Ground Zero Has Become A Sacred Site

Ground Zero & the Site of the Proposed Mosque (AP photographs)

The “Coalition to honor Ground Zero” organization is set to hold a rally on Sunday, August 22, in order to prevent construction of the planned mosque situated two blocks away from Ground Zero. The mosque is part of a proposed 13-storey Muslim community centre, which is reported to include a swimming pool, gym, theatre and sports facilities. It is alleged that construction is due to begin on September 11 next year.

One spokesperson, Daisy Khan, who is Executive Director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), a non-profit organization dedicated to developing an American Muslim identity and to building bridges between the Muslim community and general public, is reported to have said, “We need to take the 9/11 tragedy and turn it into something very positive. It will also serve as a major platform for amplifying the silent voice of the majority of Muslims who have nothing to do with extremist ideologies.”

I listened to some of the exchanges on television and was somewhat dismayed as to how this planning application has become the focus of anti-Islamic feelings. I still have a few questions. If two blocks away is too close then how far should the Islam exclusion zone be? I daresay that many feel strongly like the Coalition to honor Ground Zero that the whole of the North American continent would be about right. But hold on. Isn’t that exactly the divisive intent of the extremists in the first place?

Ground Zero has become sacred site. It’s not just the memories. Many people feel that the ground is literally imbued with spirit. But like so many sacred sites around the world it will become a focal point to vent anger and frustration. When I stayed in the Hilton next to Ground Zero earlier this year and gave a talk in that big chic skyscraper in the picture, I too was emotionally disturbed. So I don’t what to belittle or underplay the passion that relatives and ordinary citizens feel about this site, but is banning this mosque the best strategy?

This is one planning application that is going to be a nightmare for the US public because I can easily see both sides of the argument. If only we didn’t have this damned sense that locations and objects in the material world can become profound. Then we could make progress.

UPDATE: I am hurriedly adding Daryl Lang’s blog that really challenges the whole premise that this location can be regarded as sacred.

I had to add this piece by Charlie Brooker in today’s (monday 23rd)  Guardian. As always, Brooker never pulls his punches.


Filed under In the News

15 responses to “Ground Zero Has Become A Sacred Site

  1. Thanks for the link — more ammo against this ridiculous distortion of the facts.

    I am deeply, deeply disappointed at how many people in the skeptical community, while recognizing that the legal arguments in favor of allowing the mosque are unassailable, still assert that it is in bad taste. These otherwise sensible skeptics and liberals are being bamboozled by far right Christianist theocrats.

    The right-wing demagogues have conjured an image of a towering minaret, its spires casting an ominous shadow over the ashes of the World Trade Center. That’s hokum. What we’re actually debating is whether the community would be improved by replacing a burned out Burlington Coat Factory with a shiny new Muslim-equivalent-of-YMCA that is completely open to the public.

    I’m no friend of Islam, either. I think there are aspects of Islamic theology that make it dangerously easy for it to mutate into an extremist form. But you know what? I also think that Christian dogma holds sole responsibility for the fact that same-sex marriage is still not recognized in my country, yet I have no problem paying my monthly YMCA membership. Why? Because, even though I think Christianity is inherently problematic, I recognize that a) it’s here to stay, at least for now; and b) the “Christian” aspect of the YMCA is so far removed from the bigotry and intolerance I oppose that it’s a moot point. Same goes for Park51. The facility and its goals and its likely effects are entirely unrelated to my objections to Islam.

    • Morgan Warstler

      It’s bad taste. The victims families hate it, so it is bad taste. Get over having bad taste. Own it. Everyone just needs to own their bad taste here.

      The correct answer is the libertarian libertine model – it always is – let the annoyed annoy back, and either they tire of it, or the Muslims tire of hearing it, seeing it, etc. But for me, it sure sounds like a great place to cover a Mohammed in pig blood every Ramadan eating huge meals and then chasing around little boys with a hypnotic engorged phallus. Talk about performance art for the masses, it could be am (unlicensed) street festival.

      Apart from the Sharia Law Index thing (how crazy will it be if that all comes out true), I think maybe they should use a couple floors to help hunt down radical Islamic terrorists: kind of like a war crimes tribunal, really get involved in exposing the Muslims who give the religion a bad name.

      That’d be cathartic.

    • The victims families hating it (which, by the way, they don’t, or at least they don’t oppose it in a percentage that is significantly higher than the general population — some of them are Fox News-watching morons too, after all) has nothing to do with whether it’s bad taste. Being a victim does not give you carte blanch to dictate matters of taste.

      I happen to think New Country music sucks. If I had had a relative who died in the 9/11 attacks, would New Country now be in “bad taste” and “insensitive”?

      I recognize the point of your comment was that it doesn’t matter whether it’s in “bad taste”, but I’m going further than that. The same percentage of victims’ families opposing it as in the general population does not make it bad taste.

      I’m sure somewhere around 50% of the 9/11 victims’ families oppose gay marriage. Is gay marriage now in “bad taste”?

  2. Tim Harris

    Have you read Nils Bohr’s wonderful words on Kronborg Castle and Hamlet, and the way in which a character imagined by a playwright can somehow invest a building with a near-sacred power, that the castle is imbued with the spirit of Hamlet, who seems more real than most actual historical figures? Is this sense so damned? It creates terrible problems, yes, but it is intrinsic to us and should surely not simply be decried in the name of rationalism, but rather understood, in the way that David Lewis-Williams in his marvellous books on the art of the San people of South Africa and on Palaeolithic art tries to understand.

    • brucehood

      On the contrary Tim, the parting message of my book is that the SuperSense is inevitable and that we may need it to forge the social structures that make us human. It’s the same mental mechanisms that make people and objects irreplaceable – otherwise people and objects could become disposable.

      • Tim Harris

        Thank you. No, that is what I got from your book, which, by the way, I enjoyed enormously, and that was why I was puzzled by the suggestion that without this ‘damned sense’ we could ‘make progress’.

  3. Lola

    I think that 9/11 of is nearest and the controversy on the Muslim is for remember us WTC attack. Two towers, two country; good change in the battle between both Gods.

  4. Uzekial

    It less about the land being “hallowed” & more about disliking being lied to. If, as Ms Kahn says, the majority of muslims aren’t extremists, why take such an extreme stance on this particular project? Why build a bridge where its not wanted? If you’re trying to show you’re a peace-loving group, why not take your $100mil to a place where its wanted and NEEDED? (Darfur for example) Its abundantly obvious that this is a deliberate snub, that this is nothing more than using our point of pride, our civic religious tolerance, against us… a national Achilles heel. They’re free to worship & build as they like, but we’re free to dislike it & to call it out on what it is — extremely distasteful.

    • Tim Harris

      But who is doing the lying? And what are the lies that are being told? Why is it an ‘extreme stance’ to build a Muslim cultural centre in New York rather than in Darfur (to take the place you suggest)? There wasn’t much fuss made when the original plan was proposed, as I recall, and it was only after the American right started whipping up a frenzy that the proposal became controversial. It is disingenuous to assert that the proposal is a snub.
      I might add that, like Bruce Hood, I can sympathise with the feelings of many of those who do not want the centre there (though certainly not with the mere demagogues who are manipulating people’s feelings in their own interests), and I think that now that this storm has been raised it would probably be better to build the centre elsewhere.
      I might also add that I have small time for Islam and would prefer Muslim cultural centres not to be built anywhere, just as I would prefer Christian cultural centres not to be built anywhere. But that is by the way. Perhaps, as an American citizen (I suppose), Uzekial might acquaint himself with the American constitution and the constitutional history of his country and try to respect it.

      • Uze

        Perhaps Tim should re-read my last line. Perhaps no frenzy was made when it was first proposed specifically because of the American constitution — no one is proposing the mosque can or should be legally blocked because of the specific religion. & perhaps Tim does not know same constitution also protects citizen’s right to express their opinion on any matter they so chose. They’re free to build, I’m free to dislike it. & Tim also might think whatever he likes but many Americans — & muslims — think it is indeed a snub. Tim might want to brush up on islamic war tactics. Tim might remember the story of Cordoba (this project’s original name) in Spain in the 700s.

  5. There’s some very good links given by another ‘Tweeter’, Ms Information:
    Salon – “How Fox Betrayed Petraeus” – NYT

  6. jacarandamimosifolia

    Sam Harris is, as ever, extremely erudite on the mosque question here:

    “If you can raise the requisite $100 million, you might also build a shrine to Satan on this spot, complete with the names of all the non-believing victims of 9/11 destined to suffer for eternity in Hell.”

  7. John W

    So, just so I know in the future: When is it acceptable for me, as an American who values religious freedom as well as common courtesy and respect for the grief of the stricken, to get “whipped-up” about an issue like this?

    I need all of you erudite wordsmiths to inform me of when it’s ok to finally get a little pissed off about something and then express my displeasure, only to be called a bigot, Islamaphobe, anti-first amendment rube and the creme de la creme- a “Fox News watching moron.”

    So articulate and graceful are you learned men. You should be so proud of yourselves.

    Oh, how foolish of me…I’m sure you, your parents and adoring fans already are.

  8. John W

    Oh, by the way, here’s a suggestion for placement of this Cordoba Community Center:

    Out of the same neighborhood as where nearly 3000 Americans were brutally murdered by crazed Islamist radicals.

    Canada or Mexico, while still in North American, would certainly qualify.

    I’d even settle for just west of Laguardia so when they face east to pray they get a not-so-subtle reminder of the weapons used by their fellow Muslims to kill innocent civilians on the other side of town.

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