Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's Hard to be Even-Handed

Always-welcome reader and commenter Conservative Apikoros was skeptical regarding the part in my Park51 post where I said that "There are fair arguments and fair-minded people on both sides."

CA wanted to know exactly what "fair argument" I thought the opponents had.

What I was trying to articulate with that line was that I think the fear and moral outrage that opponents have over the site (specifically as to the motives of the people involved and what the site will wind up being used for and viewed as representing) are real. Not that they're logical, or necessarily fair, but that the opponents are primarily motivated by that fear/outrage, not specially xenophobia. I don't think that all the people against Park51 are anti-Muslim per se as much as they are worked up over the idea of what the media has sold the site as being. In other words, I think they're misquided, not necessarily bigoted (though some appear to be).

Leave it to the lug-nuts to open their mouths and spoil my attempt to be fair.

William Federer uses everyone's favorite lazy teaching trick, the timeline, to cherry-pick examples from Islamic history to support his argument that Park51 is "a sign of conquest." A few highlights:
In 630, Muhammad led 10,000 Muslim soldiers into Mecca and turned the pagans' most prominent spot, the Ka'aba, into the Masjid al-Haram Mosque.
In 634, Rightly Guided Caliph Umar conquered Syria and turned the Christians' most prominent spot, the Church of Job, famous for being visited by Saint Silva in the fourth century, into the Mosque of Job.
In 637, Caliph Umar conquered Hebron and turned the second-most prominent spot in Judaism, the Cave of the Patriarchs, into the Ibrahimi Mosque. (This was repeated by Saladin in 1188.)
In 638, Muslim generals Amr ibn al-As and Khalid ibn al-Walid conquered Gaza and turned the prominent fifth-century Byzantine church into the Great Mosque of Gaza.
In 638, Caliph Umar conquered Jerusalem. In 691, Caliph Al-Malik ordered the Dome of the Rock built on the most prominent spot in Judaism, the Temple Mount, followed by Caliph Al-Walid building the Al-Aqsa Mosque there in 705.
In 651, Muslims conquered Persia and turned Zoroastrian temples in Bukhara and Istakhr into mosques.
...From 1519-1858, Muslim Mughal rulers gained control of India and turned over 2,000 Hindu temples into mosques, including demolishing the Temple of Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya, the birthplace of Rama, and replacing it with the Babri Mosque.
Wow, if Federer's column was your only resource, you'd think Muslims never built a single mosque from scratch! Incidentally, I see one problem with his "argument," such as it is: Ground Zero is not a church. It is not a shrine. Neither, incidentally, is the building Imam Rauf wants to build on. Even the fluffy "holy ground" idea comes up short when the rubber hits the road. The meaning of that day and the attack is located in the neighborhood, the city, and the nation's collective memory, it is not an essence housed within every building within a 10-block radius. If you follow Federer's implication to its logical conclusion, you'd have to declare downtown Manhattan a permanent mausoleum to 9/11 and prevent any construction, new buildings, etc. Either the neighborhood is a monument, or it's not? Oh no, it's not? Well then.

By the way, this is not a "point":
On Sept. 11, 2001, Muslim terrorists attacked the most prominent spot in America, the World Trade Center. In less than 10 years, the number of mosques in New York City has skyrocketed to over 140.
My god! And the number of churches has reached almost 6000. And synagogues, 1000. And 2400 Chinese restaurants. Those tricky MSG-peddling bastards!

You know, Will, an increase in mosques probably has more to do with an increase in Muslim population as opposed to a dastardly plot to infiltrate the city and turn all its famous buildings into mosques to show how awesome Islam is. Just saying.

Next Joseph Farah uses his Jedi mind tricks to tell us what the mosque "really represents": an erasure of authentic 9/11 history. You see, to Farah, there is deep significance in the fact that the Park51 site, the much ridiculed "holy ground" Burlington Coat Factory, was damaged on 9/11.
The World Trade Center towers were toppled. But the Burlington Coat Factory, while shuttered, remains standing. It should either be repaired and declared a historic landmark or be replaced by something other than a mosque.
The unacceptable symbolism of replacing the Burlington Coat Factory with a mosque is even more compelling than the idea of building a mosque at the former site of the World Trade Center.
In effect, by tearing down this building to make way for a mosque constructed with foreign Islamic money and leadership linked to Islamic extremism, Americans would be consenting to the completion of the audacious and insidious attack of Sept. 11, 2001.
I must give credit to a friend and colleague of mine, the best radio producer in America, Franklin Raff of the "G. Gordon Liddy Show," for noticing this oversight even among those dead-set against the idea of the Ground Zero mosque.
The World Trade Center is gone. The Burlington Coat Factory is still standing.
Wouldn't Islamists around the world love to see the devastating attack of 9/11 result in even more destruction a decade later with the bulldozing of a landmark building only damaged on that date and replaced with a trophy mosque?
I'm sure BCF will be happy to know you've decided they're an iconic symbol of American patriotism, Joe, but the rest of us are confused. Incidentally, I'm surprised that you say this "landmark building" should be preserved on the one hand, and then say you'd be fine with replacing it as long as it's not with an Islamic center. What would be ok to put there? Another gentlemen's club? wasn't the proximity of the Burlington Coat Factory building to the World Trade Center that made it appealing, it was the fact that it was actually damaged in the attack that made it the ideal site for a mosque.
Robert opponent of the mosque, agrees that's why the site was chosen.
"The idea here that will be widely understood is that this mosque is another triumphal mosque, another victory mosque [like] the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque on the site of the Temple Mount and the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus," Spencer told WND.
"The reason for the interest in this property in particular is its iconic status in relation to the 9/11 attacks. This is something Imam Rauf has said himself. It's not something I'm attributing to him," Spencer explained. "In his own words he said, 'New York is the capital of the world and this location close to 9/11 is iconic.' He was happy that his mosque would be at the site of the building [where] the wreckage fell on 9/11."
Rauf calls it "iconic."
I call it "completing the attack."
OK... given the fact that the Imam comes from an interfaith dialogue background, isn't it just as likely that when he said "iconic," he meant iconic because putting a cultural peace center at the site of a terror attack would be a powerful message and a way of combating the ideology that led to 9/11 in the first place? I mean, sure, it's possible it's going to be used as a terrorist training center or Hezbollah public access hook-up or something, but if you were going to have one of those in NY, isn't this a pretty terrible spot to do it? Don't you think terrorist masterminds are slightly more intelligent than that? Building a  monument on the site of an attack does not mean you are celebrating that incident. If someone builds a peace center on Rwandan killing fields, does that mean they're celebrating the genocide?

Last, there's Dennis. Poor, brain-numbing Dennis. He claims the right is being pilloried and persecuted by the left for their opposition to Park51. He says this is because a fundamental characteristic of the left is demonizing your opponent.
I have not come across a mainstream leftist description of opponents of the mosque/Islamic center being built near Ground Zero that has not ascribed hate-filled, intolerant, bigoted, "Islamophobic" or xenophobic motives to those who oppose the mosque. Contrast this with how mainstream opponents of the mosque describe the proponents of the mosque and you will see an immense divide between right and left in the way they talk about each other.
Seems fair, ok, let's do it! A nice easy compare and contrast, should be no trouble.

... Wait a minute... where are the quotes from the "mainstram opponents?" All I see here is...

Goddammit, Dennis.

Yes, dear ol' Dennis regales us with lots of lefty firebrand quotes, but fails to provide us with any examples from the "mainstream" right he holds up as so much more superior. Presumably this is because by now his readers have been well-trained to just trust him and not ask questions or look for evidence.
Why does the left attribute only nefarious motives to those who believe that the Islamic center does not belong near ground zero?
Because leftism holds these beliefs:
  1. Those who hold leftist positions are, by definition, better people than their opponents. 
  2. Those who hold leftist positions have, by definition, pure motives; therefore, the motives of their opponents must be impure.
I conclude with this: I believe that a wiser man than the present imam would have decided to avoid precisely what he has inspired – intense division in America – and would have immediately retracted his decision to erect an Islamic center and mosque right by the slaughterhouse of 9/11, which happened to have been caused by his co-religionists.
But I also believe that there are good arguments and good people on both sides of this issue.
I can say that, however, for one reason.
I am not on the left.
Yeah, sorry, I'm having trouble hearing you over the calls of "traitors" and "terrorists". Can you speak up? Or, you know, pay attention to the news?

That's right, Dennis is SO moral and fair-minded that he can spend a whole column bashing the left for bashing the right and then claim the high road as a non-basher. And if you understood that, your brain has probably blown up already.

You know, guys, it's challenging enough to try to see multiple perspectives on this one, I really don't need you all running around crying about how grievously your feelings have been hurt or trying to uncover the "hidden symbolism" of holy clothing stores.

Let's make a deal: I won't try to understand your point of view again, and you'll never speak or write in public again.

And... go.

1 comment:

CA said...

Not that they're logical, or necessarily fair, but that the opponents are primarily motivated by that fear/outrage, not specially xenophobia.

The problem is that Americans who are receptive to this sort of fear and outrage are, in my experience, a bit xenophobic. (There are more Americans like that than most of us care to admit.)

I came of age between 1965-1970, which was pretty much the peak of the urban crime spree. For some reason, my parents would let me ride public transportation from our suburban home to downtown, mostly so I could buy stamps for my stamp collection. My friends were astounded, they reacted much the same way I might react if my daughter were to tell me she wanted to spend Junior Year Abroad in Kabul. "Our parents would never let us go downtown! You'll get mugged!" It was bunk. Yeah, downtown hadn't been revitalized like it is today, and it was a little rough around the edges, but as a geeky little preadolescent stamp collector, I never had any problems riding the subway. What people were really afraid of was that downtown was full of black people, and they had bought into the idea that "black person=mugger." Their fear might have been genuine, but it was not based on reality. It was very frustrating talking to such people, becuase it was almost like they didn't want to give up that fear.

I will admit that I have irrational fears. For example, I can barely force myself to board an airplane, even though rationally I know it's a very safe way to travel. (Of course, with the nasty experiences you get in the security lines, thanks to the 9/11 paranoia, and the total collapse of customer service standards on the part of the airlines, my reluctance to travel by air is otherwise very rational.)
But I don't use my very real fear of flying and outrage at TSA and the damned money-grubbing airlines as an excuse to advocate the dismantling of commercial aviation.