The Ground Zero Mosque and the Clash of Symbols

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The Ground Zero Mosque and the Clash of Symbols
The Ground Zero Mosque and the Clash of Symbols

If on December 7, 1944, three years after “a date which will live in infamy,” local government officials in Hawaii had allowed a group of Japanese to erect a Shinto shrine at Pearl Harbor, how would Americans nationwide have reacted? Yet are we not seeing in Lower Manhattan an analogous situation, with government officials approving the building of a $100 million mega-mosque at the hallowed site of Ground Zero?

In a way, the September 11, 2001 destruction of the Twin Towers was a new Pearl Harbor, and the American nation was faced with a choice: either vigorously wage a defensive and punishing war against the nation’s new enemy (Islamist terrorism) or suffer the loss of honor and freedom.

No one denies that the terrorists who used two jumbo jets and their passengers as flying bombs to destroy Manhattan’s tallest buildings saw themselves as Muslims engaged in jihad against America.

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However, it is claimed that these 19 terrorists were not representative of Islam, that they were “crazed rogues” who acted on their own. As Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer points out this is deliberate obtuseness.1 These 19 killers were the Islamist spear thrust at the heart of America, and while many of the world’s billion plus Muslims did not cheer the deed, an estimated 7% of them did—and wildly so. That gave the terrorists 80,000,000 fans, a not so paltry number.

These are figures that many good Americans may not know. However, they sense the reach, ability and hatred of this new and cruel enemy. Their instinctive awareness of danger is not bias or bigotry. Rather, it is an expression of love of country, faith, and family, and the natural law right to self-preservation. It does not derail perceptions, it sharpens them.

Americans from Maine to Hawaii are showing this intuitive knowledge in their concern over plans to build this mega-mosque at Ground Zero. Their instincts tell them that those who favor the building of this mosque—even those doing so for the best of intentions—are plain wrong.

The Enemy Within

For these Americans the notions of patriotism, sacrifice, heroism and sacredness are being violated with this attempt to build this 13-story mosque close to where 2,967 innocent fellow-Americans were killed in the terrorist attack. Moreover, these Americans become uneasy as they read that the construction of this mosque is supported by the notorious terrorist group Hamas.2 Their discomfort increases when they hear ABC News report that a spokesman for the Ground Zero mosque, Oz Sultan, has refused to rule out funding from Iran or Saudi Arabia to build the $100 million structure.3 Their misgivings grow further when they read how the conciliatory overtures of New York governor David Paterson and Archbishop Timothy Dolan trying to persuade the Cordoba Initiative to build the mosque somewhere else were turned down.4 They are perplexed seeing that other politicians seem to spare no effort to push the project through, while those hoping to rebuild St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church—which was destroyed during the 9/11 attack—are still mired in bureaucratic red tape nine years after its demolition.5 On the other hand, they rejoice and clap hearing the news that New York’s construction workers pledge faith that if the Ground Zero mega-mosque is approved they will not build it.6

Yet these Americans are browbeaten by the mosque-backers’ party: “You must set aside your perceptions, misgivings and feelings. The First Amendment guarantees the Muslims of the Cordoba Initiative the right to build this mega-mosque at Ground Zero.”—“Does it really” the concerned Americans ask? “Is the First Amendment indeed so absolute as to trump every other consideration?”

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“Yes!” says the first party. “Not so fast.” says the other. And thus, a loud local debate became regional, then national, and is now reverberating beyond our borders, being followed around the world. In a recent CNN poll, nearly 70 percent of all Americans oppose building a mosque at Ground Zero, even in light of First Amendment rights.

Adding a curious twist to the debate, the ACLU applauded the decision of government officials to approve the mosque’s building.7 However, the ACLU is well known for driving Christmas manger scenes out of the public square.8

And so the debate rages on with individuals and groups picking their side, not always for the same motives or adducing the same arguments. Why has this debate so galvanized the nation?

It is because Ground Zero is a symbol seared into the soul of America. A symbol helping Americans grasp better the essence of what happened on 9/11 and the new reality confronting the nation. A symbol that evoked a cry from the bottom of our souls: “We will never forget!” A symbol that steels the nation’s resolve to defeat the Islamist threat to freedom worldwide.

And it is because Ground Zero is this symbol for the nation they live and die for that concerned Americans know how wrong it is for Muslims to build a mosque there.

They sense it would desecrate our national symbol. They sense that the “Bin Ladens,” the “Zawahiris” and the “Ahmadinejads” of the world—with however many millions of radical Islamists who cheer them on in their hatred of America—will see a Muslim mosque at Ground Zero as their symbol over ours, a symbol of their conquest and our defeat. They sense the mega-mosque will be an Al-Qaeda triumph in its psywar against America.

Concerned Americans sense this clash of symbols at play and that is why they are determined to do everything they can—legally and peacefully—to prevent the mosque’s building on the hallowed site of Ground Zero.


  1. Charles Krauthammer, “Myopia at Ground Zero” The Washington Post, Aug. 20, 2010, at
  2. Cf. S.A. MILLER in Washington and TOM TOPOUSIS in New York, Hamas nod for Ground Zero mosque Terror group’s leader: ‘Have to build it’, Last Updated: 12:03 PM, August 16, 2010, Posted: 1:49 AM, August 16, 2010,
  3. Cf.
  4. Cf. Javier C. Hernandez, Archbishop Offers Mediation for Islamic Center, Published: August 18, 2010,
  5., Decision Not to Rebuild Church Destroyed on 9/11 Surprises Greek Orthodox Leaders, Published August 18, 2010, at
  6. Samuel Goldsmith, “They won’t build it! Hardhats vow not to work on controversial mosque near Ground Zero” Aug. 20, 2010, at
  7. “NYCLU And ACLU Applaud Approval Of NYC Islamic Cultural Center For Upholding Values Of Freedom And Tolerance” Aug. 3, 2010, at

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