Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 20, 2010

Landing on Park Place: No matter what, it’s very expensive

Filed under: Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on August 20, 2010

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.

G. Washington

“Come on, we’re going to allow that at Ground Zero?”

— Rudy Giuliani


Help me understand

by Philip J. Palin

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.

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Comment by William R. Cumming

August 20, 2010 @ 7:02 am

Well since I assume if built the Mosque would be tax exempt then does it serve a large population of worshippers of Islam? I don’t offer this facetiously. Current religions operating in the US seem to be largely of two types. The Brick and Mortar type with overweening structures meant to rival the era of Cathedral building in mideval Europe. I believe there are now over 4000 megachurches with more than 3,000 worshippers. These represent something other than religion. This represents the ego, hubris, and dynastic pretensions of their leaders. It is ridiculous and I would limit the availablility of tax exempt status for those organizations qualifying under what is essentially the STATUTE of First Elizabeth (1600’s era) to no more than bare necessities. Hey are they all energy efficient? Are they used daily? What statement are they making about humility before whatever GOD or GODS you worship. Allowing tax deductions for religions to me violates the first AMENDMENT and its restriction that “Congress shall make no law . .” Hey where is HUGO BLACK when we need him. I am tired of these expansive desert religions that seem to not reflect the austerity of their beginnings. Perhaps a vow of poverty for leaders and believers. Oh that may be why we are so busy destroying our (US) and other world economies trying to protect not the right to worship who you wish but to protect and expand the coverage of various religions beliefs on a corporate basis. Did Constantine help or hinder the Roman Empire when he gave those fateful words “In hoc signo vinces” [sic-phil I know can correct) meaning in Latin–In this sign shall I conquer–referring to the symbol of the cross.
I am not irreligious and in fact am a believer one desert faith-Christianity-but believe that religion belongs in one’s head and heart not in a big box store.

Comment by Philip J. Palin

August 20, 2010 @ 7:47 am


I understand that 51Park will be developed as a tax-exempt Islamic community center. The developers have argued it is more accurate to compare the site to a YMCA than a Mosque. The following is from the Cordoba House Initiative website:

The community center will meet the needs of all New Yorkers with six programmatic areas:
1. Culture and Arts – 500-seat auditorium, exhibition)
2. Education – Lecture hall, conference rooms, library, classrooms,)
3. Social Cohesion,(cooking classes, senior citizens space, child care, banquet hall)
4. Religion + Healing – Muslim prayer space, Contemplation and reflection area, 9/11 victims memorial
5. Global Engagement – Mapping studies on trends in the Muslim world, resources on good governance and principles of liberal democracy, women’s empowerment issues, youth development, countering religious extremism.
6. Recreation – pool, gym, medical education and wellness programs

Your Latin is correct, though I think the tale is that Constantine said it in Greek. In my personal opinion, Constantine’s official embrace of Christianity complicated and undermined core elements of Christianity… which is another reason I am so keen to protect the principle of government non-involvement in religious matters in this case and others.

Comment by LOGGER

August 20, 2010 @ 9:05 am

Love of enemies has no logic. As Justice Holmes said, the history of the law and love of it is not based on logic it is based on experience. To love in proportion to the injury would mean offering a premium for a crime. I don’t think logically. Those who preach love your enemies are for the most part the greatest persecutors. Around here, it’s more common to convert former religious property into commercial property. The flocks scattered. Converting commercial property into religious property is against the interest of government. The city needs the revenue more than the citizens need another house of worship. It’s another of the mayors special projects and as usual it’s very expensive. The organizers are willing to pay a premium for an exclusive address and I’m sorry to say I can’t afford it or I’d buy the building and sell dry goods.

Comment by LOGGER

August 20, 2010 @ 9:34 am

“A telling advertisement for O’Neill’s store appeared in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper in 1871: “50 doz. French chip hats, just received, $3. Sold on Broadway at $6. Just received 500 cartons of French flowers, finest imported. 50 percent below Broadway prices.”” By 1890 O’Neill employed 2,500 people.

Put a hat on your dome and keep your Italianate traditional. I’m chipping here. An Italianate mosque seems more like a statement of futurism than a romantic ideal. The prophet was a historian and as such a future historian. Italianate is still a girls best friend if it’s filled with the right stuff. They are going to stuff it with a swimming pool. Tell me you aren’t joking. It sounds all wet!

Comment by Philip J. Palin

August 20, 2010 @ 10:00 am


I try to practice love of enemies, (interesting word “love”) but in this case I am even more concerned not to mistake friends for enemies and make further enemies unnecessarily. Regarding the interests of government, I was recently meeting with government officials in a major city regarding catastrophic planning. Very much off-the-record, these individuals strongly suggested engaging the churches and other places of worship as effectively as possible. “If the worst happens, the churches will be among the few still operating and effective,” said one of the government officials. I guess it depends how we define the government’s interest. But, again, in this case, I am mostly concerned that government basically stay out of the process, and free speech, freedom to worship, and property rights be respected.

Comment by LOGGER

August 20, 2010 @ 10:06 am

“Italianate buildings often have a formal symmetry accentuated by pronounced moldings and decorative details. The commercial buildings resemble Italian palaces and tend to be rectangular buildings of several, spacious stories well suited to their original purposes as work spaces.” http://www.nyc-architecture.com/STYLES/STY-Italianate.htm

Work shop geometry. In the house of mathematics there are many mansions. If the heart of Israfil is a lute as legend has it, the heart of each of them is the dollar. Watch your tax base be converted from work space to prayer space. No doubt a soup kitchen will be in order with lines around the block and the mayor with a offer of free bread for the masses.

God, thou great symmetry,
Who put biting lust in me
From whence my sorrows spring,
For all frittered things
That I have spent in shapeless ways
Give me one perfect thing

Order, beauty and perfection create no pain. The other choice for your choosing is pleasure. It’s a lot of work and it can get lusty. That’s NYC for ya!

Comment by Art Botterell

August 20, 2010 @ 10:07 am

And who can argue with logic like that?

Comment by LOGGER

August 20, 2010 @ 10:29 am

Tranquility. We copy you on the ground. We’re breathing again. Another computer malfunction, registered an abort. We might not be back. Have a highball.


Comment by dan oconnor

August 20, 2010 @ 11:50 am

Nothing stirs passion quicker than religion and politics. While I may seem trite here, I do not mean to be…

Whether it’s a demographic issue, that being the growth of Islam, a slow decline issue, that being Catholicism or simply Christianity, or as persecuted one, that being Judaism, all three have influenced the world we live in and to categorize them merely as “desert religions” does not do them the appropriate justice. I’m sure it is not Bill’s intent to do such, but I find different metaphors in the syntax. I do not pretend to be a religious scholar, nor am I dismissive of their machinations with regard to their motives. As with all groups of people; motives are often self interest driven, albeit for purposes of good and not so good.

Organized religion by and large attempts to establish first a micro culture and than an influential one. Their impact on the world and the spread of Western Civilization must also be balanced against the cultures destroyed. All took place under the guise of spreading religion and Empires need for expansion. What sets you free also enslaves you.

Recently in the movie, the Book of Eli, one sees this exact phenomenon; in the not-too-distant future, across the wasteland of what once was America, a lone nomad named Eli (Denzel Washington)traverses a desert wasteland fighting to bring the remaining civilization the knowledge that could be the key to its redemption and save the future of humanity. a single wandering survivor in a post-apocalyptic world, Eli has the last Bible on earth. He believes he is God’s messenger and has been charged with delivering the book to the west coast. His journey takes some thirty years to complete. Searching for a source of water, he arrives in a ramshackle town built and overseen by a man who becomes his antagonist, Carnegie (Gary Oldman). Carnegie dreams of building more towns and controlling, some would enslaving the people by using the power of a certain book, of course that book being the Bible. The power of God for good and evil…( see the movie, its pretty good!)

Religion 101. Freedom and enslavement. Perhaps I oversimplify, but its too convenient to blast faith and/or religion for the worlds ills… and at the same time, all together obvious that the tenants of religion when exploited, do far more harm in Gods name than good.

But take it a step further. Is it religion or human nature? Someone has to win and someone has to lose. We are exploitive by nature and have rationalized fairness and equity as a human right. Is it ? There is no time in history where we haven’t exploited one another. War is a business model and a tool of compliance. Dominance is almost a necessity. There has to be poor to have wealthy. There is always exploitation. We didn’t get this vast wealth and opportunities by accident or by some virtuous behavior. We did not thrive in a vacuum. History bears this out. I am not apologizing either.

Sometimes I wonder if our fear of being post relevant and our prejudices and bias’ drive more of our actions than we want to admit. I do not believe we want to understand Islam. Its an anathema to us. We are a xenophobic and jingoist nation, which is ironic because of our diversity and amalgam of ethnicity. Again, perhaps a leap or overstatement, but clearly not a naive or unobserved approach. Our Western traditions and our tribal instincts keep it so. So is this our realization that our relevance and influence is waning? Are we now becoming afraid of our descent? I think we must examine and embrace our reality and own it. Not apologize for it, but own the obvious. We have some degree of responsibility for our condition. And, if we continue not to own our situation and take responsibility, who will? The ash heap of history is high and wide with those who chose not to own their situation.

Just being “straight up” ; Why did we go to Iraq? I can come up with some quasi legitimate reasons to go into Iraq. Whether a foothold in the middle east, oil, whatever. I can even see the WMD thing. We will be there a long time and our success remains to be seen. What about Afghanistan? Our need for retribution and blood seems reasonable, but we did not plan, prosecute, and deliver justice. What is victory? On some levels, our self emasculation in these two theatres did far more harm than good. We demonstrated nothing except weakness, (in our adversaries eyes) because we didn’t get the guy who bombed the WTC, twice! Is this the truth or is this a manufactured storyline? How is it possible that we, the United States could not catch the person who planned and did this?

Our displeasure about the cultural center being hundreds of yards away is our way to continue grieving. Our paradox of believing we’re not responsible in any way or fashion for our current economic and political state is contrary to the illusion of America being this beacon of fairness and righteousness. We have an image problem amongst ourselves.

We’re angry and hurt because of the WTC attack. I grew up in NY, worked on the WTC security and rebuilding for 2 years, and lost many, many friends… and 9 years later I continue to do so. Perhaps if we caught and killed Bin Laden and Al-Zahiri quickly and at all costs, the argument wouldn’t be taking place.

But we didn’t do that. There are a lot of reasons, but we did not.

Our Nation did not evolve in a vacuum. There are consequences and manifestations of actions we chose to take and not take. But we must embrace that as part of our DNA. Our country right or wrong, but our country.

I will never apologize for being an American, for serving our country as a Marine, and trembling at every playing of our National Anthem; never. It’s the greatest place on earth as far as I am concerned. But my love of country is much like realizing my mother wasn’t perfect. Recognizing the blemishes, mistakes, and shortcomings does not diminish the adoration or affection; it simply explains and contextualizes what is often necessary to overcome human nature.

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August 20, 2010 @ 1:13 pm

[…] Filed under: Uncategorized — CateFlo @ 6:13 pm More on tolerance re: Ground Zero from Homeland Security Watch. Leave a […]

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