The reason I titled this a “quick post” was that I’m cheating to buy myself more time before my next longer post. This is actually my immediate (and unfiltered) response to a friend a few days ago about Thomas Friedman‘s column in The New York Times about the proposed plan to build a mosque 2 blocks north of the former site of the World Trade Center towers. The Landmarks Preservation Commission had to decide if the old Burlington Coat Factory building qualified for special landmark protection. This was a last ditch effort by opponents of the mosque to try any method to stop it’s coming into existence. The Landmark Commission correctly voted to approve the plan. I say correctly because they really had no choice considering the only reason to give this building special status would be in the context of stopping this proposed Islamic center. My friend forwarded Friedman’s piece and asked what I thought, here is my response (this is unedited so please forgive it’s casual and sloppy style but, hey, it’s honest):
“I think Friedman’s piece was a good piece. Other than being slightly out of touch- comparing the experience of New Yorkers witnessing 9/11 and walking the streets every day to his thoughts during a celebrity performance in the East Room of the freakin’ White House- he made some good points.
The good points-
I do think the committee should have approved the measure yesterday. Mainly because it is not their responsibility to stop this type of development and not their responsibility to protect the emotions of adult New Yorkers. So, my issue is not with them. Second, I do think Americans, even New Yorkers, should be strong enough to tolerate a mosque 2 blocks from Ground Zero and what that means about our character as a country. He’s right about that.
Here’s what I’ve been wondering- what happened to grace and humility?
I mean, I know that’s kinda ironic coming from a country that is probably planting McDonald’s in Baghdad as we speak. But why is this billionaire Muslim developer insisting on pressing this issue? Is it really about tolerance and “bridging the gap” between cultures as Friedman implies? Or is it about getting free publicity and making a boatload of money on a project which seems to make business sense? Hard to tell. My issue is why that guy and his investment group are pressing this so hard. Why not admit that a tragedy conducted in the name of Islam (as the column points out) and is still hard to take especially for people that were covered in ash the day the towers fell who still get up every morning and go to the same offices down there?
Perhaps these people aren’t intolerant to Islam as much as they are fragile and exhausted. This is a city of over 8 million with real estate space all over the place and certainly cheaper than a 100+ year old building in TriBeCa. Move the thing somewhere else in New York, it’s not that hard. And moving is not ceding the moral or religious high ground. It’s simply being practical and understanding.
So, will this probably get built? Yes, because no one is willing to stand up and turn the spotlight around onto the billionaire mosque developer’s motives. Should we freak out? No, because ultimately we’re better for it. There is no way in hell that many Middle Eastern countries would allow a church or synagogue in this situation.
Anyway, I just wish that these guys had more sensitivity than to try to push this issue so dramatically. But, I guess not.”
So, I hope this was a helpful post and an interesting one. I know no matter how you feel about this issue there are many different angles and perspectives to consider. I was just trying to look at it in a little different way.
Let me know what you think and I’ll be sure to post again soon (my internship ended yesterday, so that should help).