A List of Thoughts:
1. The mosque isn’t just a mosque — it’s a cultural center which contains a prayer room, classrooms, a gym, a pool, a 9/11 memorial, a restaurant, galleries, and an auditorium. So it’s actually more like a YMCA — or, as its name would indicate, a community center — and will be open to all stripes of people. And isn’t at the Ground Zero site. It’s two blocks from the World Trade Center.
2. You know what else is in a two-block radius of Ground Zero (“Ground Zero,” by the way, being a term I loathe)? The same stuff that is on any given two-block radius in New York City. A sex shop. A few bars. Two strip clubs. A bunch of bodegas. Oh and there’s also a mosque already in lower Manhattan. That mosque has been there for a while and the world has not ended. So what’s the cut-off? Two blocks isn’t ok, but three is?
3. “People who were killed on 9/11″ and “Muslims” are not mutually exclusive groups. Yes, Muslims worked in the towers, and for the fire department, and for the police, and for emergency services. Yes, Muslims lived and worked (and still live and work) in lower Manhattan. “Muslims vs. People Impacted by 9/11″ doesn’t really work when those two categories overlap.
4. When “one America” has embraced immigrants and pluralism, welcomed the poor and in-need, and celebrated religious liberty, and the “other America” has tried to keep immigrants out, passed all sorts of xenophobic and bigoted laws that we mostly now look back on in shame, interned people, persecuted religious minorities and basically stuck their foot out to trip up progress every single time, no, we really don’t have much to learn from that “other America.” Also, if you ever find yourself writing “The post-1920s immigration restrictions were draconian in many ways, but they created time for persistent ethnic divisions to melt into a general unhyphenated Americanism”? It is time to put your writing career out of its misery, and perhaps take some time off to reevaluate your world view. First, if those persistent ethnic divisions really did melt into a general unhyphenated Americanism, we probably wouldn’t be having this mosque debate. Second, giving bigots time to adjust isn’t a great reason to pass anti-Semitic, racist laws premised on “racial hygiene” and eugenics. Kind of how a bigot invoking 9/11 doesn’t make his opposition to a community center in lower Manhattan any less bigoted.
5. Republicans who hate on New York City 364 days of the year, and who use the evils of New York (sex! gays! immigrants! Jews! elitists!) for political gain, don’t get to suddenly claim to care when September 11th is involved. And they definitely don’t get to use New York City and New Yorkers to forward a political agenda that is antithetical to everything this city stands for.
6. Don’t even get me started on the people who now call the World Trade Center site “hallowed ground,” but have had no problem coming to NYC and snapping smiling photos in gym shoes and fanny packs in front of the site, like it’s just another attraction between Century 21 and Times Square. It is hallowed ground. Act like it — and not just when you can score bigotry points. A community center two blocks away with a memorial respects the fact that the site is essentially a mass grave. You tromping up to the viewing deck to pose with the fam does not. But look, we still let you do that, even though a lot of us don’t like it! So please do not march in and start wagging your finger at New Yorkers about “respect.”
But if you read only one piece about the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque,” make it this one by Hendrik Hertzberg.
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