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Jeff Merkley shows Dems how it's done on "mosque"

As I've been noting here, if you argue that building a center devoted to the study of Islam near Ground Zero constitutes sacrilege towards 9/11, or that it is "provocative," you are inescapably legitimizing the premise that all of Islam is somehow responsible for, or should be vaguely associated with, the attacks. These ideas are two sides of the same coin. You can't argue the first without validating, wittingly or not, the latter.

Now Senator Jeff Merkley gives strong voice to this notion in an Op ed for The Oregonian, and in so doing, shows his fellow Dems what real leadership looks like:

The debate swirling around the proposed mosque and Muslim community center in lower Manhattan near the World Trade Center site has, for many, tapped into strong emotions of a national trauma that is still raw. But in the churning political and constitutional arguments, one question has not been adequately addressed: what makes a mosque near ground zero offensive....

[M]any mosque opponents argue, just because it can be built does not mean it should be. They say it would be disrespectful to the memories of those who died on 9/11 to build a Muslim facility near the World Trade Center site. I appreciate the depth of emotions at play, but respectfully suggest that the presence of a mosque is only inappropriate near ground zero if we unfairly associate Muslim Americans with the atrocities of the foreign al-Qaida terrorists who attacked our nation....

Some have also argued that the construction of the mosque would hand a propaganda victory to Osama bin Laden. I think the opposite is true. Al-Qaida justifies its murder by painting America as a nation at war with Islam. Celebrating our freedom of religion and Muslim Americans' place in our communities is a blow to al-Qaida's ideology of hate and division. We strengthen America by distinguishing, clearly and unequivocally, between our al-Qaida enemy and our Muslim neighbors....

I have great respect for the sentiments of the survivors and family members of those who died on 9/11, and understand that some may not regard the situation this way. But our fundamental religious freedom and our national security -- in addition to fairness for our fellow citizens -- will be well served by drawing a bright line between our Muslim friends and neighbors at home, and our al-Qaida enemy abroad.

As Digby notes, Merkley has shown what's known as "principled leadership." And it makes the likes of Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and Anthony Weiner look just awful. Imagine what this debate would look like if Democrats across the board had shown the guts to make the case Merkley articulated here, and had stood firmly in unison behind it.

By Greg Sargent  |  August 23, 2010; 10:32 AM ET
Categories:  Foreign policy and national security  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The Morning Plum
Next: Why is left so disappointed in Obama?


It is not just Democrats who should show the guts to make the case that Merkley showed. Perhaps by now we have very low expectations of the Republicans/Conservatives/Tea Partiers, but we should expect them to mature, and better yet accept what America stands for.

Posted by: AMviennaVA | August 23, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

that the hysterical islamophobia of so many on the right (visit sites like redstate if you want to see some truly ugly sentiments, from the ed/admins down to the commenters) serves as recruitment coup for the extremist islamist terrorists, while predictable, is sad. but it is also of course irrelevant.

merkley nicely encapsulates why we shouldn't scapegoat and an entire group just because the fringe bedwetters and their sheepdog politicians are currently freaking out about them.

greg, please continue to highlight merkely's comments and similar ones from other pols? it's nice to be able to discuss a *good* response from a pol to this manufactured rightwing outrage rather than lamenting weak kneed cavers.

Posted by: blahgblogwordpresscom | August 23, 2010 10:48 AM | Report abuse

What Mosque?

Is an Irish Cultural Center, where mass is occasionally served, and people sometimes hold rosary prayer sessions, a Catholic Church?

Mind you; they never ring an Angelus Bell, so is it A Catholic Church?

I know of at least two such places, in one city, and no one has ever called them churches

Posted by: Liam-still | August 23, 2010 10:51 AM | Report abuse


150 year ago -- or even 50 -- such distinctions would have been lost on a lot of 'real americans.'

if fact today, some of those 'real americans' won't even accept catholics as real xtians.

Posted by: blahgblogwordpresscom | August 23, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Let me say first, so that it's clear, that I agree with Merkley. I also haven't read a lot of the mosque commentary so don't know if or how much this point has been raised. I'm assuming that some of the background opposition to the "mosque" rises from a concern among some that a community center could become one of those places where radical imams radicalize Muslim youth, much as happened up here in Minnesota where young Somalis were recruited to become part of an Al Qaeda branch. I suppose the further argument could be made that the relative closeness to Ground Zero might add to the allure for some, given what happened there. So for every 10 people who think this whole idea is a desecration, there might be one person who is just nervous about what a center might encourage.

Aside from the fact that the imam who wants this center seems to have a very different trajectory in mind and the fact that the attitude toward Islam this controversy has engendered seems to have created a much broader recruiting tool than one center could offer, there is this simple fact. There is no way that public officials who are constantly trying to thwart plans for attacks are not going to be aware of what goes on in such a center at such a location. It simply poses no risk. And if it does create greater understanding and good will between Muslims and people of other faiths, I can't think of a better memorial for 9/11.

Posted by: AllButCertain | August 23, 2010 10:59 AM | Report abuse


There is no Mosque been proposed for that site, so why do people, including Greg, keep on referring to it as: "The Mosque"?

Posted by: Liam-still | August 23, 2010 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Last Friday, Brad DeLong reminded his readers of a Slate article that appeared in December 2001, showing the connection between the WTC architect and the binLaden family, and why that connection could have been at least part of the reason the WTC was targeted.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | August 23, 2010 11:12 AM | Report abuse

That is just more stupid speculation. They also hit the Pentagon, and tried to hit other sites, including the White House, on the very same day. The original White House was designed by an Irish Immigrant.

They hit the twin towers for the very same reason the hit the Pentagon, and for the same reason that they tried to hit The White House.

Posted by: Liam-still | August 23, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

"... had stood firmly in unison ..."

There's your problem.

Posted by: bleh1 | August 23, 2010 11:26 AM | Report abuse

I do love how Alternet writes their headlines for their stories.

"How a Lunatic, Racist Blogger Is Fanning Hate Against Muslims -- With the Help of Our Dumb Media"

Pamela Geller, the once-obscure right-wing blogger known for peddling hateful, wildly over-the-top rhetoric (she once claimed that Barack Obama was the bastard stepchild of Malcom X) and for pulling stunts like taping a harangue against Muslims while clad in a bikini, has parlayed the anti-mosque hysteria sweeping across America into mainstream media attention just in time to promote her new book, The Post-American Presidency.

Posted by: mikefromArlington | August 23, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Liam, the WTC had been attacked previously.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | August 23, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse


Now, the Jounolist is telling us how to deal with religion.

Do you think that, when the Journolist goons are actually put on the Obama government's payroll, that they will actually wear their brown shirts in public, or just to their secret meetings?

Posted by: TECWRITE | August 23, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Sargent's left-wing, DNC/Media Matters-inspired theme that if you demand prison for thieves you are a racist begins to wear a little thin after the first few thousand articles. This "you're a religious bigot" charge could be made by any eighth-grader reared in America's public school system of today, the same one that tells children their parents are raping the earth or else they would quit mowing their lawns and shaving.

Posted by: chatard | August 23, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

there is another 9/11 nobody talks about founded by same promoters of casa cordoba: the rockefeller foundation.
Before building mosques the pentagon hopefully will open up its doors and tell us more about 9/11 we havel too little info about colossal trauma still holding us captive..
Reason why sentiments are still RAW. not because of populace's incapacity to move on... the past needs to be understood first in its entire complexity in order to build bridges between two cultures at war EXCEPT for the greedy elite on both sides making business as usual at the expense of us the easy to manipulate masses
not that fast for another blunder!
locals are not that dumb we hope.

Posted by: manittou | August 23, 2010 11:51 AM | Report abuse

All, my response to Politico's big piece on why the left is so disappointed with Obama:

Posted by: Greg Sargent | August 23, 2010 11:53 AM | Report abuse


i agree that merkley shouldn't have referred to it as a mosque -- although, if it was a mosque, that wouldn't change anything. however, greg used scare quotes around mosque in the header. that's clearly not the same thing.

the slate article sue linked to is very speculative but not necessarily stupid. it's plausible that the possible link could have been an aggravating factor, although i have to strongly believe they would have chosen the wtc regardless of who designed it and in what style. it certainly was a shrine to western capitalism and finance -- could that be part of why rightwingers are so apt to conflate islamsim with marxism?


but aren't the people who are concerned about muslims constructing sites blaming all muslims, even if only implicitly, for the radicals? anyone could oppose *any* religious building on the same grounds, so to speak.

Posted by: blahgblogwordpresscom | August 23, 2010 12:00 PM | Report abuse

Jeff Merkley does indeed show how it's done.

And this quote from Jeffrey Goldberg linked to in the Morning Plum deserves wider mention:

"I find it particularly disturbing to see Jews, of all people, participating in this type of questioning. Worse, some Jews are joining the on-line anti-Muslim mob. Anti-Muslim sentiment in America today has many of the hallmarks of the anti-Semitism of yesteryear. American Jews should be able to see that."

The Gingriches and Palins are just acting true to form, but some of the critics who really got this going ought to stop and think about this comment.

Posted by: Mimikatz | August 23, 2010 12:20 PM | Report abuse

Blahg, that's likely true. But my point wasn't about blame, but about why people who're responding out of apprehension don't really need to be. So, in effect, that isolates the general prejudice in play here to being just that.

Posted by: AllButCertain | August 23, 2010 12:21 PM | Report abuse


that's a fair point.

Posted by: blahgblogwordpresscom | August 23, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

There is no "there" there in all this fulminating over a supposed "mosque" at "ground zero". It is not a mosque and it is not at ground zero. All this posturing works perfectly for OBL and Al Queda--who would just as soon attack an institution like the Cordoba House as any symbol of U.S. decadence and imperialism (or whatever catchphrase works best)--except fot the fact that it shows to Muslims around the world that the U.S. is exactly what OBL says it is. George "Bring it On" Bush sent Imam Rauf on goodwill tours in the Muslim world for crying out loud. Perhaps Bush should now ask Karl Rove to pretty-please stop taking OBL's calls.

Posted by: xpatriate | August 23, 2010 1:20 PM | Report abuse


4. ANTI-HOMO """"""
5. ANTI-FEMALE """""





Posted by: DAS2 | August 23, 2010 1:33 PM | Report abuse

Liam, the WTC had been attacked previously.

Posted by: suekzoo1 | August 23, 2010 11:45 AM


Because it was The World Trade Center, and one of the most recognized symbols of America's Economic might. That is why it was chosen, just as were the White House and Pentagon chosen, for their Global Symbolic significance.

Let us not get caught up in some psycho babble about what might have been Bin Laden's intentions. We know what they were, and are.

Posted by: Liam-still | August 23, 2010 1:36 PM | Report abuse




Posted by: DAS2 | August 23, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

There is no "there" there in all this fulminating over a supposed "mosque" at "ground zero". It is not a mosque and it is not at ground zero. All this posturing works perfectly for OBL and Al Queda--who would just as soon attack an institution like the Cordoba House as any symbol of U.S. decadence and imperialism (or whatever catchphrase works best)--except fot the fact that it shows to Muslims around the world that the U.S. is exactly what OBL says it is. George "Bring it On" Bush sent Imam Rauf on goodwill tours in the Muslim world for crying out loud. Perhaps Bush should now ask Karl Rove to pretty-please stop taking OBL's calls.

Posted by: xpatriate | August 23, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

DAS2, you're posts don't have enough capitals. Please rectify this so I may read your lucid, erudite thoughts. Thank you.

Posted by: CaptainNoble | August 23, 2010 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Merkley, Oregons 1st term junior Senator, has more class and brains in his little finger than Palin, Gingrich and Guilianni combined.

If THEY can do it to Muslims, THEY can do it to you. Haven't we learned anything from History?

Posted by: thebobbob | August 23, 2010 2:50 PM | Report abuse

The 9/11 bombers committed their atrocity in the name of 'their religion'. Unfortunately many fail to remember that these guys desecrated that that religion to serve they're own nefarious purposes.
Religious extremest exist who've hijacked Christianity too.

Posted by: BeamMeUpScotty1 | August 23, 2010 3:52 PM | Report abuse

If the goal of the mosque was to promote healing and understanding, it has failed miserably.

If the goal of the people behind the mosque was healing and understanding, they would move the mosque because it has produced only pain and divisiveness.

Knowing that the mosque is producing pain, ripping open old wounds and causing backlash, why would the backers of the mosque proceed?

Only one answer. The mosque is NOT about healing or understanding.

Posted by: davidmichael1 | August 23, 2010 3:56 PM | Report abuse

Why do people keep saying this place is not a mosque?

Yes, the right is full of loons, but the left will do anything except look this issue right in the eye.
And by the way, I absolutely can say I don't want a Mosque near the WTC without being against Islam entirely. Sorry to burst your simplistic world view bubble.

Posted by: vangelico | August 23, 2010 4:10 PM | Report abuse

THANK YOU GREG, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for highlighting a DEM who not only understands the Constitution theoretically but defends its most fundamental premise, IN PRACTICE.

Weiner, John Hall, Harry Reid, Schumer, Steve Israel, Mike Arcuri, Jeff Greene (in FL) are all a disgrace!

Not that their SILENCE would have been any better, but they SPOKE OUT AGAINST against Muslim Americans from practicing their religion thereby denying Americans of other faiths the same Constitutionallyh guraranteed right.

For evil to succeed in the world it takes good people to NOT ONLY remain silent, but in the case of some cowardly Dems, actively side with evil because they want to get re-elected to run for a higher office.

Posted by: rednova | August 23, 2010 4:27 PM | Report abuse

As with all "journolista"-style writers, an underlying premise colors all further "reasoning" on your part. To wit - you assume that Americans are racists and bigots, and that this bigotry is a primary underlying motivation in America's actions. This filter colors all your writing. This filter also makes you discount as mere pretext all explanations others may make.

It is a fact that the Taliban is out there, and that there are many other fundamentalists thoughout the Muslim world. They see Islam as a religion imposing a duty of conquest and coversion. They place no value on non-Muslim life. It is fair to assume that many such Muslims will see and understand the Community Center with its "Muslim prayer space" as a monument to a military triumph of Islam. The potential recruits for jihad are not sophisticates who would believe we would allow such a thing, unless cowed by their military puissance. It is a fair speculation that such a monument may encourage jihadist Muslims to further military adventures.

Your basic premise is false - Americans by and large are not bigots. There are other reasons to oppose the "community center with a Muslim prayer space." (or as they called it in their official website "a mosque, intended to be run separately from Park51...".) It is not a sign of bigotry to view the various attackers of the World Trade Center (in 1993 and in 2001) as religiously-motivated and as being intended to advance Islam. Given the repeated attacks on this particular site, it is not bigotry to believe it has a particular significance to jihadists against America.

There is a quasi-religious view among you journolista-types, that all sin is bigotry, that America is indundated by sin (bigotry) and that all its acts are evil because tainted by sin (bigotry). This tends to make you view all America's enemies as saintly - motivated by opposition to American bigotry - or as angelic - the agents of god in curing America of its (in your view) overweening racist pride. It is this view that makes you always cheer for America's defeat in any conflict, to always side with (in your view) the angels, whether those angels be Taliban, Viet Cong, the Red Army, etc.

Posted by: dante99654 | August 23, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Before raising your voice against the ground zero Mosque, would you like to know, what Muslims are praying in their Mosque? and that too in English with translation? copy and attach the following link.

You will understand in details, what Muslims are praying in the Mosque. It will be very interesting for the non-Muslims to know their prayer.

Posted by: citysoilverizonnet | August 23, 2010 5:25 PM | Report abuse

Vikings: Mosque mosque mosque mosque mosque mosque mosque mosque. Lovely mosque! Wonderful mosque. Mosque mosque mosque mosque...

Posted by: CalD | August 23, 2010 6:17 PM | Report abuse

As a Jew who has known some caring and wonderful Muslim friends, and as one of Mr. Merkley's constituents, I much appreciate the senator's statement supporting the rights of Muslims to build this community center cum mosque near the 9-11 site. I also know that most Jews in our country see clearly the parallels of anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic/anti-Jewish propaganda; I think more of us need to speak out in support of the ordinary humanness of members of all religious, ethnic, age, and gender groups. One would have thought this established by now, but apparently racism, agism, and religious intolerance haven't so rooted in the US as is claimed.

Posted by: friedman1 | August 23, 2010 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Sorry, my previous comment meant to conclude: One would have thought [tolerance] established by now, but apparently a recognition of the absurdity of racism, agism, and religious intolerance is not so rooted in the US as is claimed.

Posted by: friedman1 | August 23, 2010 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Basically, those who oppose this building insist that the builders must be sensitive to the irrational beliefs of the opponents. Nice trick. Say, I find Sarah Palin offensive; so whether that is rational or not, I am sure you will now urge her to just shut up. Anything else would be divisive, after all.

As to the Imam's statements about America having a role in the founding of al Qaeda, this is richly documented historical fact. You don't have to be a radical to say that - just an advocate of truth. Of course, we know that neo-conservatives probably hate truth even more than they hate Islam. Truth always seems to be against them, after all.

As to it being a "victory mosque," the people building it have never billed it that way, and they aren't the people behind the attacks. Any Muslim who would think that way is as loony as Newt Gingrich. I'm not really concerned about the beliefs of lunatics - except when they start trying to run what we do here in America. Then I get real concerned.

Finally, there is a really simple solution. The opponents simply need to raise the money to build an alternate site in a place they don't find offensive - but still close enough to serve the population this project is meant to serve - and offer it in a swap. Oh, and they have to pay for all the additional legal process to approve the development in the new site. Then they can build their own whatever at Park 51 - maybe another strip club, to fit in with the neighboring businesses at this "sacred ground." Wouldn't that be the real "American way"?

After all, you are basically telling someone that they cannot do what they want with a building they already bought, and for a purpose that already fits local zoning and planning. People all across American tend to get very bent out of shape when you so much as tell them they are NOT in compliance with local zoning. What ever happened to "I can do whatever I want with my property"? I thought that was all the rage with the right wing.

Posted by: NomoStew | August 26, 2010 7:48 AM | Report abuse

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