Sacrilege at Ground Zero

Date: 18 Aug 2010

Comment ////////// Sacrilege at Ground Zero /////////// By Charles Krauthammer Friday, August 13, 2010; A19 /////////////// A place is made sacred by a widespread belief that it was visited by the miraculous or the transcendent (Lourdes, the Temple Mount), by the presence there once of great nobility and sacrifice (Gettysburg), or by the blood of martyrs and the indescribable suffering of the innocent (Auschwitz).//////////// When we speak of Ground Zero as hallowed ground, what we mean is that it belongs to those who suffered and died there -- and that such ownership obliges us, the living, to preserve the dignity and memory of the place, never allowing it to be forgotten, trivialized or misappropriated. /////////////// That's why Disney's 1993 proposal to build an American history theme park near Manassas Battlefield was defeated by a broad coalition that feared vulgarization of the Civil War (and that was wiser than me; at the time I obtusely saw little harm in the venture). It's why the commercial viewing tower built right on the border of Gettysburg was taken down by the Park Service. It's why, while no one objects to Japanese cultural centers, the idea of putting one up at Pearl Harbor would be offensive. ///////////// And why Pope John Paul II ordered the Carmelite nuns to leave the convent they had established at Auschwitz. He was in no way devaluing their heartfelt mission to pray for the souls of the dead. He was teaching them a lesson in respect: This is not your place; it belongs to others. However pure your voice, better to let silence reign. ////////////// Even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who denounced opponents of the proposed 15-story mosque and Islamic center near Ground Zero as tramplers on religious freedom, asked the mosque organizers "to show some special sensitivity to the situation." Yet, as columnist Rich Lowry pointedly noted, the government has no business telling churches how to conduct their business, shape their message or show "special sensitivity" to anyone about anything. Bloomberg was thereby inadvertently conceding the claim of those he excoriates for opposing the mosque, namely that Ground Zero is indeed unlike any other place and therefore unique criteria govern what can be done there. //////////// Bloomberg's implication is clear: If the proposed mosque were controlled by "insensitive" Islamist radicals either excusing or celebrating 9/11, he would not support its construction. ///////////// But then, why not? By the mayor's own expansive view of religious freedom, by what right do we dictate the message of any mosque? Moreover, as a practical matter, there's no guarantee that this couldn't happen in the future. Religious institutions in this country are autonomous. Who is to say that the mosque won't one day hire an Anwar al-Aulaqi --spiritual mentor to the Fort Hood shooter and the Christmas Day bomber, and onetime imam at the Virginia mosque attended by two of the 9/11 terrorists?/////////// An Aulaqi preaching in Virginia is a security problem. An Aulaqi preaching at Ground Zero is a sacrilege. Or would the mayor then step in -- violating the same First Amendment he grandiosely pretends to protect from mosque opponents -- and exercise a veto over the mosque's clergy? //////////// Location matters. Especially this location. Ground Zero is the site of the greatest mass murder in American history -- perpetrated by Muslims of a particular Islamist orthodoxy in whose cause they died and in whose name they killed. //////////// Of course that strain represents only a minority of Muslims. Islam is no more intrinsically Islamist than present-day Germany is Nazi -- yet despite contemporary Germany's innocence, no German of goodwill would even think of proposing a German cultural center at, say, Treblinka. //////////// Which makes you wonder about the goodwill behind Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's proposal. This is a man who has called U.S. policy "an accessory to the crime" of 9/11 and, when recently asked whether Hamas is a terrorist organization, replied, "I'm not a politician. . . . The issue of terrorism is a very complex question." //////////// America is a free country where you can build whatever you want -- but not anywhere. That's why we have zoning laws. No liquor store near a school, no strip malls where they offend local sensibilities, and, if your house doesn't meet community architectural codes, you cannot build at all.//////////// These restrictions are for reasons of aesthetics. Others are for more profound reasons of common decency and respect for the sacred. No commercial tower over Gettysburg, no convent at Auschwitz -- and no mosque at Ground Zero. ///////////// Build it anywhere but there. //////////// The governor of New York offered to help find land to build the mosque elsewhere. A mosque really seeking to build bridges, Rauf's ostensible hope for the structure, would accept the offer. /////////// By DOROTHY RABINOWITZ //////////// Americans may have lacked for much in the course of their history, but never instruction in social values. The question today is whether Americans of any era have ever confronted the bombardment of hectoring and sermonizing now directed at those whose views are deemed insufficiently enlightened—an offense regularly followed by accusations that the offenders have violated the most sacred principles of our democracy. /////////// Deputy Editorial Page Editor Bret Stephens and Editorial Board member Matthew Kaminski on the plan for a 'Mosque at Ground Zero,' and Senior Editorial Writer Joseph Rago reports on the Missouri results./////////// It doesn't take a lot to become the target of such a charge. There is no mistaking the beliefs on display in these accusations, most recently in regard to the mosque about to be erected 600 feet from Ground Zero. Which is that without the civilizing dictates of their superiors in government, ordinary Americans are lost to reason and decency. They are the kind of people who—as a recent presidential candidate put it—cling to their guns and their religion. ////////// There is no better exemplar of that faith than New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, though in this he is hardly alone. Compared with the Obama White House, Mr. Bloomberg is a piker in the preachments and zealotry department. Still, no voice brings home more unforgettably the attitudes that speak for today's enlightened and progressive class. /////////////// Immediately after the suspect in the attempted car bombing near Times Square was revealed to be Faisal Shahzad, of Pakistani origin, Mayor Bloomberg addressed the public. In admonishing tones—a Bloomberg trademark invariably suggestive of a school principal who knows exactly what to expect of the incorrigibles it is his unhappy fate to oversee—the mayor delivered a warning. There would be no toleration of "any bias or backlash against Pakistani or Muslim New Yorkers." //////////// That there has been a conspicuous lack of any such behavior on the part of New Yorkers or Americans elsewhere from the 9/11 attacks to the present seems not to have impressed Mr. Bloomberg. Nor has it caused any moderation in the unvarying note of indignation the mayor brings to these warnings. It's reasonable to raise a proper caution. It's quite something else to do it as though addressing a suspect rabble. //////////// It's hard to know the sort of rabble the mayor had in mind when he told a television interviewer, prior to Shahzad's identification, that it "could be anything," someone mentally disturbed, or "somebody with a political agenda who doesn't like the health-care bill." Nowhere in the range of colorful possibilities the mayor raised was there any mention of the most likely explanation—another terrorist attempt by a soldier of radical Islam, the one that occurred to virtually every American who had heard the reports. /////////// The citizens were, of course, right. Those leaders bent on dissuading them from their grasp of the probable cause of this near disaster were left with their red herrings hanging—but remembered. Mr. Bloomberg's "someone who doesn't like the health-care bill" would be inscribed in the golden book of howlers these events have yielded, along with Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano's brisk assurance there was no evidence this was anything but "a one-off." /////////// View Full Image Getty Images //////////// When a car bomb was discovered in Times Square in May, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggested every possible motivation but the obvious and correct one: Islamist terror. //////////// The notion that it is for the greater good that the people be led to suspect virtually any cause but the one they had the most reason to fear reflects a contempt for the citizenry that's of longstanding, but never so blatant as today. It is in the interest of higher values, Americans understand—higher, that is, than theirs—that they are now expected to accept official efforts to becloud reality. /////////// Such values were the rationale for the official will to ignore the highly suspicious behavior of Maj. Nidal Hasan, who went on to murder 13 Americans at Fort Hood. A silence maintained despite all his commanders and colleagues knew about his raging hostility to the U.S. military and his strident advocacy on behalf of political Islam. //////////// Those who knew—and they were many—chose silence out of fear of seeming insensitive to a Muslim. As one who had said nothing in the interest of this higher good later explained, Maj. Hasan was, after all, one of the few top-ranking Muslim officers the army had. /////////// In the plan for an Islamic center and mosque some 15 stories high to be built near Ground Zero, the full force of politically correct piety is on display along with the usual unyielding assault on all dissenters. The project has aroused intense opposition from New Yorkers and Americans across the country. It has also elicited remarkable streams of oratory from New York's political leaders, including Attorney General Andrew Cuomo. ///////////// "What are we all about if not religious freedom?" a fiery Mr. Cuomo asked early in this drama. Mr. Cuomo, running for governor, has since had less to say. /////////// The same cannot be said for Mr. Bloomberg, who has gone on to deliver regular meditations on the need to support the mosque, and on the iniquity of its opponents. In the course of a speech at Dartmouth on July 16 he raised the matter unasked, and held forth on his contempt for those who opposed the project and even wanted to investigate the funding: "I just think it's the most outrageous thing anybody could suggest." Ground Zero is a "very appropriate place'' for a mosque, the mayor announced, because it "tells the world" that in America, we have freedom of religion for everybody.//////////Here was an idea we have been hearing more and more of lately—the need to show the world America's devotion to democracy and justice, also cited by the administration as a reason to try Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City. Who is it, we can only wonder, that requires these proofs? What occasions these regular brayings on the need to show the world the United States is a free nation? /////////////// It's unlikely that the preachments now directed at opponents of the project by Mayor Bloomberg and others will persuade that opposition. Those fighting the building recognize full well the deliberate obtuseness of Mr. Bloomberg's exhortations, and those of Mr. Cuomo and others: the resort to pious battle cries, the claim that antagonists of the plan stand against religious freedom. They note, especially, the refusal to confront the obvious question posed by this proposed center towering over the ruins of 9/11. /////////// It is a question most ordinary Americans, as usual, have no trouble defining. Namely, how is it that the planners, who have presented this effort as a grand design for the advancement of healing and interfaith understanding, have refused all consideration of the impact such a center will have near Ground Zero? Why have they insisted, despite intense resistance, on making the center an assertive presence in this place of haunted memory? It is an insistence that calls to mind the Flying Imams, whose ostentatious prayers—apparently designed to call attention to themselves on a U.S. Airways flight to Phoenix in November 2006—ended in a lawsuit. The imams sued. The airlines paid. /////////////// Dr. Zuhdi Jasser—devout Muslim, physician, former U.S. Navy lieutenant commander and founder of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy—says there is every reason to investigate the center's funding under the circumstances. Of the mosque so near the site of the 9/11 attacks, he notes "It will certainly be seen as a victory for political Islam." //////////// The center may be built where planned. But it will not go easy or without consequence to the politicians intent on jamming the project down the public throat, in the name of principle. Liberal piety may have met its match in the raw memory of 9/11, and in citizens who have come to know pure demagoguery when they hear it. They have had, of late, plenty of practice. ///////// 000000000