Green Room

Conor Friedersdorf’s shallow defense of the Ground Zero mosque

posted at 2:23 pm on July 28, 2010 by

Although I have recently spent far too much time reading and examining the work of Conor Friedersdorf, his Forbes defense of the planned mosque at Ground Zero is so shallow — and so emblematic of his approach — that it warrants further effort on my part.

Friedersdorf starts with a stunningly inapt analogy:

You’ve probably heard about “The Ground Zero Mosque,” an Islamic community center planned in Lower Manhattan. But I bet you haven’t heard of The Ground Zero Strip Club.

There are actually a couple of adult entertainment venues that show up on Google Maps if you search around the former site of the World Trade Center. Internet reviewers seem to like New York Dolls best, due to its sexy, disproportionately Russian staff, mirrored stage and purportedly high-quality lap dances.

As yet, I haven’t heard anyone wonder why our political class is silent as the sex industry operates on sacred ground. It would be a bizarre complaint: It’s Manhattan, where you can find anything mere blocks from a given location. The closest strip club to Ground Zero happens to be two blocks away, a fact that has nothing to do with our reverence for the place where so many Americans were killed by terrorists. As you’ve probably noticed, it doesn’t even make sense to call it The Ground Zero Strip Club.

But it makes no less sense than naming an Islamic community center “The Ground Zero Mosque”–as much of the media have done–because it’s going to be located a couple blocks away.

Aside from the fact that the New York Dolls club predates 9/11 (and is thus not similarly situated legally), James Poulos demolishes the comparison:

Cordoba House isn’t called the Ground Zero Mosque because it’s close to Ground Zero. It’s called the Ground Zero Mosque — I think — because it’s as close to Ground Zero as the Cordoba Initiative could possibly get, and because the Cordoba Initiative is building it as close to Ground Zero as it can get explicitly to advocate “for Islam” in a specifically “post-9/11 environment.” The idea is simple, if controversial: there ought to be a very large building, very near to Ground Zero, full of people dedicated to helping Americans understand that they should think well of Islam and of Muslims, precisely because Ground Zero is currently such a painful and potent source and symbol of American ill will toward Muslims who, as a matter of religious doctrine, wish harm on America and death on Americans.

Indeed, the Cordoba Initiative specifically chose the property it did because a piece of the wreckage fell there.

In his response to Poulos (in comments), Friedersdorf responds that the subject of his column is the anti-”Ground Zero Mosque” ad produced by the National Republican Trust PAC, which unfairly lumps the Cordoba Initiative with supporters of al Qaeda. That charge is unfair, based on the current evidence. However, it is also unfair and hypocritical that Friedersdorf, by the end of his column, refers generically to all opponents of the planned mosque as “judging people they’ve never met on the basis of their religion, treating all Muslims as enemies of America, and allowing emotional prejudice to dictate their opinion.” In fact, many opponents of the planned mosque seem to know a lot more about the project and its sponsors than Friedersdorf does.

Friedersdorf vouches for the project and its sponsors from authority:

Jeffrey Goldberg, as staunch an opponent of radical Islamists as you’ll find, posted recently on the controversy over this cultural center, having interacted with the folks who are attempting to build it, and reported that they are peace-loving people intent on marginalizing extremists inside their religion.

Friedersdorf has objected to this form of argument by reputation in the past. But if we’re playing that game, I can point to leading moderate Muslims who think the mosque is a bad idea. On the merits, Goldberg bases his opinion on his particpation in a panel co-sponsored by Cordoba last year. The issue, then, is whether what the Cordoba crowd says on panels with Goldberg should be taken at face value.

Imam Feisal Rauf, the central figure behind the mosque project, has a public image as a devotee of the “contemplative” Sufi school of Islam, but his writings directed at Muslims are full of praise for Wahhabi fundamentalism. He has refused to “repudiate the threat from authoritative sharia to the religious freedom and safety of former Muslims,” a pledge issued nine months ago by ex-Muslims under threat for their “apostasy.” He refused to describe Hamas as a terrorist organization, and will not talk about the Muslim Brotherhood. He is an open proponent of integrating sharia into the law of Western countries. When speaking to Arabic audiences, he discounts the idea of religious dialogue. In an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald, Rauf said, “The Islamic method of waging war is not to kill innocent civilians. But it was Christians in World War II who bombed civilians in Dresden and Hiroshima, neither of which were military targets.” Many people convincingly argue that Dresden and Hiroshima were military targets, but more important in this context is that neither was ordered on the basis of Christian theology. Regarding 9/11 specifically, Rauf told 60 Minutes in September 2001 that “United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.”

Rauf is a permanent trustee of NYC’s Islamic Cultural Center. The ICC employed Imam Sheik Muhammad Gemeaha, who claimed that ”only the Jews” were capable of destroying the World Trade Center and added that ”if it became known to the American people, they would have done to Jews what Hitler did.” That was bad publicity, so he was replaced by Imam Omar Saleem Abu-Namous, who opined that “we don’t have conclusive evidence that the World Trade Center attack was waged by Muslim elements.” He further stated that ”nobody would support Osama bin Laden” in the Muslim world, which gives one an idea of the sincerity of the people installed by Rauf.

In fairness, I note that so far, there is no suggestion that Rauf follows the teachings of someone like Sayyid Qutb (faint but significant praise, that). Moreover, the FBI tapped Rauf to provide post-9/11 sensitivity training for the bureau. However, one hopes that the feds entered the relationship with more open eyes than Friedersdorf has in his column.

Then there is the naming issue. Friedersdorf does not like the name “Ground Zero Mosque,” so let’s consider that the planned mosque’s original name was Cordoba House (and that it remains a project of the Cordoba Initiative). Raymond Ibrahim provides some background:

The very name of the initiative itself, “Cordoba,” offers different connotations to different people: In the West, the Andalusian city of Cordoba is regularly touted as the model of medieval Muslim progressiveness and tolerance for Christians and Jews. To many Americans, then, the choice to name the mosque “Cordoba” is suggestive of rapprochement and interfaith dialogue; atop the rubble of 9/11, it implies “healing” — a new beginning between Muslims and Americans. The Cordoba Initiative’s mission statement certainly suggests as much:

Cordoba Initiative aims to achieve a tipping point in Muslim-West relations within the next decade, bringing back the atmosphere of interfaith tolerance and respect that we have longed for since Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in harmony and prosperity eight hundred years ago.

Oddly enough, the so-called “tolerant” era of Cordoba supposedly occurred during the caliphate of ‘Abd al-Rahman III (912-961) — well over a thousand years ago. “Eight hundred years ago,” i.e., around 1200, the fanatical Almohids — ideological predecessors of al-Qaeda — were ravaging Cordoba, where “Christians and Jews were given the choice of conversion, exile, or death.” A Freudian slip on the part of the Cordoba Initiative?

In fact, the true history of Cordoba, not to mention the whole of Andalusia, is far less inspiring than what Western academics portray: the Christian city was conquered by Muslims around 711, its inhabitants slaughtered or enslaved. The original mosque of Cordoba — the namesake of the Ground Zero mosque — was built atop, and partly from the materials of, a Christian church. Modern day Muslims are well aware of all this. Such is the true — and ominous — legacy of Cordoba.

Ibrahim adds that “though many Christian regions were conquered by Islam prior to Cordoba, its conquest signified the first time a truly ‘Western’ region was conquered by the sword of Islam.”

In sum, there is a rather substantial body of evidence suggesting that Rauf and Cordoba are not nearly so peace-loving or intent on marginalizing extremists inside their religion as Friedersdorf claims. Moreover, a few minutes with a search engine would reveal that many of the mosque’s opponents outside the National Republican Trust PAC are well aware of this evidence, even if Friedersdorf was not.

Furthermore, when confronted with some of this material in the comments to the Poulos posting, Friedersdorf’s response was to regurgitate some of the Imam’s friendly statements meant for Western consumption (when Rauf’s sincerity and possible taqiyya is at issue, based on the evidence just presented) and to persist in accusing opponents of tarring all Muslims (when their concerns are directed specifically at Rauf and Cordoba).

Perhaps the saddest aspect of Friedersdorf’s misrepresentation of the parties involved is that it was so unnecessary. There is a principled, small-government case to be made on behalf of the mosque project, based on the protection of property rights and the free exercise of religion. However, that argument is not self-evident. Friedersdorf — at Forbes and in the comments to the Poulos posting — merely assumes that the Constitution forbids anyone from stopping the mosque. If the Constitution was so clear cut, there would have been no point to the passage of the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (based on the spending clause, not the first and fourteenth amendments) and similar state laws (the interpretation of which is still being litigated in a number of courts). NYC is not all that friendly to property rights, and opponents of the mosque have every right to petition the government to have the building at issue designated a landmark as part of the 9/11 debris field. Furthermore, even if opponents fail to stop the mosque, they have every right to inform the public that the agenda behind the Cordoba Initiative may well be more ugly and intolerant than Friedersdorf imagines.

Friedersdorf’s apparent inability to process the evidence that challenges his opinion is not surprising. Friedersdorf admitted upfront to Poulos that, in his view, the real subject of his column was the National Republican Trust PAC ad. Friedersdorf could not help but focus on the sideshow, even if he wound up suggesting that all of the opponents of the project lump all Muslims into a monolithic bloc of al Qaeda supporters, ignoring the disturbing background of the project and its main proponent, and assuming away the thorny legal issues at stake. His modus operandi here is entirely consistent with his defense of Dave Weigel’s distorted coverage of the Right.

Contrary to many on the Internet, I accept that writers like Friedersdorf and Weigel intend their continuing attacks on elements of the Right as part of an effort to reform and improve it (as opposed to simply taking the center-left’s money for trying to divide the Right). Where they go wrong is in pursuing that sort of political agenda with so little application of the basics of politics and persuasion. Sure, William F. Buckley, Jr. did the Right a favor by helping marginalize groups like the John Birch Society — but he had been one of America’s most prominent conservative thinkers for over a decade when he did it. Today’s Friedersdorfs and Weigels do not have a fraction of that credibility or stature within the movement, which — fairly or unfairly — causes many conservatives to tune them out. Their options, then, are to either complain about “epistemic closure” or to earn the sort of respect that allows someone like Charles Krauthammer to freely criticize Republicans and conservatives without being dismissed. I am told by people I respect that Friedersdorf and Weigel come across much better in person than in text, so perhaps they will eventually grasp the degree to which their overall approach ends up alienating the very people they purportedly hope to persuade.

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I also heard that Garafalo is nicer in person. Maybe it’s true, but I don’t really care. They can either grow up or not. It’s not really something that concerns me.

Esthier on July 28, 2010 at 2:57 PM

Thank you Karl.

I mentioned Rauf’s associations in the comment thread at Ricochet, and Conor saw fit to suggest that I was implicating all Muslims as Islamists. I suggested that people allowing this to transpire were in fact key to the success of the technique of Islamists’ “Is that my thumb in your eye?” gambit. And furthermore, that these same people might have forgotten what it felt like on that terrible day so Conor implies that I am asserting that the people supporting his position in this were less horrified of the events “ON September 11th”. Errrr, no, I suggested that their memories of the that day bear less impact on their reasoning than the feelings they actually felt on that day.

I don’t know Conor from a guy the next car over at a traffic light, but he just comes off as sounding very young. And not in a good way. I’m not proclaiming access to vast sums of wisdom, but in my meager experience, you need a few miles on the old odometer before you can pontificate as a seasoned sage on all matters large and small.

juanito on July 28, 2010 at 3:05 PM

Well you may be sure that those strip clubs will be history when the Islamists take over that area.

erp on July 28, 2010 at 3:08 PM

How long are Americans expected to tiptoe around this area? Many conservatives claim the GZ site is sacred. But that doesn’t explain the clamor against mosques around the country. Anti-muslim bigotry is a problem on the right.

Thankfully, the depth and breadth of our constitutional-rights makes irrelevant the depth of anti-Muslim anger, frustration and bigotry.

The Triangle Trade routes are littered with many times the number of bodies at Ground Zero. Should we suspend all commerce or cruise travel through those routes?

The Race Card on July 28, 2010 at 3:21 PM

what it felt like

Your feelings ends where my rights begin.

The Race Card on July 28, 2010 at 3:34 PM

The Race Card,

As noted in the post, if the Constitution settled the matter, there wouldn’t be statutes like RLUIPA.

My discussion here is limited to Friedersdorf’s discussion of Cordoba House. Other cases should be decided on the facts and law applicable to those cases.

Karl on July 28, 2010 at 3:39 PM

Karl on July 28, 2010 at 3:39 PM

Yeah I get that. Falsely demonizing strip clubs was trite. He could have been equally incisive without being smug.

Curiously, should these potential-extremists be removed from their site? They’re in fairly-close proximity to GZ.

From their site:

DISCLAIMER:
Please be advised that we are by no means affiliated with any other organization trying to build anything new in the area of downtown Manhattan.

God bless America!

The Race Card on July 28, 2010 at 3:53 PM

what it felt like

Your feelings ends where my rights begin.

The Race Card on July 28, 2010 at 3:34 PM

As does my right to feel. Two way street. Sentiment is being used on both sides of this issue.

The tactic of the Islamist is creeping acceptance. Like a fox slowly moving through a flock of sheep. Move slowly enough, and you don’t get noticed.

They legally bought the property, and they won approval of the Community Board in NY. I am not saying that they should be blocked from their rights, I am saying it is insensitive at best to proceed, and they know it. I’m within my rights in protesting the project. I am not calling for the prevention of their right to build it. I’m am just pointing out that the group behind this has associations with Terror Supporters. This is their tactic.

Your response is not unlike their tactic. Thumb in the eye. Always charming.

juanito on July 28, 2010 at 3:56 PM

Karl,

“History” via Pajamas Media/Raymond Ibrahim and “history” as the rest of the world knows it are not always the same thing.

The famous description of Cordoba as “the brilliant ornament of the world” was applied by a visitor from Christian Europe, the 10th Century Saxon nun Hroswitha of Gandersheim. This interpretation of medieval Cordoba’s history, the one favored by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf et al of the Cordoba Initiative, is the mainstream and, generally speaking, accepted view virtually everywhere except on the American far right and, historically, among devotedly anti-Muslim sources.

I strongly recommend the book God’s Crucible by David Levering Lewis for anyone interested in the larger story of early Islam’s relationship with “Dark Ages” and later Medieval Europe, but to give one example why Ibrahim’s depiction and speculations should be treated with caution, consider the end of the excerpt you quote in your post, where Ibrahim describes a “Christian city… conquered by Muslims around 711, its inhabitants slaughtered or enslaved.” “Enslaved” is rather an historical joke: The Muslim invaders were replacing the Visigoths, who had dominated Iberia ever since they completed their own invasion several centuries earlier, and who were part of the larger Gothic wave that helped spread “plantation slavery” across Northern Europe, where the institution had not previously been known. They ran a thoroughgoing slave economy that was also marked, especially in the years immediately prior to the arrival of the Muslims, by terrible oppression of the Jews, as well as longstanding measures against heretical Christians. King Egica and and successor Witiza (who ruled until 710) imposed draconian measures eventually ordering that, barring conversion, all adult Jews be sold as slaves, their children to be distributed among Christian families.

Thousands of Jews fled. Those who remained can perhaps be forgiven for collaborating with the Muslims. The medievalist Richard Fletcher concluded that, in light of the Visigoth’s determination upon a “final solution,” “We can hardly doubt that the Jews of Spain looked upon the Arabs as liberators.” This observation touches upon an important larger theme of Lewis’s that also illustrates a typical Islamist-Islamophobic convergence. Both Osama Bin Laden as well as the likes of Andy McCarthy and Raymond Ibrahim (and many of my former friends at HotAir) like to depict the early Islamic conquest as a vast triumph of fundamentalist arms by overwhelming conquerors. In truth, the reason that early Islam was able to spread so far and so fast is that it was pushing over straw men (exhausted, already war-ravaged and depopulated former Roman and Persian territories) often in cooperation with non-Muslims.

As for the supposed “slaughter,” Lewis describes how, when the Visigothic leaders fled Cordoba, the Berbers under Mughith al-Rumi (himself a Christian Greek convert to Islam) “found themselves welcomed by a large portion of the populace, the Jews in particular.” After capturing and, indeed, killing the former rulers – I’m not trying to depict the Muslim conquerors as saints – Mughith returned to Cordoba and “established a precedent of historic political and religious impact”:

He assembled all of the Jews in the city and left them, “together with willing Christians and a small detachment of Muslims,” in charge of Cordoba’s defenses. Mughith’s precedent established the conditions for the vaunted Muslim-Judeo-Christian interdependence that was to distinguish Islam in Iberia for several centuries. His collaborative precedent was also, to be sure, an astute response to the numbers on the ground – a Muslim force of infinitesimal size pragmatically manufacturing auxiliaries from the local population. King Egica’s insensate proscriptions casting all unconverted Jews into slavery and confiscating their property had driven these people to save themselves by reaching out to the conquering Arabs. After so many years of living under the Damoclean sword of property expropriation, forced conversion, and expulsion, Jews throughout Hispania welcomed the Muslim invaders as deliverers.

[emphasis added]

All such historical narratives are subject to debate and dispute, of course, but, since the main question is reading the Cordoba people’s minds and assessing the meaning of Cordoba as a symbol, the fact that the above approximates the standard view, and is backed up by subsequent events as well as by practical considerations (the “numbers on the ground”), is telling. I don’t see a good argument for taking the views of Ibrahim (a scholar of Egyptian Coptic heritage, publishing at JihadWatch and PajamasMedia) at face value. The very fact that he would refer to the eventual expulsion of the Muslims from Spain as “overthrow[-ing] the Islamic yoke” tells you that you are dealing with an ideologue: By the time the Reconquista was finished, Muslim control of the Iberian Peninsula had already been reduced to a small southern pocket. The completion of this “overthrow,” which Ibrahim implies amounted to a liberation, was also accompanied by two typical orders of the new Catholic regime: the expulsion of the Jews in 1492 and the Royal Decree of 1502 ordering the forced conversion or expulsion of the remaining Muslims. The systematic murderousness and cruelty of the subsequent treatment of the latter population, the Moriscos, is sometimes treated as a forerunner of modern “ethnic cleansing.”

Ibrahim makes an interesting if wildly overdrawn point about the Cordoba Initiative’s reference to “800 years ago,” when he notes that the high point or “Golden Age” of Cordoba/al-Andalus is more frequently dated 200 years earlier than that (around the time that Sister Hroswitha was on tour), but I believe it’s inarguable that, overall, what “Cordoba” broadly stands for is much more what the Cordoba Initiative says than what Ibrahim’s slanted readings prepared for Islamophobes suggest. It’s worth noting in addition that 800 years ago would have been around the last time that the interfaith cooperation and high culture that generally typified al-Andalus was still in effect, in particular in the city of Toledo, where close cooperation between great Jewish, Christian, and Muslim scholars safeguarded the transmission of the great works of “Western” literature to Europe, according to Lewis “the entire corpus of the recovered ancient learning known today.”

There is much more to be said on these subjects, including comparisons of Andalusian life and culture to contemporaneous Western alternatives, observations on the relationship of the Ummayyad Caliphate of Iberia to the Abbasid Caliphate (there was not one unified Muslim empire for most of this period), the comically myopic “architectural talisman of conquest” theory, the persistent use of Joe-McCarthyite as well Andy-McCarthyite tactics against Rauf and associates, and much else. As you likely are aware, I’ve written on various aspects of this subject at some length already, both at HotAir and, more extensively both in my own posts and in extensive thread-discussion, at my own blog. For now, I’d like to refer you to a thoughtful take on the Cordoba Initiative controversy by Robert Wright – “A Mosque Maligned.” Wright is an author whose book The Evolution of God covers the origins and development of all three Abrahamic faiths in detail from a sympathetic agnostic/materialist perspective, and will be especially helpful to those who tend to “get their Islam” exclusively from hostile sources.

Congratulations at least for acknowledging, unlike the vast majority of anti-mosque ideologues, the existence of “a principled, small-government case to be made on behalf of the mosque project, based on the protection of property rights and the free exercise of religion.” Odd choice of words on your part, however: “not self-evident.” Thomas Jefferson and pals beg to differ.

CK MacLeod on July 28, 2010 at 6:55 PM

CK,

I would take your point about Cordoba a lot more seriously if it weren’t one part of the much larger background of Rauf and his associates I laid out in the piece. Based on his body of work, the rest of which you ignore, I’m much less inclined to believe that the name choice here was a benign one. Somehow, picking the name of the capital of a western Caliphate doesn’t exactly shout “healing” to me. At the very least, it’s consistent with Rauf’s open agenda of integrating sharia into Western law (and here again, the argument that sharia is compatible with our system imho suggests a certain lack of sincerity by Rauf).

If you believe that Ibrahim is an islamophobe-appeasing ideologue, how about Tim Rutten’s review of God’s Crucible:

Lewis, 71, is a distinguished social historian, particularly of the 20th century United States. Both volumes of his magisterial biography of W.E.B. Du Bois won the Pulitzer Prize for history. However, he is neither a medievalist nor a scholar of Islam origins, and some — though not all — of this book’s shortcomings originate there…

And on the legal point, I would note — for the third time — that statutes like RLUIPA exist because of Supreme Court rulings essentially saying that houses of worship do not have special rights where zoning is concerned. It’s simply wrong to claim that the first amendment gives Cordoba the right to build a mosque wherever it wants. That’s why the assumption that they do is not self-evident.

Karl on July 28, 2010 at 10:15 PM

Also forgot to mention that I read Wright’s NYT piece while I was working on this post — and if it’s any reflection on the quality of the book, that’s a serious problem.

Karl on July 28, 2010 at 10:34 PM

You’re entitled to your opinion of Wright, Karl, but an opinion isn’t a response to his arguments. And Tim Rutten’s review has nothing to do with specific questions about the Muslim conquest, the character of life and culture in Cordoba, or the meaning of Cordoba as a symbol. Instead, it seeks to take issue with an argument that Lewis makes at certain points, then caps off his substitute for an engagement with the book on its own terms, with a representatively ludicrous cheap shot appended to the end – as though Lewis’s writing “The Angel Gabriel visited Mohammed…” needed to be taken literally.

You can go with Rutten on the book if you prefer, save you a lot of time (though really it’s a fun read if you’re into history), but Lewis’s views on the relevant factual matters aren’t controversial, they stand to reason, and they’re backed up by other observers, including ones I mentioned. I addressed the Cordoba history because, when I visit HotAir or discuss this stuff at my blog, I see the same insistent ignorance about what al-Andalus was; about who used to run Iberia before the Muslims and what they were like; about who ran it afterward and what they did; and what was going on in the rest of the world, repeated over and over and over again… and also I thought you were someone susceptible to arguments on the evidence and logic.

“Zoning,” please. This isn’t a “zoning” dispute or even an argument about constitutional law. And as for the time you spent with the usual character assassination, guilt by association, and ideological insistence that Rauf adopt YOUR/the Right’s language on Hamas, Wahhabism, responsibility for 9/11, or anything else, I’ve been over that territory too many times to want to delve into it again. I don’t believe that people planning building projects should need to sign loyalty oaths or their equivalent, written by Andy McCarthy or anyone else, before they proceed.

CK MacLeod on July 28, 2010 at 11:21 PM

And on the legal point, I would note — for the third time — that statutes like RLUIPA exist because of Supreme Court rulings essentially saying that houses of worship do not have special rights where zoning is concerned.

That is irrelevant and you know it. You aren’t concerned about a house of worship as such (there are houses of worship in the immediate vicinity)… you are making a sectarian argument against a house of worship of a particular religion which you think should be prohibited from being opened in Lower Manhattan. You are arguing for a special zone around Lower Manhattan which is free of Muslim houses of worship. Just admit it instead of making spurious arguments about RLUIPA, the name, or the people who are trying to open it.

lexhamfox on July 28, 2010 at 11:56 PM

Don’t know why my reply got stuck in “pending.” No profanity, no links – must be some other filter-trippers. Not even very long – tho lexhamfox may have just said it more economically.

CK MacLeod on July 29, 2010 at 1:03 AM

lexhamfox,

1. I wrote that “the saddest aspect of Friedersdorf’s misrepresentation of the parties involved is that it was so unnecessary.” The particulars of this project were only relevant to me because Friedersdorf painted the case as “intolerant right-wing bigots” vs. “peaceful Muslims.” I am criticizing him for bringing it up, and doubly so for his lack of homework on it.

2. The RLUIPA issue is not irrelevant. Friedersdorf, CK and others keep asserting that Rauf & Co. have a first amendment right to build the mosque, irrespective of existing land use regulations. That’s wrong, and it is completely relevant to point out that one of the premises of the defenders of the project is simply wrong as a matter of law.

3. I am not making a sectarian argument against the project. Indeed, if you read my piece, I am not making an argument against the project in general; I am criticizing the shallowness of Friedersdorf’s column. I wrote that “opponents of the mosque have every right to petition the government to have the building at issue designated a landmark as part of the 9/11 debris field.” The last part is key. Imho, the gov’t cannot engage in religious discrimination. The decision about landmark status rises or falls on its own merit. The issue of how the gov’t addresses the case, however, is separable from the issue of whether opponents also have the right to inform the public about Rauf and Cordoba. I am amused at how casually one side claims Rauf & Co. have first amendment rights they don’t have, while ignoring that the opponents do have first amendment rights to speak and petition the government.

Karl on July 29, 2010 at 1:15 AM

CK,

Thanks for alerting me your comment was pending; I don’t check that sort of stuff in genral.

Re: God’s Chronicle

If you’re going to attack Ibrahim, I’m going to note that Lewis is way out of his field. And I’m going to note that when a book operates from the thesis (per Rutten) that “the West would be better off if it had been incorporated into an all-conquering Islamic empire in the early Middle Ages,” perhaps there’s as much of an agenda at work there as you claim to be the case with Ibrahim. Moreover, unlike Friedersdorf, I say right in the title that my point is about Friedersdorf’s shallow treatment of the case. I at least give you credit for having more to say about the underlying issues than Conor does.

You may think this isn’t a “zoning” dispute or even an argument about constitutional law. But Friedersorf clearly stated in his piece that it is about constitutional law. He’s wrong, and the point of my post was to point out that he simply did no research on any of his underlying assumptions.

Incidentally, my final paragraph would be good advice for you, too.

Karl on July 29, 2010 at 1:33 AM

Incidentally, my final paragraph would be good advice for you, too.

Karl on July 29, 2010 at 1:33 AM

Sheesh, when’s someone going to start worrying about alienating me - or the people they constantly accuse of being terrorists, traitors, and monsters?

1. What’s at issue: I addressed the Cordoba aspect of this controversy in my comment, not Friedersdorf’s argument – though I think you’re being reductive about the latter.

Discussing that abhorrent GOPTRUST ad, Friedersdorf says, “Even worse, the advertisement I’ve mentioned engages in just the sort of religious bigotry that the First Amendment is meant to guard against.” He’s not saying that the ad violates the First Amendment, or that the First Amendment as a matter of law protects Rauf. I think he’s saying – and, anyway, I’m saying – that the question is deeper than the First Amendment or any particular article or statute: It’s about why there is a First Amendment, and why the first thing it mentions is religion. And it’s also about what the project and how we deal with it says about us.

2. What’s not at issue – Any criticism of Ibrahim himself was secondary to a discussion of his ideas and his historical narrative, and your reliance on them for that part of your post. I wasn’t saying “discount Ibrahim’s words because he’s an ideologue.” I was saying, “Ibrahim’s words are the words of an ideologue.” It’s not an issue of Lewis vs Ibrahim as people, or Lewis or me vs Rutten.

Finally, just to be clear on this thing that this all isn’t really about: Rutten’s approach to Lewis’s thesis is absurdly reductive. If you were to read the book, you’d likely never trust a book review of Rutten’s again, at least on any subject like this one. The book is a broad historical narrative, written in a lively and engaging manner, of the the birth of Europe and the rise and fall of al-Andalus in relation to each other. The notion of the West having possibly been better off if Islam had swept through Southern Europe and taken over the Mediterranean is just something Lewis poses as an interesting counterfactual along the way, in light of the social, economic, and cultural contrasts between Golden Age Islam and Dark Ages Europe. It’s not his main thesis or even a major point at all.

CK MacLeod on July 29, 2010 at 2:24 AM

CK,

That’s not all he said. The Forbes piece includes this:

As an American in good standing, I’d like to be heard–and to make sure that James Madison, a colleague of mine in citizenship, is heard too. The fourth president of the U.S. once wrote, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” It’s a line that National Republican Trust neglects to remember.

And in the comments to Poulos, he goes on about “he’s a first amendment guy.” The fact that people came here for the free exercise of religion in the abstract does not mean that religious practice, including construction of houses of worship, is beyond neutral laws and regulations from a constitutional perspective. Similarly, you might be a great believer in the abstract principle of free speech, but if I turned up outside your home at 4 a.m. with a 120 dB sound truck, you would likely call the cops for the application of a neutral regulation of my speech. And your agreement or disagreement with the content of my speech might be part of your motive, but it wouldn’t invalidate the police hauling me to the clink.

You may think I’m being reductive, and that Rutten is being reductive, etc. As you note ealier, such historical narratives are subject to debate and dispute. My thesis has been simply that Friedersdorf, while attacking the reductive PAC, ends up being reductive himself. Having read the Friedersdorf column, didn’t it occur to you that you could have done that column much better on every single point? It seems to me that you could have, because you actually have an interest in the underlying issues, whereas Friedersdorf clearly wrote his piece to take a potshot at an easy target.

Karl on July 29, 2010 at 3:17 AM

Friedersdorf is a liberal.

All liberals hate America.

All liberals hate America because they all hate Christians.

All liberals hate Christians because they hate conservatives.

All liberals automatically defend the opposite of what they hate, therefore all liberals defend Islam.

It’s really not that complicated.

Jaynie59 on July 29, 2010 at 8:40 AM

OK, I’m stupid.

I’ve clicked on a bunch of links, and it isn’t even called “The Ground Zero Strip Club”. Deceptive stuff, Conor.

fivefeetoffury on July 29, 2010 at 8:51 AM

Also, I’m just a lowly Canadian, so can someone explain to me how, despite the 1st Amendment, Congress did indeed make it illegal for Mormons to freely practice their religious beliefs about polygamy?

If we can pass laws against Mormon beliefs and practices, why not Muslim ones?

fivefeetoffury on July 29, 2010 at 9:02 AM

After doing his thorough research, perhaps the author discovered one of those dirty little secrets.
Mohammad Atta was a part-time stripper.

TimBuk3 on July 29, 2010 at 9:25 AM

Your response is not unlike their tactic. Thumb in the eye. Always charming.

juanito on July 28, 2010 at 3:56 PM

Here he supports the Journolist revelations, indifferent to the fact that the Taliban is already calling for the murder of Afghan NATO allies:

http://hotair.com/headlines/?p=93830&cpage=1#comment-1055352

RC is a Moby Troll who supports Islamist mass murder.

ebrown2 on July 29, 2010 at 10:15 AM

Also, I’m just a lowly Canadian, so can someone explain to me how, despite the 1st Amendment, Congress did indeed make it illegal for Mormons to freely practice their religious beliefs about polygamy?

If we can pass laws against Mormon beliefs and practices, why not Muslim ones?

fivefeetoffury on July 29, 2010 at 9:02 AM

The Supreme Court found that:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reynolds_v._United_States

“Congress was deprived of all legislative power over mere opinion, but was left free to reach actions which were in violation of social duties or subversive of good order”

See also:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Late_Corporation_of_the_Church_of_Jesus_Christ_of_Latter-Day_Saints_v._United_States

ebrown2 on July 29, 2010 at 10:20 AM

And in the comments to Poulos, he goes on about “he’s a first amendment guy.” The fact that people came here for the free exercise of religion in the abstract does not mean that religious practice, including construction of houses of worship, is beyond neutral laws and regulations from a constitutional perspective. Similarly, you might be a great believer in the abstract principle of free speech, but if I turned up outside your home at 4 a.m. with a 120 dB sound truck, you would likely call the cops for the application of a neutral regulation of my speech. And your agreement or disagreement with the content of my speech might be part of your motive, but it wouldn’t invalidate the police hauling me to the clink.

You may think I’m being reductive, and that Rutten is being reductive, etc. As you note ealier, such historical narratives are subject to debate and dispute. My thesis has been simply that Friedersdorf, while attacking the reductive PAC, ends up being reductive himself. Having read the Friedersdorf column, didn’t it occur to you that you could have done that column much better on every single point? It seems to me that you could have, because you actually have an interest in the underlying issues, whereas Friedersdorf clearly wrote his piece to take a potshot at an easy target.

Karl on July 29, 2010 at 3:17 AM

Let’s see how much of a “1st Amendment guy” he is if protesters stand out in front of the mosque desecrating Korans and waving unflattering pictures of Mohammad about in reaction to this affront.

After all, being offended is a justification for SO MANY THINGS.

ebrown2 on July 29, 2010 at 10:23 AM

Such a mosque would be a spectacular and powerful symbol of victory over the infidels to the militant Muslims who will continue to recruit from within America. They plot our demise while smiling to our faces. It’s who they are.
Randy

williars on July 29, 2010 at 10:30 AM

I am amused at how casually one side claims Rauf & Co. have first amendment rights they don’t have, while ignoring that the opponents do have first amendment rights to speak and petition the government.

Karl on July 29, 2010 at 1:15 AM

It’s the same old story with these liberty-hating punks.

“Free speech for me, a government jackboot to the face forever for thee.”

ebrown2 on July 29, 2010 at 10:31 AM

Such a mosque would be a spectacular and powerful symbol of victory over the infidels to the militant Muslims who will continue to recruit from within America. They plot our demise while smiling to our faces. It’s who they are.
Randy

williars on July 29, 2010 at 10:30 AM

Enlightenment-hating foes of freedom to a man.

ebrown2 on July 29, 2010 at 10:33 AM

They paved Paradise
Put up a feakin’ Mosque

TwilightStruggler on July 29, 2010 at 10:35 AM

Such a mosque would be a spectacular and powerful symbol of victory over the infidels to the militant Muslims who will continue to recruit from within America. They plot our demise while smiling to our faces. It’s who they are.
Randy

williars on July 29, 2010 at 10:30 AM

The same evil that put 6 million Jews in gas chamber and killed 3000+ people on 9/11 will be celebrated both there and here on this thread by RC.

Just two good buddies chatting:

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/muftihit.html

ebrown2 on July 29, 2010 at 10:41 AM

A ground zero stripper club!! OMG after we were attacked by Russian strippers and thousands of our countrymen died on 9/11! Oh wait, it wasn’t Russian strippers was it…

Wine_N_Dine on July 29, 2010 at 10:47 AM

A ground zero stripper club!! OMG after we were attacked by Russian strippers and thousands of our countrymen died on 9/11! Oh wait, it wasn’t Russian strippers was it…

Wine_N_Dine on July 29, 2010 at 10:47 AM

Intentions don’t count, don’t you know?

In point of fact, a Ground Zero strip club would be a reverent remembrance to the victims in comparison to the filth expressed by the term “Cordoba.” For once in his life, Newt is right about the symbolism here.

ebrown2 on July 29, 2010 at 10:51 AM

And in the comments to Poulos, he goes on about “he’s a first amendment guy.” The fact that people came here for the free exercise of religion in the abstract does not mean that religious practice, including construction of houses of worship, is beyond neutral laws and regulations from a constitutional perspective.

Look, I don’t want to get into an “opinions about F-dorf” thing, as I go by the political theory of “no enemies to the wherever the heck he is,” but I don’t think you’re getting to heart of the matter.

It’s not that “people came here for the free exercise of religion,” it’s that “here” as we know it isn’t possible at all without freedom of conscience, freedom of assembly, free exercise. We all understand that the Constitution isn’t a suicide pact, and that we’re not obligated to let people recruit and train to overthrow the Constitution, launch terror conspiracies, or plot to steal candy from babies and push over hot dog carts, or play loud music outside my bedroom late at night. Yet even before we get to the real, pragmatic political and strategic questions – such as handing a victory to the extremists by rejecting and humiliating the relative moderates and grouping them “all together” (the argument of Wright’s that many others including me have also tried to make) – a commitment to freedom and a free society means accepting a lot of things-you-don’t-like and even material risk before you start calling your fellow citizens traitors over differences of opinion. People who agree with many US allies and many other thoughtful Americans that it’s un-wise to lump Hamas in with AQ, or who think that Rauf’s statement about US policy being an “accessory to the crime of 9/11″ is obviously true and that any grown-up should be able to face the facts without suffering an ideological heart attack, or who believe that Sharia can and must be interpreted imaginatively and cannot and must not be implemented or even thought implementable via crude literalism – such people deserve to build buildings, with worship centers if they feel like it, called whatever they want to call them within community standards, and having the Muslim Brotherhood over for tea and crumpets, too, if they feel like it.

F-dorf’s overall theme is stated in his title: If they build it, nothing bad will happen. I think he’s wrong. I think if they build it, good things will happen. One of the good things, maybe even the best thing, will be the defeat of certain kind of “conservatism,” which, as ever in these parts, is beginning to come out in the expressions of some of the people taking your side on this thread. That’s a much, much greater danger to what you believe in (or what I think you believe in) and to who I think you are than Imam freaking Rauf and his piddly little Manhattan building project.

Having read the Friedersdorf column, didn’t it occur to you that you could have done that column much better on every single point?

Well, of course. I’m confident that like me you also almost always feel that way… ;)

CK MacLeod on July 29, 2010 at 11:58 AM

CK

Look, I don’t want to get into an “opinions about F-dorf” thing,

I do. In fact, that was the point of the post. Was the title not a big enough hint?

I think if they build it, good things will happen.

The moderate Muslims linked above don’t. And plenty on non-Muslims. But I do appreciate that you are a lot more honest in stating your political agenda viz forms of conservatism you don’t like.

Karl on July 29, 2010 at 12:25 PM

I do. In fact, that was the point of the post. Was the title not a big enough hint?

I kinda figgered you were more into the issues than the person. Can’t see how my life or what I care about is affected if people conclude C F-dorf sometimes makes shallow arguments.

Jasser and others have their own concerns, but it’s too late to sweep this project under the rug as something no one anywhere should have proposed. It’s been proposed and approved, the people of Lower Manhattan charged with the decision perhaps exceeding Jasser’s expectations. Squashing the project now will have a meaning – become an interpretable act.

At the same time, it’s worth keeping in mind that, according to many project opponents, such moderate Muslims don’t and can’t exist.

CK MacLeod on July 29, 2010 at 1:18 PM

I kinda figgered you were more into the issues than the person. Can’t see how my life or what I care about is affected if people conclude C F-dorf sometimes makes shallow arguments.

Because he and his clique plan on being around for decades.

Admittedly, you are sympatico enough that it likely should not bother you at all. However, I would think you might want to demand more from the next gen of opinion journalism.

Karl on July 29, 2010 at 1:45 PM

On second thought, I was wrong in my last comment. CK is sympatico w/Conor, so the latter’s shoddy work actually harms CK’s cause in the long run. For that reason, CK probably should care about the quality of CF’s work.

Karl on July 29, 2010 at 2:32 PM

However, I would think you might want to demand more from the next gen of opinion journalism.

I’d need more convincing it matters before I could let it interrupt my own journey upriver. It seems to me that Fdorf, whatever his flaws, points to a more open/non-sectarian cultural-intellectual project. So, in that sense you’re right. We’re a lot more sympatico. How much it matters politically is hard to determine, but I can’t abide the alternatives, and, perhaps more important to me, they can’t abide me.

CK MacLeod on July 29, 2010 at 2:42 PM

So bugger off, then.

OhioCoastie on August 9, 2010 at 1:32 PM