This week the conservative echo chamber is buzzing with righteous outrage over the fact that Muslims are building a “mosque” at ground zero. This is an insult to those died on that fateful day. How dare they! Palin called on Muslims to “refudiate” the building of it. Newt Gingrich, Rick Lazio and even the Anti-Defamation League have condemned it. Emails are flying and the blogosphere is lit up like a Christmas tree in Times Square. It’s even been implied that Muslims are trying to impose Shariah law on innocent Americans.
More sound byte than substance
The only problem with all of the hysterics, is that it’s not very factual. As Matt Sledge of The Huffington Post points out, it’s not actually a mosque, and it’s not at ground zero. It’s a couple of city blocks away, past a university and down a street. You can’t even see the World Trade Center site from the proposed location of the Cordoba House project. It’s also not a mosque, but a cultural center that will contain a basketball court, swimming pool, childcare, art exhibitions, and a prayer room—not exactly a dedicated house of worship. One usually doesn’t shoot three-pointers in a mosque. It would be better described as a Muslim YMCA. But why should we let little things like facts get in the way of hyperventilated rhetoric, ridiculous posturing and fear mongering?
When straw men attack!
The Cordoba House controversy is just another straw man in a long procession of imaginary foes. We went to war in Iraq over WMD’s, yellowcake uranium, aluminum centrifuge tubes, and Saddam’s connection to Al Qaeda–none of which were real. Now Newt Gingrich wants to have a total ban on Shariah law:
“And one of the things I’m going to suggest today is a federal law which says that no court in the United States under any circumstances is allowed to consider Sharia as a replacement for American law. Period.”
Is this a real issue? Are legislatures across the country considering chucking the Constitution in favor of the Koran? No. This is just another non-issue issue to muddy the public discourse. Perhaps he should also call for a ban on Klingon law—just in case. Way to keep you eye on the ball Newt.
There is a Christian terrorist organization in this country called the Army Of God that advocates violence against abortion doctors. In 1993 Shelly Shannon attempted to murder Dr. George Tiller. Tiller was later murdered by Scott Roeder. Both of them were Christian terrorists. Recently the members of the Hutaree Christian militia were arrested for seditious conspiracy. Even Timothy McVeigh was raised Christian. From this we could push the following narrative: Christians are dangerous extremists, and they want to construct churches to loom, menacing over our hospitals! How dare they! Can we just stand by while they plot murder?
It’s obviously false because we know that most Christians are not actually terrorists. However this same bigoted reasoning underlies the narrative of the ground zero mosque. The Islamic religion didn’t blow up the World Trade Center, al-Qaeda did, and they did it for political, not religious reasons. The vast majority of Muslims are not terrorists. Muslims died in the attack, and their families often come to pray at the site.
This issue is a red herring, a distraction from the real issues facing the country. It’s shameful that political leaders and the Anti-Defamation League choose to trample on American ideals–ideals they supposedly support. But what’s even more shameful is that so many Americans don’t know the difference.