| ||Richard Littlejohn in his Daily Mail column last week added his own thoughts to the controversy sparked in the US, and fuelled by right wingers, on the proposed plans to build an Islamic Centre near the Ground Zero site in New York. |
Alex Massie on Spectator blogs and Andrew Brown on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website have already superbly dissected the blatant anti-Muslim prejudice the controversy has unleashed with its reducing all Muslims and Islam to the perpetrators of the 9/11 atrocities.
“…it remains indisputable that 9/11 was an attack carried out by Muslims, in the name of an admittedly insane form of their faith.
“What seems to be forgotten in this case, as so often when it comes to dealing with Islam, is that tolerance is a two-way street. This isn’t about freedom to worship. There are already 100 official mosques in New York’s five boroughs, and more than 1,800 across America.
"So the question is: Why here? Why now? Why a stone’s throw from Ground Zero? There’s no Muslim population in this part of Manhattan. It’s a business district.
“New York’s Governor David Paterson has offered the mosque’s backers an alternative site, away from Ground Zero, but has so far been rebuffed. It is difficult not to conclude that the location of this project is designed deliberately to be provocative.”
His views on the project being “deliberately provocative” chime with the Daily Express columnist Leo McKinstry who in his column in Monday’s paper referred to the mosque proposal as a “deliberate act of provocation”.
Dismissing the ‘freedom of religion’ defence Obama cited in his speech at a White House Iftar gathering last week, Littlejohn and other dissenters reverse the question of ‘why not a mosque a ground zero?’ to pose instead the question of ‘why?’ forcing Muslims on to the defensive.
Since the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the US and elsewhere reject outright the inference that the 9/11 attacks have a religious validation, whatever the messages conveyed by the attackers in defence of their actions, the question is most definitely about freedom of religion. And since the backers of the Cordoba House initiative take as their inspiration the Spanish city known for its convivencia – the convivial interactions between Christian, Jewish and Muslim citizens of the city of Cordoba – why is it that the prevailing image of Islam and Muslims that forms the backdrop of this heated debate focus not on the law abiding, proudly American majority but on the terrorist minority? And just so the image of the aggrandizing Muslim sticks, Littlejohn characterizes Cordoba thus:
“…the Spanish city where medieval Islamic invaders erected a mosque on the site of a razed Roman Catholic cathedral to mark their conquest of Christianity.”
Were Littlejohn to cast his eye back again in Spanish history he would see that a victor’s act of consecrating a religious site over the fallen opponent’s own place of worship worked both ways with the ‘Catholic Monarchs’ Ferdinand and Isabella erecting a huge altar in the middle of the Mezquita in Cordoba.
Back to the point: should American Muslims, much like their British counterparts who find themselves battling the English Defence League’s protests against ‘No More Mosques’, have their rights curtailed because a minority exercised an act of terror? And would not denying US Muslims of their right to build a mosque near the ground zero site merely reinforce the notion of Muslims as second class citizens, less equal under the Constitution than all others?
Watch MSNBC Countdown host Keith Olbermann critique those that have fuelled the hysteria on the 'ground zero mosque'.
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