Not being a native New Yorker, my familiarity with Park Place had been limited to the monopoly board. Along with Boardwalk, it is a very expensive place to own. According to most game strategists owning it also pays-off poorly.
Now I know Park Place as the planned location for a controversial Islamic community center. The pay-off still looks iffy.
This blog is one of the few places where I pronounce. Usually I ask questions. I listen. I confirm what I hear. I ask follow-on questions. Peter Drucker wrote, “My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.”
As a teacher, supervisor, and consultant, listening and trying to truly understand the other is critical. My colleagues in the intelligence game — at least the analysts — make the point that they too are mostly very active listeners.
Whatever else, the controversy brewing along Park Place in lower Manhattan gives me an opportunity to listen. As made clear in prior posts (re-posted far below) I have made my own judgment and am unlikely to shift. But I ought not stop listening.
On this issue much of what I hear is personally painful. I often hear fear, anger, and a mangling of the truth. But this is also a kind of truth. As one who has pledged, if only to myself, to protect my nation, it is important to listen. The issues — including fear, anger, and non-truths — are crucial to my work in homeland security.
Immediately below is an argument that I respect against the proposed Islamic community center. This is followed by the best alternative argument I have seen. I close by re-posting a personal reaction.
The Mosque at Ground Zero
By Abraham H. Foxman (Originally published in the Huffington Post)
Perhaps no issue in recent memory has aroused as much controversy and passion as the proposed Islamic community center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. Those passions came to a head as the blogosphere reacted, mostly in a headlong rush to judgment, over the recommendation by the Anti-Defamation League that New York City would be better served if an alternative location could be found.
The reaction was immediate, and in most cases we were maligned, and our position was mischaracterized and deeply misunderstood. The main charge was that an anti-bigotry organization had joined with the bigots. That false accusation was extremely painful and served to diminish and obscure the fact that our position on the Islamic center was carefully considered, clearly stated and consistent with our values and mission.
There are legitimate differences of opinion regarding the building of an Islamic cultural center at Ground Zero.
To us, after much discussion and debate it became clear that the overriding concern should be the sensitivities of the families of the victims that dictated finding another location for this massive, $100 million project.
At its essence, our position is about sensitivity. Everyone — victims, opponents and proponents alike — must pay attention to the sensitivities involved without giving in to appeals to, or accusations of, bigotry. Ultimately, this was not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center would unnecessarily cause some victims more pain. And that wasn’t right.
Having made our decision known, we expected disagreement and criticism from some quarters. What has been so disheartening, however, has been the nature of that criticism. Two kinds of attacks have been particularly troubling: that we are violating principles of religious freedom, and that we are stereotyping Muslims.
These criticisms simply ignore ADL’s record in dealing with such matters, particularly in the post-9/11 climate.
Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Muslims were being stereotyped and in some cases individual Muslims or Muslim institutions were attacked. ADL took the lead in not standing idly by. We took out ads in The New York Times and other newspapers with the headline, “Don’t Fight Hate with Hate.” Our message was that a terrible event occurred on 9/11, a national tragedy brought on by hate, but the way to deal with it was to fight the terrorists, and not to stereotype and hate individual Muslims.
Similarly, when two mosques in Dallas were targets of shooting, ADL’s director in Dallas organized a press conference featuring the imam of one of the mosques, a Baptist minister and himself to speak together against this dangerous and inappropriate reaction to the 9/11 horror.
When a Muslim congressman was condemned by some for taking the oath of office on a Koran instead of a Bible, ADL was quick to defend his right to that option.
In Ohio, in 2002, ADL called upon Cuyahoga County corrections officials to reverse their decision not to permit Muslim women to wear their hijab in the courtroom. In 2006, ADL condemned remarks by a member of Congress depicting Muslims in a stereotypical way.
And there are many more examples in recent years of ADL’s voice standing out against anti-Muslim bigotry.
Indeed, ADL supports the building of mosques, like churches and synagogues, just about anywhere in the country. That is a religious freedom perspective.
And when French government officials sought to bar the wearing by Muslims of religious facial garments, ADL spoke out to defend the right of Muslims to wear traditional clothing and participate as full members of society.
Not to mention ADL’s day-to-day work across this country in fighting hate crimes, which affect Muslims, and in teaching about respect and tolerance for difference in schools, workplaces and federal institutions.
All in all, we have established ourselves as leaders in promoting pluralism and fighting against bigotry, particularly against Muslims in the difficult post-9/11 period.
Critics should consider that context and credibility before reacting to ADL’s position. Clearly we would not take a position to limit religious freedom. Clearly we would never take a position that would stereotype Muslims.
However, we also must take into consideration the feelings of the families who lost loved ones at Ground Zero.
The lessons of an earlier and different controversy echo in this one. In 1993, Pope John Paul II asked 14 Carmelite Nuns to move their convent from just outside the Auschwitz death camp. The establishment of the convent near Auschwitz had stirred dismay among Jewish groups and survivors who felt that the location was an affront and a terrible disservice to the memory of millions of Jews who died at the hands of the Nazis in the Holocaust.
Just as we thought then that well-meaning efforts by Carmelite nuns to build a Catholic structure were insensitive and counterproductive to reconciliation, so too we believe it will be with building a mosque so close to Ground Zero.
The better way for Muslims seeking reconciliation and moderation would have been for them to reach out to the families of the victims, who we are sure could have recommended any number of actions to achieve those goals other than the present plan.
To make this a test of whether one supports religious freedom or is stereotyping Muslims is to engage in demagoguery. Good people can differ as to what should happen, without falsely being accused of abandoning their principles.
Abraham H. Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, is National Director of the Anti-Defamation League
Religious Tolerance, then and now
By Dana Millbank (originally published in the Washington Post)
“To bigotry no sanction.”
— George Washington
“Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate.”
— Sarah Palin
Two hundred twenty years ago today (August 18), the Jews of Newport, R.I., wrote a proclamation for President George Washington on his visit to their synagogue the next day.
“Deprived as we heretofore have been of the invaluable rights of free Citizens,” the Jews wrote to their famous visitor, we now “behold a Government, erected by the Majesty of the People . . . generously affording to All liberty of conscience, and immunities of Citizenship: deeming every one, of whatever Nation, tongue, or language, equal parts of the great governmental Machine.”
Washington’s reply the next day, a simple letter titled “To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport,” set a standard for religious tolerance that guided the nation through two centuries. Here is that message in its entirety — along with some alternative thoughts on the topic occasioned by the proposed mosque near Ground Zero:
While I receive, with much satisfaction, your Address replete with expressions of affection and esteem; I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you, that I shall always retain a grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced in my visit to Newport, from all classes of Citizens.
“There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia. The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over. . . . Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington.”
— Newt Gingrich
* * *
The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet, from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security. If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good Government, to become a great and happy people.
“9/11 mosque=act of fitna [Arabic for scandal], ‘equivalent to bldg Serbian Orthodox church@Srebrenica killing fields where Muslims were slaughtered.’ ”
— Sarah Palin
* * *
The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.
“President Obama’s support of building the mosque at Ground Zero is a slap in the face to the American people. . . . In fact, the majority of the country is strongly opposed to building a mosque at the site of the most tragic terrorist attack on America. I will continue to demmand [sic] President Obama to reverse his support on this.”
— Sen. David Vitter (R-La).
* * *
It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.
“The Ground Zero Mosque is not about freedom of religion, as President Obama claims. It’s about the murderous ideology behind the attacks on our country and the fanatics our troops are fighting every day in the Middle East.”
— Carl Paladino, Republican candidate for governor of New York
* * *
It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid.
“President Obama has this all wrong and I strongly oppose his support for building a mosque near Ground Zero, especially since Islamic terrorists have bragged and celebrated destroying the Twin Towers and killing nearly 3,000 Americans.”
— Jeff Greene, Democratic candidate for Senate in Florida
* * *
May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.
“Come on, we’re going to allow that at Ground Zero?”
— Rudy Giuliani
Help me understand
by Philip J. Palin
A CNN poll is out reporting that two-thirds of Americans are opposed to creation of an Islamic center planned for 51 Park Place in New York. I am surprised.
I might have expected similar numbers, but of reverse opinion: 68 percent in favor, 29 percent opposed, 3 percent uncertain. Actually, I would have predicted a higher percentage of undecided. My long-lost cousin Sarah certainly has evidence for me not “getting it.”
I am in the distinct minority that supports the Center. The more arguments I hear against the Center the more this judgment seems to be reinforced.
Based on what I read and hear the core argument against the Center is that Islam, as a faith, caused — or Muslims, as a group, conducted — the 9/11 attacks, two blocks away from the building to be developed. Neither of these perceptions is accurate. Such arguments are a horrible fiction the terrorists themselves have attempted to foist on the world. In adopting this fiction we give aid-and-comfort to those who have chosen to be our enemies.
Rather, a few deluded self-defined, and largely non-practicing Muslims — contrary to the tenants of Islam — murdered nearly 3000 innocents, including at least 58 Muslims.
Moreover, from everything I have heard and read, those involved in conceiving the Islamic Center are explicit in rejecting the false teaching of those involved in terrorism. These individuals, by their own testimony and those of many faiths who have known them, are motivated to “improving Muslim-West relations.” As such, it is hard for me to imagine a better place for such a center than lower Manhattan. The current controversy demonstrates the need for such work.
I am proud to be an American. For me this means I am proud of the values articulated in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. These are challenging and ambitious values. As an individual I too often fail to keep faith with these values. But it is very clear that among these values are religious freedom and significant property rights. At 51 Park Place these two key values have intersected. I understand I am duty-bound to protect these liberties.
Further, as a self-defined (if nothing more) homeland security professional, I perceive the stated intentions of the Cordoba Initiative as supporting the core values of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. From what I can discover regarding those involved in the Cordoba Initiative their motivations are inimical to those of our terrorist adversaries. I have heard accusations otherwise, but I have not yet found any evidence otherwise.
So this is an occasion when principle and pragmatism meet. This highlights how the vocal opposition to the Islamic Center causes me significant concern. In the rhetoric and actions of those opposed to the conversion of 51 Park Place I perceive Osama bin-Laden, Anwar Awlaki, and their ilk are being given an enormous amount of unintentional — even paradoxical — support.
It is also my duty to protect the free speech of those who I perceive are playing into the hands of our adversaries. I will do so. But I hope that along the way we can speak together and listen together. I am very unhappy that I seem to oppose two-thirds of my fellow Americans on a matter of core principle and pragmatic self-interest. Help me understand our differences.