On Tuesday morning, the New York City Landmarks Commission, as expected, voted unanimously to deny landmark status to 45 Park Place, thus clearing the way for the demolition of the building currently there and the construction of the Islamic supremacist mega-mosque at Ground Zero.
The Commission swept aside calls to landmark the Burlington Coat Factory building for its historical significance: into it crashed the landing gear from one of the 9⁄11 planes. It ignored appeals to do this despite the fact that buildings of far lesser historical significance, like the Triangle Shirtwaist Company and the Stonewall Inn, have been designated as landmarks in New York. Never mind also that other buildings in the area that are architecturally similar have been landmarked. Who cares? Muslims need a triumphal mega-mosque at Ground Zero (and that is certainly how this mosque will be understood in the Islamic world, despite the deceptive moderate protestations of mosque organizers)! Make way!
Until the mosque is actually built, however, the game isn’t over – and with an increasing number of prominent politicians coming out against the mega-mosque, it can still be won in the court of public opinion.
What’s more, immediately after the Tuesday vote, the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) characterized the Landmarks Commission decision as “deeply offensive to many of the victims and families of the 9-11 tragedy.” Jay Sekulow of the ACLJ explained: “The actions taken by the City of New York represent a blatant disregard for the city’s own procedures, while ignoring the fact that this is a historic and hallowed site that should not be destroyed to build an Islamic mosque. It has been clear from the beginning that the city has engaged in a rush to push this project through – ignoring proper procedure and ignoring a growing number of New Yorkers and Americans who don’t believe this site is the place to build a mosque.” As the ACLJ is representing a firefighter who survived 9⁄11 at the World Trade Center site, Sekulow announced: “We’re poised to file legal action on behalf of our client to challenge this flawed decision and put a stop to this project.”
The primary argument in favor of construction of the mosque, of course, is that it is a matter of religious freedom. We are endlessly told that if Muslims are denied permission to build this mega-mosque at Ground Zero, the door will be opened to the denial of the construction of synagogues and churches elsewhere. That argument advances in ignorance of the political and supremacist character of Islamic law, qualities that have no parallel in Jewish or Christian doctrine, but even aside from that, the question of this mosque is not actually a religious freedom issue.
Why not? Because opponents of the mosque, be they Pamela Geller’s group Stop Islamization Of America (SIOA), or Sarah Palin, or Rudy Giuliani, or Newt Gingrich, or anyone else, are not talking about banning mosques altogether. I do believe that mosques connected with the Saudis and/or the Muslim Brotherhood warrant careful scrutiny from law enforcement, but no one who is in the front line of the opposition to the mega-mosque at Ground Zero is calling for all mosques to be closed or for a ban on the construction of new mosques. And unless the property is marked as a war memorial, as it should be but will not be, no one is even calling for the expulsion of the Muslims who are currently praying in the existing former Burlington Coat Factory building at 45 Park Place; the Burlington Coat Factory is not a thirteen-story triumphal mega-mosque.
The question is, does the First Amendment really give every religious group the right to construct a house of worship wherever it wishes to do so? Is there never an occasion in which a location might be inappropriate? Many people have likened the construction of the mega-mosque at Ground Zero to the construction of a shrine to the kamikazes at Pearl Harbor or of a statue of Hitler outside the Auschwitz gates. Would the KKK be greenlighted to build a “reconciliation center” on the site of the 16th St. Baptist Church, as this parody has it? (Others have rejected these comparisons based on the claim that the Cordoba Initiative leaders are “moderate” Muslims who hold to a radically different point of view from that of the Muslims who took down the Twin Towers on 9⁄11, but the Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s record of deceit and advocacy of Sharia should be enough to establish that that argument is fallacious. And of course they’ll be reading from the same Qur’an that inspired the 9⁄11 attacks; there is no “reformed” version.) The question is, if the shrine to the kamikazes were sponsored by a religious group, or Auschwitz were subject to First Amendment law, would there be no stopping the building of such things?
I expect there would be a way to stop such construction, and that many people who are saying today that this mosque is a religious freedom issue would be calling for the construction to be stopped. The U.S. Government outlawed Mormon polygamy in the nineteenth century; considerations of religious freedom were not considered absolute.
And today, government agencies do not hesitate to put roadblocks in the way of the construction of houses of worship – at least non-Islamic ones. St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church stood in the shadow of the World Trade Center and was crushed under the rubble when the towers collapsed on September 11, 2001. Almost nine years later it has still not been rebuilt; the rebuilding project is mired in bureaucracy, with New York City officials being uncooperative and throwing up roadblock after roadblock.
The contrast is telling with the mad rush on the part of New York City officials to build the Islamic supremacist mega-mosque at Ground Zero. A March 2009 New York Times story on the church stated that “in recent negotiations,” New York’s Port Authority “cut the size of the church slightly and told church officials that its dome could not rise higher than the trade center memorial.”
But a thirteen-story mega-mosque? Fine!
Unable to rebuild their church, the St. Nicholas congregation has held St. Nicholas Day services in a tent at Ground Zero.
But a thirteen-story Islamic supremacist mega-mosque headed by a pro-Sharia, anti-free speech imam who refuses to denounce Hamas and has a history of duplicitous statements? Let’s clear aside every hurdle, tar opponents as bigots, and get that baby built!
In any case, it seems clear that no one assumes that any religious group has an absolute right to build a house of worship wherever it wants, except in this case. But once this mega-mosque is built, if it is, I expect that many who today are anxious to prove their multiculturalist, non-“bigoted” bona fides will rue the day.
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