Dana Chivvis at Politics Daily:
A government group representing lower Manhattan voted last night in favor of plans to build a controversial mosque two blocks from the World Trade Center site. After four hours of discussions between opponents and supporters of the proposed Muslim community center, called Cordoba House, the community board voted 29-to-1 in favor of the plans.
The vote is not binding in any way, but is seen as a gauge of public opinion. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, State Senator Daniel Squadron and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn support the plans for the 13-story building, which would include a swimming pool, auditorium , exhibition space and as an area for worship.
Still, many others nationwide have voiced their opposition to the plans, saying the mosque will be an ugly reminder of the extremist ideology behind the terror attacks. Julie Menin, the community board chairwoman, told The New York Times she had received hundreds of calls and emails about the plans, most of which were from outside New York.
Paul Mirengoff at Powerline:
My conservative cousin from New York writes:
Plans to build Cordoba House, a 15-story Islamic Center two blocks north of Ground Zero, received a major boost yesterday when a Manhattan community board backed the proposal by a 29-to-1 vote. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf said the center would help “bridge and heal a divide” among Muslims and other religious groups.
Perhaps the Imam is sincere but I find the whole project an outrage. The name Cordoba House at best conveys a total insensitivity to the families of victims of the attack at worse it shows sympathy with the terrorist’s goals. Cordoba, was the Capital of Al-Andalus the Islamic Caliphate that ruled much of Spain during the Middle Ages. One of Al-Qaida’s main goals announced after the 9/11 attack was the restoration of the Cordoba Caliphate in Al-Andalus.
The Project is said to cost $100 million and no one seems to know who is paying for all of this. There are hundreds of Mosques in the New York area in a nation dedicated to religious freedom. If the Imam wants to “bridge and heal a divide” among Muslims and other faiths he should look beyond Manhattan. There are no churches or synagogues in Mecca, Riyadh or Kuwait. In Egypt, Iran and other Islamic nations those who don’t adhere to Islam practice their faiths at great risk to themselves and their families. I don’t understand why Mayor Bloomberg and other local officials are supporting this project.
Can anyone explain?
I can’t. But the name of the Center should help increase our understanding of Islam.
Julie Marsh at The Stir:
Let’s make one thing perfectly clear up front: I’m no fan of Islam. Then again, I’m no fan of the Catholic church or fundamentalist Christianity either. I confess that Mormonism befuddles me, and I’m weirded out by Wicca.
But the First Amendment allows all of these religions and more to be practiced freely here in the United States. Meanwhile, the Fifth Amendment covers private property rights, among others.
Conservatives love to cite the Constitution when arguing a point, but in the case of the proposed Cordoba House community center in lower Manhattan, they’ve conveniently forgotten about both of these amendments.
First, I’d like to dispel some misinformation regarding this project. The site is not at ground zero, but a few blocks away — an existing building already owned by the two groups spearheading the project. It’s not set to open on September 11, 2011, but will take three to five years to complete. It’s not just a mosque but an entire community center, including “a performing arts center, swimming pool, culinary school, child care facilities … [and] it would provide 150 full-time jobs, 500 part-time jobs, and an investment of more than $100 million in infrastructure in the city’s financial district.”
The project sponsors voluntarily presented their plans to the Community Board of lower Manhattan on Wednesday, May 5; they did not have to do so. As board member Ro Sheffe noted, “They own the land, and their plans don’t have any zoning changes.” The board members present at the meeting voted unanimously to support the project.
There are some things you just don’t do, no matter how well-intentioned. You may recall in 1993, Pope John Paul II ordered Carmelite nuns to remove themselves from a convent they established on the grounds of Auschwitz, after years of Jewish protest. Even though the Nazis did not massacre Jews there in the name of Christianity, Jews saw the presence of the convent on the most notorious site of the Holocaust as an affront. It was plainly not meant to be, but it was, and one can certainly understand why, given what happened on that site, and the history of anti-Semitism in European Christianity. If reconciliation and peace is what one wants to see between Jews and Christians in the Holocaust’s wake, erecting a site of Christian religious worship on the site where millions of European Jews were gassed and burned is not the way to do it.
Though the numbers of dead in the 9/11 attacks were incomparably smaller than the Holocaust, the inescapable fact is that those killings were carried out by Islamic religious fanatics who believed they were serving Islam through mass murder. Again, it would be very wrong to hold all Muslims responsible for what those monsters did. At the same time, however distorted the religious views of those terrorists may have been, it is deeply offensive to build a giant mosque in what would have been the shadows of the Twin Towers, had they not been brought down explicitly for the greater glory of Allah. I see the desire to erect such a building on that site not as a gesture of interreligious peace and reconciliation — which we need — but rather as an outrageous act of nerve and arrogance
Gabriel Winant at Salon:
Mark Williams, a Tea Party leader and Fox News commentator, wrote on his blog, “The monument would consist of a Mosque for the worship of the terrorists’ monkey-god.” He added, “In the meantime I have a wonderful idea along the same lines as that mosque at Ground Zero thing… a nice, shiny new U.S. Military Base on the smoldering ruins of Mecca. Works for me!”
At WorldNetDaily, the Birther Web publication popular on the conservative fringe, an article, written in classic WND style, begins by acting like a straight report — albeit laced with purple prose about “that fateful day when time stood still.” Then author Chelsea Schilling moves on to ominously noting that building inspectors had trouble investigating construction complaints — almost as if somebody was hiding something. She finishes up by quoting a random selection of racist blog commenters: “Muslims are doing this only to see if they get away with it. It’s the way Islam spreads in every country these days, like a cancer — through incremental totalitarianism,” writes one. Another writes, “This is not different than allowing the Nazis to establish their headquarters and propaganda office in NYC in 1938. How come people could tell right from wrong then and not now?”
Lest you think it’s just anonymous trolls producing this stuff, though, check out Pamela Geller, the head of the group “Stop Islamization of America,” talking to Joy Behar on CNN. According to Geller, instead of a mosque, the site should be host to a monument to the “victims of hundreds of millions of years of jihadi wars, land enslavements, cultural annihilations and mass slaughter.”
You’d think someone who runs a group with “Islam” right in its name might know that the religion is about 1,400 years old — not “hundreds of millions.” I know that all that desert stuff seems super-ancient — “sands of time” and and all that — but honestly. “Hundreds of millions”? That’s way, way older than homo sapiens as a species. (Maybe that explains Williams’ “monkey god” reference?)
Then there’s Andy McCarthy, National Review writer and recent author of a book arguing that liberals are consciously conspiring to betray America to the ravenous Muslim horde. McCarthy recently pointed out on Fox News that there are 2,300 mosques in America, but no churches or synagogues in Muslim holy cities Mecca and Medina.
First of all, I think this fairly puts to rest any notion that the more militant strain of anti-Islamist hawkishness is anything other than full-scale, civilizational hatred. After this eruption, it’s going to be a stretch to take seriously claims that the interest of the right-wing base in armed conflict in the Middle East is about anything but an active desire for full-on race war. (I’ve taken some heat in the past for using this term, but I stand by it. The occurrence of the phrase “monkey god,” I think, makes my point rather neatly.) Moreover, it’s penetrated quite far into the mainstream of the right, with the flowering of a sub-literature that treats migration patterns and labor markets in Europe like they’re the secret plan for the conquest of Christendom.
In recent years, liberals have become fond of pointing out that this kind of belligerent overreaction to the terrorist threat is exactly what makes terrorism effective. It plays into the hands of Osama bin Laden to treat Islam like our foe in a global, apocalyptic struggle. That’s exactly how he sees it, and joining him in this fantasy endorses al-Qaida’s ideology.
This is a true and important point, pragmatically. But there’s something even worse going on here. It’s not just that Gellar, McCarthy, Williams and the rest in the War-with-Islam group are inadvertently playing into the hands of Islamic extremists. They are, exactly, their analogue within our own society. The same things that benefit Islamic radicals benefit anti-Islamic militants. Both groups feed off conflict, and prosper when violence erupts. Their only break from accusing Islam of guilt in wars and mass violence seems to come when they call for wars and mass violence against Muslims.
UPDATE: Pamela Geller at Big Government
Joe Klein at Swampland at Time
UPDATE #2: Michelle Malkin
Alex Pareene at Gawker
UPDATE #3: Charles Johnson at LGF on the ad
Jim Newell at Gawker
UPDATE #4: Stephen Schwartz at The Weekly Standard
Scott Johnson at Powerline
UPDATE #5: Michelle Goldberg and Ramesh Ponnuru at Bloggingheads
UPDATE #6: Robert Wright on Schwartz in NYT
Jonathan Chait at TNR