Something uncontroversial: Mosque in Downtown Manhattan

While looking for an uncontroversial topic to blog about I heard people debating whether NYC should allow a mosque at 51 Park Place in Downtown Manhattan.

Everyone agrees that the current U.S. Constitution allows for mosques in Downtown Manhattan.

Everyone agrees that while 51 Park Place is nearby, it’ll still be two blocks away. It’s not like it’s being erected on the World Trade Center site or even next door. This map demonstrates the physical closeness and remoteness of the WTC site and the mosque.

Map of mosque site and WTC site

Map of mosque site and WTC site

There were only three arguments in opposition to building the mosque. The first was legal. The current building at the site of the future mosque was a possible landmark. Since I don’t agree with giving any location landmark status, I was glad that the committee voted against giving it a landmark status. While there is still an appeal underway to that decision, I don’t understand the basis of the appeal.

The second was security. If the mosque donations are coming from terrorist groups, then that could somehow make things unsafe for New York.
The way I see it, we should encourage terrorists to give donations to American causes. The less money terrorists have, the less likely they’ll be able to fund their terrorism.
The real issue isn’t money coming from terrorist organizations, but money going to terrorist organizations.

The third was emotional. Since the World Trade Center was destroyed by Muslims and about 3,000 people died in the World Trade Center by Muslims, it wouldn’t be respectful (or “sensitive”) to build an edifice so close to the site of destruction that will encourage people to join and maintain the Muslim faith.

My perspective is the dead don’t care about what is built there. The dead don’t have feelings and they don’t have knowledge of events. So, whether we decide to green-light the project or not, the sensitivity argument is non-starter for me.
And, I don’t even care of the timing of it. In Tuesday’s Daily News paper, Richard Huff quotes John Houseman, WPIX/Ch. 11’s assistant news director, in regards to covering the ceremony at the World Trade Center site, “This will continue through the 10th anniversary,” Houseman says. “I don’t know what happens in year 11.”
From my perspective the dead are gone the moment they die. If they wanted to build a mosque on the World Trade Center site on September 12, 2001, from a “sensitivity to the dead” point of view, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.

However, there are three other possible issues. Two of them are specific to the location and one is about mosques in general.
The first is sensitivity to the living. While the deceased don’t care where a mosque is built, some of their loved ones and some of those who survived the attack do care. While this a legitimate concern, it’s unmanageable. How far away from the World Trade Center site is far enough? What if there’s one survivor who doesn’t want another mosque built anywhere in Manhattan because the thought of it is too painful, the pain would still be true.
As a result, I don’t think we should indulge them. They will just have to be in pain. With time, they’ll die or move on to the next issue and the pain will subside.
The second is historical. People, like Michael Savage, who study history point out that Muslims have a history of building a mosque near the location of a victory over their enemies.
However, in this case, was their really a victory for them to celebrate? Sure, they knocked down some buildings and they killed thousands of innocent people, but it directly lead to the death of thousands of Muslims (in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq*), many of them of the same group as the terrorists on the planes.
It also has the same restriction that the former argument had. If this is so close that it’s seen as a “victory” mosque, what distance would be needed to remove it from that status?

The third argument is that mosques, in general, should be forbidden because they encourage people in their devotion to Allah. Since Allah calls for the death of non-believers, a mosque could encourage terrorists and terrorism.
(Whether Allah really calls for the death of infidels or not is irrelevant, so long as Muslims kill in Allah’s name.
When Christians kill in the name of Christ, it is appropriate to say that Christ calls for murder.
And, if you believe the Bible’s version of history, when Jews killed in the name of Hashem, it was appropriate to say that Hashem called for murder.
The same is true for any other religion or group.
Since they are all fictional characters, what “they” say is less important than what people say they “say”.)

I think there is merit to this argument. However, it’s unconstitutional. If we amended the U.S. Constitution to forbid all religions from erecting houses of worship, we would resolve this problem. Sadly, many other issues would surface.

Therefore, as it currently stands, I cannot protest the mosque’s construction. I hope that it fails because of logistical reasons (lack of funding, mistakes in the blueprints, etc.), but since that’s unlikely, I’m sure a year after the mosque is built the hullabaloo will blow over. Tourists will flock to see the mosque that they wrote letters to the editor to protest and support and New York will benefit.

* I know the argument that Iraq was unrelated to September 11, 2001. However, the USA was bloodthirsty after the blow it received that day and was much more enthusiastic about taking out Saddam Hussein than they otherwise would have been.

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