Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Desecrating Sacred Ground

There has been much made lately over the fact the critics of the GZM, who have assailed the desecration of hallowed ground, are overlooking the kind of unsavory stores that are also in close proximity to the site. The NY Daily News reports: "Opponents of a proposed lower Manhattan mosque and community center speak in hushed tones about the sanctity of the "shadow of Ground Zero." Tell that to the patrons of the Pussycat Lounge, a strip club where a photo of a nearly naked woman marks its location just two blocks from where the World Trade Center stood. Or the Thunder Lingerie and peep show next door, where the marquee sports an American flag above a window display of sex toys and something called a "power pump."

CBS News picks up on this thread: "Some victims' families say the Islamic center would pervert the mood at Ground Zero, but two blocks from what Mr. Obama called "hallowed ground" are a number of businesses - strip joints, stores selling X-rated DVD's - striking a far different tone than the families want."

And they do have a point-but it's a limited one in our view. As one family member who lost a son tells CBS: "Retired New York Fire Department Deputy Chief Jim Riches, who lost his firefighter son Jimmy on 9/11, said that's different. "I'm not for all those buildings, but, you know, they didn't murder my son," said Riches. "Muslims murdered my son. That's why I'm offended at this being here."

Yes it is the sense that 9/11 families have that this mosque is a direct-and many believe, intentional-provocation. But what of the fact that there are a number of mosques already in the neighborhood? As CBS tells us: "What really complicates the issue is that there already is a vibrant Muslim community near Ground Zero. Two blocks from the proposed site of the Islamic cultural center, there is an operating mosque. Seven hundred thousand Muslims live in New York City's five boroughs, including 10,000 in lower Manhattan, where there are 87 Muslim organizations and businesses."

The difference is that these mosques were already there; and the fact that there presence is unremarkable attests to the way in which NYC Muslims have been treated in the ten years after 9/11. And that the opponents aren't concerned about them, is an indication that there is something else-other than the rank bigotry that the Left sees-animating the opposition.

It is the sense that there is an intentional sticking in the eye going on with the Cordoba Institute-and this sense may be underscored by who Iman Rauf's father was, and the history of his father's mosque on 96th Street. The NY Post has the story: "The elder Rauf, who taught in Cairo and Kuwaiti universities before migrating to New York City in 1965, wasn't satisfied with converted storefronts and assembly halls that Muslims had been using. With $1.3 million in Kuwaiti, Saudi and Libyan cash, he purchased apartment buildings on the corner of Third Avenue and East 96th Street...In October 2001, the mosque's imam, Sheik Muhammad Gemeaha, blamed the 9/11 attacks on Jews. He then immediately resigned and returned to his native Egypt. The next month, his replacement, Imam Omar Saleem Abu-Namous, said he needed proof that Islamic extremists were behind the attack."

Now a modest little mosque in Lower Manhattan is one thing; but a 13 story monument to Islam will unquestionably be a statement that-whatever the scribblers say about upholding American values-will be seen as an altogether different symbol by many of the most unsavory elements in the Muslim world; as the Hamas endorsement dramatizes quite well. And can you imagine if the eventual imams that come to reside in this mosque are of the same variety as those that ended up with Rauf's father? What to do then?

But, back to the porno and lingerie shop issue. Those who point out the tawdry nature of much that goes on in the immediate GZ neighborhood are on to something. Their presence is sacrilegious in a significant way. And then the question rises, what exactly has the Tom Paine wannabe mayor actually done to address these issues? And the sad answer is absolutely nothing-just as he did with the obstruction and dithering of Larry Silverstein, the developer who has stuck his thumb in our eye for a decade.

Remember the cries to clean up Times Square? Those cries led to a massive effort on the part of the city and state to use eminent domain to rid the area of the sex shops and unsavory element. But, faced with an even more compelling need to clean up the area around GZ, not a peep for GZ from the Lilliputian at city hall. And this is the same guy who decries the junkyard status of Willets Point, and is looking to remove these hard working property owners from their land.

Ground Zero cleanup and reconstruction should have been the first and foremost objective of a mayor who, if not for this outrage, wouldn't have gotten close enough to city hall even to sniff it. Instead he did nothing, and the hole in the ground remains to this day. Small businesses can be forced out of their land, but the billionaire developer of GZ gets the mayoral pass. As we said last year: "Now we don't believe that the developer is the only blameworthy participant in this dance of delay-how could Governor Pataki and Mayor Bloomberg, for instance, allow the situation to deteriorate with no action on this iconic property? And, having failed to act, paying off Silverstein to the tune of millions of dollars? Here's a great example of the Bloomberg leadership expertise in action; simply unable to devise a solution to what should have been the biggest development priority for a new mayor."

So, given Mike Bloomberg's nonfeasance about ground zero, he really should shut up about what is, or is not, appropriate for the area. The entire neighborhood should be targeted for renewal-and the land should be treated just like the Gettysburg battlefield; sacred and inviolate. But it will take a bigger man than Bloomberg to get this done.