In the very first sentence of my first Commentary on this subject posted back on Sunday 15 August 2010- in contemplation of President Obama's original statement (for even the President has since- at least somewhat- watered down his initial sentiments [what a surprise! ;-)]) on the right to build the Cordoba Islamic community Center (the name of the proposed building: the development project that would build it called 'Park51') two blocks from the northern edge of 'Ground Zero' proper (though not, as many opponents to the project claim, actually in 'Ground Zero') on the previous Friday (the 13th) and the response in opposition to this project by Congressman Peter King (R-New York) the following day (from both of which I had quoted at the head of that piece)- I noted (one can even fairly say I predicted) that the controversy over the building of the Lower Manhattan mosque will now overshadow much else that will take place as we continue to head towards the 2010 Midterm Elections this coming November.
Well, it is now but a few days on since I first typed those words and it is clearly already coming to pass!
Candidates for public office (mostly Republican, but now at least a handful of Democrats)- in particular those for Federal office- are now beginning to well weigh in with their opposition to the Lower Manhattan mosque: for instance, Republican Congressional candidate James B. Renacci in Ohio's 16th Congressional District (running for a House seat currently held by freshman Democrat John A. Boccieri) is quoted as saying "Just because we may have the right to do something, doesn't necessarily make it right to do it"; Republican Congressional candidate Andrew Harris, one of two seeking the Grand Old Party's nomination in Maryland's 1st Congressional District (now represented by Democrat Frank Kratovil, another freshman in the U.S. House) has said " He is thinking like a lawyer and not like an American, making declarations without America's best interest in mind"; on the Democratic Party side of the aisle, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid- facing a tough challenge in Nevada from Republican Sharron Angle, darling of the Tea Party movement during her successful bid for the GOP Senate nomination (won in the Primary back in June)- has come out against the building of the Lower Manhattan mosque with the simple statement: "They should build it somewhere else". And there are many other examples, far too numerous to herein mention.
Former Speaker Newt Gingrich has allowed that the proposed Islamic community center could be built "near Central Park or Columbia University" (by the way: I strongly suspect this is as much a rather snide commentary- on Gingrich's part- on the Liberalism of Upper West Side politics and Ivy League academia as much as anything else) which- as one observer has already noted- would effectively create an 80 city block radius "mosque-free zone" in Manhattan (I would have to presume that already extant mosques within this "zone"- for there are a few- would be "grandfather"ed in ol' Newt's concept [assuming it is well thought out to begin with, which it likely isn't: sounds more like one of ol' Newt's flippant "throwaway line"s]). Gingrich has even also contemplated something of a quid pro quo (one in which, if Sa'udi Arabia would only allow the construction of churches and synagogues, well-- maybe-- but only maybe-- we Americans might-- just might-- well, maybe-- allow a religious organization such as the Cordoba Institute to do what they already have the constitutional right to do in any event [how "white grandfather"ly of ol' Newt! ;-)])... this is interestingly, and even eerily, echoic of the positions taken by those "Birthers" who claim that President Obama "lost" his American citizenship by residing in Indonesia as a child, a claim in which the laws of a Foreign Power are to be held to be superior to even the American Constitution itself-- likewise: in Gingrich's view here, an American's constitutional rights and liberties, privileges and immunities, are- at least at times- only enforceable dependent solely on what laws and regulations another country might- or might not- adopt!
Meanwhile, I can well envision a conversation strangely evocative of the dialogue between the patriarch Abraham and the "stranger" at the end of the 18th Chapter of the Book of Genesis:
MOSQUE PROPONENT: But what if the Islamic community center were to be built but another 5 blocks closer to 'Ground Zero', would you still oppose it? Would you not allow it to be built merely because of these 5 city blocks?
GINGRICH: Well, if it be a full 75 blocks from 'Ground Zero', I will agree it can then be built.
MOSQUE PROPONENT: But what if it were to be planned for a site but 70 city blocks from 'Ground Zero'; what if the only site on which it could conveniently be built- convenient, that is, to both the Muslims who wish to erect it and the surrounding community- be no less than these 70 blocks?
GINGRICH: I will not put up a major stink if the mosque be built just 70 blocks from 'Ground Zero'.
MOSQUE PROPONENT: But what if it the best plan of all would be to have it arise on a spot that was as close as 60 such city blocks to 'Ground Zero', would you then simply place legal obstacles in the path of those who wish to build it simply because of these mere ten city blocks?
GINGRICH: If it be built at least 60 blocks from 'Ground Zero', I will allow it.
ad infinitum ad nauseam
There are now many a fascinating (well-- if fascinating only to the observer of the passing American political scene) aspect to all of this:
1. Note the home States of those I have already quoted above: Ohio-- Maryland-- Nevada... Newt Gingrich's political career is tied to his once having represented a Congressional District in the State of Georgia... notice: not New York, New Jersey or Connecticut: the States portions of which form the Metropolitan New York/Tri State area... while I was (and remain) most critical of the position taken by Congressman Peter King (R-New York) on this issue, at least Congressman King is from Long Island (indeed, his hometown is just about the same distance- as the proverbial "crow flies"- from 'Ground Zero' as my own is here in New Jersey)!
2. Thus, for many- if not most- of those anti-Lower Manhattan politicians (whether an incumbent in elective public office or seeking to unseat such an incumbent: whether Democrat or Republican), their opposition to the Lower Manhattan mosque is but a cheap political gesture-- cheap in at least two senses:
a.) it has a relatively high Cost-Benefit ratio: as most Americans- indeed, most New Yorkers- are opposed to the project (per the best polling data as I type this), taking the stand that has been taken by them is not a particularly brave one;
b.) the stand thus taken has little legal significance or effect (whatever its political significance or effect might prove to be come the November General Elections): for, last time *I* checked, neither the United States House of Representatives or United States Senate (nor, for that matter, the Presidency of the United States) for which these politicians are running this Fall have anything at all to do with the adoption and/or enforcement of zoning laws and building regulations that is the legal purview of both the local Community Board and the Landmarks Commission in the Greater City of New York that have already approved the project. In other words: regardless of the fate of the Cordoba Center/Park51 project, those so opining in opposition to it will have no political accountability- as regards its success or failure- in any event!
3. I find it especially interesting that support for the Lower Manhattan mosque is, somehow, ever being defined- by its opponents- as "liberal" ("libertarian", yes-- now, that I could see!... but "liberal"?!)... in fact, the Muslims who are the principal backers/proponents of the project are, indeed, as conservative as the majority of those opposed to it- both within and outside the Greater City and its surrounding Metropolitan region- themselves are (I mean: how many pro-Abortion, Gay Marriage-backing, liquor-guzzling Muslims have you heard of? Or, as I myself wrote nearly two years ago now in response to an e-mailer who was trying to "prove" that Barack Obama [at the time still merely a Major Party nominee for the Presidency] was "really" a Muslim: "Well, if he is, then he's the only Muslim *I* have ever heard of who likes to quaff a brew every now and then" [then again: maybe the President's a "sleeper"... only taking a swig of beer every now and then in order to fool us... be afraid... be very afraid... the black helicopters... the black helicopters! ;-)])...
thus, in the end, this is really (at its core) a political/legal battle between conservative, traditionalist Muslims wanting to build the thing and the more traditionally conservative (for the most part) who are most strongly opposed to its ever being built in the first place...
thus, to secularist liberals, this must all seem more like so much 'political theatre'... "make sure you have yer popcorn!" ;-)
because the leadership cadre of al-Qa'eda sure already has theirs!...
for I am quite certain that news of this whole controversy has- by now- filtered into such places as, for instance, Waziristan and other parts of the Federally Administered 'Tribal Areas' and North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan- areas largely sympathetic to the Afghan Taliban and al-Qa'eda itself. No better "recruiting tool" for these need be created by them for we here in the United States seem to be now well along in a process of converting what has hitherto been mere anti-American propaganda ("Americans consider Muslims to be inferior") into actual truth!
And the fact is that many Americans do consider Muslims to be inferior (such feelings- in more than a few cases- even preceding, yet exacerbated by, the events of 11 September 2001 and its now nearly 9 year-long aftermath), though I am well aware there are many in opposition to the Lower Manhattan mosque who will most strongly disagree with me; and many of these will respond by, in effect, saying "*I* don't consider Muslims to be at all inferior-- I simply don't think they have the same right to build a mosque so close to 'Ground Zero' as those who might want to build- or rebuild- say, a church or synagogue as close to 'Ground Zero'-- it is their rights that are inferior, not the Muslims themselves!"... except that, last time *I* checked (and I have already demonstrated this in my 15 August Commentary as well as in my response to a 17 August 'vox Populi', so I need not repeat it here), neither the Constitution of the United States- nor the Constitution of the State of New York- make any mention whatsoever of those to whom Free Exercise of Religion might be inferior as compared to that exercised by anyone else!
Many will also say- for I have already seen it in the 'blogosphere' (indeed, it is the very essence of former Speaker Gingrich's "quid pro quo" I have cited earlier in this piece)- that, as Freedom of Religion is not allowed in much of the rest of the World, why should we Americans be at all criticized for how we might handle it here in the United States (even- where not even especially- by other Americans)? Further, some will bring- as some already have brought- up the fact that, in many parts of the Islamic World in particular, people are injured and maimed, even killed, for not being Muslim and at least those in opposition to the Lower Manhattan mosque here in America are not at all injuring, maiming or killing (however much these might, instead, be offending or insulting [largely on some strange theory that, thereby, being so offensive and insulting actually does anything as regards defending against Terrorism]) those who want to build Cordoba Center/Park51 so close to 'Ground Zero' and their supporters:
true enough-- we don't (and certainly shouldn't) do that here in these United States of America--
but the very foundation of why we don't, and shouldn't, do so (as well as why those who would do so would, and should, be severely punished to the fullest extent of the Law) is precisely because of our own constitutional norms, including no law respecting Establishment of Religion, or prohibiting the Free Exercise thereof... if I here need to place a citation as to from where that phrase comes, we're all in trouble...
however, given all the political controversy that the Lower Manhattan mosque project has engendered now nationwide, we're likely already in trouble anyway!