In defense of the Park Place Community Center for Performing Arts that people keep calling a Mosque

Rather unfortunately, I got sucked into a Mosque/Ground Zero debate on a friend‘s Facebook page last night. Even though it’s not a mosque. Even though it’s not at Ground Zero.

But then, the “Park Place Community Center for Performing Arts That’s a Lot Like the 92 St Y” doesn’t present the same political grandstanding opportunities now, does it.

The one comment in the thread that really sucked me in was something along the lines of If you were in New York on 9/11 you’d feel differently.

I was in New York on 9/11. We all know friends who were there or friends who lost family, or friends who nearly missed being there by some divine stroke of Not Your Time Yet. It’s six degrees of Ground Zero around here, and everyone has a story.

I still live in New York, paying New York City taxes and taking a subway to work, making fun of the tourists in Times Square, wearing black in the summer, and staring from my building roof at the gaping hole that was the Twin Towers.

The way I see it, none of that gives me some sort of Get Out of the First Amendment Free card.

None of that gives any of us the right to create some sort of Intolerance Perimeter around downtown Manhattan.

(Besides, if we were to pick one state-sanctioned religion around here, you totally know it would be Judaism. Duh.)

I have a friend at work who lives right next door to the proposed community center. She’s informs me there’s already an underground Islamic center there, and that it’s been there for ages. No one cares, no one complains. What they don’t like however, are the FOX News trucks now camped outside their building which invite the wackos and the bible-wavers and the bizarre protesters shaking their fists at that stupid freedom of religion thing in the name of democracy! Now let’s go get a lap dance at the Hallowed Ground of 9/11 Strip Club next door.

Something tells me our country would be a more peaceful place with more Muslim Community Centers and less FOX News.


Edited to add: Want to read a perspective from my friend above? Here’s her husband’s blog. The photo will flip you out.


50 thoughts on “In defense of the Park Place Community Center for Performing Arts that people keep calling a Mosque”

  1. If you haven't already, read my friend Faiqa's post on the subject:

    She's an American born Muslim and had a pretty good dialogue on her blog about the issue.

    The Daily Show had a great piece on it on Thursday, especially discussing how FOX News was okay with the center and commended the person starting it back in December. It's just making a mountain out of a mohammadhill.

  2. great post. I suppose by their logic, we should not allow any houses of Christian worship to be erected anywhere in Oklahoma City, given that Timothy McVeigh was a Christian. Imagine that–a Christian-American terrorist?! That's so 1995.

  3. It's good that we have solved all of our other problems, so we have plenty of time to devote to this.

  4. Sarah, I'm also thinking that Spain should get rid of all churches immediately. I'm still a little uncomfortable with the Inquisition.

  5. Avitable beat me to it, but yes – go read Faiqa's post on this.

    My question is this: how near is too near for a masjid/community center to be built? So, 2 blocks is too near to Ground Zero? Is 5 blocks still too close?

    It is so frustrating to watch Bill O'Reilly and his fellow Death Eaters at Faux News fanning the flames of hatred. That gets us nowhere.

  6. I am so, so torn on this.
    But I have to disagree with you, I don't think that this is a First Amendment issue. If the government forbade it, then yes, absolutely. But right now it's a debate–do people want the mosque there or not? And if it's in the spirit of conciliation, hasn't that battle already been lost?

    I so want to be on the side championing the building of this mosque, but I just can't be, not fully.

    And I'm not happy about it.

  7. Amen. And isn't there an actual mosque as close or closer to the site that's already in existence? Why is everyone who's really concerned about this NOT from Manhattan?

    Oh, and my birthday? Pearl Harbor Day. I got exactly the same reaction from every teacher or older relative when I was growing up. So I feel ya, mah sistah.

  8. Brilliant post. When the media can't provide a balanced perspective on an issue, all hell breaks loose…which as we know is a FOX speciality.

    Which is why I fear the day when
    FOX starts to broadcast in Canada…so much for peaceful co-existance.

  9. The irony is that FOX News and others who fear anything to do with the Muslim/Arab world are acting JUST LIKE the fundamentalists they say are so dangerous.

    There is no 'debate' to be had. We don't live in a country where the government decides how many religious groups can exist or where they're able to congregate.

    There is never a good reason to stifle freedom of religion, and we have to be careful to not further marginalize or demonize smaller groups. Have we not learned anything from history?

    This is yet another faux news story that's just about riling people up.

  10. Marinka I hear what you're saying. But what happens when a neighborhood doesn't want a Synagogue in it? Or a Chinese restaurant? Or brown people? Is it always about “what people want”?

    My one argument for not building it there is because it's going to provoke the crazies. But then, the crazies win. I have to support it on principle.

    I'd imagine when all is said and done, the politicization will die down and the center will become a vibrant part of the community. And then, conciliation will have happened.

    It's just too bad we can't get there without circumventing all the damn drama along the way.

  11. I come from a WASPy family that's about as American as you can get and my sister and both my parents have converted to Islam recently, my mom having taken her shahada a week ago. My husband, who is tolerant and accepting if not understanding of this choice, said he didn't know what to make of this situation because “What about all those who died at the hands of the extremists?” And when I pointed out that there were many Muslims included in that tally he got quiet.

  12. Rock. On. I'm actually quite surprised I haven't seen any similar debates pop up on my Facebook feed. I credit myself for unfriending all the right people and hiding all my in-laws.

  13. Oy. Thank you for this, Liz, and for wading into that hot mess on my FB page. I had to laugh to myself when the “if you were there, you'd agree” arguments started getting made…by guys I went to high school with…in the Midwest. Especially since I knew a good portion of the people arguing your side are NYC natives.

    You're right, the bottom line is, it really doesn't matter what any of us think of it, whether we deem it in good or poor taste. Though I suppose communities have successfully, in the past, barred certain establishments from being built/opened (strip clubs, Wal*Marts) I just can't see how this compares at all.

  14. It's not quite the same ground zero, but there's already a mosque at the Pentagon where, if the protesters will recall, there was also an attack on Sep. 11.

    But that's not the point, is it? The point is where do we stop? Should we not allow churches near Planned Parenthood clinics because some wacko Christians killed some doctors? How about stopping the nutjob “Christian” protestors who disrupt military funerals?

    I guess they're okay because they're just the right-wing fanatics and not real Christians. Not like the right-wing fanatics/not real Muslims who attacked us. THOSE guys must represent the entire faith.

  15. Thanks Bill, that pretty much sums it up.

    Next time I'll just turn my post over to you in the first place.

  16. What gets me is that the point of the constitution and the amendments and our whole dang legal system is that it's there for the times when it's harder to make the right decision.

    It's like the parent who tells his adolescent to blame him/her if they're in an uncomfortable situation. People can complain all they want about building it, but the plain fact of the matter is that our constitution tells us, tough, suck it up, that's the way it is.

    And then later, everyone can pretend that they never thought like that, oh, ho, ho, darling, of course grammy wasn't for segregation or against gay rights or favored discriminating against Islam and those who practice it.

    And, even better, if any sorts of religious folks start getting crazy, violent ideas, well, we've got laws about that too.

  17. I'm so sad about this, but been too busy trying not to run over the group of christian right-wingers who camped outside my local Dunkin' Donuts with “Impeach Obama” banners and photos of him wearing a Hitler mustache. After I was finished shouting out the window at them, Lucas wanted to know what “ignorant” meant.


  18. Oh, Liz, why can't I be all eloquent and stuff like you?

    I teach rural kids in Kentucky now, and some of them said some borderline hateful stuff about this. They couldn't get how I, someone who stood less than a mile from the towers as they collapsed, could support this “Muslim Mosque at Ground Zero.”

    I don't know when and how our country became so polarized, but I'm worried about how the people who think they support the constitution the most understand it the least.

  19. Marinka, I think it's OK for you to not be in favor of the community center being built on that site. YOu are entitled to your opinion. The point is, it's up to the local city entities that make all decisions like this – zoning, building permits, etc. It is NOT up to hypocrites like Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh and all these other shrieking goons who are trying to use it as a wedge issue.

  20. Generally, I ignore the crazy people. I mean, as a legit crazy person I feel that the best thing to do is ignore them, otherwise they become real.

    However, this whole load of bullshit has made me realize that those of us who have been enhanced the presence of a clue, need to speak up. Thanks for doing it.

  21. thank heavens, a voice of reason.

    from my point of view, the only people with the “right” to complain would be neighbors if the land wasn't zoned appropriately for them to be there.

    why are so many people so hateful, and so convinced that they are speaking for their religion when they are like that?

    (maybe this is just me, but your words are overlapping your ad things on the right side.)

  22. What bothers me so much isn't the is-the-“mosque”-too-close-to-ground-zero debate as much as the accusations that this community center will be a place that will churn out extremists like a terrorist factory. It's ridiculous.

  23. Ugh, I spent too much time debating this issue on my FB page, and the only real argument that kept being tossed back to me was “the majority of Americans don't want it.”

    If you haven't seen Keith Olbermann's take on it (I know, I know, Keith Olbermann…), it's worth watching:

  24. lovely post! thank you for providing a sane, balanced viewpoint in the midst of what's become a crazy, bigoted, irrational mess.

  25. People don't understand WHAT Islam stands for, which doesn't make it right to oppose something. What I don't understand is if you don't understand something, wouldn't you want to learn more about it to understand it?

    Maybe I'm being naive.

    When my FIL pointed out to me that 70% of Americans opposed the not-mosque, I said, “well I guess I'm in the minority then.” And being in the minority doesn't make someone wrong, it just makes him/her in the minority. I think people miss that point all the time.

    Now, I do have thoughts like @marinka's. Just because they CAN do it, should they? But I can't come down in opposition fully. I also think like you, Liz: Building it will attract the crazies, and that's not good. But I come down to your point: “what the people want” is a slippery slope argument for the reasons you mention.

    Thanks for the post.

  26. Thanks Red Pen Mama,

    I'm also thinking about the whole majority rules thing. But as someone said above, the purpose of the constitution is to protect the minority in the face of the majority.

  27. It doesn't matter how many Americans oppose the 'mosque' because what gets built there is not the concern of any Americans except those in New York. Ground Zero isn't a national monument. It's not owned by the federal government.

    A lot of Americans think they have the right to influence what happens in all areas of America, but we do still have this concept of state & local jurisdiction.

  28. Jennifer, if I had the write to change what happens in other state, Texas would be a whole different place.

  29. Shared this on Facebook, including the quote “Something tells me our country would be a more peaceful place with more Muslim Community Centers and less FOX News.”

    Honestly, what has happened to common sense? To not jumping to wild conclusions? Sarah (comment #2) had a great point about Oklahoma City. Enough of this idiotic madness.

  30. I, too, was in NYC on 9/11. My parents, who live roughly 1,000 miles away, were not. Yet, my Fox News-loving mother insists on using my geographic location on that day as part of her rationale for opposing the “mosque.” It's infuriating.

  31. I wrote the following on my Facebook status last week:

    “I wonder how Baptists would feel if they were all judged by the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church. Probably the same way Muslims feel when they are judged by the extremists in their religion.”

    I just hate all of the negativity and judgment.

    PS I'm from Texas so… HEY! (said very indignantly)

  32. You already know how I feel because I wrote about it three freaking months ago:

    As I noted in that post, not only was I living and working in Manhattan on 9/11 (and was planning to fly out of Newark that afternoon), I had also spent 1995-1999 working at the Pentagon and living two blocks away from there. So a big “screw you” to all the people yapping about how “if you were there” because I WAS.

    The misinformation and propaganda surrounding this project are simply unbelievable. It saddens me deeply to witness how such a tragedy has become a political wedgee to divide our country further.

  33. So if you follow the bigots' logic we should forbid the Lutherans from building anywhere near a synagog. After all,the Germany was mostly Lutheran and we all know what happened there.

  34. I like the way you think and articulate such an excellent point! Thanks and maybe you should be speaking for the people of NYC. Not FOX!
    My word verification is “fledari”. I would say, right on.

  35. I am really happy I stumbled on this post, mom-101. I have been watching this story unfold from Kentucky, so it is hard for me to understand the whole, “if you were in NYC on 9/11 you'd understand why we don't want this mosque in lower manhattan.”

  36. Thank you for this well written post. This issue saddens me so deeply, and I'm frustrated with people simply repeating the talking points they're fed without looking at facts or using any reason. I am able to accept that part of living under our constitution means other people can choose to live in ways that differ from my own preferences. I don't understand how someone can claim it's a patriotic act to deny other people their rights in this country.

  37. My husband and I just had this same conversation the other night. He was also in NYC on 9/11 and occasionally he will play the “I was there” card…but I didn't let him because I believe that the only thing standing between us and a religious dictatorship is a little thing called the Constitution. He backed off fairly quick.

  38. Thanks for shedding light on the issue. I have seen the Facebook groups opposing the “Mosque” and have not had the time to look into them.

    I agree with you though. I'd rather see a Mosque then Fox News Vans.

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