At a recent Ramadan Iftar dinner hosted at Gracie Mansion, Mayor Bloomberg reiterated his support for Park51, the Islamic cultural and community center planned for lower Manhattan. Bloomberg said that by not supporting the center:
We would undercut the values and principles that so many heroes died protecting. We would feed the false impressions that some Americans have about Muslims. We would send a signal around the world that Muslim Americans may be equal in the eyes of the law, but separate in the eyes of their countrymen. And we would hand a valuable propaganda tool to terrorist recruiters, who spread the fallacy that America is at war with Islam.
Addressing those calling for a compromise location for the center, Bloomberg offered the logical rejoinder. “The question will then become, how big should the ‘no-mosque zone’ around the World Trade Center be?” he remarked. “There is already a mosque four blocks away. Should it too, be moved?”
The Mayor’s sentiment was echoed by Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker, who asks what distance from the World Trade Center site would be acceptable to opponents of Park51 – and then extrapolates their argument to its illogical, and saddening, extreme:
New York being a densely populated city, there are lots of other buildings and businesses within two blocks of Ground Zero, including a McDonald’s and a Burger King, neither of which has yet been accused of serving milkshakes and fries on hallowed ground. Regardless, for the opponents of Cordoba House, two blocks is too close, period. Frustratingly, they haven’t produced a map pinpointing precisely how close is OK.
That’s literally all I’d ask them in an interview. I’d stand there pointing at a map of the city. Would it be offensive here? What about here? Or how about way over there? And when they finally picked a suitable spot, I’d ask them to draw it on the map, sketching out roughly how big it should be, and how many windows it’s allowed to have. Then I’d hand them a colour swatch and ask them to decide on a colour for the lobby carpet. And the conversation would continue in this vein until everyone in the room was in tears. Myself included.
Dick Cavett, in an op-ed in The New York Times, struggles to understand the hypocrisy at play:
I remain amazed and really, sincerely, want to understand this. What can it be that is faulty in so many people’s thought processes, their ethics, their education, their experience of life, their understanding of their country, their what-have-you that blinds them to the fact that you can’t simultaneously maintain that you have nothing against members of any religion but are willing to penalize members of this one? Can you help me with this?
Sadly, much of the hypocrisy is fueled by media outlets who give coverage to undeserving stories, and opportunistic politicians who use them to gain political advantage, especially in election seasons. Jason Linkins, writing in the Huffington Post:
As soon as the media saw themselves a shiny shiny shining thing shining shinily in New York City, they pounced! How perfect! Something for us to talk about during the slow-news summer! I mean, we could talk about the nation’s unemployment crisis, but that would mean we’d have to talk to poor, jobless people, and there’s no currency in having access to a bunch of poors. Right away, they accepted the premise that this was a “Ground Zero mosque,” when it wasn’t. And so, by the power vested in the media, things that weren’t in fact true were accorded the privilege of being “one side of a great debate” and “an interesting point of view.”
And because the media couldn’t do their job, a group of hack politicians, like Rick Lazio and Newt Gingrich, desperate to get a little famewhore attention for their quixotic political career goals, saw an opportunity to horn in on the “discussion.” …Right away, they should have been entirely ridiculed, because the people pimping this bilge were primarily right-wing types who would ordinarily say that church and state should not be separated, that property rights are sacrosanct, and that government should be small and unobtrusive. …But of course, that’s not what happened. The media has too much invested in flattering people like Newt Gingrich, and whoever writes Sarah Palin’s tweets. And so, these inherent contradictions simply became “one side of a great debate” and “an interesting point of view.”
As if the false and unnecessary controversy over Park51 isn’t dispiriting enough, the media has been consumed over the past week with the anti-Koran rantings of an ignorant pastor in Florida. Yesterday morning, MSNBC conducted a bizarre non-interview in which the Florida pastor was lectured by Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, then given no airtime to respond.
But anyone who is praising MSNBC for “refusing to interview” that shameful, media-baiting pastor in Florida should think twice. MSNBC staged a clever stunt: they created the illusion that they were doing the right thing while still giving the “story” coverage and attention it does not deserve. If they really wanted to be professional and non-hypocritical, they would not have covered someone so unworthy of the attention, discussion, and legitimacy they have bestowed.
Charlie Brooker, again:
They got played, and played badly, by a dude with 14th-century religious beliefs, 19th-century facial hair and ultra-modern media savvy.
Sadly, many in the media fail to realize that not every story has two sides and deserves discussion. There are situations where right and wrong aren’t shades of gray. Promoting bigotry, hatred, religious intolerance, and xenophobia is wrong.