Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Christopher Hitchens Slams Demagoguery Over Cordoba Center

Demagoguery over the issue of constructing an Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero continues despite the fact that the local community board approved the project, the Landmarks Preservation Commission rejected landmarking the building, and even the owner of one of two properties - Con Ed - will not block the project (as some may hope through the regulatory process). Opponents are holding out hope beyond all hope that somehow the state will swoop in and condemn the building through eminent domain as the racist and misogynist ex-Tea Party candidate Carl Paladino thinks should be done.

Opponents are running transit ads against the project, which include 9/11 imagery and makes the direct connection between the proposed Islamic center and Ground Zero, even if it isn't located in the site of the former World Trade Center.

In to that mix, Christopher Hitchens writes about the demagoguery as only he can.
This kind of capitulation needs to be fought consistently. But here is exactly how not to resist it. Take, for example, the widely publicized opinion of Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. Supporting those relatives of the 9/11 victims who have opposed Cordoba House, he drew a crass analogy with the Final Solution and said that, like Holocaust survivors, "their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted." This cracked tune has been taken up by Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, who additionally claim to be ventriloquizing the emotions of millions of Americans who did not suffer bereavement. It has also infected the editorial pages of the normally tougher-minded Weekly Standard, which called on President Obama to denounce the Cordoba House on the grounds that a 3-to-1 majority of Americans allegedly find it "offensive."

Where to start with this part-pathetic and part-sinister appeal to demagogy? To begin with, it borrows straight from the playbook of Muslim cultural blackmail. Claim that something is "offensive," and it is as if the assertion itself has automatically become an argument. You are even allowed to admit, as does Foxman, that the ground for taking offense is "irrational and bigoted." But, hey—why think when you can just feel? The supposed "feelings" of the 9/11 relatives have already deprived us all of the opportunity to see the real-time footage of the attacks—a huge concession to the general dulling of what ought to be a sober and continuous memory of genuine outrage. Now extra privileges have to be awarded to an instant opinion-poll majority. Not only that, the president is urged to use his high office to decide questions of religious architecture!

Nothing could be more foreign to the spirit and letter of the First Amendment or the principle of the "wall of separation." In his incoherent statement, Foxman made the suggestion that it might be all right if the Cordoba House was built "a mile away." He appears to be unaware that an old building at the site is already housing overflow from the nearby Masjid al-Farah mosque.
The site has been used for some time now by its very owners as an overflow for prayer in Lower Manhattan.

The construction project will move forward contingent upon City Council approval (which is pretty much assured since the Community Board backs the plan) and its backers obtaining the financing to make it happen.

All that will be left in the end is the continued shrill opposition to a community center sorely needed in Lower Manhattan on grounds that it may possibly offend some victims of the 9/11 terror attacks or a general sense of impropriety because of the juxtaposition of a a mosque in such close proximity to where Islamic terrorists carried out the 9/11 attacks - the worst terror attack in history. It further ignores that some of the nearly 3,000 victims were themselves Muslims, and that the attacks did not discriminate between white or black, Asian or European. The roll call of those murdered includes victims from all corners of the planet and all religious creeds.

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