The Ground Zero-sum Game

The Ground Zero-sum Game

Joined: May 4th, 2005, 1:31 pm

August 23rd, 2010, 2:12 pm #1

Essay
August 23, 2010
The Ground Zero-sum Game
By Reuven Firestone

Reuven Firestone is professor of medieval Judaism and Islam at Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles, and Co-director of the Center for Muslim-Jewish Engagement.

Lurking behind suspicion about the new Islamic Center planned to be built near Ground Zero is something much more ominous than would appear. Skepticism about funding sources and concern for the sensibilities of those traumatized by the horror of 9/11 - while legitimate concerns - are heightened by a deep-seated bigotry against Muslims and their religion. We come by it naturally because Islamophobia is deeply imbedded in the very culture of Western civilization. But most of us don't recognize it.

The word "Islamophobia" began to appear only in the 1980s. While it is a recently coined term, it refers to a history of fear and hatred of Muslims in the West that has had a long time to become implanted in our collective psyche. Its roots can be traced to the fourth century when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. After suffering centuries of bloody persecution under pagan Roman authority, Christians suddenly became privileged citizens of the empire. Many leaders of the Church considered the sea-change a divine sign of the absolute truth of their religion, that historical success proves theological truth. It was a zero-sum view of the world: "Truth is with us. All else is falsehood."

That conclusion would haunt Christian believers some generations later with the extraordinary success of Islam. Within twenty years of the death of the prophet Muhammad, Muslim armies controlled the Middle East and much of North Africa. After only two more generations the Muslim empire stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to India while the Christian Byzantine Empire was forced into a rump state confined to Anatolia and a few provinces west of the Bosporus. The conquest was followed by extraordinary Muslim contributions to philosophy, economics, literature and all the sciences.

The success of Islam was an existential shock to the Christian world. Suddenly, the accepted notion that history proves theology seemed to prove the demise of Christianity with the rise of Islam.

Apologists quickly attempted to make sense of the crisis. One eighth century Byzantine monk explained that Muhammad was a fraud, a poor but clever epileptic who rationalized his convulsive fits as periods in which the angel Gabriel would visit him and give him divine wisdom. The polemic intensified over the generations. Peter of Toledo in twelfth century Spain wrote that Islam was the result of a satanic plot. Riccoldo da Monte di Croce wrote in thirteenth century Tuscany that Muhammad was chosen not by God but by the devil. According to most medieval thinkers, the so-called prophet who inspired his warriors to overwhelm the forces of Christ was a satanic force working for the demons of hell.

Such reactions to the great success of Islam institutionalized a deep fear and resentment that became imbedded in the very core of Western identity. This is Islamophobia, even if no special word had yet been coined to describe the sentiment, and it reflects a zero-sum view of the world. Christianity is truth. There can be no other. First articulated in theological treatises, this perspective soon became infused into the very core of Western civilization through folklore, art, music and literature. Hollywood, which is at its best when graphically depicting deep cultural assumptions, has maintained and boosted Islamophobic views in films from Laurel and Hardy in the 1930s (Beau Hunks, among others) to Disney's more recent Aladdin and the Indiana Jones franchise. It is so natural, so expected, that most of us have no idea how it affects us. I've asked my college students what they think of when they see a scene from a movie in which they hear the call to prayer and see a minaret or dome. The answer? "Something bad is about to happen."

Islamophobia can remain in latent form until it is triggered by economic, political or social stress. In the last decades it has been activated by economic and social problems and the increased numbers and visibility of Western Muslims. But the biggest boost to Islamophobia without question has been the appalling deadly attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the lethal bombings in London and Madrid, and the nature of reaction by key Western leaders to these events. Given the deep suspicion of Islam so deeply imbedded in our culture and the horrendous nature of these attacks, the activation of Islamophobic bigotry is not surprising.

Discussions on the web about the proposed Islamic Center planned to be built near Ground Zero repeat patterns of thinking established centuries ago by medieval polemicists. Just this week I read these comments: "Muhammad admittedly received a message from Satan and delivered it to the people as if it were from God." "Any mosque built anywhere is a shrine to Satan." It is unlikely the writers of these postings ever heard of Peter of Toledo or Riccoldo da Monte di Croce. For most Americans, negative expectations are instinctively twinned with the words Islam, Muslim and Muhammad.

No wonder such a fuss has been made over the proposed Muslim-sponsored cultural center. Its purpose is to promote an atmosphere of interfaith tolerance and respect that most of us long for - but cannot believe Muslims could really want. Let's not regress to the naive medieval equation by making this a Ground Zero-sum game.

###


House of Free Speech

If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are.
~ Gensha, Zen Master






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Joined: January 13th, 2010, 2:50 pm

August 24th, 2010, 3:38 am #2


It's simply really bad taste, for obvious reasons.

People of ancient cultures really aren't ones to express "good taste", though. Sure that's probably a bit judgmental on my part, but tastes always are, sort of by definition.

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Joined: March 4th, 2007, 4:09 pm

August 24th, 2010, 5:46 am #3

The "good" Muslims...
SHOULD build a Mosque...
--Or, in this case, a Community Center...
As Close to Ground Zero as possible...
Otherwise...
The "bad" Muslims... Win.

-PRev1-

President Barrack Hussein Obama

-- Nobel Peace Prize, 2009 --
"War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength."
-- George Orwell, "1984" --
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JVH
Joined: July 20th, 2009, 1:33 pm

August 24th, 2010, 10:22 am #4


Someone who gets it.
<p align="center">The mentally imprisoned hardly ever realize they are
<p align="left">Brought to you by:

<img alt="punchandjudynews.jpg" src="http://i214.photobucket.com/albums/cc31 ... dynews.jpg">


<p align="right">**And I still feel the content of my posts should be scrutinized on their own merits and nothing else (mumble .. grumble .. mutter)**
<p align="left">- fallacious, abductive, inductive, deductive
are the basic modes of reasoning -- when we
fail to discern between them, we are destined
to act accordingly ......


<p align="center">... after all, logic demands explicit contains implicit
so, iff what is explicitly posed is true, then what it
necessarily infers or implies must logically be true
as well - if not, then it is incontrovertibly axiomatic
there is something amiss with the explicitly posed ...


<p align="right">... and such is the excruciating irony of incomprehensibility
& self-refutation; those oblivious of it are indispensably
the experts in applying it, in effect, revealing the exact
opposite of apparent intent thereby granting the courtesy
of instant clarification.

Mice In A Maze-Going In Circles



<p align="left">Ardent believers turn out to be quite useful
they seem to be some sort of omniscient.
You can therefore always depend on them
to tell you exactly what your thoughts and
feelings are, and what your opinions should be.

Handy.


<p align="center">It is as it is - It goes as it goes
If it doesn't go, that's how it goes
If it isn't, then that's how it is

New!! Improved!! Now With T-Formula!!


There is forgiveness. Unfortunately, forgiveness doesn't mean a thing
..... when not applied that is. Therefore, it is I who forgive, publically
those who either dare or will not - for, as it seems, they are not ready
yet, to do so by themselves; out of themselves. I hereby thus, plow
the road; leading the way, for those eager to walk that walk as well.
JVH, July 20, 2010, 2:22
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JVH
Joined: July 20th, 2009, 1:33 pm

August 24th, 2010, 10:23 am #5

It's simply really bad taste, for obvious reasons.

People of ancient cultures really aren't ones to express "good taste", though. Sure that's probably a bit judgmental on my part, but tastes always are, sort of by definition.
<em>It's simply really bad taste, for obvious reasons.</em>

Such as?
<p align="center">The mentally imprisoned hardly ever realize they are
<p align="left">Brought to you by:

<img alt="punchandjudynews.jpg" src="http://i214.photobucket.com/albums/cc31 ... dynews.jpg">


<p align="right">**And I still feel the content of my posts should be scrutinized on their own merits and nothing else (mumble .. grumble .. mutter)**
<p align="left">- fallacious, abductive, inductive, deductive
are the basic modes of reasoning -- when we
fail to discern between them, we are destined
to act accordingly ......


<p align="center">... after all, logic demands explicit contains implicit
so, iff what is explicitly posed is true, then what it
necessarily infers or implies must logically be true
as well - if not, then it is incontrovertibly axiomatic
there is something amiss with the explicitly posed ...


<p align="right">... and such is the excruciating irony of incomprehensibility
& self-refutation; those oblivious of it are indispensably
the experts in applying it, in effect, revealing the exact
opposite of apparent intent thereby granting the courtesy
of instant clarification.

Mice In A Maze-Going In Circles



<p align="left">Ardent believers turn out to be quite useful
they seem to be some sort of omniscient.
You can therefore always depend on them
to tell you exactly what your thoughts and
feelings are, and what your opinions should be.

Handy.


<p align="center">It is as it is - It goes as it goes
If it doesn't go, that's how it goes
If it isn't, then that's how it is

New!! Improved!! Now With T-Formula!!


There is forgiveness. Unfortunately, forgiveness doesn't mean a thing
..... when not applied that is. Therefore, it is I who forgive, publically
those who either dare or will not - for, as it seems, they are not ready
yet, to do so by themselves; out of themselves. I hereby thus, plow
the road; leading the way, for those eager to walk that walk as well.
JVH, July 20, 2010, 2:22
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Joined: May 4th, 2005, 1:31 pm

August 24th, 2010, 1:28 pm #6

It's simply really bad taste, for obvious reasons.

People of ancient cultures really aren't ones to express "good taste", though. Sure that's probably a bit judgmental on my part, but tastes always are, sort of by definition.
I am really torn on this one. As I understand it the group involved is a Sufi Muslim group, and is dedicated to improving relations with the West. Also, bear in mind that Muslims were killed in the WTC attacks.

Also, there are already prayer meetings held there. It's just a new building going up. Also, it isn't ground zero. It's a couple of blocks away. There are a couple of other mosques nearby.

Having said all this, I had read that the spokesman for the group was being a bit of a dick on Twitter, a little confrontational.

I wonder what this looks like in the Muslim world. Just more "proof" that the West hates them?
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Joined: January 13th, 2010, 2:50 pm

August 24th, 2010, 2:11 pm #7

<em>It's simply really bad taste, for obvious reasons.</em>

Such as?
<p align="center">The mentally imprisoned hardly ever realize they are
<p align="left">Brought to you by:

<img alt="punchandjudynews.jpg" src="http://i214.photobucket.com/albums/cc31 ... dynews.jpg">


<p align="right">**And I still feel the content of my posts should be scrutinized on their own merits and nothing else (mumble .. grumble .. mutter)**
<p align="left">- fallacious, abductive, inductive, deductive
are the basic modes of reasoning -- when we
fail to discern between them, we are destined
to act accordingly ......


<p align="center">... after all, logic demands explicit contains implicit
so, iff what is explicitly posed is true, then what it
necessarily infers or implies must logically be true
as well - if not, then it is incontrovertibly axiomatic
there is something amiss with the explicitly posed ...


<p align="right">... and such is the excruciating irony of incomprehensibility
& self-refutation; those oblivious of it are indispensably
the experts in applying it, in effect, revealing the exact
opposite of apparent intent thereby granting the courtesy
of instant clarification.

Mice In A Maze-Going In Circles



<p align="left">Ardent believers turn out to be quite useful
they seem to be some sort of omniscient.
You can therefore always depend on them
to tell you exactly what your thoughts and
feelings are, and what your opinions should be.

Handy.


<p align="center">It is as it is - It goes as it goes
If it doesn't go, that's how it goes
If it isn't, then that's how it is

New!! Improved!! Now With T-Formula!!


There is forgiveness. Unfortunately, forgiveness doesn't mean a thing
..... when not applied that is. Therefore, it is I who forgive, publically
those who either dare or will not - for, as it seems, they are not ready
yet, to do so by themselves; out of themselves. I hereby thus, plow
the road; leading the way, for those eager to walk that walk as well.
JVH, July 20, 2010, 2:22
No real reason to explain things, then.
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Joined: January 13th, 2010, 2:50 pm

August 24th, 2010, 2:19 pm #8

I am really torn on this one. As I understand it the group involved is a Sufi Muslim group, and is dedicated to improving relations with the West. Also, bear in mind that Muslims were killed in the WTC attacks.

Also, there are already prayer meetings held there. It's just a new building going up. Also, it isn't ground zero. It's a couple of blocks away. There are a couple of other mosques nearby.

Having said all this, I had read that the spokesman for the group was being a bit of a dick on Twitter, a little confrontational.

I wonder what this looks like in the Muslim world. Just more "proof" that the West hates them?
Should the Isrealis build "Jewish Community Centers" in Palistine?
Should the Catholics build a "Christian Community Center" in downtown Mecca?

If the "good Muslims" want to build a community center, and build a better image for themselves with the rest of the world, then they should be building community centers that are open & welcoming to everyone - not targeted at their "own self-interests". And build them in "less conspicuous" and "politically charged" locations. The publicity & "political haymaking" of this effort has already removed any credibility of it being a "gesture of well meaning intentions".
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Joined: May 4th, 2005, 1:31 pm

August 24th, 2010, 2:34 pm #9

In this synopsis:

http://www.network54.com/Forum/411478/m ... ring+began


As mentioned, I am torn. But also need to recognize that what I "know" about this, is spun from both sides.

Some of your parallels are interesting. Dick Cavett made some similar arguments:

http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/20 ... -stand-up/

What other churches might be objectionable because of the horrific acts of some of its members? Maybe we shouldn't have Christian churches in the South wherever the Ku Klux Klan operated because years ago proclaimed white Christians lynched blacks. How close to Hickam Field, at Pearl Harbor, should a Shinto shrine be allowed? I wonder how many of our young people - notorious, we are told, for their ignorance of American history - would be surprised that Japanese-Americans had lives and livelihoods destroyed when they were rounded up during World War II? Should all World War II service memorials, therefore, be moved away from the sites of these internment camps? Where does one draw the line?
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Joined: January 13th, 2010, 2:50 pm

August 24th, 2010, 3:05 pm #10

And I agree that the "neo-con right-wing reaction" is way out of proportion, off the mark, and out of control. However, they are "the big dog" and if the "good Muslims" wish to take them "head on" there is no win for anyone but the "retards", because the "retards" have the game rigged. Taking the bait and fighting over this is only the "low road", where the "retards" thrive.

Legally, ethically, and "whateverly" I believe that they should be able to build it and suffer the consequences of their decision. If someone doesn't like it, let them raise the funds and buy the land from them to build something else.

I also believe that the "right wing neo-cons" (aka "retards"), like Laura Ingraham, should be sued for defamation and being "pains in the ass" to the entire world. But that's what the "liberal media" brings us.

Last edited by ever-a-newbie on August 24th, 2010, 4:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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