I’m a student, and I know that we have a reputation for being a little bit detached from the reality. But as far as I’m aware the rules of spatial mechanics have remained unchanged (or is that why I can’t remember staggering home at three in the morning anymore?).
But apparentely not, as Park51 – a recentely planned building development in New York City, which is being referred by many as the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ – has attracted more criticism from shouty, opinionated people than the average audience of the Jeremy Kyle Show. This is where the laws of physics appear to have been rewritten, as Park51 is actually two blocks away from the former location of the World Trade Centre, a full 0.2 miles according to Google Maps. The people criticising the mosque have been acting as though it’s a decadent, 300-foot monumental eyesore filling the exact space where the WTC was, with the bodies of dead US soldiers hanging from the rafters, complete with with the words ‘We Win, America!’ in big neon letters atop a statue of Osama Bin Laden fisting Uncle Sam. In reality, the artist rendition looks just like any old skyscraper you can name in New York City.
Yep, looks like a monument of the Islamization of The West to me.
What’s more, it’s not even a mosque. It’s a community centre, albeit a specifically Islamic one with a mosque inside. What’s the difference there between an Islamic and a Christian community centre? That might sound obvious, but only if you greatly generalise on Islam and fail to distinguish between extremists and moderates. Even if it were a dedicated mosque, the same distinction still applies.
I’ve also been told that the controversy has emerged because the collapse of the Twin Towers had rubble landing on the place where the not-mosque is planned. So, what? That fact is utterly meaningless unless the US want to change their foreign policy to a canine philosophy in which they indicate their borders by where they’ve pissed.
Think I’m exaggerating? Just look at the organisation “Stop Islamization of America” (SIOA), who view the not-ground zero not-mosque to be an indication of the Islamic invasion of the USA and an insult to all the soldiers who died. The SIOA claim to be “a human rights organization dedicated to freedom of speech, religious liberty, and individual rights” – judging by their actions and their name – unless you’re a Muslim.
I can see why it might be considered, at most, poor taste. But the vitrolic opposition to the not-mosque has gone far beyond arguing for respecting dead soldiers and have, rather paradoxically, sunk into a all-out display of religious intolerance.
There’s been some comparison with the ‘Draw Muhammed Day’ on Facebook, which is an interesting comparison but not in the way that the SIOA think. ‘Draw Muhammed Day’ was in response to threats by Islamic extremists towards the creators of ‘South Park’ who were poised to depict the prophet of the Muslim faith, which is against Islam. Those who participated in ‘Draw Muhammed Day’ did not do so for any Islamaphobic reason, it was a demonstration that free speech is non-negotiable: no-one is immune to criticism and you cannot bully people into silence through the threat of violence.
The SIOA believe that this is somehow testament to anti-Islam sentiment in the US but this is not the case. ‘Draw Muhammed Day’ was a defence of free speech, which is the complete opposite of what the SIOA is about. They want to prevent the building of the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’, even though doing so is explicitly against free expression and ignores freedom of religion, which was one of the founding principles of America.
I’m not taking the piss out of the attacks of September 11th because I’m not a completely heartless bastard. Nor am I taking the piss out of Islam — because I like my head — but this arguement is totally fucking ridiculous. It is not a mosque. It is not on ‘Ground Zero’. Blocking it’s building is against the freedom of expression and religion that the US is itself founded on and those very soldiers died defending. I can only conclude, therefore, that those opposing the not-mosque are doing so purely out of religious prejudice. Maybe that’s unfair, as simply the bandied-about name ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ immediately creates two misconceptions on this issue, but anyone willing to look into it for half a second can find the facts of the matter. So it’s really down to a combination of prejudice and ignorance — a lethal combination in any context.
UPDATE: Someone has just pointed out to me that this post is remarkably similar to an article by Charlie Brooker on the same issue. Brooker’s column is far funnier, uses similar techniques of hyperbole and ridiculing the pointlessness of the debate, and it was also done about two weeks ago. I actually hadn’t seen it before I wrote this post but it looks as though I’ve copied his points, just putting that out there.