What would a compromise in NY Muslim centre dispute look like?

August 25, 2010

nymosque 1One requirement for a reasonable debate is to define the terms being used. The emotional dispute over the planned Cordoba House in New York, in which supporters and opponents are struggling over how to even describe it, is a case in point. Will the boxy modern building that developers have presented and local zoning boards have accepted be a Muslim cultural centre including a mosque? Or, as critics allege, a “Ground Zero mosque”, a term that evokes visions of  domes and minarets rising over the ruins of the World Trade Center. The facts speak for the first option, which is why we have chosen it for our description of this project.

A new element of confusion has entered the debate with calls for a compromise in this dispute. New York Governor David Patterson started this last week, saying that moving the project away from its proposed location would be a “a magic moment in our history” and offering state help to find a new site. He bemoaned the emotional level of the debate on Tuesday: People can’t hear each other anymore … I find it heart-wrenching. I hate to see New Yorkers squaring off against each other.”

nymosque 2New York’s Roman Catholic Archbishop Timothy Dolan unexpectedly stepped in to welcome Paterson’s proposal and offer his services as a mediator. He first seemed to support the call for moving the project, but some media thought that seemed less clear after he met Paterson on Tuesday. No matter how sincere their intentions are, their effort to find common ground here is fraught with complications. A central problem, the  lay Catholic magazine Commonweal in New York argued, is that “calls for the Muslim organizers to change their plans out of ‘sensitivity,’ however well-meaning, would allow the prejudices of some to define the terms of freedom for others.”

What would a compromise look like and what would it solve? Even the project’s opponents (or at least most of them) say Muslims have the right to build mosques, just not near the World Trade Center site. The location is the core of their opposition. Project leaders insist they will build on the site. There doesn’t seem to be much room there for a compromise, which this online dictionary defines as “a settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principles, etc., by reciprocal modification of demands.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg tackled this issue in his comments at his annual Iftar dinner for Muslim New Yorkers  in his official residence on Tuesday evening. In his comments, he repeated the eloquent support he gave the project in an earlier speech and then argued that a compromise would not solve the problem:

nymosque 3“Now I understand the impulse to find another location for the mosque and community center. I understand the pain of those who are motivated by loss too terrible to contemplate. And there are people of every faith – including, perhaps, some in this room – who are hoping that a compromise will end the debate.

“But it won’t. The question will then become, how big should the ‘no-mosque zone’ be around the World Trade Center site? There is already a mosque four blocks away. Should it be moved?”

What do you think? Is a compromise possible here? What could any deal acceptable to both sides look like?

(All photos from rallies for and against the Muslim centre project on 22 August 2010 by Jessica Rinaldi)

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9 comments

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it should be.
the poor timing of developers and their lack of vision to
foresee the virulent reactions this dubious construct would ignite
shows hubris and heartless opportunism from its creators
not humility not candor not grace.

Posted by seastar | Report as abusive

Seastar,

They planned for this years in advance. The imam appeared on Fox News(!) twice — with Glenn Beck in 2006 and with Laura Ingaham last year — and they both gave it their blessing. This has become an issue because extreme-right-wing bloggers have been rousing the rabble, and because it’s an issue beleaguered, idea-less Republicans can turn into an election issue.

Posted by Jalaluddin | Report as abusive

Yes, compromise is possible – if Khan and Rauf want it. They certainly show no sign of wanting it. And, btw, where’s Barry on this?

http://libertyatstake.blogspot.com/
“Because the Only Good Progressive is a Failed Progressive”

Posted by LibertyAtStake | Report as abusive

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Posted by AishahSchwartz | Report as abusive

Anyone who understand history of Muslim Arab world would agree that symbolism is extremely important to it. “Cordoba” is the reference to Cordoba Caliphate in Spain in the glory days of the Arab expansion in the western world. If the Cordoba House is allowed in the current location, the perception of Muslim Arab world would be that the America is not strongly religions county with weak believes to allow it to proceed despite this obvious symbolism. Some people in the US and West in general are blind by the tolerance at any price without recognizing that the Cordoba House might become a symbol of their own detraction in the eyes of the Muslim world.

Posted by lector | Report as abusive

Even I feel that people’s emotions have been fired-up by right-wing politicos, but I seem to agree with both sides of the debate…

A practical compromise could be a multi-faith center, as victims of 9/11 were from different faiths. I remember reading that ‘pro-mosque’ debaters want to have place to offer prayers for the loved ones they lost, but how about people from other faiths who want to offer their prayers as well ? Besides, this could be a good example for religion-freedom induced unity in NY.

I remember seeing a multi-faith praying room in Baltimore airport, perhaps people may agree to this ?

Posted by reev | Report as abusive

Why not do the same to all the muslim countries from whom US buys oil? Why aren’t they protesting against the import of muslim oil or religion doesn’t infect the quality of oil?
From a far perspective view, I can say that what is happening in the US against building a mosque is on the edge of what it means to be democratic. The protest is fine, but not agreeing on religious terms is just undemocratic.

Posted by Nickmann | Report as abusive

70 years ago, the American public was enraged after the attack of Pearly Harbor by Imperial Naval forces for Japan. First and second generation Japanese-Americans bore blame for actions of the nation from whence they came — homes, businesses, farms, possessions … rights granted under the Constitution … lost owing to national origin. A grievous mistake was made.

I still have vivid recollection of the morning I awoke to news of attacks on the eastern seaboard. I still remember the shock and anger that followed. While not being around to experience Pearl Harbor, I can imagine the impact of the attack on U.S. Naval installations enraged people as intensly as the 9/11 attack enrage Americans in modern times. Despite hopes that America learned from an earlier mistake, some politicans have chosen to violate their oath of office (vv. … uphold, defend, and protect the Constitution of the United States …) and trample on a people because … they worship by the same faith as the terrorists. [By that logic, Oklahoma City should ban GOP functions as both convicted bombers had a common political affiliation].

Posted by SanPa | Report as abusive

Compromise is impossible. Building a mosque is not a wise option. The ground zero is a place where God warns America, especially New York city. Why do we always debate about building a mosque. Why don’t we build a church, to remind us that God has been reminding America by terror attacks on september

Posted by word2010 | Report as abusive