“Not near Ground Zero, you don’t!” Photo of an entrance to an Iranian mosque by Hamed Saber.
Some Torontoist readers might be wondering, “Wait, a Ground Zero mosque post? What does that have to do with Toronto?” This is a fair comment, so let us be clear: this is not really an article about the Ground Zero mosque (which is, of course, neither at Ground Zero nor a mosque, instead being a community center with a prayer room in a former Burlington Coat Factory, but we digress). This is an article about Rosie DiManno’s column in Saturday’s Toronto Star, wherein she argues that the Ground Zero mosque should not be built.
We are doing this because her article—written on the anniversary of 9/11, and it’s equal odds whether this is because DiManno thought writing a mosque column on 9/11 was amazingly clever or because it’s been two weeks since anybody first wrote the sentiments DiManno espouses, and it took her this long to come up with it herself—in addition to being chock-full of passive-aggressive defenses of the straight-up bigotry that suffuses much of the anti-mosque protest movement, is also terrible tripe. Torontoist have never really been great fans of DiManno, but even for her, this is a new low. Let’s read together!
From the moment they went up, so dizzyingly and dazzlingly far up, the Twin Towers were strutting symbols of American potency.
Twin Towers as unintentional but blatantly obvious penis metaphor count: 1.
Those colossi represented might and majesty and boldness
Unintentional penis metaphor count: 2.
the self-assurance of a 20th century superpower, rising from the racing heart of Wall Street, Mecca of money and enterprise.
You have to imagine DiManno sitting back at her desk, all pleased with herself. “Hey, guys! Look what I did! This is about a mosque, right? So I compared the Twin Towers to Mecca! Because this story is about a mosque! The only way I could improve on this is working in a turban somewhere. Or maybe a camel.”
And the cloud-thrusting Twin Towers
Unintentional penis metaphor count: 3.
The iconography of Sept. 11 was captured in that haunting spectacle. But there were so many images burned into memory — a falling man, leaping to his death from one of the flame-engulfed towers, the ash-covered fellow in a brown suit, still clutching his briefcase as he emerged from billows of debris, accordioned fire trucks, a tattered American flag planted in the wreckage.
In case you were not aware that 9/11 happened, DiManno prepares the Cliff Notes version for you. There are four more paragraphs of this. Most writers would say, “You know, it’s been nine years. Maybe people don’t need to be reminded of what happened on 9/11. Maybe, just maybe, they will remember the most important day of the last decade all by themselves.” But DiManno is not most writers.
Poll after poll has shown Americans are far from divided on the issue. Indeed, Americans are remarkably united. A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Thursday found two-thirds objected to the project, with 82 per cent of those saying their disapproval was based on the centre’s location.
To extrapolate from those figures, 200 million Americans can’t be broadly accused of Islamophobia.
Of course, at the same time the poll was released, information on the poll was also released which demonstrated that opposition to the centre was largely driven by Islamophobes: of the 66% of Americans who oppose the project, two-thirds of them have generally unfavorable views of Islam.
Now, granted, we had to use Google to find that widely-circulated blog post hosted by the paper which commissioned the poll, and that might have been too much work for DiManno. However, there’s really no excuse for her to not have simply taken a glance at the raw poll data, which shows quite clearly that 49% of Americans have an unfavorable view of Islam, 31% believe Islam to promote violence, and 26% are willing to admit they’re prejudiced against Muslims.
It is not Islam that’s being rejected, not Muslims. It’s the sensitivity of the venue, the belief that a Muslim centre two blocks from Ground Zero is a provocation to the sensibilities of Americans and disrespectful to the memory of the 2,749 who perished there.
DiManno here writes such a self-contradictory paragraph it’s a wonder she didn’t get whiplash. “It’s not Islam that’s being rejected—it’s just Islam right there. That’s two different things!” This is weasel writing of the highest order: DiManno wants to play bigot without having to actually get stuck with the label. If that happened, the Star might realize what a horrible person she is, and then fire her, and then she’d have to go work at the Post and spend all day sharing a desk with Christina Blizzard. (Actually, the idea of DiManno and Blizzard sharing a desk is sort of like imagining what happens when Lex Luthor teams up with the Joker.)
And of course DiManno never says outright that all Muslims bear collective guilt for the crime of a handful of fanatics. She just implies it.
Many have noted that the area beyond Ground Zero is hardly hallowed ground, with sleazy porn shops and tacky bars abounding.
There were no porn purveyors among the 19 hijackers of those four planes. It’s a stupid analogy.
It’s not an analogy at all, Rosie. Nobody is analogizing anything here except you, and we don’t know what the hell you’re talking about. Saying that the part of Lower Manhattan where the community centre would be built is not hallowed ground has nothing to do with the hijackers. Seriously, Torontoist has collectively examined this sentence over and over and we have absolutely no idea what DiManno’s point is. “Because the hijackers weren’t pornographers, that means the Ground Zero mosque can’t be built next to porn shops” is our best guess.
Americans have been endlessly lectured about Islamophobia. Repeatedly they’ve been told not to equate terrorism and the specific events of 9/11 with 1.5 billion Muslims around the globe. Overwhelmingly, they’ve heeded that call. They’ve not tried to outlaw hijabs worn by schools girls, as in France, or banned minarets, as in a canton of Switzerland.
“Twenty-eight percent of [American] voters do not believe Muslims should be eligible to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Nearly one third of the country thinks adherents of Islam should be barred from running for President.”
Of course, what’s really impressive here is DiManno’s insinuation that past refusal to engage in bigoted politics somehow gives a country a free pass to do it. In RosieLand, everybody is expected to be at least, oh, 15% horrible. If you are only 10% horrible for five years, that means you can be 40% horrible immediately afterward! Because you’ve earned it! Of course, by this logic, DiManno will have to immediately stop being horrible and then live to one hundred and twelve to make up her current horribleness overdraft.
But there is a weariness with the religious continually intruding into the public realm.
While the U.S. has laboured to avoid perceptions of injustice towards Muslims — a difficult task when simultaneously combatting terrorism and waging two wars in Muslim lands — there’s been precious little regard for Western values in many Muslim societies.
This commences the third part of DiManno’s extended whine, which is that third world Islamic countries are repressive places so why does the West always have to respect religious freedom, huh? (This includes a complaint that the Dome of the Rock was built on top of the Temple Mount in 691 A.D., which was certainly not very friendly of Muslims, but then again going there opens up the whole Crusades thing.)
DiManno’s too petty by half to bother with the answer to that question, which is simple: people who live in liberal democracies respect religious freedom because that’s who we are and that’s who we choose to be. “We,” in this instance, includes a Muslim community that’s probably the world’s most prosperous, because the Ground Zero mosque issue isn’t about “us and them,” it’s about us and us.
Now, DiManno actually has a point when she says that Islamophobia doesn’t account for all opposition to the Ground Zero mosque. Probably it would have been a more compelling argument if it hadn’t been buried between 9/11 anniversary tragiporn and complaining that Saudi Arabian money built a mosque only two klicks away from St. Peter’s Basilica, which apparently offends DiManno because it falls inside the No Muslims zone. Maybe this is the start of a series of columns wherein DiManno explains where Muslims are allowed to build mosques!
That doesn’t make it a good idea. The symbolism is too arousing.
Unintentional penis metaphor count: 4.