Kevin Frisch: Welcome to the mosquerade
You would think that most Americans, upon learning that the “Ground Zero mosque” is neither planned for Ground Zero nor a mosque, would turn their attention to more important matters, like whether Snooki, the “Jersey Shore” trainwre— er, reality TV star, will appeal a decision she can’t trademark her nickname because of a trademark owned by the author of the children’s book “Adventures of Snooky: Under the Sea.”
Such is not the case. Stirred by a conservative-media drumbeat that has mischaracterized the proposal to further a political agenda (this is what conservative media do), the issue, if you want to call it that, has become a required topic of discussion among pundits and politicians alike, and will likely decide a few elections this fall.
For the record: A 13-story Islamic cultural center, which would include a mosque, has been proposed for a site two and a half blocks from the World Trade Center. There’s no “Ground Zero mosque.” Of course, there was also no participation by Iraq in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, another fact that was widely obscured for political purposes.
According to a timeline posted by Salon.com last week, the New York Times published a lengthy report on the project, called the Cordoba House, last December. Nobody cared. Conservative commentator Laura Ingraham, sitting in for Bill O’Reilly on Fox, did a segment on the project. “I can’t find many people who really have a problem with it,” she said.
Some five months later, as the proposal went through the New York City approvals process, the New York Post, as it is wont to do, editorialized in a headline: “Panel Approves ‘WTC’ Mosque.” With that, an ultra-conservative, anti-Muslim blogger named Pamela Gellar was off and running and, as Salon writes, “(her) sinister portrayal of the project was embraced by Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post.”
With the mischaracterization thus made and the sides thus drawn, conservative mosqueteers fell into line. The issue was not discussed in terms of American tolerance and religious freedom (well, President Obama tried; the right accused him of taking sides against those who lost loved ones on 9/11). It was instead presented as a divisive, us-against-them argument (this is what conservative media do).
It’s all a little sad. Which doesn’t stop the usual suspects from making their usual cases, with their usual, selective memories.
Conservative columnists argue that locating a mosque near Ground Zero — even a mosque embedded within a 13-story cultural center — is, in the words of the Washington Post’s summation of a Charles Krauthammer column, “not just insensitive but provocative.”
We don’t recall such concern about provocation from conservative corners when, 10 days after the April 1999 Columbine shootings, the NRA held a previously scheduled convention in nearby Denver. And where is the call for sensitivity when it comes to flying the Confederate flag?
There’s talk now from some, including New York Gov. David Paterson, of a compromise that would see the cultural center, mosque and all, built on state-owned land farther from Ground Zero. That would presumably end this battle, although it does nothing to address the broader cultural war brewing over religious tolerance in general, and how and when to make a distinction between Islam and militant Islamists in particular.
It’s a difficult, uncomfortable debate.
Which is why so many of us would rather turn our attention to the kind of controversy we can wrap our brains around — i.e, Snooki v. “Snooky.”
Contact Kevin Frisch at (585) 394-0770, ext. 257, or email@example.com.