it, not all Muslims. 200 character limit is my undoing.

    At any rate, what Amam Feisal Abdul Rauf says to varying audiences is suspect. Overseas he is cheered for not denouncing Hamas. Let him be clear, denounce all aspects of terror, Hamas included, then we can move forward.

    • #19
  20. Profile Photo Member
    @JohnDavey
    Conor Friedersdorf: John,

    Again, the leader of this group said, “My colleagues and I are the anti-terrorists. We are the people who want to embolden the vast majority of Muslims who hate terrorism to stand up to the radical rhetoric.”

    Identifying yourself as antithetical to something, and saying that you hate it, is precisely a full-throated denouncement. Yet you characterize it as “begrudging.”

    Why? · Jul 23 at 3:14p

    Yasser Arafat denounced terror (eventually) as well, but continued supporting terror groups. Amam Feisal Abdul Rauf & his peripheral associations with similar groups (more specifically when he is out of the US) is the core of the issue. CAIR makes similar pronouncements, but still coddles terror organizations.

    We just disagree on the intent of the group.

    And as both you and thekansascitian noted, the most criminal thing in the US today is the appalling lack of progress in rebuilding at the actual Ground Zero.

    • #20
  21. Profile Photo Inactive
    @thekansascitian
    Conor Friedersdorf: What specifically disgusts you about it? (Agreed that the ongoing lack of something at actual Ground Zero is troubling.) · Jul 23 at 2:49pm

    Conor, if a neo-nazi son of German SS proposed building an Aryan unity group just blocks away from Auschwitz in effort to “achieve a tipping point in Aryan-Jewish relations within the next decade, steering the world back to the course of mutual recognition and respect and away from heightened tensions,” would you still be so open-minded about the project?

    • #21
  22. Profile Photo Member
    @ScottR
    Conor Friedersdorf: ….And their intention is not a thumb in our eye. If you can produce any statement they’ve made suggesting otherwise, I eagerly await it. · Jul 23 at 1:34pm

    It is not necessary to produce such a statement. It is simply not possible for these folks to be so obtuse as to not understand that New Yorkers would be offended by a mosque being built at this location and opening for business on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. And even if they somehow previously did not grasp this, now they surely do, and yet they still intend to go through with it. No one with altruistic intentions and half a brain could possibly be this tactless. This is all we need know.

    • #22
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    @DevinCole

    Connor,

    I am a 1st Amendment guy too, and when it comes down to it, I am a property rights guy too. Therefore, if this group has the money to purchase the land and build the building, be it Mosque or strip club, as long as they do it in a legal manner, I do not think it can be blocked, nor do I call for politicians to “do something about it”.

    However, I can comfortably say that I would prefer the building be something other than the envisioned Cordoba House, maybe even a 13 story strip club (not establishments I find very redeeming either). Although I am SURE that a firehouse style pole that long is against some law on the books in New York!

    • #23
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    @DaveCarter

    The analogy used by thekansascitian about an Aryan unity group sprouting near Auschwitz is spot on. As to Anam Feisal Abdul Whatchamacallit saying he wants to, “…embolden the vast majority of Muslims … to stand up to radical terror,” let him put his money where the plane tickets are. Stand up to radical Islam at the source, where women are dehumanized, subjugated and stoned to death, where people are executed simply for being Christians.

    Until then, I’m not terribly well disposed to being lectured on the virtues of tolerance by people who, as James points out, “…as a matter of religious doctrine wish harm on America, and death on Americans.” When the First Responders Baptist Church of Mecca opens its doors, or Our Lady of Perpetual Tolerance Catholic Church in Medina starts holding mass, get back with me.

    • #24
  25. Profile Photo Contributor
    @JamesPoulos
    thekansascitian: […] the Ground-Zero Mosque is disgusting, but what is more disgusting to me is that nearly 10 years later, we still have not rebuilt the towers or a suitable replacement. […] What has happened to the can-do American spirit?

    So, it’s clear that Cordoba Initiative really does want to draw our attention to the way that Islam can be practiced peacefully in Western societies without destroying their recognizably Western character. But it’s also clear that the CI is too close to the kinds of Muslims who damage the credibility of people trying to carry out the Cordoba Institute’s mission statement. This is also far and away the biggest public relations debacle overseen by a group of people who stake their reputation and brand identity on their ability to recognize and manage the delicate sensitivities involved in Muslim-Western relations. That can’t be pinned on a gaggle of rabid right-wing opportunists. And since America has proven itself incapable of erecting a huge golden obelisk at Ground Zero, topped with a Screaming Eagle or a Gleaming Eye, that scar at Ground Zero really still is an open wound. I bet most folks simply want this respected.

    • #25
  26. Profile Photo Contributor
    @jameslileks

    As others have no doubt observed, it’s interesting that a center designed to promote coexistence is named after the capital of an Islamic caliphate in Western Europe. To paraphrase Inigo Montoya: you keep using that word coexist. I do not think it means what you think it does.

    • #26
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    @MatthewGilley
    James Lileks: As others have no doubt observed, it’s interesting that a center designed to promote coexistence is named after the capital of an Islamic caliphate in Western Europe. To paraphrase Inigo Montoya: you keep using that word coexist. I do not think it means what you think it does. · Jul 23 at 5:17pm

    Yes. I suppose in one sense, the “Cordoba House” could be a sentimental nod to a high tide of Islamic influence in the West. In another more sinister vein, it could reveal a preference for things as they used to be in Al Andalus – Osama’s preferred appellation for Spain. I am not familiar with this organization. Anyone care to fill me in on where they say they stand, as well as where their actions indicate they stand?

    Also, indulge a foolish question – I am not familiar with the area surrounding the Cordoba House, but my impression is that (1) the real estate isn’t cheap and (2) there isn’t a particularly large Muslim demographic. If I’m wrong on either point, someone let me know. If I’m not mistaken, can anyone explain why the Cordoba House is being built there?

    • #27
  28. Profile Photo Contributor
    @MollieHemingway

    I’m just curious who is financing the mosque and how funds were raised. I know the leader is Sufi but this doesn’t seem like a Sufi project, exactly. Anyone know the answers? And is he the brains/money/power behind the operation or more of a figurehead?

    I’m kind of surprised that all of the discussion of the mosque in the media has been over opposition to it — and very little about the actual project and how it has gotten this far.

    • #28
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    @TheMugwump

    Claire made a statement in one of her posts that Turkey is a “zero-trust society.” My personal experience while traveling in Muslim nations from Egypt to Malaysia informs me that “low-trust” is a common denominator in all Muslim nations. So if low trust is a common characteristic within Muslim societies, why in the hell would we in the west take the statement of any Muslim at face value? Ronald Reagan once famously said, “trust but verify.” It was a nice way to avoid calling the Russians liars in public. What Reagan obviously meant was “we won’t trust you iota without verification.” That sentiment should stand out in spades regarding the GZM.

    • #29
  30. Profile Photo Member
    @JimmyCarter

    Doesn’t the koran state that muslims can and should lie to infidels?

    • #30

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