Ground Zero Revisi­­ted

Sadik J. Al-Azm in Reset DOC:

While trying to follow, at great distance, the news and sharp controversies about the project to construct an Islamic Center and Mosque near Ground Zero in New York City, another telling occurrence deflected my attention in the direction of Washington DC. On August 28, a host of right wing Americans, neo-conservative crowds and Tea Party multitudes demonstrated at the Lincoln Memorial in the American capital in favor of “American Dignity Restored” and implicitly against that part of the country that had elected a black President for the first time ever, with a Muslim for a father and a Hussein for the obligatory American middle name, to boot. The demonstration took place exactly where the American civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, had delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech 47 years ago to the day.

Liberal and Civil Rights America was appalled at such tactics, timing and protestations regarding the whole affair as a deliberate provocation of and an intended affront to the best in American values in general and to America’s blacks and its other ethnic minorities in particular. At this point, I thought to myself: Is not the same logic of provocation and affront applicable to the Muslim construction project and Mosque in the Ground Zero zone? I do not want to answer the question simplistically. Obviously, the intention of the New York project is forgiveness and reconciliation and not just to insist no matter what on exercising, in a certain way, the constitutional right guaranteeing to all Americans the freedoms of religion, conscience, worship and expression. At the same time, it is no less clear that the intention behind the TeaParty demonstration in Washington DC is out and out provocation, at least to all those who hold dear the memory of Martin Luther King’s speech and the epochal shift it triggered in American life. I say this with all due respect to the inalienable right of all people to assemble, congregate, demonstrate and express themselves and their grievances peacefully.

In my estimation, the Ground Zero Muslim construction project shows, at its best, lack of tact, inconsiderate approaches and bad live-and let-live strategies and tactics.