The proponents of the Ground Zero mosque first use our freedoms to mock the tragedy of 9/11, and now they add insult to outrage by asking us to pay for the edifice that will exacerbate the pain of that event. The mosque’s developers are seeking taxpayers’ money to bring their vision of a Muslim victory symbol to Ground Zero. If that were not sufficient to pour salt into the wounds of 9/11, the ever-politically correct NBC has named the mosque’s lead developer, Gamal El Sharif, one of its “people of the year.”
From New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to the Obama administration to our politically correct elites, there is no lack of support for the Ground Zero mosque. In contrast, some leaders in the Islamic world have understood both the cultural insensitivity of the project and its detriment to Islam. Imam Abdul Rauf, who boasted that he would raise millions for the mosque, has been as incapable of raising money as he has, according to one of his dissatisfied tenants, of fixing the rat problem in his New Jersey slum.
The problem with the current campaign against the Ground Zero mosque is that it is defensive. There is a better way to deal with this issue. Let us build something positive near the site, something that will serve not just as a memorial to those innocents who perished at the hands of Islamist fanatics, but something that would continually serve as a forum for confronting all the world’s ideologies that find their inspiration in hatred.
The Raoul Wallenberg Foundation, with support from the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, Americans Against Hate, the Armenian National Committee of America, and the Human Rights Foundation, to name a few, is proposing the creation of a human rights plaza dedicated to the ideals of one of the great humanitarians of the twentieth century, Raoul Wallenberg. The purpose of the plaza would be to coordinate with the Ground Zero Freedom Tower and to bring human rights activists together from all over the world to address the dark ideologies that prey on the most primitive instincts of the human psyche. What better place for the implementation of such an undertaking than the shadow of Ground Zero, where there is a constant reminder of the consequences of evil?
The creation of such a memorial would appropriate Ground Zero for its rightful heirs, the people of America. Seminars and research projects would be directed at confronting the world’s great evils: fascism, communism, totalitarianism, racism, anti-Semitism, Islamism, and all of the world’s belief systems that find in hatred the great unifier for mobilizing socio-political and religious movements.
It would not be sufficient to expose such evil, but to explore the attributes of the human condition that nurture hatred, as well as those characteristics that could insulate humanity from it. Focusing on how to motivate people to embrace freedom rather than to submit to hatred, even in dark times, is the ultimate quest for human dignity.
A wealth of long-dormant social-psychological material, which grew out of our experience with the dual totalitarian evils of Communism and Nazism, engaged these questions. Fanatical Islam, like most fanatical movements, is simply another variation of the totalitarian mindset. The academic work on authoritarianism that emerged from the experience with Nazism is most relevant to our understanding of the conditions that enable hatred to flourish. R.E. Money-Kyrle’s psychological studies of the Nazis and the massive work on socialization and child-rearing patterns leading to authoritarianism and fascism, directed by T. W. Adorno, immediately come to mind.
Every day the violence that grows out of Islamist fanatics reminds us of these totalitarian ideologies. It is time to reopen the research that scholars did after World War II into totalitarianism and apply that learning to an understanding of the most recent incarnation of that mindset — fundamentalist Islam.
To this end, the creation of a plaza and learning center, as envisioned by the Wallenberg Foundation’s Peter Lancz, is a most appropriate undertaking for New York, America, and all people concerned with stopping the spread of hatred. The murder of innocents in the name of a venomous ideology is a crime whose significance transcends the victims. It speaks a universal language, for it beckons us to consider the tragic deaths of all those murdered in the name of ideology or religion. In the spirit of the idea that he who murders a single person kills all of humanity, Ground Zero belongs to all people of conscience who stand in opposition to evil. It is our moral obligation to those who have fallen that this symbol is neither appropriated nor entrusted to those who would blight the memory of the victims.