Ok, So What is the Problem with Cordoba House?

If the response to Cordoba House isn't basically being anti-Muslim, what is it?

I keep thinking that each post that I write on Cordoba House/Park51 is my last, and yet the topic remains rather firmly ensconced  in the news.   Indeed, rather than letting the issue die down, new entrants into the parade continue to emerge (for example, say hello to Dr. Dean).

James Joyner’s post this morning, which was on target, makes me want to further his point by asking a simple question to which I would would be curious as to the readers’ answers: exactly what is it that is so offensive about this project?

I have been repeatedly told here and elsewhere, often by people I consider reasonable and thoughtful, that this project is offensive.  Its offensive to the 9/11 families, it offensive to the neighborhood,* its offensive to America, etc.

Let’s face facts:  the only thing that people find offensive is that Muslims are involved.

Is there something else that I am missing here?  The logic (such as it is) appears to be:  radical Muslims were responsible for 9/11, ergo any Muslims too near (exactly how near is “too near” is unclear) are offensive to the memories of those who died that day (never mind that some of those were innocent Muslims).

How am I wrong?

Isn’t the fundamental argument that “we” (i.e., non-Muslim Americans) can’t trust “them” (Muslim Americans) because, after all, they are sneaky.

As such, Jonah Goldberg’s protestations as to American tolerance are somewhat problematic.

This is especially true because the offense being taken at the Cordoba House project are not the only examples of anti-mosque/anti-Muslim sentiment in the news.

For example:

In Murfreesboro, Tenn., Republican candidates have denounced plans for a large Muslim center proposed near a subdivision, and hundreds of protesters have turned out for a march and a county meeting.

In late June, in Temecula, Calif., members of a local Tea Party group took dogs and picket signs to Friday prayers at a mosque that is seeking to build a new worship center on a vacant lot nearby.

In Sheboygan, Wis., a few Christian ministers led a noisy fight against a Muslim group that sought permission to open a mosque in a former health food store bought by a Muslim doctor.

And:  Mosque Plan for Staten Island Suffers Setback

Father Keith Fennessy, pastor of the Midland Beach church, had agreed to the deal but after intense community opposition he stepped down as head of the church and later withdrew his support of the sale.

Not to mention:  Church plans Quran-burning event.

And then there’s Candidate: Islam is against everything America stands for**

Sure, a lot of this is overreaction or the fruit of extreme views.  Still, if Baptists were being told they couldn’t build churches and that the local mosque was having a Bible burning, I don’t think it would be dismissed as a much ado about nothing.

I will say again, if mosques on American soil are considered a provocation, we, as a country, need to really re-evaluate our foreign policy on multiple levels.

Look, do I think that there is a massive wave of anti-Muslim opinion sweeping the country?  No, and in that regards Goldberg has a point.  However, just because it isn’t as bad as it could be, doesn’t mean that there aren’t issues here worthy of consideration and comment.

Scapegoating is an ugly thing.  And whatever else this is, this is scapegoating:  it is blaming one group of people for the actions of others.  How is that fair?  How is that true to American ideals?

Because I deeply believe in the ideals of America, including freedom of religion, freedom to use private property within the strictures of the law, as well as treating individuals as individuals who are responsible for themselves and not for the actions of people who can be seen as tangentially linked to them, I find the ire directed at the Park51 project to be disappointing, unseemly and a bit depressing.

However, it would bother me less if there wasn’t also the other examples cited above.  I am even willing to mix in a bit of irrational reaction when it comes to 9/11.  But I think, too, that one has to acknowledge the irrationality of the reaction.

*Although as I noted the other day, the one place where it appears that public opinion is in favor of the project, it is in the NY borough of Manhattan.

**This is an addition after the original post–I forgot to include it in the original version.

FILED UNDER: Islam, Religion, US Politics,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. […] all “these freaks” like . . . uh, Howard Dean.UPDATE: Writing at Outside the Beltway, Steven L. Taylor misleads:Scapegoating is an ugly thing. And whatever else this is, this is scapegoating: it is blaming one […]

  2. Steve Plunk says:

    Is it now anti Muslim to expect respect for the families that lost loved ones on 9/11? Is it anti Muslim to question what foreign sources of funding might be financing this center? Is it anti Muslim to expect the Imam to sit down with the governor of New York and discuss this project? Is it anti Muslim to point out irresponsible rhetoric coming from the leaders of the Islamic community?

    When legitimate questions and issues are raised only to met with accusations of bigotry it only gives the appearance of someone hiding something. That’s the wrong way for this project to go forward. This is an emotional issue so asking for rational discussion means both sides must answer some serious questions otherwise how can we make a rational decision?

    The Islamic community has done nothing to lessen our concerns over these last 9 years. Whether it be the ‘Flying Imams” who provoked a confrontation or the continual parade of Muslims being arrested for conspiring to commit terrorism we have seen many more negatives than positives.

    Let me ask you this. If a peaceful white supremacist organization wanted to build in Selma, Alabama would it seem unreasonable for some people to protest? Of course they have a right to protest and be concerned. They should be able to do it without being called bigots. Now what about an Islamic center near Ground Zero? A religion that calls for killing of apostates, killing of homosexuals, and even discourages the touching of infidels. Why a double standard?

  3. An Interested Party says:

    “Is it now anti Muslim to expect respect for the families that lost loved ones on 9/11?”

    It is now disrespectful to families who lost loved ones on 9/11 to have this project built in this place?

    “If a peaceful white supremacist organization wanted to build in Selma, Alabama would it seem unreasonable for some people to protest?”

    There’s your problem right there–equating Islam with white supremacy…

    “A religion that calls for killing of apostates, killing of homosexuals, and even discourages the touching of infidels. Why a double standard?”

    If we go through the bible, we will find a defense of slavery, the treatment of women as property, and condemnation of homosexuality, among other things…should all this be used to condemn Christianity? If not, why a double standard?

  4. Brian Knapp says:

    Is it now anti Muslim to expect respect for the families that lost loved ones on 9/11?

    No, I respect the families and their loss. Now build the mosque if you want; the two issues aren’t even remotely related. However, to perform the level of mental gymnastics required to use the 9/11 dead to keep a mosque out of an undetermined “hallowed” zone, is exactly anti-muslim.

    Is it anti Muslim to question what foreign sources of funding might be financing this center?

    Yes, when that same level of scrutiny isn’t applied to non-muslim property owners.

    Is it anti Muslim to expect the Imam to sit down with the governor of New York and discuss this project?

    Yes, when no other non-muslim property owner has to go through the same level of scrutiny.

    Is it anti Muslim to point out irresponsible rhetoric coming from the leaders of the Islamic community?

    No, but conflating the relationship between ANY muslim and those directly involved in this project decidedly IS.

    A religion that calls for killing of apostates, killing of homosexuals, and even discourages the touching of infidels.

    Which religion doesn’t or hasn’t called on these things? And which doesn’t also have practictioners who condemn the same?

  5. sam says:

    @Plunk

    The Islamic community has done nothing to lessen our concerns over these last 9 years. Whether it be the ‘Flying Imams” who provoked a confrontation or the continual parade of Muslims being arrested for conspiring to commit terrorism we have seen many more negatives than positives….A religion that calls for killing of apostates, killing of homosexuals, and even discourages the touching of infidels

    Why, then, should Muslims be allowed to build Mosques anywhere in the United States?

  6. Vast Variety says:

    “killing of homosexuals”

    Ah, hello, the Bible would have us all stoned to death and groups like NOM and the Family Research Council would have us all rounded up into camps to be “re-educated” or “cured”.

  7. Is it now anti Muslim to expect respect for the families that lost loved ones on 9/11?

    This begs the fundamental question: why would building a mosque be disrespectful to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11?

  8. David says:

    I’d like to think I’m pretty rational, but it seems like people are in a big hurry to be worried about offending the Muslim population here. This is one of the most sensitive locations in the country. It’s like building a Japanese war history museum at Pearl Harbor. Are “most” Japanese killers and warmongers, to use the argument I’ve seen most frequently on here? Of course not. But there is something to be said for decency and tastefulness. Maybe that museum could be built somewhere else. Mixing this discussion with the Wisconsin and Tennessee incidents is a mistake, in my opinion. In those forums, issues of bigotry and intolerance seem much more viable. I still get chills when I take the time to remember 9/11, though, and a mosque nearby (say, within sight) would seem VERY out of place.

  9. Alex Knapp says:

    Steve,

    Is it now anti Muslim to expect respect for the families that lost loved ones on 9/11?

    First off, how is it disrespectful to build a Muslim community center with an explicit goal of interfaith outreach disrespectful? Second, what about the families of the 29 Muslims who lost their lives on 9/11? Why don’t you respect their feelings and religious faith?

    Is it anti Muslim to question what foreign sources of funding might be financing this center?

    Nope, but it’s anti-Muslim to assume that their being funded by terrorist organizations just because the group is Muslim.

    Is it anti Muslim to point out irresponsible rhetoric coming from the leaders of the Islamic community?

    No, but it is anti-Muslim to assume that all Muslims agree with that irresponsible rhetoric, just as it would be anti-Christian to assume that all Christians agree with “leaders” of the Christian community such as Fred Phelps.

    The Islamic community has done nothing to lessen our concerns over these last 9 years.

    American Muslim Imams have consistently issued fatwas against terrorism. American Muslims have joined the U.S. Armed Forces and died in defense of their country. American Muslims in New York are building a community center with the explicit purpose of become more integrated in the American community. If that’s not enough for you, I think you might want to consider where the problem lies….

    If a peaceful white supremacist organization wanted to build in Selma, Alabama would it seem unreasonable for some people to protest?

    Let me ask you this: if a peaceful Christian organization wanted to build a community center in Selma, Alabama with an explicit mission statement of helping the integration of black and white communities and ending racial tensions, would it seem unreasonable for some people to protest?

    Now what about an Islamic center near Ground Zero? A religion that calls for killing of apostates, killing of homosexuals, and even discourages the touching of infidels. Why a double standard?

    Maybe because not every Muslim calls for the killing of apostates, killing of homosexuals, or even discourages the touching of infidels? Good Lord, Steve, you’re better than this. I expect this kind of crap from the Zelsdorfs on this blog but you’re smarter and better than this. Do you honestly believe that all Muslims agree with and practice such a reactionary, primitive branch of Islam? Of course there are Muslim extremists. And their are obviously more violent Muslim extremists than there are violent Christian extremists. But the existence of violent Muslim extremists doesn’t mean that all Muslims are such. Indeed, the vast majority are not. There are millions of American Muslims, yet the vast majority of Muslims who have commited or attempted to commit acts of terrorism against the United States have been foreigners. Doesn’t that tell you something? Open your eyes, man. Seriously, Steve, I don’t mean to sound condescending but I have a lot of respect for you and I don’t think that you’re a bigot. But I do think you need to examine what you’re saying and give it some thought.

  10. Brian Knapp says:

    It’s like building a Japanese war history museum at Pearl Harbor.</em

    Gosh, it's absolutely NOTHING like that.

  11. reid says:

    “This begs the fundamental question: why would building a mosque be disrespectful to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11?”

    He won’t answer that, of course, because there’s no non-bigoted reason to feel that way. The next question is why so many people across the country are against it. I would hope that if many of them got the facts and actually thought about it rather than answering with their gut, they’d be okay with it.

  12. Franklin says:

    If a peaceful white supremacist organization

    This phrase is hilarious. Who are you thinking of? Daughters of the American Revolution?

  13. mantis says:

    I’d like to think I’m pretty rational, but it seems like people are in a big hurry to be worried about offending the Muslim population here.

    Actually, I’m in a big hurry to defend freedom of religion. This is because I’m a patriotic American who believes in the Constitution.

    This is one of the most sensitive locations in the country.

    What, all of lower Manhattan? Why?

    It’s like building a Japanese war history museum at Pearl Harbor.

    No, it’s not. A community center the equivalent of a YMCA has absolutely nothing to do with the 911 attacks. A Japanese war history museum obviously is directly related, in part, to the attacks on Pearl Harbor. Park51 is not an Islamic terrorism museum. This is one of the many huge flaws in the thinking of opponents to the Park51 project: you equate all Muslims with terrorists, and therefore any building owned by Muslims is a shrine to terrorism. It’s ridiculous.

    By the way, the Pacific Aviation Museum is located at Pearl Harbor, and indeed holds Japanese fighter planes. Are you offended?

    Mixing this discussion with the Wisconsin and Tennessee incidents is a mistake, in my opinion.

    No, it’s not, because it rightly points out that the forces opposing Park51 are the same as those opposing the right of Muslims to exist and exercise their freedom of religion all around the country.

    I still get chills when I take the time to remember 9/11, though, and a mosque nearby (say, within sight) would seem VERY out of place.

    So you support destroying the mosques already in existence in the area?

  14. Steve Plunk says:

    reid, Thanks for answering for me. Except you’re wrong. What is it about know it all leftist and their ability to read minds? Perhaps you’ll teach me some day.

    To make my position clear I believe the mosque has every right to be built. I also believe the backers of the mosque are either being incredibly insensitive or just plain provocative in building it there. Dedication on 9/11? Regardless of their motives we have a clear right to freedom of religion and I support their right to build there. Those opposed have a right to speak out as well.

    I’ve grown accustomed to the domination of comments by liberal left leaners but I still don’t understand why you all don’t understand your fellow Americans. It’s as though you have no empathy for those who might oppose this mosque. You lack the ability to understand the anti Muslin bias created by 9/11 and why 9 years on it hasn’t been repaired.

    So I make a case that those opposing the mosque are neither bigots or anti religious and guess what? I’m essentially called a bigot for just stating the obvious. Yes, when you say the cannot possibly any other reason than bigotry to oppose this mosque you’re calling all people opposed bigots. Just another formerly powerful word being rendered useless by overuse.

    Dr. Taylor, You ask why would be disrespectful to the family members? Well, many of them say it is and I don’t see it my place to question that. Rational? Maybe not but no less rational than some religious beliefs we are told to be sensitive to. Why no sensitivity for their irrational beliefs?

    I noticed how quickly many of my liberal friends jumped on the example of white supremacists building in Selma. The point (lost on most everyone) is that religions may have objectionable beliefs (like white supremacy) and have a legal right to build where they choose but public opinion against those beliefs can be organized without being labeled bigotry. Why can Muslims find my religion offensive and not be called bigots but if I find theirs offensive…

    Alex, I appreciate your words but given the standard established here of what is and isn’t a bigot I’m afraid you’re wrong. Under those rules I am a bigot.

  15. mantis says:

    I’ve grown accustomed to the domination of comments by liberal left leaners but I still don’t understand why you all don’t understand your fellow Americans.

    I do.

    It’s as though you have no empathy for those who might oppose this mosque.

    I don’t, because I know why they are opposing it, and why they are trying to keep Muslims in other parts of the country from engaging in constitutionally protected activities.

    You lack the ability to understand the anti Muslin bias created by 9/11 and why 9 years on it hasn’t been repaired.

    Understand that quite well, thank you very much.

    Yes, when you say the cannot possibly any other reason than bigotry to oppose this mosque you’re calling all people opposed bigots.

    Yep. Thanks for playing.

    Why can Muslims find my religion offensive and not be called bigots but if I find theirs offensive…

    Oh, I’m sorry, are Muslims trying to stop you from legally building a church or other religious building? Didn’t think so.

    Under those rules I am a bigot.

    If the shoe fits…

  16. reid says:

    Steve: “anti-Muslim bias”? Gee, what’s another word for that? That’s almost funny.

    You made no case whatsoever that people opposing the “mosque” aren’t bigots. Defending without question all “feelings” just, um, because, is pretty vacuous. Care to try again?

  17. reid says:

    Also: I thought I had read that the 9/11 dedication date was a bit of dis/misinformation, but a google search on that turns up an amazing number of right-wing sites. No wonder they’re so up in arms about this. I wouldn’t trust any of them to not be passing along misinformation, so I still don’t know.

  18. John425 says:

    Is it anti-Muslim for the most religiously free nation on earth to always be accommodating the most restrictive and most oppressive religion on earth? Seems like each accommodation to Islam nibbles away at freedom for all other peoples. American women, Christians, Jews, Bahai, Buddhists, Shintoist, gays, and all other “infidels”- take note.

    The Obamanuts want the mosque built in NYC but won’t let the Israelis build apartments in Jerusalem. Go figure. Anti-Semitism is OK but anti-Islamism is not, eh?

  19. reid says:

    John425, feel free to list all of the freedoms that will be nibbled away if this “mosque” is built. It certainly sounds very, very scary.

    Yes, I personally won’t allow apartments to be built in Jerusalem; I didn’t realize my hypocrisy, forgive me, I retract all previous statements. Oh, the idiocy….

  20. mantis says:

    Is it anti-Muslim for the most religiously free nation on earth to always be accommodating the most restrictive and most oppressive religion on earth?

    Being “accommodating” to any religions (i.e. affording them Constitutional protections) is not anti-Muslim, no. What a strange question.

    Seems like each accommodation to Islam nibbles away at freedom for all other peoples.

    Really? We’ve got several million American Muslims, and they have places of worship all over the country. Tell me, how has that nibbled away at your freedom, exactly? Be specific.

    American women, Christians, Jews, Bahai, Buddhists, Shintoist, gays, and all other “infidels”- take note.

    Yeah, take note. After they’re done with the Muslims, the right is coming after you next.

    The Obamanuts want the mosque built in NYC but won’t let the Israelis build apartments in Jerusalem.

    Really? Tell us, exactly, how the “Obamanuts” are prohibiting building in Jerusalem. Again, be specific.

    Anti-Semitism is OK but anti-Islamism is not, eh?

    So based on a bunch of delusional thoughts you’ve had, you come to the conclusion that anti-semitism is ok? Ok with whom?

  21. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Mantis, so, since you were prevented from trolling at Wizbang, you migrate to a place where there are nothing but like opinions. Your twisted opinions will fit right in here at OTB. Taylor, you on the losing minority side of this issue. Fully 70% of Americans feel it is wrong to build the Victory Mosque of the 19 Martyrs at the proposed site. Your miniscule knowledge of Islamic history would be laughable if it were not for those who see the building of an Islamic Cultural center in lower Manhattan for what it is. Taylor. there are at least a hundred Mosques in New York City. Is there a large Muslim population in the area that demands a place of worship? I guess those who’s sensitivites do not count because these were not the Muslims who murdered their loved ones. Yes Mantis, if I had my way, we would remove all the Mosques from America. Islam is incompatable with American freedom. If you can name a Muslim country that exercises religious freedom, that tolerated homosexuals such as yourself, please make the very short list.

  22. mantis says:

    Mantis, so, since you were prevented from trolling at Wizbang

    No I wasn’t. Strike one.

    you migrate to a place where there are nothing but like opinions.

    Seems there’s a variety of opinion at this place. Or are you telling me that you and I agree on everything? Strike two.

    Yes Mantis, if I had my way, we would remove all the Mosques from America.

    You’re an unAmerican scumbag. Go live in a theocracy, shitbird. Strike three.

    If you can name a Muslim country that exercises religious freedom, that tolerated homosexuals such as yourself, please make the very short list.

    Oh no! You called me homosexual! You win!

  23. Vast Variety says:

    “The Obamanuts want the mosque built in NYC but won’t let the Israelis build apartments in Jerusalem.”

    East Jerusalem doesn’t legally belong to Israel, it’s belongs to Palestine per the UN treaty that created Israel in 1948. East Jerusalem is occupied territory.

  24. tom p says:

    If it was the Catholic Church opening up a “Youth Center” for troubled young men, to be administered by Priests…

    I wonder how many protests there would be?

  25. mantis says:

    Good stuff here:

    Please forgive me for the actions of extremists I have never met who commit acts of violence that I have never advocated

    As a white male Baptist, it is my duty today to denounce the violence perpetrated by Patrick Gray Sharp, 29, who yesterday attacked the police headquarters in McKinney, Texas, in a heavily armed but ineffectual assault involving a high-powered rifle, road flares, “gasoline and ammonium nitrate fertilizer.”

    I understand that this denunciation must be swift and unambiguous and that, in the absence of such denunciations made by and on behalf of every and all white male Baptists, others are entitled to assume that every white male Baptist is fully in agreement with the actions of Patrick Gray Sharp and to therefore deny white male Baptists the rights others enjoy.

    So I denounce this attack and state unequivocally that we white male Baptists do not believe in this kind of violent extremism. I beg you all not to condemn all of us for the actions of this lone member of our community, although of course I will understand if you decide that you must do so and will humbly accept whatever restrictions on our full participation in society that you see fit to impose. That’s only fair.

  26. ponce says:

    Some reasons why Cordoba House shouldn’t be built that were expressed to me over at former liberal neo-necon’s site just before she banned me:

    “Islam is not a religion; it is a totalitarian political ideology.”

    “Islam is a Religion of Murderers.”

    “Islam has no moral content. It is a supremacist cult. It is a Cult for Psychopaths.”

    http://neoneocon.com/2010/08/15/obama-and-that-local-issue-the-911-mosque/#comments

  27. tom p says:

    >>>If it was the Catholic Church opening up a “Youth Center” for troubled young men, to be administered by Priests…

    I wonder how many protests there would be?<<<

    Wow… no votes so far…

  28. An Interested Party says:

    “Yes Mantis, if I had my way, we would remove all the Mosques from America. Islam is incompatable [sic] with American freedom. If you can name a Muslim country that exercises religious freedom, that tolerated homosexuals such as yourself, please make the very short list.”

    Ach, the stupid…it burns so…one should realize that American freedom is totally incompatible with removing mosques…and naming any Muslim country that exercises or tolerates anything is foolish, as we do not merely hold ourselves to the standards of any other country, we (supposedly, anyway) hold ourselves to a higher standard…

  29. Michael says:

    There seem to be two main reasons for objection to this:

    1) Islam itself is directly culpable for 9/11, and thus any Muslim directly shares in the blame. Therefore, any Muslim center near the site of the WTC is a direct affront to America.

    2) Islam itself is indirectly culpable for 9/11, and while individual Muslims do not share directly in the blame, they cannot be given equal status with non-Muslims until they have been humbled and made restitution for 9/11. Therefore, the Muslim center should be moved as a gesture of capitulation to the non-Muslim majority.

    Those who, like Howard Dean, feel that it should be moved because it’s current location isn’t conducive to the cultural bridge it intends to be fall into #2. They believe that we (non-Muslims) can not or should not form that bridge until the Muslim community has shown a willingness to submit to our demands.

  30. […] other day, Stacy McCain took issue with my characterization of several examples of anti-Islamism as “scapegoating” (although he focused solely on the […]

  31. mattt says:

    I missed this and first and caught it via your recent post replying to McCain. Just wanted to say it captures my own thoughts exactly, and the comments were both illuminating and hopeful.

  32. @Matt: thanks.

  33. K. Harry says:

    Why is it called Cordoba?  Cordoba is a Spanish city that was conquered by Muslims in the Middle Ages.  They knocked down a church then built a mosque in that spot.  They ruled their caliphate from that city.  This NY mosque will teach Sharia law.  Why isn’t it a mosque just for worship?  I think this mosque is a symbol.  If it was just for understanding and unity, I think they would have named it something else.

  34. Michael says:

    K. Harry, They named it Cordoba because under that Caliphate all three major monotheistic religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, peacefully coexisted and were freely practiced.  It is a symbol of understanding not conquest.