Saturday, August 14, 2010

Build It But ...

Is it possible to agree with two people on opposite sides of an issue?

President Obama has finally weighed in on the proposed Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero, saying religious freedom "includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable."

How true. It is simply un-American -- even unconstitutional -- to say to a group of people, "We're not going to allow you to build your place of worship because we don't like your religion." If there's criminal activity in that mosque, then it should be investigated and prosecuted, if warranted, but denial of a building permit based on religious faith would be an abomination.

To my conservative friends, how you would like it if national efforts were made to block construction of an Evangelical church around the corner from a clinic where a Christian zealot had murdered an abortion doctor? Hey, if you like religious discrimination in the case of the NYC mosque, it could be your religion slated for persecution somewhere else.

On the other hand, we have Rep. Peter King, who said "President Obama is wrong. It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero."

King is correct that it's in poor taste for these Muslims to build the mosque so close to a place where Muslims murdered thousands of Americans. As to whether it's deliberately provocative, as a 9/11 victims organization has charged, I cannot say.

My solution is similar to one recently put forth by Gov. David Paterson, who wants to give the Islamic group some state-owned land elsewhere in the city. Come on, governor, you can't just give the group a government-owned lot (that might also be unconstitutional). But you could propose an arms-length deal that would still be too sweet to resist.

As Jeff Jarvis tweeted recently (and I am paraphrasing), "I believe construction of the mosque should be permitted but am also mindful that the 9/11 plot was hatched inside of one."


  1. Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the current building on the site already a mosque? And the organization simply wants to expand/renovate it to make it more of a community center? What's the problem? I understand the proximity issue, and I agree with Rep. King, but some people need to take a Xanax.

  2. I think that building the mosque where it is was meant to provoke a response, however, I don't think the response that these people got was the one they wanted, but probably expected. I think they wanted to provoke a dialogue between Muslims and "infidels" (using it for a lack of a better term). I think the one thing that makes people who are on the side of not wanting one there is the date they chose to officially open the mosque (9/11/2011).

  3. Good start on your new blog, Terry. I already had the site on my "Favorites" list. Pretty good points (very sketchy on trying to compare 9/11 with a VERY RARE attack on a poor babykiller). Also, churches are refused building permits all the time across the country. There's something very fishy about what is going on in New York. Very fishy. I hope there is a journalist alive who will actually do an in-depth investigation of the forces behind this request because it is plainly "in your face" from these muslims. Plainly.

  4. Amy,
    Nope, it's not currently a mosque. It's a fairly undistinguished office or apartment building, which is why mosque opponents were unable to get it designated as historic. The mosque builders want to demo it. So off we go ...

  5. it's a tad insensitive to place it there. I have not read a whole lot about the issue. Why was that spot chosen to begin with? Is there a shortage of vacant buildings in manhattan suitable for a mosk/community center and that's the only one they could find in their price range?

    a little common sense would go a long way here.

    I fear if they ultimately utilize that spot, they will be subject to endless protests and other hassles from people right out side their doors who oppose it (ironically enough, using their constitutional right to protest the Muslims who are also.. ahem.. using THEIR constitutional right.)

    And that in turn will use up valuable police and security resources that could be doing something more important if they chose another location to being with.

  6. Fred, I don't know precisely why they chose that spot. Re: your comment about protests, I suspect the mosque builders will also have trouble finding contractors willing to buck the tide. They will need demo, general, plumbing, electrical contractors. Who will want to step up and work for the mosque under the possible threat of a boycott?

  7. First of all Terry, I think the date when the mosque is be open, 10 years to the day after 9/11, should be an indicator to even the most naive that this site was chosen as an Islamic trophy.

    Zoning laws prohibit building certain types of structures near certain areas. For example, building bars near schools or churches is prohibited in some cities, counties, and/or states. Certainly a law could be written (and like the Democrats did with the tax code) make it retroactive.

    As to the state prohibiting religion (or the free exercise of people's rights) for the sake of "the peace", there are many instances where kids were sent home carrying Bibles or wearing the American flag.

    I see the building of the mosque near 9/11 to along those same lines. The state or city should offer the Muslim community another site but not free.

  8. Dennis and Richie, welcome.
    I am aware that places of worship are denied permits on planning and zoning grounds all the time. I am assuming the mosque passes muster on those accounts. If it does not, then the organizers should be denied a permit. But to treat them differently on religious grounds would be unfair and probably unconstitutional.

  9. I tend to agree with the fact that as much as it is in poor taste, government should not be in the business of saying where religious buildings can be built (although it is now in the business of so many things - such as wiretapping Americans - that it shouldn't be that my objection may seem quaint).

    In a different world, the planners would realize this and build elsewhere but unfortunately no one really cares anymore about other people's opinions as everyone lives in their own echo chamber thanks to the internet and cable news/radio.

    The thing that I do object to, however, is all of these politicians from outside the area who are opining on this and turning it into a national issue when the decision should be left to people from the states most affected. If Sarah Palin wants to prevent a mosque from being built in Anchorage, fine, but no one from Alaska died in the WTC so I think she should keep her tweets to herself.

  10. I know this might be hard for New Yorkers to believe or even understand but Ground Zero is a NATIONAL place, not just a New York site. This is the location of the most horrible foreign attack on our soil EVER. So if we, across the country, are outraged by the in-your-face strawberry raz from muslims, we have that RIGHT.

    There are at least 23 mosques in New York City so noone who I hear objecting to this mosque is objecting on the grounds of stifling of religious freedom -- they are objecting to the desecration of this ground with an active symbol of an ideology behind 3,000 INNOCENT United States citizens being brutally murdered.

  11. I agree Dennis, and I, too, understand why people are objecting. But if you want to stop the mosque, you must have some legal grounds. Denial of a building permit in America can't be based on hurt feelings or outrage.
    It has to be grounded in the law (e.g. zoning regulations or historic designation). As far as I can tell, neither of those apply here.
    Matt, don't get me started on Palin ...

  12. You know, everyone is so worked up about the mosque,, yes its in poor taste to open it on the same date as the attack, yes, it's insensitive, yes, yes, yes...BUT I feel it's MORE of an outrage that all we have in that site now god dam construction site. Now thats an outrage. It should have been a New York, United States priority to get a true memorial up, and to rebuild those buildings quickly, but no, infighting, lawsuits, petty bullsh#$, have led to this, its still an open wound in America. Now that being said, if it's still the home of the free and the brave..we should be free enough and brave enough, that if, someone follows all the correct laws, and they want to build, they should be able to build. Instead of worrying about the mosque, lets get the freakin' site that was attacked rebuilt with a memorial......before the mosque.

  13. Now THIS is the American them off...even a pile of money will change the developers and Mosques minds...

  14. Marshall, that's essentially what I proposed in the original post. Make them an offer they can't refuse.

  15. Charles Krauthammer pretty much nailed it for me when he compared this to building a Japanese cultural center at Pearl Harbor.

    Having the right to do something is one thing. Doing the right thing is another.

  16. He's baaaaackkkk! Who knew? And with the same old misbegotten "mushy middle" arguments!

    To wit: Calling the location of the proposed Islamic Cultural Center "insenstive" or "in poor taste" or "provocative" yada yada yada, even if you don't oppose its construction on legal or constitutional grounds, is still engaging in stereotyping and bigotry -- it's tarnishing all Muslims with the same paintbrush. As I recently wrote on my Facebook page:

    When people talk about sensitivity, respect, and compassion, the question has to be asked: for whom? What about respect for the people who wish to build the center? What about compassion for the Mulsims (not the terrorists) who died in 9/11? What about sensitivity to the fact that these people are, just like you and me, Americans? How must it feel to be lumped with terrorists just because you practice the same religion? Do Muslims in America owe anything to us? Do they have to walk around shamefully, avert their eyes, and tread lightly on everyone's sensitive toes? Are they forbidden from approaching ground zero? Where does the zone of sensitivity begin and end? Who decides that? Are the offices and commercial buildings of all kinds proposed for directly on ground zero insensitive too? Why not?

    So you see, Terry, calling on the leaders of the project to just move to another location for "sensitivity" is no better than saying they shouldn't build it at all. The true and courageous stance here would be to support the construction of the project EXACTLY where it is planned for (which, unless I'm mistaken, was an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory).


    Your archnemesis (mwaah hah hah haa....).

  17. Sorry, Fred. I cannot match your courage and truthfulness.

    My understanding is that you think 9/11 was an inside job, so any call for Muslim sensitivity would be a non-starter.

    Just as I think the racial hustler Glenn Beck's repulsive rally on the DC Mall on the anniversary of MLK's I Have A Dream speech is tasteless and insensitive, so too do I think the same of the Lower Manhattan cultural center being put so close to the spot where terrorists slaughtered 3,000 Americans in the name of Islam.

    I think it would be similarly distasteful to build a US consulate near the spot where US soldiers or contractors have killed civilians in Iraq, notwithstanding our legal right to build it.

    But because we disagree, you have basically accused me of engaging in bigotry, so there the discussion ends.