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What to Do About the Muslim Cordoba House in New York City, a.k.a. the Ground Zero Mosque

The best, current Objectivist content in any media comes from Leonard Peikoff. In one of his recent weekly podcasts, in which he gives answers to audience-submitted questions, he responds to the question of what, if anything, should be done about the proposed mosque near Ground Zero in New York City. His answer quickly set off a chain reaction among Objectivists of carefully worded, polite disagreements with, and adamant defenses of, Peikoff’s position. (Shockingly, not one person seems to agree with my proposal for a big, bronze pile of dead cops and firemen.)

Although I eventually get around to listening to all of Dr. Peikoff’s podcasts, I was alerted to this particular one via a very official sounding statement by Diana Hsieh, along with a long series of emotional yays and nays. (Both her blog and her husband’s are worth following, by the way.) Hsieh’s disagreement was polite, rational, and seemed to make sense, so I was curious how exactly Peikoff himself had made his point. I recommend listening to Peikoff’s response to the question and reading Hsieh’s statement about it. And then, while you’re at it, here’s the official site of the Cordoba Initiative, the organization that is building the house.

Essentially, Hsieh describes Peikoff’s position as the following: Peikoff recommends [the government] stopping the building of the mosque “by any means necessary” [his words] which without a formal declaration of war “against our Islamic enemies” [her words], would grant the government undeserved and dangerous powers to initiate the use of force against innocent citizens.

Here’s the problem with her characterization, and (to go out on a limb) the prim and proper (British military in the American Revolutionary War-style) approach to war. At no point in his answer does Peikoff say that the United States should not declare war. What he says is that we should unleash the bombs on Tehran (a good idea), and then briefly clarifies that we should issue a warning first (also a good idea). The fact that he didn’t also describe every other legal technicality that might or might not be advisable before some pilot presses this or that button in no way undercuts the soundness of his recommendation. In short, I don’t think Peikoff would object to Congress making a formal declaration of war. His main point is: remove enemy clubhouses from American soil, and remove threatening, terrorist-supporting governments.

But we’re arguing about irrelevant technicalities here. The point is, with or without a declaration of war, the New York City government should tell Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf to formally go fuck himself, and let him take it to the Supreme Court. Alternately, as Peikoff said (with a clarification by his assistant at the end of the podcast) the federal government could simply demolish (”bomb”) the building and be done with it. A formal declaration of war is beneficial, but the enemy setting up camp on American property in not just a symbolic area, but right next-door to a prized target!? Are you fucking nuts?

And if you doubt that it is the enemy building this mosque, take a look at the imam’s bio, or better yet, read this article by him: Preventing Chaos. The Orwellian language would be purely disgusting, if it weren’t also unintentionally educational. When the Cordoba Initiative says they want to promote “positive interaction between the Muslim World and the West”, it turns out what they mean is they’ll provide a protection racket for everyone who’s scared shitless of Muslims. Read the article. The “chaos” the motherfucker is talking about preventing is the chaos that happens when Muslims flip out Danish cartoon style as a result of non-Muslims not kowtowing to their militant and asinine fairytales.

Gloating about how the Dutch government played into Muslims’ hands by publicly shitting in their pants, admitting their fear of the Muslim hoards, rejecting freedom of speech, and distancing themselves from a film supposedly depicting (the author apparently hadn’t seen it) “the violent and fascist elements of the Muslim faith”, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf writes:

“Mindful of the buzz building in the Arab press and keen to concoct a global media strategy to counteract a crisis, the Dutch Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates appealed to international organisations like ours (the Cordoba Initiative) to proactively engage Muslims in prevention-oriented activities.

…In sum, grassroots engagement was rigorous, respectful and well regimented – exactly the kind of early warning system that is needed at a local level to immunise a population from a threat.

No doubt the threat still exists, as the world still waits for Wilders’ cinematic debut. Nor is the Netherlands now impervious to potentially violent polemics in response to Wilders’ film.

But at least now, unlike in Denmark or Sudan, the early warning system has been activated, and the quarantining mechanisms queued. People stand ready this time.”

And yes, the added emphasis is mine. This fucker wants to build a “community center” near Ground Zero, pure and simple, in order to say: “You kiss our Muslim asses, you do what we want you to do, and maybe, just maybe, that over there won’t happen again.”

His kind, and by that I mean those of his ideology, are our enemies. We must remove them. We should explain why we’re doing it. And either before or afterward, sure, we should go ahead and formally declare the war.

And against whom should we be declaring the war? “Against our Islamic enemies”? Well, let’s be specific.

Even if we named every Islamic nation, this Muslim “community center” could claim it operated independently. Nevertheless, it would have to go. Because when we declare war against Iran, or Pakistan, or these two countries and more, we must specify that our enemy comprises all those holding the militant ideology of Islamism and all those who harbor and support them.

An unfortunate consequence for the rootin’ tootin’ American Muslims is that yes, for the time being, we will temporarily be suspending your Cordoba House swimming and basketball privileges. However, they may also feel free to put on a pair of khakis and play on our team. I believe there are courts available across the river.

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1 Katrina { 06.30.10 at 3:25 pm }

Glad you finally weighed in. If you haven’t seen it, Amy Peikoff’s post is great:
I think we can credit Paul Hsieh with calming everyone down. Before his post, there were actual “you wanna take this outside?” threats being tossed around on some threads.

Due to pure luck, I happened to stumble upon the initial fight (yes fight, not debate) on Edward Cline’s facebook wall when it was just getting started and watched it unfold in real time. Then it started up again after Peikoff’s podcast came out. Things were heated and outright nasty until yesterday.

I think things got muddled largely because there are some vocal, obnoxious people with wrong ideas on both sides. The Peikoff “bomb the mosque” side has some conservatives (and some calling themselves O’ists who are in fact conservatives) while the Diana Hsieh “let them build it” side has some true libertarians poking around. It’s easy to see on the most irrational elements of the other side in an emotional debate like this one.

But in the end, amongst the O’ists at least, it’s really just a difference in tactical views. One side sees the government as the more immediate threat and the other sees Islam as the more immediate threat.

I follow an embarrassing number of Objectivish blogs, so I know which participants in this debate spend their time researching domestic policy and which spend their time researching foreign policy. The line in this debate is exactly where you would expect: those engaged constantly in activism locally are on Diana’s side and those focused outward are on Peikoff’s. (There are a few who I know research both and so far all of those are on Peikoff’s side.)

This is actually extremely disappointing to me. From my own discussion with O’ists on this issue (in person, not online), I have found that most don’t have a clue about Islam or terrorism or the threats we face from abroad. They simply haven’t researched them, but they assume they are not a big deal compared to the FDA or whatever. But if you haven’t researched BOTH threats, you can’t claim you know that one is bigger than the other.

Ari Armstrong is the only one so far doing visible research on the issue (although others may be doing so privately), and I’m very impressed by that. He has investigate both the attitudes of Muslims in America and abroad to determine how they would view this mosque, as well as the motivations of the organization building the NYC mosque.

This is in my view the responsible thing to do if you plan to comment publicly on this issue. From the beginning, I’ve thought the answer to this problem is not at all obvious and have been shocked at how many people insist it is (on both sides.) But at least we can all agree that it is permissible, nay, morally required to do whatever is necessary to protect your own life from immediate, metaphysical danger. I’d prefer to let experienced military tacticians determine the “how.”

2 Jason Roth { 06.30.10 at 8:38 pm }

Some good information and analysis, thanks, Katrina.

As I think about it, what I’m really arguing in the above piece is that the Cordoba Initiative has no right to build the mosque. The idea of the government “bombing” the center is kind of irrelevant, because we’re talking about the government denying its construction, and clearly there are easier ways of accomplishing that than letting it be built and then bombing it. Nevertheless, it would be both justified and emphatic to actually demolish it.

But let’s not beat around the bush too much. If this community center should happen to quietly disappear one evening, Ragnar-style shall we say, without the official papers being signed or pushed across someone’s desk, am I going to have a problem with that? No, I’m not.

I just visited Ari Armstrong’s blog and will start following it. Any other “Objectivish” blogs do you recommend?

So, what is your position on the matter as of now? Do you really think this is purely a decision for military tacticians? I guess I can see that. Which country or countries we go after, in what order, and for what specific short-term gains is something I’d leave to some future general that Obama will hire and then fire.

3 Katrina { 07.01.10 at 7:43 pm }

Hmmm, will respond when not drunk off vanilla extract.

4 Katrina { 07.16.10 at 2:37 pm }

I haven’t been drunk this entire time, just busy.

Ok, so in terms of rights, I agree there is no right to build this structure/mosque, for the same reason that a person cheering on a murderer while he commits his crime has no rights. This is not too difficult to understand if you understand the source of rights under Objectivism. If Bob is threatening you and Bob’s friend Joe says “Yeah, go Bob!”, you are morally allowed to treat Joe as a threat, same as Bob. Now if you kick Bob’s ass and 2 weeks later Joe says, “You know, I was hoping Bob would win,” you don’t get to beat up Joe because Joe is no longer contributing to an existential threat and is merely exercising his right to free speech/to be an asshole.

So morally you *can* attack Joe, but whether you should is a tactical question i.e. is it worth the effort/costs? When it comes to the tactical side of the mosque debate, the question is basically do we use existing but nonobjective laws to stop this threat to our lives or not? We are basically talking about zoning laws here.

This is the part of the debate that makes me want to grab people and shout “Are you insane?!” Zoning laws have existed for hundreds of years. They are used literally every day. All those companies O’ists love to defend, like Walmart, use them constantly to get ahead. Further conservatives and others are going to pursue this tactic whatever the O’ists say. Are we seriously claiming that *one more use* of these laws out of, I don’t know, MILLIONS, is going to topple Western Civilization? That it will cause more damage than a dirty bomb or another hijacking?

So I am all for using existing bad laws in whatever way we can to stop this mosque. Now there’s a further part of the debate talking about special war time powers, i.e. government doing things like stopping the mosque without any kind of laws. This argument comes down to whether we need a declared war or not for the government to protect our lives in this way. We’re talking about Obama waving his hands and saying “Mosque begone!” without any real legal procedure.

In this part of the debate, I am still undecided. It feels like a rock and a hard place. I wonder though if those involved really know their history. The U.S. has not been in a declared war since WWII. If you truly believe a declared war is required to justify rights-restrictions, then right now it would be permissible to print and distribute materials encouraging Iraqi insurgents, probably even to give them medical treatment and shelter. Maybe they would agree to this, I don’t know.

At the same time, our government has been claiming war time powers more or less constantly since WWII, through the war on drugs or the war on crime or all of our non-declared wars abroad. That language is not an accident. It’s intended to allow made-up things like “executive orders” to gain Congressional and public acceptance. We currently have troops in 121 countries around the world. 121! And yet no official war anywhere…

I think people got tripped up thinking about this issue because they failed to recognize that this is an ongoing conflict, like the school yard fight, not some intellectual or culture war or class room debate over some long-past event. Just because there haven’t been “that many” large, successful terrorist attacks on American soil in the name of Islam doesn’t mean there aren’t people literally constantly planning, every hour of every day, how to kill more Americans*. The violence and the threats of violence are continuous. In fact relative to our history, attacks from Islam are far more present in our lives. Aside from the Civil War, our wars have primarily taken place outside our territory, often entirely outside it. That’s a damn good thing, and we should be intent on keeping it that way.

*This, by the way, is the reason why the slippery slope “O’ists could be next!” argument is flawed. O’ists are neither constantly planning violent attacks on America nor voicing support for those who are.

5 Katrina { 07.16.10 at 5:08 pm }

I also wrote this nice list of O’ist blogs, but didn’t actually hit “submit” before navigating elsewhere. What can I say? I loathe submission.

A lot of the O’ist/ish blogs I read purely for frustration as I am addicted to this emotion and my husband tries his best but can’t entirely satisfy this need. I’ll assume that you don’t have this problem and will just give recommendations for the ones I like in a healthy way.

In short:
My fav in general/SOL terms is http://www.treygivens.com
My fav for politics is http://www.newclarion.com or ruleofreason.blogspot.com
My fav for daily consumption gusvanhorn.blogspot.com

I have a weird obsession with O’ist Mommy blogs due to my traumatic childhood (kids gross me out though so I don’t look at the pictures.) My favs are rationaljenn.blogspot.com and reepicheepscoracle.blogspot.com because of this badass post http://reepicheepscoracle.blogspot.com/2010/05/musing-finding-romantic-prospects-and.html

By the way, yours is the first blog I ever read, and the only one for a long time. So glad you’re back!

6 Jason Roth { 08.09.10 at 5:40 pm }

German mosque used by Sept. 11 attackers shut down.

I think this is a good model and we should follow it. Once another set of terrorists take down another building after planning it at the Cordoba House, we definitely ought to consider shutting it down.

7 Jeff Miles { 08.19.10 at 6:00 pm }

Feisal AbdulRauf who has proposed this grand plan is a hidden
terrorist!!! His dad was a member of muslim brotherhood of
which All-Zawahari (Al-qaeda) is a part of!!!

And this guy sees hamas as a peaceful organization and not as a
terrorist outfit inspite of US declaring it!!
He has also blamed US policies for the 9/11 attacks!

He is also for islamization of US by bringing the shariya!!! Anything more u need about this park51Mosque aka Cordoba (the place in spain where the first muslim conquest in 711 AD,
ended successfully as part of islamization of the world) venture??

8 Jason Roth { 08.19.10 at 6:28 pm }

Jeff, I generally agree with your sentiment, though his father’s membership doesn’t seem relevant.

This is finally a popular political issue that I think warrants all the press it’s been getting. It is excellent that politicians are being forced to declare a position, however watered down they make it (e.g., “they have the right to build, but they shouldn’t”.)

I have to say that it’s caused me to refine my own thoughts about Islam in general. I’ve always seen a problem with it, but I am coming to the conclusion that may be in its own category, separate from other religions, undeserving of protection.

9 “Preventing Chaos”: Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and International Burn-a-Koran-Day — Save the Humans { 09.09.10 at 9:22 am }

[…] now about the Ground Zero mosque is the same as it was in this article by him which I linked to here. Rauf’s whole shtick is to play good cop to violent Islamists’ bad […]

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