Officials in New York City recently gave the go-ahead for the building of a $100 million mosque just blocks from where the World Trade Center once stood, a decision that has driven some apoplectic.
An editorial in Investor’s Business Daily raged, “New Yorkers should by now have built from that giant hole at ground zero a single, mammoth tower as a one-finger salute to radical Islam and all the terrorists it inspires. Instead, they’re building an Islamic tower that Muslim fanatics from around the world will no doubt use as a memorial to their fallen ‘martyrs’ and what they did to us on that ‘blessed day’ of 9/11.” The same piece quoted the mother of a 9/11 victim saying the decision was “a slap in our face!”
Meanwhile, Tea Party grandee and Fox News commentator Mark Williams fulminated, “The monument would consist of a mosque for the worship of the terrorists’ monkey-god.” In case anyone missed the nuances of his argument, 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 US Military Base on the smoldering ruins of Mecca. Works for me!” Andrew McCarthy, author of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America, got into the mix, calling the decision a propaganda coup for Islamacists. He went on to wonder why the building of the sensitively-sited mosque should be allowed in a country that already has 2,300 of them when no churches or synagogues are permitted in the Muslim holy cities Mecca and Medina.
Not all voices objecting to the mosque are turgid. Conservative writer Rod Dreher called the decision “an unspeakably bad idea” but made sure not to impugn Islam in toto. While commending the “seeds of peace” mission claimed by the mosque’s proponents, Dreher asked rhetorically whether a Shinto shrine at Pearl Harbor or German cultural center in the vicinity of a concentration camp would be good ideas.
Dreher further analogized by highlighting a decision made by Pope John Paul II in 1993 to remove Carmelite nuns from a convent they established near the hallowed grounds of Auschwitz. “Even though the Nazis did not massacre Jews there in the name of Christianity,” he writes, “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.”
Dreher’s proposition is simple: the reprehensible actions of a minority in some exceptional instances impact a majority who in no way condone them. So it is that the 19 conspirators who brought down the towers for “the greater glory of Allah” have forfeited the right of all Muslims to have a place to worship near the site. To go ahead with the plan, he asserts, would be “deeply offensive” and counterproductive, “an outrageous act of nerve and arrogance.”
It may be recalled that disdain of liberty was said to explain the horrific attacks of 9/11. In his Oval Office address just hours after the day’s events, George W. Bush declared, “America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world.” Soon thereafter, “Freedom Fries” replaced their French variant in the Senate cafeteria and, in due course, the administration launched its misbegotten “Freedom Agenda.”
That the veneration of freedom accompanied its abridgement in the name of the “War on Terror” put a lie to the whole smarmy charade. America may have been attacked because it is a beacon of liberty, but those bending intelligence to justify a war or engaging in warrantless wiretapping, amongst other nefarious deeds, had little respect for that tradition. So it is no surprise, then, that freedom’s cheerleaders on the right now seek to abridge the religious rights of (ghastly!) Muslims.
The push back, of course, plays into the religious-war narrative of radical Islamacists, underscoring the symbiosis between extremist analogues. But in one sense, the building of a mosque near Ground Zero would be, as Andrew McCarthy claims, a propaganda coup. Only the coup would not be for Jihadis, but rather for liberal societies that actually practice freedom, not just trumpet it opportunistically.