Green Room

Round One Masque for the “Ground Zero Mosque”

posted at 9:41 pm on July 29, 2010 by

Two libertarian friends of mine — one of whom is the immortal Brad Linaweaver, co-founder of this very blog — are debating with various libertarian and conservative opponents about whether the city government of New York City should bar construction of Cordoba House on a site two blocks from the remains of the World Trade Centers in southern Manhattan, a site now grimly referred to as Ground Zero.

Those opposed to building the center call it the Ground Zero Mosque (GZM), and the term has become widespread. Those opposed to the opposers object that the term is misleading: Cordoba House an Islamic cultural center, not a mosque, they argue; and it’s not to be emplaced exactly upon the rubble of Ground Zero but is actually a couple of blocks away

GZM opponents respond that the center will almost certainly include a mosque, or at least a place where center members can go for Islamic services, to pray, and to hear Islamic sermons… almost certainly radical Islamist sermons, given the nature of the center’s Imam, Muslim Brotherhood associate and possible member Feisal Abdul Rauf. It’s supposed to be dedicated on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks (I don’t know that this is true, but that is the argument). And they argue that the GZM site chosen by Rauf was the closest he could get to Ground Zero itself; I believe even Rauf admits that, though he disputes the claim that he selected it in order to crow over the attack. And there stands the debate so far.

Brad and the third party wrote me to find out where I stood on the issue; this post is adapted from two e-mails I sent them addressing various aspects. (While Brad suggested I write about this debate, I haven’t the permission of the third party to drag his or her name into it; so please forgive me if I don’t use a name.)

The controversy has two sides (as most do); the first is the American virtues of religious liberty and property rights, enshrined in both the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Let’s take that side first.

…With liberty and justice for all

I don’t particularly respond to “sacred symbols” or “holy land.” I see nothing especially special about Mecca, Jerusalem, the Cross, the Magen David, Ground Zero, or for that matter, Arlington National Cemetary; each is just a physical thing or a spot on the map. While I am moved in various ways by the signified — the actual events and the purposes behind them — I feel nothing for the signifiers, the geographical places and symbolic objects that point at the more important ideas and events.

I take no personal umbrage at the owner of the property at Ground Zero — which happens to be the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, basically a two-state port district, or government-owned corporation — choosing to build another office building there, or a taco stand, or a shrine, or a mosque; it’s Port Authority property, and the corporation should be able do what it wants with it. But I do understand the power of symbolism to other people… in this case, both to most Americans and to nearly all Moslems:

  • To the former, Ground Zero symbolizes a contemptible and unprovoked sneak attack on thousands of American civilians, innocent foreigners, our most revered part of the American government (the military), and indeed upon our entire economic system of (mostly) free enterprise.
  • To a great many, if not most Moslems, Ground Zero symbolizes a righteous blow against the wicked Zionists and Crusaders — however regrettable it may be that some innocent infidels and even some of the faithful had to die in the striking.
  • To other Moslems, it symbolizes the radical Islamism that holds Islam in thrall to Mediaevalism, tribalism, xenophobia, and totalitarianism. (I doubt that any but a handful of Moslems has no reaction whatsoever to Ground Zero as a symbol.)

Thus, for purely strategic reasons, an action in the war against radical Islamism, I would far, far prefer that any building erected on the actual site be a tall, powerful, arrogant, American commercial building, rising even higher than did the Twin Towers; and this time, let’s design the damn thing to look as much as possible like a colossal, world-bestriding middle finger extended to the Moloch worshippers who plotted and carried out the 9/11 attacks. I hope thereby to rally Americans to defense of our nation and our culture, and dishearten the Islamists by showing that we will not be cowed, intimidated, or defeated.

As a libertarian (or propertarian), I don’t believe the City of New York should be able to forbid the Port Authority from allowing someone to build an actual mosque on the actual site of 9/11; for that matter, as the Port Authority is owned by the states of New York and New Jersey, I don’t believe the city would have any legal authority to enact such a prohibition.

(I would be much less forgiving if the Port Authority built a groveling appeasement center at Ground Zero. I still believe the corporation should have the right to build such an apology to the jihadis, but its commissioners would be monumental asses to do so. And I would hope some gazillionaire would raise the funds to buy the site from the P.A. and build something more appropriate there instead — see design point above.)

But for the very same reason — the sanctity of private property — I also oppose allowing the city to prevent Rauf from building an Islamic center (or mosque) two blocks away, on land now owned by Soho Properties (a Moslem-run real-estate investment corporation). Soho owns it; the Cordoba Initiative (run by Rauf) presumably leases it; it’s their private property… not communal property owned by the citizens of New York City.

Oh yes, and declaring the site, an old Burlington Coat factory, a “historical landmark” in order to deprive its owner of the right to commercially exploit the real estate is an anti-capitalist scheme that would be denounced by every conservative and libertarian in America… if only Soho Properties and the Cordoba Initiative were Christian or Jewish organizations. I understand from Mike Gallagher’s radio show that the vote to declare it a landmark failed. Hallelujah, the God of Take-a-Deep-Breath was working overtime that day.

As to whether Cordoba House will include a mosque… so what if it does? There are plenty of mosques in New York already, as well as Christian churches, Jewish synagogues, Hindu temples, Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, Mormon temples, and probably Scientology churches. Obviously we cannot single out one religion and say “but we don’t want them!”

Moslems have as much right to erect Islamic cultural and religious centers as do members of any other religion; we have freedom of religion in America. But that does bring us to the other side of this controversy: How far does religious liberty extend? And must we treat every religious institution with exactly the same degree of scrutiny as all of the others, or can we discriminate on the basis of actual behavior?

“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

The best article about the GZM controversy I have yet read is “Rauf’s Dawa from the World Trade Center Rubble,” by Andrew McCarthy, the former Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York who successfully prosecuted the “Blind Sheikh,” Omar Abdel Rahman, and eleven co-defendents for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centers. McCarthy also assisted in the prosecution of the terrorists who bombed the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; and he is the author of what I believe to be the single most important book on radical Islamism thus far — the Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America — which I urge you all to read.

He argues that Cordoba House is not intended for “interfaith cooperation,” as Rauf claims, but is in fact an exercise of dawa, Arabic for spreading Islam by means other than brute force; besides ordinary proselytizing, dawa includes propaganda, lying, bribery, extortion, infiltration, sedition, and sabotage, each of which is condoned by Moslem law if the goal is to advance Islam, specifically radical Islamism and sharia. (Advancing the supremacy of Islam by brute force would be jihad; thus dawa is sometimes called soft jihad by supporters and critics alike.)

McCarthy also amasses good evidence that Rauf is either a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, or at the very least in league with them:

  • Two Brotherhood front groups published a special edition of Rauf’s 2004 book on Islamism.
  • Rauf has high praise for the spiritual leader of the Brotherhood, Yusuf Qaradawi, a fundamentalist Islamist (and Brother) who explicitly supports Hamas, the Holy Land Foundation, and suicide attacks on any Israeli and on any American in Iraq. Qaradawi is an exterminationist antisemite who praises Hitler and expresses the desire that during the next Holocaust — though he claims the Jews exaggerated the previous one — the final extermination of all Jews in the world will be brought about “at the hand of the believers” (that is, by Moslems).

    To Feisal Abdul Rauf, this is a band leader to follow!

Jihadi jiu jitsu

So the question becomes, given that Cordoba House is likely to be a radical Islamist recruitment center, assuming it takes after its founding imam, and a source of infiltration and sabotage into the government and institutions of the United States, for the avowed purpose of overthrowing them and replacing all with a sharia-based Islamic state — what should be our response? Most of us supported the outing and prosecution of Communist infiltrators, agitators, and saboteurs in the last century; should we not likewise support the outing and prosecution of radical Islamists in this one?

I don’t believe the proper response is to prevent it from being sited so close to Ground Zero; but that being said, we certainly have the right to defend ourselves, our nation, and our culture. As Justice Robert H. Jackson opined, “the Constitution is not a suicide pact.”

So let’s use a little asymmetrical warfare against those who would destroy us. Let’s use American ingenuity, which I daresay we have in nigh-infinitely greater supply than adherents of a religion that is frozen in time at the seventh century. We’ll turn the enemy’s own strength against him: We step back and allow the Cordoba Initiative to proceed, let Rauf build his Cordoba House dawa center; but as it’s being built on the site of the old Burlington Coat factory, we should bug the entire building, surveille everyone, and infiltrate the staff and membership.

I suspect such an effort would produce a veritable deluge of actionable, anti-Islamist intelligence. It would allow us to avert numerous terrorist attacks and other crimes, including terrorist funding efforts, sabotage, and espionage. It would give the FBI a tool to uncover untold numbers of Islamist moles, seemingly benign charitable organizations that are in fact the ideological heirs to the Holy Land Foundation. And it would allow us to keep tabs on a very dangerous group of insurgents right here in the United States.

Of course, I would also not be averse to revoking the legal residency or naturalization of any foreign-born resident at the center caught engaging in anti-American activities.

None of these responses conflicts with the principles religious liberty or property rights; certainly law-enforcement agencies have the authority to investigate possible crimes, even when committed by clergy or congregants; and intelligence agencies have authority to detect threats to national security and expedite their extirpation.

The liberal “elites” will believe they have won the day, and in an orgy of overconfidence will take a three-month victory lap. Those conservatives who are eager to trade essential liberty for temporary security will be prevented from giving in to their own worst impulses. And we’ll be better able to take the war against radical Islamism straight to the enemy.

See? The quick and the clever can always find a middle ground between fascist tendencies on the Right — and liberal-fascist tendencies on the Left.

Cross-posted on Big Lizards

Recently in the Green Room:



Trackback URL


It is incorrect to use the term “Ground Zero Mosque.” It is more correct to call it what it is; a proposed Al Qaeda/Radical Islamist Terrorist Training Camp in the heart of New York City.

We should start calling it the proposed Ground Zero Muslim Terrorist Center.

ericdondero on July 29, 2010 at 11:39 PM

A little too libertarian for me. I do believe the City of New York should have the authority to prohibit types of buildings, construction, and businesses or enterprise purposes. Zoning doesn’t bother me, nor does it bother me that property owners have to get city permits for building purposes. In a dense urban area, in particular, everything any property owner does will have an effect on his neighbor’s property.

I know some libertarians want to leave that all to civil suits in the courts (e.g., anything goes, but you can sue everyone in sight if your rights are being infringed by what someone else is doing). I don’t see any advantages in that approach for a dense urban area, but I do see many drawbacks.

So the concept of the city authorities ultimately deciding against the mosque — at that particular spot — doesn’t bother me.

My own thinking about “overwhelming the mosque” is a bit different from yours. We will never be able to trump Islamism with religion-rejecting secularism. I’m not saying here that the Park 51 mosque represents — or is intended to represent — Islamism, per se (that’s a separate argument/issue), but it will unquestionably be seen as a symbol of Islamism by Islamists.

I am grateful for commercial prosperity, but for millions of Americans, it’s not the first principle of life. Secular commercialism that works well is not a cause, it’s an effect. The cause is our religious and political liberty — and in that order. What is sad today is that we have so perverted the idea of “separation of church and state” that no one in New York is able to see the obvious: that the way to put a 13-story mosque in its place is to affirm, as a people and their local government, that all the people’s religions are “13-stories high,” so to speak, or none of them are.

So, yes, there should be a towering church and a sky-high synagogue within a 2-block radius of Ground Zero. If someone wants to put a Buddhist temple there, I’m game. If the Catholics and Protestants want separate churches, very fine. The Orthodox worshippers can have theirs too. If the Reform Jews must have their own temple, so be it.

All right, that’s a bit simplistic. I don’t literally mean that city authorities should decree that every religious structure be the same height, and we must have one of each in order to achieve homeostasis. But here’s what I do mean. Americans — New Yorkers — should not be afraid of religious expression at Ground Zero. The overwhelming majority of us who profess a religion in this country are Christians, and there should be ZERO problem with putting a church, a shrine, a memorial, a contemplation garden, a community center at Ground Zero, and sticking big crosses all over it. Christians who are concerned about the Ground Zero mosque should not ask Muslims to accept non-representation in the public square; we should insist that we have representation.

It’s not true that you can’t allow religion into public life, lest civil war break out. The whole purpose of America is to disprove that. The modernist bastardization of our history has blinded too many of us to the reality of our past, and people believe a lie today, a lie that weakens our national character in the face of threats like Marxism, collectivism, and Islamism. Facing down those threats requires a courage that doesn’t come from wealth or technology. We can’t make the threat of radical Islamism go away by objecting to a mosque — or by surrounding it with symbols of materialism. The purpose of America is what we need to get back to: guaranteed freedom of religion, not because religion is a bad thing, but because it’s a good one.

J.E. Dyer on July 30, 2010 at 11:22 AM

Women of all races should be allowed in the building…There can be no bias in the way it is run. Forget cultural sensitivity. IF this is truly a place for all it needs to be proven.

tomas on July 30, 2010 at 12:36 PM

I like the middle-finger idea. In fact, I did a few drawings of such a building not long after 9/100.

njcommuter on July 30, 2010 at 12:39 PM

I think it should be built by Scott Harvath

tomas on July 30, 2010 at 6:19 PM

HotAir — Politics, Culture, Media, 2017, Breaking News from a conservative viewpoint
Top Pick

Will they stay or will they go?

Top Pick

I can’t imagine what I was thinking when I said that

Rocking the boat majorly

Big government never contracts. It only grows more powerful

It’s only a “ban” until it becomes inconvenient

The decline and fall of Obamacare and the AHCA

Jazz Shaw Jun 24, 2017 8:31 AM

This was all over before it began

Fixing crime in America is a complicated issue

Taylor Millard Jun 23, 2017 8:31 PM

Cops alone won’t solve it.

Victim’s father was President Maduro’s supervisor back when he was a bus driver.

Democrats forgot all about the “era of good feelings”

“Bernie and Jane Sanders have lawyered up.”

“the Judiciary Committee is examining the circumstances surrounding the removal of James Comey.”

Winning isn’t everything. It is the only thing

Trump signs VA reform bill into law

John Sexton Jun 23, 2017 2:41 PM

“What happened was a national disgrace, and yet some of the employees involved in these scandals remained on the payrolls.”

A new era of something.

“…died suddenly in less than a week just after his return to the U.S.”

The shortsightedness of “Denounce and Preserve”

Taylor Millard Jun 23, 2017 12:11 PM

Pragmatism for the sake of pragmatism doesn’t always work.

Perhaps if you threw in a new car?

Gay marriages still growing, but not as fast

Andrew Malcolm Jun 23, 2017 10:31 AM

More, but not as quickly.

Should’ve stuck with the pirate gig. It was working for him

The battle for the rubble of Raqqa is underway

Andrew Malcolm Jun 23, 2017 8:51 AM

Won’t be much left.

Your list of demands is a publicity stunt

“what happened that day was emblematic of a deeply troubling trend among progressives…”

“The jobs are still leaving. Nothing has stopped.”

Bad vendor. Bad! No cookie!

“The Corps is just starting to grapple with the issues the court has identified.”

“So you want me to sing my praises, is that what you’re saying?”

Why would we possibly want that?

“I mean he sold our country to The Russians.”

I could think of someone else you might want to ask about…

“You can ask a hundred people what hate speech is and you get a thousand different answers”

Trump: I never made any recordings of Comey

Allahpundit Jun 22, 2017 2:01 PM


Hackers stole private data from election databases

John Sexton Jun 22, 2017 1:21 PM

“90,000 records stolen by Russian state actors contained drivers license numbers”

Failure to protect the city

Big man on the Middle Eastern campus