Strip Clubs Didn’t Bring Down the Towers

Strippers didn't attack us on 9/11. Then again, neither did American Muslims.

Responding to the notion that the area in which the Cordoba House project is to be built is “hallowed ground,” Jon Stewart and others have pointed out that the building in question was most recently a Burlington Coat Factory and that the environs contains not only another mosque but strip clubs, casinos, and other less-than-highfalutin establishments.

The retort:  “Strip clubs didn’t bring down the towers. It’s faulty logic.”

Coming from Pam Gellar of the Atlas Shrugs blog, a leader in the opposition movement, I’m not terribly concerned.   That we’re surrounded by jihadists and we have to fight them off hammer and tong is central to her worldview.    But Jim Treacher says essentially the same thing in the discussion of Nancy Pelosi’s call to investigate mosque opponents.

They are, of course, right.  The 19 hijackers who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks were  not strippers.

Nor, however, were they American citizens.

No, they were foreign born al Qaeda terrorists.   But, unless I’ve missed a very important subplot, al Qaeda isn’t building the Cordoba House.  (Although, if they were, it strikes me that we should let them do it but key a very close eye on them.  Far better to have them in New York under FBI surveillance than hiding out in Yemen or Pakistan’s tribal areas.)

Ah, you say, but the hijackers were Muslims.  And this is a Muslim community center.  Q.E. F”ing D!

But there are 1.57 billion Muslims.  They comprise nearly a quarter of the world’s population.  A vanishingly small number of them are violent extremists.  And the people building this center aren’t among their number.

Prior to the 9/11 attacks, the most deadly terrorist incident on American soil was the 1995 car bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which killed 168 people and wounded over 600.   It was carried out by Timothy McVeigh and co-conspirators Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier.  None of them were Muslims.    McVeigh, the leader, was, in no particular order:

  • A New Yorker
  • A computer geek
  • A gun enthusiast
  • A decorated veteran of the Gulf War
  • An anti-tax zealot
  • A Republican
  • A lapsed Catholic
  • A white supremacist

Presumably, if someone wanted to build a facility near the Murrah Building that housed chapters of the VFW, the NRA, the Knights of Columbus, and the local Republican Party headquarters, no one would bat an eye.  Nor, of course, should they.

Of those groups, the only one targeted for scrutiny is the last.   But, oddly, while white supremacy seems to be a uniting factor in the militia movement of which McVeigh and his cohorts were part, it wasn’t the motivating factor for the plot.

The average Tea Party protest attendee has more in common with McVeigh than the average American Muslim has in common with the 9/11 hijackers.*  But most of us would be outraged if a movement arose to prevent the Tea Party from exercising their rights to buy private property and gather on it.  Even if they did it in Oklahoma City.

Photo credit:  Daryl Lang.

________________

*I hasten to add: The chasm between either group and their violent, extremist cousins is wide.

FILED UNDER: General, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Jim Treacher says:

    A. Muslim terrorists brought down the Twin Towers.

    B. There are strip clubs and stuff near where the Twin Towers fell.

    C. Let’s build a supermosque there or else we’re bigots.

    QED.

  2. Brummagem Joe says:

    “QED.”

    QED indeed!

  3. A. Radical Muslim terrorists affiliated with and funded by al Qaeda brought down the Twin Towers

    B. A group of Americans who happen to be Muslim and who are not terrorists wish to construct a community center that happens to contain a mosque on property they own

    C. Said project has been approved by all relevant local zoning boards

    D. There is no legal basis to stop the project and no rational, non-emotional, reason to oppose it.

    E. Let them build their community center

    QED

  4. Brummagem Joe says:

    Jim, you’re dangerously logical at times. Unfortunately dot connecting is something Republicans and conservatives are either not interested in or are incapable of doing these days. The NYT has an interesting story up today about the amount of federal largess received by Alaska and other states who constantly rail against “big government” and federal assaults on their liberty. Since I’m one of the people paying for this charity I’m getting a bit tired of this whining. They have some quotes from some backwoods Alaskan legislator proudly posing in front of a highway being built stimulus dollars while he rants against the stimulus but he sees no contradiction. Similarly your average conservative isn’t going to understand the contradictions you describe because it’s basically all emotive bs whipped up by irresponsible idealogues on the right and the media looking for the latest conflict now the oil well has been capped and Hayward fired. It’s a sad commentary on the state of our society.

  5. @Jim:

    Let’s build a supermosque

    So now it is a “supermosque”? How is that an intellectually honest description?

    @Joe:

    In fairness, it is far form just Republicans making illogical claims about this project.

  6. Jay Dubbs says:

    I prefer “Victory Mosque” to “Super Mosque”. I just sounds more provacative.

  7. Jim Treacher says:

    So now it is a “supermosque”? How is that an intellectually honest description?

    How is it not? Would you object to calling the Crystal Cathedral a superchurch?

  8. Jim Treacher says:

    B. A group of Americans who happen to be Muslim and who are not terrorists wish to construct a community center that happens to contain a mosque on property they own

    …and are getting their funding from, um, er, they won’t say.

  9. sam says:

    @Joe

    “Jim, you’re dangerously logical at times. Unfortunately dot connecting is something Republicans and conservatives are either not interested in or are incapable of doing these days.”

    Uh, I think you meant Doug. And James and Doug are conservative, as is Daniel Larison, David Frum, Conor Friedsdorf, Andrew Sullivan, E.D Kain…– i.e., there are reasonable voices out there on the right side of the divide. Now, if we want to say they’re an endangered species, I’d certainly go along with that. But there are sane conservative voices we can listen to. On the other hand, the current GOP…

  10. rodney dill says:

    So now it is a “supermosque”? How is that an intellectually honest description?

    “Cordoba House project calls for a 15-story community center including a mosque, performance art center, gym, swimming pool and other public spaces”

    Sounds intellectually honest to me….

    As a Second note, Islam is not saying they won this territory, took it away from its real owners as spoils of war. They have or had to buy the property through our capitalist system. So basically… we won.

  11. How is it not? Would you object to calling the Crystal Cathedral a superchurch?

    Because, Jim, the primary purpose of the project is the community center part, not the mosque part: click. The main purpose of the Crystal Cathedral is church services. It is a large worship center, primarily.

    It seems to me that the purpose of calling it a “mosque” and not a “community center” is to evoke the idea of solely a place of worship (as well as to evoke classic mosque architecture, like minarets, rather than a glass high rise building that would not all be out of place in lower Manhattan.

    To call it a “supermosque” is to exacerbate that impression.

  12. Jim Treacher says:

    Because, Jim, the primary purpose of the project is the community center part, not the mosque part: click.

    Correction: The primary stated purpose. I understand that you will go to great lengths to give them the benefit of the doubt, despite their lack of transparency, and I wouldn’t dream of calling you gullible.

    It seems to me that the purpose of calling it a “mosque” and not a “community center” is to evoke the idea of solely a place of worship (as well as to evoke classic mosque architecture, like minarets, rather than a glass high rise building that would not all be out of place in lower Manhattan.

    Right, it’s not a mosque if there’s other stuff attached to it, I get the idea.

  13. sam says:

    @Treacher

    and are getting their funding from, um, er, they won’t say.

    Evidently, they don’t have any right now:

    “In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Daisy Khan said Park51 would not rule out receiving funds from foreign governments. Politicians pounced on this possibility. Rep. Peter King (R-New York) and Rick Lazio, a Republican gubernatorial candidate, have called for investigations into the funding, which Mayor Bloomberg dismissed as “un-American.” (King’s charge packs less of a punch since he has fiscally supported actual terrorist outfits.)

    Park51, Sultan insisted, will fully comply with state and federal investment regulations. “If anyone doesn’t fit with what the Treasury or Homeland Security [Departments] say,” he assured me, “then they won’t be an investor.” Government agencies would, he noted, be eager to support Park51’s mission—which is to say, creating what he repeatedly referred to as “moderate communities.” Sultan sounded mildly frustrated with the calls to unveil their funding structure. “We just got landmark status two days ago,” he said. “I do not have a hundred-page plan.”

    http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/41907/how-to-build-a-100-million-islamic-center/

  14. James Joyner says:

    …and are getting their funding from, um, er, they won’t say.

    Do we investigate the funding sources of everyone who wants to build something?

    For that matter, if you’re concerned that their funder might be somehow nefarious, isn’t the burden on you to demonstrate that?

    But let’s say it’s proven that the funders are Saudi Wahhabis or Iranian Shiites. So what? So long as they’re not fomenting violence, they have every right to assemble to worship or rant about America as they will. We’ve got plenty of that sort of thing here in the DC area. Hell, I’ve got a madrassah within walking distance of my house. That’s the nature of a free society.

  15. PD Shaw says:

    So, James why do Muslims want to build at this location?

    “The location was precisely a key selling point for the group of Muslims who bought the building in July. A presence so close to the World Trade Center, “where a piece of the wreckage fell,” said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the cleric leading the project, “sends the opposite statement to what happened on 9/11.”

    “We want to push back against the extremists,” added Imam Feisal, 61.”

    How many blog posts is this site going to have which attempt to ignore the importance of the location selected or the relationship between religion and 9/11?

    I get that there are peope raising the alarm that sharia law is coming, but it seems clear that the Imam is probably a well-intentioned fool, that wants to use ground-zero as a platform for healing and religious promotion and he is going to cause more harm than good. The Constitution certainly gives him the right, but I think we can sadly look forward to years of more tone-deaf quotes in the blogoshpere from the Imam of Ground Zero. Frankly, I see this as lose-lose.

  16. Do we investigate the funding sources of everyone who wants to build something?

    Only the ones who demonstrate too much Muslimy-nees

  17. Boyd says:

    We can all twiddle away our time tossing pointed barbs of relevant and irrelevant points about this project, but it all sounds to me like King Canute commanding the tide.

    What matters here (in America, at least) is the opinion of the masses. It doesn’t matter if they’re wrong, they’re still the force to be reckoned with in political matters. I’m of the opinion that so many folks are ready to associate this Islamic-community-center-with-a-mosque with Al Qaeda and/or radical Islam because they have reason to believe that Muslims are generally anti-American.

    While the towers fell, and the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania burned, what images did we see of Muslims? The joy in the streets in the Islamic world. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t representative of Muslims in general or American Muslims in particular, it’s what we saw. And to this day, it stands effectively unrefuted in the minds of many, probably most, Americans.

    There were plenty of folks “like” McVeigh who condemned his act, and none who stood up and cheered over his domestic terrorism. I think equating his background and terrorist act with those of radical Islamists is misguided at best.

  18. Jim Treacher says:

    Do we investigate the funding sources of everyone who wants to build something?

    If not, we’d better not investigate the funding sources of anyone who wants to build something! Also, there are lots of other buildings in Manhattan, what’s wrong with building one more? Logic is fun.

  19. rodney dill says:

    It seems to me that the purpose of calling it a “mosque” and not a “community center” is to evoke the idea of solely a place of worship (as well as to evoke classic mosque architecture, like minarets, rather than a glass high rise building that would not all be out of place in lower Manhattan.

    I’d be perfectly happy to call it a Super Moslem Community Center — Unless Jews can include there own holocaust exihibit or place of worship, or Catholics, or Lutherans, or Mormon… then its not just really a universal community center. Also how much is going to be tax exempt under the ‘place of worship’ loophole?

    To call it a “supermosque” is to exacerbate that impression..
    Well, it certainly does do that, and its also incendiary. Still not what I would call an intellectually dishonest statement.

  20. Jim Treacher says:

    Only the ones who demonstrate too much Muslimy-nees

    You’d save a lot of time, Doug, if you assigned the word “Bigots!” to a macro and just used that.

  21. rodney dill says:

    (messed up my quotes on the last one)

    It seems to me that the purpose of calling it a “mosque” and not a “community center” is to evoke the idea of solely a place of worship (as well as to evoke classic mosque architecture, like minarets, rather than a glass high rise building that would not all be out of place in lower Manhattan

    .

    I’d be perfectly happy to call it a Super Moslem Community Center — Unless Jews can include there own holocaust exihibit or place of worship, or Catholics, or Lutherans, or Mormon… then its not just really a universal community center. Also how much is going to be tax exempt under the ‘place of worship’ loophole?

    To call it a “supermosque” is to exacerbate that impression..

    Well, it certainly does do that, and its also incendiary. Still not what I would call an intellectually dishonest statement.

  22. Jim Treacher says:

    For that matter, if you’re concerned that their funder might be somehow nefarious, isn’t the burden on you to demonstrate that?

    I forgot, he’s one of those Hamas-supporting moderates we hear so much about.

  23. Correction: The primary stated purpose. I understand that you will go to great lengths to give them the benefit of the doubt, despite their lack of transparency, and I wouldn’t dream of calling you gullible.

    I sort of figured that be your response.

    So, we are to evaluate this all on speculation about the future, I guess.

    And God forbid we should give fellow Americans the benefit of the doubt. Better to assume the worst.

  24. You’d save a lot of time, Doug, if you assigned the word “Bigots!” to a macro and just used that.

    Jim I did not call you, or anyone else, a bigot

    However, I have seen no logical, non-emotional, argument provided by anyone for why this building project should be treated any differently from any other project in Manhattan, or anywhere else in American.

    So, what am I supposed to think ?

  25. James Joyner says:

    What matters here (in America, at least) is the opinion of the masses. It doesn’t matter if they’re wrong, they’re still the force to be reckoned with in political matters.

    Boyd, that’s precisely why we have the 1st Amendment: To ensure that politicians can’t bow to the ignorant whims of the masses on matters of speech and religion. The people have every right to be uniformed, prejudiced, and irrational. But, in America, they have no right whatsoever to discriminate against people on account of they don’t like their religion.

    Yes, those cheering bastards around the world on 9/11 pissed me off. I’d have happily bombed their asses out of rage. But, even on that day, I wouldn’t have said that American Muslims didn’t have the right to peaceably assemble in the environs of the 9/11 attacks.

  26. Right, it’s not a mosque if there’s other stuff attached to it, I get the idea.

    No, but it is more than a just a mosque, let alone a “supermosque” if it has stuff attached to it.

    If I wanted to call it a natatorium because a pool is to be a attached, perhaps even a supernatatorium, I suppose you would consider that just as accurate a description?

    So, yes, logic (and linguistic clarity) is, in fact, fun.

    I have no problem noting that a mosque is part of the project, but you wish to exclusively focus on that aspect, which obfuscates what we are talking about.

  27. Jim Treacher says:

    Maybe you guys are right. Hey, is that a unicorn? Cool!

  28. PD Shaw says:

    re First Amendment: Has there been a law proposed to stop the building?

  29. john personna says:

    When every Muslim country in the world condemned the 9/11 attack, we’d actually won that round of public, from a standpoint of Realpolitik. You may recall that by September 7th, 2001 Iran had condemned attacks on US. There are more such condemnation here

    There is a “snatching defeat from the jaws of victory” aspect to our responses to the Muslim world since then. Is the American public opinion sadly human and unsurprising? Sure. But I sure think we could have done better.

  30. john personna says:

    “that round of public [opinion]”

  31. john personna says:

    also “September 17th” … if it had been “September 7th” that would have been a bit of a smoking gun.

  32. Franklin says:

    Treacher, is that the best argument you can come up with? Unicorns? Yup, everybody but you is nuts.

    Look at PD Shaw’s post for a relevant argument against the community center. I’m not in agreement with his conclusion, but at least he gave us something useful to consider.

  33. sam says:

    No to my knowledge, PD, but there is this:

    NEW YORK — The debate over a planned Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero became a court fight Wednesday, as a conservative advocacy group sued to try to stop a project that has become a fulcrum for balancing religious freedom and the legacy of the Sept. 11 attacks.

    Media surround one of the few people voicing their opinion during a meeting of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, while the panel were voting on the landmark status of a 152-year-old building on Park Place, in New York, Tuesday, Aug. 3, 2010. The commission voted unanimously not to landmark the building, making way for the construction of a mosque at the site.

    The American Center for Law and Justice, founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson, filed suit Wednesday to challenge a city panel’s decision to let developers tear down a building to make way for the mosque two blocks from ground zero.

    The city Landmarks Preservation Commission moved too fast in making a decision, underappreciated the building’s historic value and “allowed the intended use of the building and political considerations to taint the deliberative process,” lawyer Brett Joshpe wrote in papers filed in a Manhattan state court. The Washington, D.C.-based group represents a firefighter who responded to and survived the terrorist attack at the World Trade Center.

    http://www.ajc.com/news/nation-world/group-sues-to-stop-584902.html

  34. Boyd says:

    While some Americans may be calling for the force of government to prevent the construction of this project, it doesn’t seem to me to be the fundamental demand (this is addressing your First Amendment statement, James). They just don’t want it built.

    The prominent folks who have gotten in front of this “movement” are certainly not calling for government intervention in violation of the First Amendment. They’re trying to pressure the backers into stopping the project or moving somewhere else on their own.

    So I think your mention of the First Amendment is a bit of a non sequitur, James. Just as Muslims in America have a First Amendment right to religious freedom, Americans also have the First Amendment right to express the opinion that the proposal is outrageous, and neither of those parties is infringing on the rights of the other.

  35. sam says:

    @Boyd

    “The prominent folks who have gotten in front of this “movement” are certainly not calling for government intervention in violation of the First Amendment. They’re trying to pressure the backers into stopping the project or moving somewhere else on their own.”

    See my comment preceding your’s. BTW, what odds will you give me that the plaintiff’s get Taitzed?

  36. PD Shaw says:

    sam, I don’t see that lawsuit as a First Amendment issue. Unpopular developments are frequently subject to legal scrutiny to make sure all of the i’s are dotted and the t’s crossed. You may be right that it won’t go anywhere and it might be simply a stalling tactic, but I’m not sure its Taitz level crazy.

  37. PD Shaw says:

    Thank you, Franklin, but I have to confess I’m more disinterested in this topic than it may appear.

  38. sam says:

    “sam, I don’t see that lawsuit as a First Amendment issue”

    I think we’ll have to disagree on this PD. I do agree with you that the content of the suit appears to be strictly on the legalities of the siting process. However, that for me is just the delivery vehicle. The suit, imo, is an attempt the thwart the First Amendment claims of the center’s proposers. I’ll look forward to the standing arguments the plaintiffs present (one NY firefighter is supposed to be the one alleging injury).

  39. Vast Variety says:

    “supermosque”

    Will it be open 24/7 and can I buy a slurpie?

    Some people seem to forget that there were Muslims who raced into the towers to try and save people and who are just as much a victim as anyone else. There are Muslims who serve in our armed forces who are fighting and dieing along side everyone else in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Also, remember that these folks have been holding their prayer services in this building for many years all ready. Why all of a sudden is it an issue?

  40. mantis says:

    The Jim Treacher method:

    Every detail I don’t know about something I am predisposed to dislike is by definition nefarious and evil. Any evidence to the contrary will be ignored, but any and all unsourced quotes or details supporting my predisposition will be treated as gospel. All substantive rebuttals to my position and claims will be responded to only with unclever, unfunny snark. FTW!

  41. Craig says:

    Trying to inject cold logic into an issue with a large, heated emotional component is ineffective. It will never win this type of argument. The blanket “hallowed ground” argument can be debated due to all the less-than-hallow business that it would have to cover. However, the fact that the landing gear of one of the planes crashed through the roof of the Burlington building (rendering it unusable), along with other debris (and likely tiny pieces of human remains) makes it, symbolically, psychologically (and somewhat realistically) a part of the directly affected area from 9/11.

    Given human nature, that kind of emotional/psychological connection is not going to be swayed by a “yeah, but these aren’t the same Islamic followers” argument.

    If bridge-building is a key component for this Community/Prayer Center, then it seems odd that its leaders insist on building at a site with so much passioned resistance.

  42. JKB says:

    PD Shaw has the right point about this. No government action has been taken to stop this mosque, nor is any likely. Although, had the community board or zoning commission denied their permission, that apparently would be legal in spite of this being religiously affiliated community center.

    Yes, people are expressing their views that the center is inappropriate. Yes, someone has sued one of the boards to question their application of their mandate in the approval. Well, that happens when someone wants to put a trailer in a neighborhood or by liberals when Walmart tries to build in an urban area. That happens when they want to build a new stadium or strip mall. Near me, people recently got all upset and some sued to stop a commercial development because it required a long forgotten cemetery be moved. But once it made the news, all sorts of hue and cry went up and so far, no development on this once overgrown corner.

    The right to freedom of religion means they can build a mosque in America, it doesn’t mean they can build it in this spot in conflict with established zoning, historical, community, etc. regulations, it doesn’t mean that people can’t say they don’t like it, it doesn’t mean that people can seek to, through negotiation and conversation, induce them to move to another location, it doesn’t mean that after getting local government approval other people can’t still think it is a bad idea and say so.

    They got freedom of religion, everyone has freedom of speech and everyone has the right to decide whether locating a muslim center in this location is a good or bad idea. Call me when someone actually tries to use either a targeted law or violence to stop the center, then the whining about the First Amendment will have some teeth.

    As a test of the famous NYC tolerance, someone should try to open a evangelical Christian community center in the neighborhood and see what happens.

  43. mantis says:

    As a test of the famous NYC tolerance, someone should try to open a evangelical Christian community center in the neighborhood and see what happens

    You’ve never been to New York City, have you? Faith Evangelistic Ministries is about 6-7 blocks away from the Park51 project, and about three blocks from the WTC site.

    There are many other Christian churches in the area.

    John Street United Methodist Church – Two blocks away Park51
    St Paul Chapel – Three blocks away Park51
    Trinity Episcopal Church – 5-6 Blocks from Park51
    Our Lady of Victory Church – 6-7 blocks from Park51

    There’s many more, but you get the idea.

  44. Richard Bottoms says:

    There’s many more, but you get the idea.

    No they don’t get the idea. They won’t get the idea because as with the Right, thinking isn’t required. Hating the left and the nefarious plots they’ve hatched, from FEMA Death Camps to ObamaHitlerMAO’s neat trick of hiding his Kenyan birth, is the idea.

    Doesn’t matter that the Imam has worked with the FBI, was asked by the Bush Administration to help with outreach to Muslims, or that the Imam spoke out against the murder of Daniel Pearl.

    It’s a SUPER MOSQUE, or a SUPER VICTORY MOSQUE (which sounds like a Nintendo game) because Rush said it’s so and Sarah says so, so that’s what it is and no amount of logic will change minds made of stone.

  45. An Interested Party says:

    “Call me when someone actually tries to use either a targeted law or violence to stop the center, then the whining about the First Amendment will have some teeth.”

    Call me when anyone associated with this project is shown to have any ties to al-Qaeda, then the whining about insensitivity and hallowed ground will have some teeth…