Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ground Cero a la Izquierda* for the NY Times

The NY Times wrote what, even for it, has to be one of the most disingenuous reports we have ever seen-and it deals with a rose colored whitewash of the lead up to the Ground Zero mosque controversy. The paper would have us believe that the organizers, Imam Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan, never even thought of  engaging potential opponents of the idea: "The organizers built support among some Jewish and Christian groups, and even among some families of 9/11 victims, but did little to engage with likely opponents. More strikingly, they did not seek the advice of established Muslim organizations experienced in volatile post-9/11 passions and politics."

And we loved the intro, where Khan met with the director of the JCC on the Upper West Side. Who else did she meet with-and did she consciously choose only those groups that wouldn't even think that the location might stir up a hornet's nest? Really, this is just too hard to believe: "The organizers — chiefly Ms. Khan; her husband, the imam of a mosque in the financial district; and a young real-estate investor born in New York — did not hire a public-relations firm until after the hostility exploded in May. They went ahead with their first public presentation of the project — a voluntary appearance at a community board meeting in Lower Manhattan — just after an American Muslim, Faisal Shahzad, was arrested for planting a car bomb in Times Square. “It never occurred to us,” Ms. Khan said. “We have been bridge builders for years.”

If you believe that, we have a bridge we'd like to sell you-no one, particularly someone who's a Muslim, could plan a mosque at GZ without even contemplating a blow back. So, who's more disingenuous in this story, the Times or the organizers? In our view, Rauf and Khan went ahead as carefully as possible to consciously avoid those who were likely to be critical of the project-hoping to build some momentum to be able to resist any opposition.

And what's with the Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland quality of the fundraising? $100 million isn't chump change-especially when Manhattan real estate is in the dumper, and there's a world wide recession. Where did these folks expect to get their money from? And, if they are basically broke, what's the purpose of this particular location?

Basically, there's a lot more here than meets the Times' eye-and there are two Muslim observers who see things much more clearly-and in their view the choice of location was a provocation: "New York currently boasts at least 30 mosques so it's not as if there is pressing need to find space for worshippers. The fact we Muslims know the idea behind the Ground Zero mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation to thumb our noses at the infidel. The proposal has been made in bad faith and in Islamic parlance, such an act is referred to as "Fitna," meaning "mischief-making" that is clearly forbidden in the Koran."

Exactly so-and if it is so, then the choice was designed to provoke in the name of pump priming. Because, as the controversy swells, it will become a cause celebre all over the Arab world-ca ching, ca ching. Anyone who will pony up the cash in this environment is responding to the provocative nature of the GZ site itself-something that the Mike Bloombergs of the world are clueless about.

And then there's the building bridges rationale that the Times highlights. Our Muslim commentators scoff at the very idea: "So what gives Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of the "Cordoba Initiative" and his cohorts the misplaced idea that they will increase tolerance for Muslims by brazenly displaying their own intolerance in this case? Do they not understand that building a mosque at Ground Zero is equivalent to permitting a Serbian Orthodox church near the killing fields of Srebrenica where 8,000 Muslim men and boys were slaughtered?"

This is why we applauded the diplomatic offer by Governor Paterson to provide the organizers with public land further away from this American sacred space-a sensitive awareness that escapes the tone deaf, cloaked in self righteousness, mayor. As City Room reports: "With Gov. David A. Paterson by his side, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Wednesday distanced himself from an effort by Mr. Paterson to persuade the developers of a Muslim cultural center and mosque in Lower Manhattan to build farther away from ground zero...But Mr. Bloomberg brushed aside the proposal, saying the governor was free to offer the land but could “speak for himself.” “I’m just telling you, I’ve always believed the government should not be involved in deciding who you pray to, what you say, or where you say it...”

What all of these staunch defenders of religious freedom are missing, is that Ground Zero is sacred secular space-it isn't just anywhere. And so the effort to advance the GZ mosque is part of a narrative that has always been discomfited by the Manichean world view-not of the terrorists themselves-but of those who would fight against them for the evil that they wish to impose on our world. So the fight for the mosque, then, is an effort to deconstruct the "us vs. them" world view that progressives like Bloomberg-and our old buddy Greg Sergeant (should be stripped of his stripes and busted down to private) who sees the Paterson offer as, "daft."

So the effort of the Times to try to make this whole thing into a Keystone Kops clusterfark is patently silly. There was conscious thinking here about how to maximize-leverage in financial terms-the GZ location. The shock that Daisy Khan expresses to the paper, and the fact that the Times purveys it without any raised eyebrow, is simply conscious disinformation.

*A Spanish term for worthless.