The Holy War Over Ground Zero

Perhaps New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg deserves credit, then, for saying straight out, and sticking to his position, that the mosque “is as important a test” of “the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetime.” Indeed, he added, “We would be untrue to the best part of ourselves—and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans—if we said ‘no’ to a mosque in Lower Manhattan.”

And yet, there’s something in that Bloombergian line that puts one’s back up. Something condescending, superior, and hectoring. Something of the school marm and, more to the point, something of the 1950s high-liberal technocrat who just doesn’t like the messiness of human interaction. And if we could reach down to the root of the mayor’s error, we would have some understanding of how religion actually works in a constitutional democracy.

Of course, the first thing that has to be said about the building of an enormous Muslim center so close to the destroyed towers is that it’s wildly offensive. And the second thing to be said is that it’s wildly constitutional.

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About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Herkybird

    It seems to me what is lost in the constant invocation of the cliche’ about the separation of church and state is that it is being used to promote an institution whose central theme is the fusion of church and state. The ideology underlying one being the antithesis of the other.

    Though not offered as the definitive argument, these remarks of the Trinidad-born writer V. S. Naipaul are at least worth reflecting on:

    “Islam is in its origins an Arab religion. Everyone not an Arab who is a Muslim is a convert. Islam is not simply a mater of conscience or private belief. It makes imperial demands. A convert’s worldview alters. His holy places are in Arab lands; his sacred language is Arabic. His idea of history alters. He rejects his own; he becomes, whether he likes it or not, a part of the Arab story. The convert has to turn away from everything that is his. The disturbance for societies is immense, and even after a thousand years can remain unresolved; the turning away has to be done again and again. People develop fantasies about who and what they are; and in the Islam of the converted countries there is an element of neurosis and nihilism.”

  • dry valleys

    Funny you should mention V.S. Naipaul, as I hear he has a new book out. I won’t be buying i though.,

  • dry valleys
  • Elizabeth Scalia

    Funny, my column for tomorrow will also be about the rally…and I also used the word “vague”

  • SKAY

    Bloomberg’s tolerance speech etc.– begin to make more sense if you “follow the money”–

    “Michael Bloomberg has made billions of dollars being a savvy businessman. Might a savvy businessman consider it prudent to maintain good relations in the Muslim world–a part of the world where the Mayor’s company hopes to “double revenues by 2014?”

    How does Mayor Bloomberg’s support for the Ground Zero mosque — based, he says, on the issue of freedom of faith – square with the “virtues of Islamic finance” and an Islamic finance portal in Dubai with Bloomberg LP‘s aim of becoming “the world’s single provider of information that caters to the Islamic finance market?”

  • Klaire

    I’m beginning to wonder if some of the “decision makers” aren’t being blackmailed? It’s easy to say “Follow the money”, as that is usually the case in politics and government.

    I just have had a sense, in listening to a few key people in NYC, that their tone has an uncanny desperation to it, I think. Something about the cheerleaders on this doens’t smell like normal politics to me.

    Just a thought.

    None the less, the government’s main role is to keep us safe. Until more questions are answered, security trumps all ‘rights’.

  • Melinda T

    Mayor bloomberg has considerable investment interests in follow the money indeed…I would say this puts the screws to his unflappable “support” of the constitution – that is what “constitutes” his vested dollar return from the Arab world…religious freedom? Hmmm….must be the new code word for ten percent on the dollar….

  • Bob Devine

    There should categorically not be a mosque built at Ground Zero! The people that want to put the mosque there are Islamic. Islam is a totalitarian system of dominance and subjection. It has one and only one aim. The total dominance of the world, the introduction of Sharia law and the elimination of the infidel. WE ARE THE INFIDEL!

    Islam is not a religion it is a political system that uses our view of religion against use in its quest for dominance. There is very little prayer in a mosque. Its primary use is as a command centre to organize and plot its agenda. Saying prayers there is incidental.

  • baleen

    “wildly offensive”

    Wildly offensive to whom?

    Certainly not the people who live in Manhattan.

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