Sarah Palin, the former Governor of Alaska and Republican VP candidate, garnered a lot of media attention for her incendiary tweets related to the “Ground Zero” mosque this past weekend. According to Geoffrey Dunn over at the Huffington Post, Palin first tweeted, “Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn’t it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate.”
Yes, refudiate is not a real word. Palin deleted and tried again: “Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real.” She then tweeted, “Peace-seeking Muslims pls understand. Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing.”
I’m not going to comment on Palin’s mastery of the English language [or lack thereof] – for anyone who followed her VP candidacy in the 2008 elections, none of this is at all surprising. Her underlying message, though, is far more important and is ultimately a reflection of the growing polarization of the Ground Zero Mosque debate. Just last week, both CBS and NBC refused to air an ad by the National Republican Trust PAC, that declares, “to celebrate that murder of 3,000 Americans, they want to build a monstrous 13-story mosque at Ground Zero.” Jennifer Riley at NBC Universal told Entertainment Weekly,
An ad questioning the wisdom of building a mosque at ground zero would meet our issues of public controversy advertising criteria. However, this ad which ambiguously defines ‘they’ as referenced in the spot, makes it unclear as to whether the reference is to terrorists or to the Islamic religious organization that is sponsoring the building of the mosque. Consequently the ad is not acceptable under our guidelines for broadcast.
The ad [which has been viewed 232,314 times on YouTube] frames the issue in black-and-white, conveying that the September 11th attacks were perpetrated by Muslims, not terrorists who used religion to legitimize their violent aims. The construction of the mosque, therefore, would not be an act of peace, as its supporters suggest, but an act of provocation and disrespect.
I would go into yet another tirade on how not all Muslims are terrorists, but I did that a few weeks ago in this post. I will, however, make a few points:
- It’s not really a mosque that’s being built. The Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement jointly proposed to construct a 13-story community center with Islamic, interfaith and secular programming. This includes space for a 500-seat auditorium, swimming pool, art exhibition spaces, bookstores, restaurants, as well as prayer space, which, does not necessarily make it a mosque. According to the Cordoba Initiative’s blog about the center, “Cordoba House’s vision is bigger than being a mosque. It is about creating a community center that serves all New Yorkers. A prime example of this fact is the planned meditation room, where people of any faith can pray or meditate.”
- The center will not be at Ground Zero, it’s several blocks away. And, as Reza Aslan noted in the CNN debate below, “how many blocks is enough? Is five blocks okay?”
- The official name is not the “Ground Zero Mosque,” it’s the Cordoba House.
I made the last point for this reason – by continuing to call this proposed center the “Ground Zero Mosque,” we are politicizing the issue more than it ever should have been. And by allowing that politicization and subsequent polarization to take place, the crux of the issue moves further away from dissent over its construction and more towards wider issues of Islamophobia and perceptions of Muslims in America. So, for those who think the construction of this center would “unnecessarily” provoke anger, think about the damage and impact your hate-mongering and stereotyping are causing. Try to refudiate that.