Yesterday New York's Landmark Commission voted unanimously not to give landmark status to a building where the new mosque is to be built just 600 feet from Ground Zero. This means, of course, that the building can be demolished and the construction on the mosque can proceed.
Bloomberg gave a speech following the vote in which he drew some, well, odd comparisons:
"Of all our precious freedoms, the most important may be the freedom to worship as we wish. And it is a freedom that, even here in a City that is rooted in Dutch tolerance, was hard-won over many years. In the mid-1650s, the small Jewish community living in Lower Manhattan petitioned Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant for the right to build a synagogue – and they were turned down.
Okay, so I agree with the fact that our founders intended us to have "freedom to worship as we wish" but he loses me on the comparison to the Jewish community. I see where he's going with this - that we should exercise tolerance - but the analogy doesn't work. The Jews never bombed American buildings and they didn't kill 3000 innocents on 9/11. He then goes on to the Quakers:
"In 1657, when Stuyvesant also prohibited Quakers from holding meetings, a group of non-Quakers in Queens signed the Flushing Remonstrance, a petition in defense of the right of Quakers and others to freely practice their religion. It was perhaps the first formal, political petition for religious freedom in the American colonies – and the organizer was thrown in jail and then banished from New Amsterdam.Same argument here. The analogy is flat. He doesn't ignore the Catholics either:
"In the 1700s, even as religious freedom took hold in America, Catholics in New York were effectively prohibited from practicing their religion – and priests could be arrested. Largely as a result, the first Catholic parish in New York City was not established until the 1780's – St. Peter's on Barclay Street, which still stands just one block north of the World Trade Center site and one block south of the proposed mosque and community center.
The point he's making is that we should exercise tolerance and let other religions have the freedom to practice, to worship. Nobody is denying that to the Muslims. There are plenty of mosques in New York City. There are lots of places that a new mosque could be built should it be necessary to do so. The fact that THIS mosque is to be built on hallowed ground, at the site where extremist Muslims attacked and killed Americans, is such a gross display of insensitivity it completely trumps any insensitive issues that might lie in one's refusal to let Muslim's practice there.
For Bloomberg to ignore that is beyond the pale.
This is the thesis of his argument:
The government has no right whatsoever to deny that right [to use that site for worship] – and if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question – should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion?
First of all, nobody is denying anyone the right to worship. Nobody is trying to "deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship," but don't build it there. If the leaders behind the mosque project had any intention of bridging community good will and bring people together, they wouldn't build it there. They don't. Their point is otherwise intended.
Quite simply, the intent of this particular mosque is to serve as a sign of victory over Americans. "We beat you. You can't stop us."
Bloomberg is a fool to ignore this.
Dorothy Rabinowitz at the Wall Street Journal asks:
Namely, how is it that the planners, who have presented this effort as a grand design for the advancement of healing and interfaith understanding, have refused all consideration of the impact such a center will have near Ground Zero? Why have they insisted, despite intense resistance, on making the center an assertive presence in this place of haunted memory?
And do you just love Robert Gibbs yesterday and his goofy response when asked about this issue? He declared that the administration was not going to weigh in on "local decision-making." Since when have they adopted that policy?
In the end, it doesn't matter what they call the mosque, how they frame it, what kind of outreach they do, it's still a victory marker for radical Islam. If the New York Landmark Commission won't do it, then some other legal way must be found. It's a slap in the face to the memory of those who died there.