Sajed Bhandari

America, Books, Cooking, Muslims and some other things

“MOSQUE HYSTERIA: Park 51, Cordoba House, Ground Zero Mosque”


Sajed Bhandari

I have been taking a break from writing on my blog for the summer.  I needed some time apart from rambling on my blog and focus on other things.  I will update you all on what I was up to this summer iA in the next article.  I wanted to come back and write an article in two weeks, however, watching and reading the news has bothered me too much and I need to yell somewhere.

This article is on the formerly named Cordoba House, currently named Park 51 and the erroneously named “Ground Zero Mosque”.  Before I continue, I would like to reiterate that the articles on this blog are not edited so there may be grammatical errors and shortcomings.  I say this because this issue disturbs me the way a Holocaust survivor would be disturbed by Holocaust denial or a Civil Rights Era African-American who would be disturbed by efforts to denigrate the struggle of their people.  I am not one for similes and metaphors and I rarely indulge in them, however I think only these aforementioned types of people can understand the emotion that I feel as I write this article.

The political discourse about the issue of the Park 51 is argued on two levels.  The first and weaker argument is arguing against the community center from a Constitutional basis.  The second argument, although less weak, is much more striking and dangerous of a position.  The position is to argue that American society is not ready to have such a project in such close proximity to Ground Zero and that it is indeed inappropriate, although not illegal, for a minority group to build such a building.  This article focuses on the latter position.  The Republicans and right-wing of our country have changed their rhetoric.  They have lost the Constitutional argument and now are running to an appeal to emotions.  The argument is that a Muslim-run community center by Ground Zero is Islamic Triumphalism and that if Muslim-Americans truly want to build bridges then, they should build the center elsewhere.   I will argue that this position is hypocritical, a convenient campaign issue, and is indeed an exposition of a broader anti-Muslim and Islamophobic sentiment.

Newt Gingrich, a Republican and right-wing ideologue, was on Fox News comparing Park 51 to allowing Nazis to build a site by the Holocaust Memorial or the Japanese building a site by Pearl Harbor.  The former example is not comparable to the Park 51 situation.  The assumption in Mr. Gingrich’s comparison is that the Nazis are similar to the whole of the Muslim community.  It would be reasonable to compare the Nazis to Al Qaeda (both fascist organizations) and if Al Qaeda was trying to build a community center, then Mr. Gingrich’s comparison would be appropriate (understatement).  The Nazis cannot be compared to the whole of the Muslim World, no more than Al Qaeda can be compared to the whole of the German-speaking peoples.   The latter example of the Japanese falls apart along similar lines, except “Japanese” in Mr. Gingrich’s worldview is just as monolithic as the word “Muslim”.  Mr.  Gingrich argues that it is not illegal, rather inappropriate and insensitive for Muslims to build near the site.  He goes on to say that because a group has 1st Amendment rights, does not mean it is appropriate for a group to actually realize and implement those rights.  I do not think I need to actually go into why this is hypocritical but I am sure we are all aware of which side of the 1st Amendment right these xenophobic individuals fell when the Muhammad Cartoon issue was the in-thing.

Secondly, beyond any real social crisis or security issue, the Park 51 Hysteria is about being a convenient campaign issue.  Facts are, the recession has ended (some fears of a double-dip recession to exist), the unpopular TARP legislation cannot be attributed to President Obama as it was not his administration that enacted it, the Iraq War is ending with our last combat battalions coming home,  and an increasing amount of citizens are being aided by Loan Modifications for their homes and Federal loans for their education.  The world is beginning to see America’s position as the leader of the free world with an intelligent citizen as the Commander in Chief.  With that said, we should not pretend that our Republic is in the order it should be (“A more perfect union.”).  Marriage equality still does not exist, LGBT citizens are not able to serve their country openly in the Armed forces, and states, such as Arizona, are passing legislation on racism and not reason.  With that concession however, I return to my original point.  Frankly, we are better off now than we were two years ago.  The Republicans have decided on a strategy of xenophobia and racism in order to win the mid-Term elections.  There was no outcry in the beginning of the year when Daisy Khan went onto Fox News and spoke about the community center.  Yet, now because the Republicans cannot ever run on anything other than fear, they have stoked the flames of animosity in their simple followers.  A MEGA-MOSQUE BY GROUND ZERO they say!  ISLAMIC TRIUMPHALISM AT THE WAR MEMORIAL!  ISLAM IS A CULT OF HATRED!  Those are the slogans their monkeys are holding up in protest while they take over the media discourse and have every Democrat who is running against them offer up an answer to a ridiculous and vengeful question.  What do you think of the Mega-Mosque at Ground Zero? (Never mind that 2 out of the 13 floors would be for prayer use and that is not at ground zero… those details are not important).  The Democrat can either affirm the civil rights and liberties of the Muslim-Americans and lose in the general elections because of how unpopular that is, or they can do what Harry Reid did and say THEY SHOULD JUST BUILD IT SOMEWHERE ELSE.  (If Angle was not your opponent and for the desire I have to actually visit Nevada, I would have hoped you, Mr. Reid, lost the upcoming election).  Keep in mind what this is above all else, a political ploy to win seats in November.  Never forget to remind our Republican citizens about their dirty tactics.

Finally, and most important, this is not at all about whether the community center is appropriate or not.  Tennessee, Wisconsin, Long Island, Staten Island, and California are all battlegrounds for the broader Anti-Muslim sentiment and Islamophobia that exists in our country now.  They say build it somewhere else, well where would we build a community center?  What is appropriate? Four blocks? Sixteen?  In the Hudson?  The distance is not the issue.  Ask yourself what you are saying.  That we as a society refuse to be okay with a community center because we associate all things Muslim with all things Terrorist.  That is not America, that was not America, and all of us will fight to ensure that  that will never be America.  Newt Gingrich, Angle, Fox News, and any other politician who opposes the community center does it to exploit the emotions of the true victims, the ones who lost loved ones in the terrorist attacks.  They exploit and encourage anti-Muslim sentiment.  We are living in a time where we must ask ourselves, who do we want to become?  Will we continue to be the country that offers freedoms, not just by law, but by society or will be go the route of the Europeans and begin to legislate hatred and xenophobia?

The right wing was at once an ignorant collection of individuals.  Now they are the leaders of fascism in this Republic.  They seek to change the birthright clause in our Nation.  They seek to ban private development because of prejudices and hatred.  They, as an ideology and yes as a POLITICAL PARTY, have nothing to run on except fomenting fear.  Republicans in the post-Civil War era have been on the wrong side of history on almost every major crossroad our nation has confronted.  Wrong on the Great Depression.  Wrong on Civil Rights.  Wrong on the Iraq War.  Wrong on Health Care.  And history will judge them to be wrong on Marriage Equality, Don’t ask Don’t’ Tell, Immigration and finally, the Park 51 Community Center in Lower Manhattan.  The time has come that we confront the right wing, the Republicans and everyone else who stands against a tolerant and just society.  Muslim-Americans are the scapegoat today.  But if history shows us anything, it shows that a nation driven by fear will never cease to find and persecute its imagined enemies.

Speak up now. Rise up now.


Written by sajedbhandari

August 16, 2010 at 8:45 pm

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