You’ve probably heard by now about the Cordoba House, the recently approved Muslim center that will be built a couple blocks from the World Trade Center. Predictably, the ugliest elements of the TeaPartiers/Republicans/Conservatives/ Wingnuts (it’s nearly all the same thing, really) have come out of the woodwork to oppose building at this site. Their professed reason? Well, it’s too close to the “Sacred Ground” of the WTC. They say this would cause unnecessary pain for the survivors of the victims of 9/11. Even the ADL has come out against it for this reason. (Thankfully, this caused Fareed Zakaria returned a big prize the ADL had previously awarded him).
Even if we take this objection on the grounds of sensitivity at face value, it doesn’t really hold up. How big would this mosque-free zone around the WTC have to be? 3 blocks? 6? 1 mile? 3 miles? It’s preposterous on its face. Either people in the United States have the freedom of religion, or they don’t. Either people in the US can use their privately owned property to establish a site of worship, or they can’t. NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg had a nice and stirring defense of this very issue.
But I’ve abstained from writing this post up until now because, frankly, this is all just too damn obvious to me. But what I want to write about is my creeping suspicion that the proximity to Ground Zero is just a shield, a rationale that (many, but not all) opponents can cite to hide something much more sinister. To use a good control to test this hypothesis (yes, I am a scientist after all), all we have to do is look at what is happening at proposed mosques at sites that are not near the World Trade Center. And look what we find. Today’s NYT reports on how from California to Tennessee to Wisconsin, proposed sites for mosques all over the country are being met with opposition from some quarters. That these sites are on “far less hallowed locations” strips the haters of their convenient excuse over Ground Zero. The truth is that these people hate, fear, and are profoundly ignorant of Islam.
The article ends by quoting Dr. Mansoor Mirza, a physician who owns property that he is converting into a prayer space:
“Every new group coming to this country — Jews, Catholics, Irish, Germans, Japanese — has gone through this,” Dr. Mirza said. “Now I think it’s our turn to pay the price, and eventually we will be coming out of this, too.”
He’s right about the first part, of course. But I wish I had his patience and optimism on the second part.