Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Islamic Centre in New York's Wall Street area

The late American comedian Jimmy Durante used to and often did say, 'everyone's trying to butt into my act and I'm losing'. Well GuamDiary will elbow its way into the big brouhaha of building the Corboda House or Islamic Centre at 51 Park Place. Wrongly called the 'WTO [World Trade Centre] Mosque the site is not visible nor in immediate proximity to 'Ground Zero'. It is a proposed cultural centre modelled on the (Jewish) 92 Street Y or (Jewish) West 86 Street Centre. It would house a cultural space, swimming pool and gymnasium, a halal restaurant, a day care centre, and only on the top two floors would there be room for pray but not a mosque properly speaking. Its doors would be open to all.
Controversy sprung like the snake headed Gorgon since May 2010 owing to the right wing Fox TV, owned by Rupert Murdoch's media empire, and picked up by API and endless media outlets. They know a 'good story' when they smell one and run with it they did. They panicked a willing US public in the throes of hard economic times, loss of social status, and prone to any and all gimcrack conspiracy theory. [GuamDiary does not discount the sorrow and the hurt of families who lost members during the attack of the WTO and the Pentagon by 19 al Qaeda terrorists. It sympathises with such a loss.]
The attack on building the centre on Park Place has had national repercussion and angry response and global coverage.
It is grafted on the rise of a movement of popular discontent in the US which is cynically manipulated by right wing talking heads and the tiger of public anger is mostly being ridden by the Republican party which is itself on the verge of collapse and anxious to take the thunder of the advocates of turning back the clock to the halycon days of a predominately white and Christian America. They appear in such reactionary nostalgic like the Tea Party and Whigs.
They play on fears which seized the land since the election of America's first black president, the losing of two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, demonising American Muslims [the youth of which have become susceptible to the appeal to radical, politicised muslims using Islam to further a questionable agenda to wage terror, illegal immigrants in the US. It has gone so far that supposedly responsable Republican lawmakers are calling for the repeal of the 14 Amendment which finding who is an American.
In these bonfires of political ambitions and vanities, the hero is Michael Bloomberg the mayor of New York who defends the owners of 51 Park Place right to American law and protections under the US constitution such as freedom of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment. In this, he has the support of some religious figures, elected representatives, and yes, a strong showing of families of 9/11 victims, among other. In a strong speech with the Statue of Liberty in the background, the New York mayor, to his great credit, gave a 15 minute talk on tolerance and freedom of religion in New York. A freedom once denied to Jews and Quakers and Catholics, for example. More broadly speaking, he could have mentioned the Mormans, a religion founded in New York state, and chased and persecuted and killed until they found refuge in Utah. Or Roger Williams chased out of Massachusetts by the Puritans, founded Rhode Island in the spirit of openness and tolerance.
GuamDiary won't go into the demagogery tack and motives of a Limbaugh, a Beck, or a Palin, but it will criticise religious leaders who should know better.
Long a defender of religious freedom the American Jewish Anti Defamation League caved in to the right's undue pressure. Even the Simon Wiesenthal Centre named in honour of the heroic Nazi hunter betrayed its 'tolerance'. What makes its opposition the more hypocritical is the fact that it is building in Jerusalem the city of peace [sic] a museum of tolerance by sequestering and tearing up a centuries old Muslim cemetery! [Jewish law and tradition reveres their burial grounds, but not this one. So in a way the Wiesenthal centre has repudiated or washed the Nazis & co. who desecrated Jewish burial grounds. It has diminished its voice and moral authority.]
And in a move to pressure the proponents of the Cordoba house, David Patterson, governor of New York, illegally offered them 'free land' to build the Islamic centre elsewhere. In this ploy, he has enlisted as a 'neutral and fair arbiter' Timothy Dolan, the cardinal archbishop of New York. Is Dolan impartial? Hardly he backed out of a deal to sell an empty convent on Staten Island to a group of Muslims wanting to convert it into a mosque. Not only that, he formerly supported the right to build the Muslim centre at 51 Park Place, but now has no opinion as to where it should be built.
And so the political tempest rages whilst the rebuilding of the WTO languishes owing further to the delays and the games played by the former three term Republican governor George Pataki.
Here GuamDiary introduces the sorry figure of Barack Obama [BHO] who at an 'iftar' [breaking of the fast] Ramadan dinner at the White House spoke in defence of freedom of religion. And then twisted his tongue to partially repudiate his standpoint the next day. His lack of firmness has rippled through a Democratic party which is not optimistic about retaining control of either house of Congress in the November 2010 by elections. Out of political expediency, calling for the building of the Islamic Centre elsewhere, are Howard Dean who helped engineer the Democratics to power in 2008 and Harry Reid running in a tight race for re election, so on as on.
The only ones who come out smelling like roses in the public sphere are the mayor of New York, Mike Bloomberg, the governor of New Jersey, the conservative Republican Chris Christie, representative Jerrald Nadler, New York City council members, etc.
Lillian Hellman called the days of the McCarthy witch hunt, a 'scoundrel time'. And today we are witnessing yet another scoundrel time. The assassinated governor of Louisiana Huey Long once put it this way, if fascism comes to the US, it would come wrapped in the American flag. And it certainly looks that way today as the bangers of pots and pans against American Muslims, immigrants, blacks, defenders of the constitution and the like with even the president himself thought a 'secret Muslim' or an illegal immigrant who stole the presidency.

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