No. 42

STONE the crows! September is the sectarian silly season in the States!

THE crows were roosting on Liberty Street Manhattan the other Saturday (it was a hell of a tail wind in Sydney), watching the vast construction site at what was the World Trade Centre. It was a beautiful day and New York was going about its business, tourists gawping, merchants trading drivers honking in the traffic. Including one who had the car speakers up loud so everybody could hear the Arabic music he was playing.

And no one gave a damn. Nor should they have.  But that nobody noticed as this bloke edged his way up Liberty Street at the September 11 site, where an appalling crime was corruptly committed in the name of Islam, a week before the tenth anniversary says a lot about the pragmatism and tolerance of New York.

The Crows then flapped over a couple of blocks to 45 Park Place, where American Muslims want to include a mosque in the decrepit Burlington Coat factory building, which they want to refurbish as a community centre.

And no one gave a damn there either. For all the outrage and anguish on the internet and the holler roller rhetoric from conservative Christian clergy, Park Place showed no sign of discord.

There were plain posters on the walls of the building advocating freedom of religion, but that was it. And around the building the American melting pot cheerfully bubbled. Down the street the Amish deli was doing business (another faith once considered daft, if not diabolical); next door a bar promoted widescreen presentations of what passes for football in the US. And up around the corner the Immigrant Savings Bank did what American capitalism has always done, provided services to generations migrants, from Irish to Muslims, who come to America to make a quid for their kids.

Certainly there was a copper in the subway station at the top of Park Place, just as police were visible all over Manhattan. Sure, there were armed infantry at the Pennsylvania Station and army engineering vehicles were parked around the bottom end of Manhattan – all understandable in the week before the anniversary of September 11. But there were no signs around Ground Zero that anyone is upset with Muslim Americans who have a plan to build a mosque mere metres from the WTC site.

But they should be. Not because there is anything wrong with a mosque being built in Park Place – and anybody who argues there is should consider the Constitution of the United States. The First Amendment begins; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”[1]

With planning approval the owners of the building can do whatever they like with the building. But what should annoy Americans is the way the location of the mosque gives the fringe ranters a chance to bring on a blue by conflating ordinary Muslims with the malevolent maddies responsible for September 11. Like Bill Keller from Florida, who served a stretch for insider trading but now has religion and intends to open a bully pulpit as close to Park Place as he can.[2]

And like Terry Jones, another reverend from there, (what is it about Florida?) who promised to burn a copy of the Koran on September 11 to prove something or other. He is reported as preaching that, “what we’re doing has no middle of the road. You have to believe it is totally, totally God or absolutely of the devil.” [3] (What a surprise! He suspended his puerile plan after generating saturation media coverage for his minor ministry.)

And even like columnist Andrea Peyser:

A mosque rises over Ground Zero. And fed-up New Yorkers are crying, “No!” A chorus of critics – from neighbors to those who lost loved ones on 9/11 to me – feel as if they’ve received a swift kick in the teeth. Plans are under way for a Muslim house of worship, topped by a 13-story cultural center with a swimming pool, in a building damaged by the fuselage of a jet flown by extremists into the World Trade Center.  The opening date shall live in infamy: Sept. 11, 2011. The 10th anniversary of the day a hole was punched in the city’s heart.  [4]

It’s a realistic, if not rational, argument for establishing the mosque somewhere else and it goes to the heart of the issue – just as Americans of other faith and no religions must honour Islam and respect its follower’s beliefs there is no sense in Muslims unnecessarily asserting rights and seeing every slight as the start of a stoush.

Immigrants, everywhere, assume they are treated the worst, until the second generation settles in and the next wave, from another country, arrives. And they always think anywhere else is better than where they are. Thus Imam Abdullah T Antepli, Muslim chaplain at Duke University was quoted in the New York Times “People are discussing what is the alternative if we don’t belong here,” he said. “There are jokes: when are we moving to Canada, when are we moving to Sydney?”[5]

In this case one sure way to bring on a blue is to build a mosque in Park Place, and attitudes like the site’s supporters don’t help. “We are deeply concerned, because this is like a metastasised anti-Semitism,” said Daisy Khan, who is spearheading the project with her husband, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. “It’s beyond Islamophobia. It’s hate of Muslims.”[6]

Religious bigots aside, no it’s not. As far as the Crows can see it is hate of mass murderers from the Middle Ages who slaughtered 3000 people of all religions and none nine years ago last weekend. That people are upset about the proposed mosque may not be entirely rational but there is no reason to upset them more.

Sarah Palin’s populism was not burdened by rationality, but she went right to the heart of the emotional argument in opposing the project. “No one is disputing that America stands for – and should stand for – religious tolerance. It is a foundation of our republic. This is not an issue of religious tolerance but of common moral sense. To build a mosque at Ground Zero is a stab in the heart of the families of the innocent victims of those horrific attacks.”[7]

And Barack Obama knows it. Initially the president said the project should go ahead. “in accordance with local laws and ordinances … This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable.” [8] But he had an attack of political commonsense the following day, saying that just because the project was legal did not make it sensible or sensitive.

Endnotes

“ ‘I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there,’ he said. ‘I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding.’ “[9]

This is where the argument is after the ninth anniversary of the inexcusable, unforgiveable crime on September 11 2001and where it should remain. But it would help if everybody would stop seeking to score points and stop calling anybody names who does not agree with them and accept that there are times when principles are so deeply set in a society that nothing is gained by invoking them to make political points or as a means of self-promotion.

Stephen4@hotkey.net.au


[1] http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/bill_of_rights_transcript.html

[2] Fernando Santos, “Near Ground Zero, A Preacher Rails Against Islam” New York Times September 6,

[3] Damien Cave, “In Florida, many lay plans to counter a pastor’s message” New York Times, September 8, recovered on

[4] Andrea Peyser, “Mosque  Madness at Ground Zero,” New York Post May 13

[5] Laurie Goodstein, “American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong”, New York Times, September 6

[6] Thomas Catan, “Mosque planner says opposition goes ‘beyond Islamophobia’ ” , Wall Street Journal, August 23

[7] Sarah Palin, An Intolerable Mistake on Hallowed Ground” Facebook, July 22 http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=411073718434 recovered on September 5

[8] Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President at Itfar dinner,” August 13,  http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/08/13/remarks-president-iftar-dinner recovered on September 5

[9] Karen Tumulty and Michael D. Shear, Obama: Backing Muslims’ right to build NYC mosque is not an endorsement,” Washington Post, August 15

STONE the crows! September is the sectarian silly season in the States!

THE crows were roosting on Liberty Street Manhattan the other Saturday (it was a hell of a tail wind in Sydney), watching the vast construction site at what was the World Trade Centre. It was a beautiful day and New York was going about its business, tourists gawping, merchants trading drivers honking in the traffic. Including one who had the car speakers up loud so everybody could hear the Arabic music he was playing.

And no one gave a damn. Nor should they have. But that nobody noticed as this bloke edged his way up Liberty Street at the September 11 site, where an appalling crime was corruptly committed in the name of Islam, a week before the tenth anniversary says a lot about the pragmatism and tolerance of New York.

The Crows then flapped over a couple of blocks to 45 Park Place, where American Muslims want to include a mosque in the decrepit Burlington Coat factory building, which they want to refurbish as a community centre.

And no one gave a damn there either. For all the outrage and anguish on the internet and the holler roller rhetoric from conservative Christian clergy, Park Place showed no sign of discord.

There were plain posters on the walls of the building advocating freedom of religion, but that was it. And around the building the American melting pot cheerfully bubbled. Down the street the Amish deli was doing business (another faith once considered daft, if not diabolical); next door a bar promoted widescreen presentations of what passes for football in the US. And up around the corner the Immigrant Savings Bank did what American capitalism has always done, provided services to generations migrants, from Irish to Muslims, who come to America to make a quid for their kids.

Certainly there was a copper in the subway station at the top of Park Place, just as police were visible all over Manhattan. Sure, there were armed infantry at the Pennsylvania Station and army engineering vehicles were parked around the bottom end of Manhattan – all understandable in the week before the anniversary of September 11. But there were no signs around Ground Zero that anyone is upset with Muslim Americans who have a plan to build a mosque mere metres from the WTC site.

But they should be. Not because there is anything wrong with a mosque being built in Park Place – and anybody who argues there is should consider the Constitution of the United States. The First Amendment begins; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”[1]

With planning approval the owners of the building can do whatever they like with the building. But what should annoy Americans is the way the location of the mosque gives the fringe ranters a chance to bring on a blue by conflating ordinary Muslims with the malevolent maddies responsible for September 11. Like Bill Keller from Florida, who served a stretch for insider trading but now has religion and intends to open a bully pulpit as close to Park Place as he can.[2]

And like Terry Jones, another reverend from there, (what is it about Florida?) who promised to burn a copy of the Koran on September 11 to prove something or other. He is reported as preaching that, “what we’re doing has no middle of the road. You have to believe it is totally, totally God or absolutely of the devil.” [3] (What a surprise! He suspended his puerile plan after generating saturation media coverage for his minor ministry.)

And even like columnist Andrea Peyser:

A mosque rises over Ground Zero. And fed-up New Yorkers are crying, “No!” A chorus of critics – from neighbors to those who lost loved ones on 9/11 to me – feel as if they’ve received a swift kick in the teeth. Plans are under way for a Muslim house of worship, topped by a 13-story cultural center with a swimming pool, in a building damaged by the fuselage of a jet flown by extremists into the World Trade Center. The opening date shall live in infamy: Sept. 11, 2011. The 10th anniversary of the day a hole was punched in the city’s heart. [4]

It’s a realistic, if not rational, argument for establishing the mosque somewhere else and it goes to the heart of the issue – just as Americans of other faith and no religions must honour Islam and respect its follower’s beliefs there is no sense in Muslims unnecessarily asserting rights and seeing every slight as the start of a stoush.

Immigrants, everywhere, assume they are treated the worst, until the second generation settles in and the next wave, from another country, arrives. And they always think anywhere else is better than where they are. Thus Imam Abdullah T Antepli, Muslim chaplain at Duke University was quoted in the New York Times “People are discussing what is the alternative if we don’t belong here,” he said. “There are jokes: when are we moving to Canada, when are we moving to Sydney?”[5]

In this case one sure way to bring on a blue is to build a mosque in Park Place, and attitudes like the site’s supporters don’t help. “We are deeply concerned, because this is like a metastasised anti-Semitism,” said Daisy Khan, who is spearheading the project with her husband, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. “It’s beyond Islamophobia. It’s hate of Muslims.”[6]

Religious bigots aside, no it’s not. As far as the Crows can see it is hate of mass murderers from the Middle Ages who slaughtered 3000 people of all religions and none nine years ago last weekend. That people are upset about the proposed mosque may not be entirely rational but there is no reason to upset them more.

Sarah Palin’s populism was not burdened by rationality, but she went right to the heart of the emotional argument in opposing the project. “No one is disputing that America stands for – and should stand for – religious tolerance. It is a foundation of our republic. This is not an issue of religious tolerance but of common moral sense. To build a mosque at Ground Zero is a stab in the heart of the families of the innocent victims of those horrific attacks.”[7]

And Barack Obama knows it. Initially the president said the project should go ahead. “in accordance with local laws and ordinances … This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable.” [8] But he had an attack of political commonsense the following day, saying that just because the project was legal did not make it sensible or sensitive.

Endnotes

“ ‘I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there,’ he said. ‘I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding.’ “[9]

This is where the argument is after the ninth anniversary of the inexcusable, unforgiveable crime on September 11 2001and where it should remain. But it would help if everybody would stop seeking to score points and stop calling anybody names who does not agree with them and accept that there are times when principles are so deeply set in a society that nothing is gained by invoking them to make political points or as a means of self-promotion.

Stephen4@hotkey.net.au


[2] Fernando Santos, “Near Ground Zero, A Preacher Rails Against Islam” New York Times September 6,

[3] Damien Cave, “In Florida, many lay plans to counter a pastor’s message” New York Times, September 8, recovered on

[4] Andrea Peyser, “Mosque Madness at Ground Zero,” New York Post May 13

[5] Laurie Goodstein, “American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong”, New York Times, September 6

[6] Thomas Catan, “Mosque planner says opposition goes ‘beyond Islamophobia’ ” , Wall Street Journal, August 23

[7] Sarah Palin, An Intolerable Mistake on Hallowed Ground” Facebook, July 22 http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=411073718434 recovered on September 5

[8] Barack Obama, “Remarks by the President at Itfar dinner,” August 13, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2010/08/13/remarks-president-iftar-dinner recovered on September 5

[9] Karen Tumulty and Michael D. Shear, Obama: Backing Muslims’ right to build NYC mosque is not an endorsement,” Washington Post, August 15

'2012