Guess which one of these quotes is Newt Gingrich! A: "There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia." Or B: "Religious liberty in America is under assault. The secular socialist left—who hates the idea of an authority higher than the government—has used its domination of academia, the courts, and the media to twist the meaning of the first amendment from a right that protects religious liberty to prohibition on religious expression in the public square."
Trick question; they're both by Gingrich, who's just the latest Republican to pour kerosene on the Islamophobic mosque bonfire. Yesterday Gingrich weighed in on his website, concluding, "America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization. Sadly, too many of our elites are the willing apologists for those who would destroy them if they could. No mosque. No self deception. No surrender. The time to take a stand is now—at this site on this issue."
Gingrich says he's also outraged because, "We have not been able to rebuild the World Trade Center in nine years. Now we are being told a 13 story, $100 million megamosque will be built within a year overlooking the site of the most devastating surprise attack in American history." Gah, why are WE so slow when THEY are so efficient? Well, they did invent algebra, so that probably gives them an edge. Also, for the record, the mosque/community center would be two blocks away from the World Trade Center site and there are two big buildings in between, so to say it's "overlooking" the site is stretching it.
Not to be outdone, Republican gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino is also piling on, and of course everyone's favorite wordsmith Sarah Palin won't shut up either! What do all these demagogues have in common? For one thing, none of them live in NYC. But they own 9/11! So Paladino is vowing that if he gets elected, he'll "use the power of eminent domain to stop this mosque and make the site a war memorial instead of a monument to those who attacked our country."
And here's Palin: "Many Americans, myself included, feel it would be an intolerable and tragic mistake to allow such a project sponsored by such an individual to go forward on such hallowed ground. This is nothing close to 'religious intolerance,' it’s just common decency." (Note: For some reason, her original Facebook note is now...
missing back.) As a counterpoint, here's a trenchant takedown from a Daily Dish reader:
I first heard about the mosque project a month or two ago, and the thing that struck me the most about it was the overwhelming support it had from the local community board in Lower Manhattan.More reactions here.
I don't know how familiar you are with how zoning works in New York and the role that community boards play in that process, but let me tell you, to have a community board agree 29-1 on ANY land use issue is quite an accomplishment. Furthermore, why is land use in New York City the business of anyone else but the citizens of New York? If so, I would really like to know Sarah Palin's opinion of the Atlantic Yards (or Hudson Yards or the expansion of Columbia University) project, an issue that is 1,000,000x more controversial than this project. That's all this is: a land use issue.
Following her logic (no small feat, I might add), do I now have the right to protest the construction of a new office building in Anchorage because it may house the offices of Big Oil and insult the people who suffered from the BP oil spill? Or can I have a say the next time some city in the "heartland" decides to build more sprawl at the expense of more livable communities with mixed-use development, walkable streets, and public transportation? I think I should, because it really "stabs me in the heart" when places do that.
This is a local issue, plain and simple. The people of New York - the ones actually attacked on 9/11 and who had to live through the aftermath - are the only ones who are affected by this. It is no one else's business. Sarah Palin and the "heartland" do not have permanent veto power over what gets built in Lower Manhattan. If they want a say over what happens there, my advice would be to move to New York. They might even learn something about the values of living in a multi-ethnic, multicultural community. Short of that, please STFU.