Mark Helprin (WSJ): The World Trade Center Mosque and the Constitution

Posted by Kendall Harmon

Mosques have commemoratively been established upon the ruins or in the shells of the sacred buildings of other religions—most notably but not exclusively in Cordoba, Jerusalem, Istanbul, and India. When sited in this fashion they are monuments to victory, and the chief objection to this one is not to its existence but that it would be near the site of atrocities—not just one—closely associated with mosques because they were planned and at times celebrated in them.

Building close to Ground Zero disregards the passions, grief and preferences not only of most of the families of September 11th but, because we are all the families of September 11th, those of the American people as well, even if not the whole of the American people. If the project is to promote moderate Islam, why have its sponsors so relentlessly, without the slightest compromise, insisted upon such a sensitive and inflammatory setting? That is not moderate. It is aggressively militant.

Disregarding pleas to build it at a sufficient remove so as not to be linked to an abomination committed, widely praised, and throughout the world seldom condemned in the name of Islam, the militant proponents of the World Trade Center mosque are guilty of a poorly concealed provocation. They dare Americans to appear anti-Islamic and intolerant or just to roll over.

Read it all.

Filed under: * Culture-WatchLaw & Legal IssuesReligion & Culture* Economics, PoliticsPolitics in GeneralCity GovernmentTerrorism* Religion News & CommentaryOther FaithsIslam

Posted August 30, 2010 at 8:41 am [Printer Friendly] [Print w/ comments]

1. Old Pilgrim wrote:

Well put! (Couldn’t read it all, though, because I’m not a subscriber of the Wall St. Journal.)

Most of us reject the charge of Islamophobia and will not roll over!

August 30, 10:36 am | [comment link]
2. Umbridge wrote:

The Islamic world will definitely view this mosque as a victory mosque.

August 30, 10:48 am | [comment link]
3. Brian from T19 wrote:

If the religion of Islam is responsible for the 9/11 attacks, then the Islamic Center is offensive.  If the religion of Islam is not responsible for the 9/11 attacks and the responsible parties were Islamist terrorists then opposition to the Islamic Center is Islamophobia,

August 30, 10:48 am | [comment link]
4. Umbridge wrote:

Brian, methinks you are Islamophobiaphobic… afraid of those who are against Islam

August 30, 10:56 am | [comment link]
5. Dale Rye wrote:

Americans have an absolute right to be against Islam and to organize against it. That follows from their First Amendment rights to religion, speech, assembly, and petition. People may have perfectly rational religious or practical reasons for doing so.

However, they do not have an absolute right to enlist the government in their project, because the state authorities in this country are specifically prohibited from interfering with not only the protesters’ rights to religion, speech, assembly, and petition, but also the rights of those being protested against. If I own a piece of property, the government can make reasonable regulations about how I use it to protect public health, safety, or welfare, but it cannot prohibit me from praying on my own property as I see fit, or inviting others to pray with me.

Of course, I recognize that my view is a minority here. Most of you think it is perfectly acceptable for the government to regulate Muslims in ways that you would find reprehensible if applied to Christians. That follows from the NIMBY (Not in my backyard) principle that all government regulation is unreasonable if it affects me personally, and reasonable if it benefits me in some fashion. Another example of that is the learned discussions rationalizing government policies that favor congregational polities over other ways that believers might choose to arrange their affairs. The government has no more business telling Muslims where they can locate their houses of worship than it has telling Methodists that their houses of worship should be controlled by the majority faction in the local congregation rather by the Annual Conference.

August 30, 12:32 pm | [comment link]
6. Br. Michael wrote:

Why then is the government prohibiting the Greek Orthodox Church from rebuilding on their own property?  One thing that is involved is the blatant double standard that only goes one way.  Christians are expected to be tolerant and allow their religion to be blasphemed (crucifix in urine anyone) while Muslims and others are never expected to be tolerant of Christians or expected to put up with the bigotry directed at Christians.  Toleration is a two way street.

August 30, 12:58 pm | [comment link]
7. Cennydd13 wrote:

Br Michael, I think this is a question to be asked of the U.S. Department of Justice.

August 30, 1:34 pm | [comment link]
8. bettcee wrote:

I could only read the first part because I did not want to subscribe to the WSJ but I was surprised to see that this first part of this article was stated so honestly and clearly. I may think about subscribing to the WSJ after all.
I wonder if the Imam who is in charge of the Mosque condescended to give the WSJ an interview.

August 30, 2:03 pm | [comment link]
9. Dale Rye wrote:

According to a Religion News Service story last week, the Port of New York Authority has specifically told the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese and St. Nicholas Parish that they can rebuild the church on the land it owns at 155 Cedar Street, where the old church was located. However, the church wants to trade with the Authority for a larger property about a half-block away at 130 Liberty Street. The story continues,

The Port Authority said negotiations ended because St. Nicholas demanded too much money and approval power over a vehicle security center beneath the sites. Port Authority spokesman Stephen Sigmund said the church can return to its original location.

“In 2009, we made our final offer, which again included up to $60 million in public money, and told St. Nicholas Orthodox Church that the World Trade Center could not be delayed over this issue,” he said in a written statement. “They rejected that offer.” ...

The church is holding firm to the Liberty Street swap plan, and says its old site is unacceptable—it’s too close to the proposed vehicle security center’s garage doors, and St. Nicholas needs more space for the visitors to the 9/11 memorial and thousands of new residents in the neighborhood.

The new 130 Liberty Street site could accommodate a church six times bigger than the old one, which was open only twice a week and didn’t offer any children’s programs.

The two situations are not comparable, since I don’t believe that the Muslims are asking to swap their existing property for a much larger tract of public property worth $60 million more.

August 30, 2:05 pm | [comment link]
10. bettcee wrote:

Post 9, Your post raises questions I had not thought of before.

August 30, 2:17 pm | [comment link]
11. Katherine wrote:

A very sensible article.  The author suggest, as does Dale Rye, above, that New Yorkers have the right to picket and protest this project if it goes forward.

Try this link, which I hope may lead you to the non-subscription version of this piece.

August 30, 2:33 pm | [comment link]
12. Katherine wrote:

Actually, this may all be academic, since the developer owes $224,000 in back taxes on the property, violating not only the law but his lease from Con Ed on the other half of the property.  Questions are swirling around the developer, Sharif el Gamal, who five years ago claimed in a civil matter that he did not have enough money to pay a fine.  If he was without funds in 2005, how is it that in 2010 he owns this building whose purchase price was $5 million, plus a long-term lease on the Con Ed property, which presumably was not free?

August 30, 2:45 pm | [comment link]
13. bettcee wrote:

Dale Rye, Post 5: You made a false accusation when you said the following: “Of course, I recognize that my view is a minority here. Most of you think it is perfectly acceptable for the government to regulate Muslims in ways that you would find reprehensible if applied to Christians.”
I suggest you read our comments more thoroughly. I see nothing suggesting that government regulation of Muslims should be considered unless they have broken the law. This does not mean we are so gullible that we think that Muslim terrorists pose no threat. We certainly have the right to recognize provocations when they appear.

August 30, 3:20 pm | [comment link]
14. John Wilkins wrote:

#13 - actually, some of us who do support the building of the sufi community center also believe that if the center actually does promote terrorism, it should not be built.  In fact, they should be prosecuted and taken to court. 

I think that this building will put many Muslims in a difficult situation, because the brand of Islam is considered heretical by fundamentalists. 

What is also true is that much of the conversation is driven by people who have limited knowledge about Islam.  It’s like Muslims who get Quakers confused with Roman Catholics.

August 30, 3:37 pm | [comment link]
15. libraryjim wrote:

Actually, according to the spokespersons for St. Nicholas, the first they heard that the land swap deal was considered ‘dead and done’ by the port authority was when a rep of that group appeared on Hannity and declared that bit of news!

Methinks the Port Authority is engaging in a bit of double-talk to protect their own a—um, reputation, rather than admit they did something not nice.

Check out the church’s Facebook page for more information before taking one side of the argument as definitive.

August 30, 9:00 pm | [comment link]
16. Sarah wrote:

RE: “Most of you think it is perfectly acceptable for the government to regulate Muslims in ways that you would find reprehensible if applied to Christians.”


I guess nobody’s reading comments any more over at T19.

A pity.

August 30, 9:08 pm | [comment link]
17. Randy Hoover-Dempsey wrote:

I attended a Rally for Religious Tolerance in Murfreesboro, Tennessee tonight. Equipment was set on fire at the proposed site for a mosque here, and the community came together to say no to fear and yes to our Muslim neighbors and the freedom we have to practice religion in this country.

“Oh God…help us in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (BCP 824)

August 30, 11:46 pm | [comment link]
18. Br. Michael wrote:

Randy that’s very nice.  The attack on the mosque in your area is and should be intolerable.  But once more the point is being missed. 

The point is that if the builders of the mosque in New York were as sensitive to the New Yorkers as they wish others would be sensitive to them, they would build elsewhere.  That’s the issue.  It’s not that they can’t build, but that they shouldn’t build there out of consideration for others.

Thomas Sowell writes:

The intelligentsia and others who are wrapping themselves in the Constitution are fighting a phony war against a straw man. Why create a false issue, except to evade the real issue?

Our betters are telling us that we need to be more “tolerant” and more “sensitive” to the feelings of Muslims. But if we are supposed to be sensitive to Muslims, why are Muslims not supposed to be sensitive to the feelings of millions of Americans, for whom 9/11 was the biggest national trauma since Pearl Harbor?

It would not be illegal for Japanese Americans to build a massive Shinto shrine next to Pearl Harbor. But, in all these years, they have never sought to do it.
There is no question that Muslims have a right to build a mosque where they chose to. The real question is why they chose that particular location, in a country that covers more than 3 million square miles.

If we all did everything that we have a legal right to do, we could not even survive as individuals, much less as a society. So the question is whether those who are planning a Ground Zero mosque want to be part of American society or just to see how much they can get away with in American society.

Can anyone in his right mind believe that this was intended to show solidarity with Americans, rather than solidarity with those who attacked America? Does anyone imagine that the Middle East nations, including Iran, from whom financial contributions will be solicited, want to promote reconciliation between Americans and Muslims?

August 31, 8:31 am | [comment link]
19. Larry Morse wrote:

I almost never agree with Dale rye, but I sure do here. For First Amend reasons, the government must NOT interfere here unless it can show a risk to national security - in which case the interference is not religious properly so called. Why is it the First is never invoked when the Left invokes it for virtuallly every other circumstance?  Larry

August 31, 9:14 am | [comment link]
20. Randy Hoover-Dempsey wrote:

Brother Michael, I believe that what happens in one area of our country influences what happens across the country. While I do not know how I would be responding to the proposed Islamic center if I were living in New York, I do know that the way the debate is carried on there is having an effect in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The words that we speak and our manner of speaking to one another in public settings are influencing the lives of people across the country.

I want to speak clearly my No and my Yes. I am saying No to violence and hatred toward others, no matter who they are. I am saying Yes to freedom of religious expression and to love for my neighbor, no matter how my neighbor chooses to be defined.

We can never lay claim to our beliefs until they are tested in difficult circumstances. It is easier to profess to civil liberties and compassion for others when our profession comes with no associated costs.

August 31, 9:33 am | [comment link]
21. Br. Michael wrote:

Ok, so you believe that we must show tolerance, restraint and restraint when the other side does not.  Fair enough.  But doesn’t that allow us to at least suggest that they are not showing the tolerance and sensitivity that you require us to show?  Or is the double standard absolute and Christians always the ultimate bigots when they attempt to hold Muslims to the same secular standard that they are held?  Are you suggesting that in order to vindicate our beliefs we have to accept unequal treatment?

August 31, 11:34 am | [comment link]
22. bettcee wrote:

Larry, No one who posts on this site is asking our government to interfere with the building of the Mosque. You are mistaken if you believe that. Please pay us the courtesy of reading the comments before you make assumptions.

August 31, 1:24 pm | [comment link]
23. Larry Morse wrote:

#22, but Potus DID interfere. He had that very clear. This IS a
first violation. I said NOTHING about limiting my comment to those posting here. Read my post again. And then try again.  Larry

August 31, 4:03 pm | [comment link]
24. Randy Hoover-Dempsey wrote:

Brother Michael, I believe that the standard that Jesus sets in scripture and in His living demonstration of what scripture means is the guideline for the ethical behavior of Christians. I do not believe that our behavior as Christians should be based on the way other people choose to behave.

August 31, 8:14 pm | [comment link]
25. Br. Michael wrote:

24, so you understand Christianity as requiring Christians to accept inequitable treatment and double standards.  Paul wouldn’t agree with you as he claimed the full rights of a Roman citizen to avoid unfair treatment.  But I think you have stated your position clearly and we have nothing further to discuss.

August 31, 9:37 pm | [comment link]
26. bettcee wrote:

Larry Morse,
People who post on this site do not ask for government interference, the Government has made it plain that they will not interfere and I do not believe that most of the protesters are asking the government to interfere unless the law is broken.
Every American citizen has a right to free speech, without government interference, and as citizens, protestors have a right to let the builders of this Mosque know that they are offended that a Mosque will be built so close to the site where Muslim terrorists successfully murdered so many innocent people.
I hope that you are not suggesting that the government should interfere with the protestors right to free speech.

August 31, 11:43 pm | [comment link]
27. Larry Morse wrote:

#26. I cannot understand your response. I merely said what is a simple fact. The President DiD intervene; he sided with the Moslems and their mosque. He speech was plain.  This is not debatable. And this is a First Amend. violation. Where your last sentence comes from - thin air, it appears - I cannot guess. L

September 1, 8:22 am | [comment link]
28. bettcee wrote:

Post 27:
As I understand it, President Obama said the government is NOT going to intervene in the Muslims plans to build the Mosque.

September 1, 9:19 am | [comment link]
29. John Wilkins wrote:

#28 - if the federal government did interfere, why wouldn’t that stop them from interfering in other local disputes?  Do we want the feds interfering?  The president decided to side with the constitution rather than public feeling.  It’s a hard choice to make, but exactly what the constitution is for.

September 3, 9:54 pm | [comment link]
30. robroy wrote:

“It’s a hard choice to make, but exactly what the constitution is for.”

Let’s see. BO says that the constitution guarantees freedom of religion on one day (it does not, however, guarantee that I can build an Islamic community center anywhere I want ignoring zoning regulations, etc., so the comment is vacuous). Then the next day he boldly pleads the fifth with regards to the wisdom of the Ground Zero Mosque.

Such courage and valor! I am reminded of the “Brave, brave Sir Robin” song in Monty Python.

September 4, 8:42 pm | [comment link]
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