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What was your first reaction back in May when you heard of plans to build a mega-mosque near the site of the Twin Towers in New York? Did you assume it was a tasteless joke? Did your jaw drop? Or did you think: "What a good idea. No better place."

My bet would be that most readers (including self-described liberal readers) had a touch more of the former reaction than the latter. Some people even said so at the time. A number of families of 9/11 victims spoke out against the building and for a few weeks the idea of a 13-storey mosque complex beside the World Trade Centre craters, due to cost £68 million yet with no known financial backer, seemed a dead duck.

So how was it that within a few months many of those same people, most notably the most loudly self-declared liberals, were not merely advocating the building of that same mosque but in many cases seemed eager to build it themselves, finally depicting its construction as the sine qua non of America's survival? The distance between first and second instincts is always illuminating. But this one turns out to be more than usually so. Public debates in America tend to happen rougher, faster and more ferociously than they do in most of Europe. And so it was that a heated debate over one hot summer transformed a planning dispute into something far larger and more significant.

Daisy Khan: Wife of the Imam of the proposed Ground Zero mosque has claimed to be a victim 

It was at the beginning of August that the Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg stood with the Statue of Liberty in the background to make a major announcement. The planning regulations surrounding the former Burlington Coat Factory on 45-51 Park Place, had already met opposition at the community board advisory level. National polls suggested that a majority of Americans were opposed to the building of what was then called Cordoba House, a couple of blocks from Ground Zero. But Bloomberg thought differently. Surrounded by the requisite collective of religiously-attired figures, Bloomberg declared that restrictive planning laws of New York would not be allowed to stand in the way of the planned mosque. The debate was not about a planning application any longer. It was about something more, he declared. It was about America.

In his often teary-eyed speech, Bloomberg exercised the now decade-long tendency to believe that al-Qaeda meant whatever you want them to have meant when they destroyed the Twin Towers. Bloomberg declared: "Three thousand people were killed because some murderous fanatics didn't want us to enjoy the freedom to profess our own faiths, to speak our own minds, to follow our own dreams and to live our own lives." The issue, he said, was "as important  a test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetime". And it wasn't a test he intended to fail. Expressing his support for the construction of the mosque, he said: "The community centre and mosque will add to the life and vitality of the neighbourhood and the entire city."

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Georg Sinclair
March 19th, 2011
5:03 PM
Great article. Would like to add some facts. You wrote: "But in many (European) countries, including Britain, it would lack a politically respectable figurehead. And with or without one, it would be inevitable that those most opposed to such a construction would be a very particular type of person. No political or civic leader would suggest or endorse a popular demonstration for a single reason: the only people certain to turn up would be skinheads". Thank God, no longer so, thanks to the brilliant Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who is anti-islamist and also anti-nazi (and I see no contradiction here, as both islamism and nazims promote hate, murder and violence).

dz alexander
February 12th, 2011
9:02 AM
Holy War: Should Americans Fear Islam? This is the townhall referred to by Mr. Murray. The video starts automatically, 6:24 & 17:03 & 15:07 & 5:43 Well worth watching; American values are both invoked & demonstrated.

J D Bryan
January 12th, 2011
9:01 PM
Though, the Islamism is the great threat it is the Left who have undermined the west's ability to fight this threat. Many of the minority left, the Hard Left, as anti-capitalist/anti-western pioneers, by malicious aforethought aim to destroy the west. As part of their stratagem have paved the path for the far more numerous Soft Left who treat western society with reckless abandon, thus combined are undermining the west, the free society. The Hard Left are apologists even supporters of anti-western regimes and movements while the Soft Left are the leading appeasers.

January 9th, 2011
5:01 PM
Excellent article by one of the few Western voices who understands what's at stake. Our response to the clash between the West and Islam(ism) is an excellent 'weather-gauge' as to how much confidence we have (left) in our civilisation. This is fundamentally a war of ideas, of which the ground zero mosque debate is but a skirmish. For the better part of the last hundred years, individualism, rule of law, separation of religion and state, freedom of speech, thought and expression, in essence our whole Enlightenment heritage, has been under attack from within from the intellectual forebears of today's relativists, multiculturalists, nihilists and their sundry hangers-on. These academics, politicians and journalists have brazenly used the freedoms Western societies afford, to undermine those same societies, in their struggles against communist, fascist or Islamist totalitarianism. Given how super-saturated Western academia in particular is with these pernicious ideas (there appears to be some hope in American universities, but Europe is arguably lost) and given how academia intellectually 'feeds' fields like politics and journalism, those who want to defend 'the West' and its Enlightenment and Reformation heritage, have an uphill battle. The first step must surely be what Douglas Murray outlines namely proudly and fearlessly "shore up our own societal defences — our own culture, our own values."

Sean McHale
January 6th, 2011
10:01 AM
What is the difference between a member of the Lords Rebel Army and an Islamist? I'm genuinely interested.

David Levavi
January 5th, 2011
8:01 PM
"...It is as though we had fought the Cold War while disallowing any criticism of communism..." Why frame this statement as hypothesis? Until Reagan plainly called the Soviet Union an "evil empire" that precisely was the case.

American conservative
January 4th, 2011
11:01 PM
On foreign policy and national security issues, Tea Party activists tend toward Jacksonian nationalism and a "Don't Tread on Me" attitude. They also tend to be supportive of Israel, Christian in their faith, and resentful of efforts by Muslims to gain privileged status. In sum, the intense focus of Tea Party activists on out of control federal spending and related domestic issues does not mean that they are ignorant about the perils of Islam.

January 4th, 2011
8:01 PM
What I find most offensive about the mosque question is the following unanswered question: If there is no legal basis for forbidding the construction of a new mosque at ground zero, what is the legal basis for denying the Greek Orthodox church permission to reconstruct its church of St. Nicholas? This small christian church, which was totally destroyed on 9/11, has been denied permission to rebuild!

January 4th, 2011
7:01 PM
What most people don't realize is that the tea party has no interest in as they say "Social Issues" nor do they have a grasp on reality as witnessed by their support of RINO's like palin, mclame, and brown..Don't look to them for safety..

Objective Obsrver
January 4th, 2011
5:01 PM
Sadly, "Anonymous" is right. In America our democracy is increasingly under assault because we have "parties," "parties" have blinders and tunnel vision, and those who adhere to a given "party" are generally myopic and at a loss with respect to the greater vision of democracy. What we need is a party of "good governance"; a party whose leaders and power brokers are not beholden to interest groups on the left or right; rather, they are willing to bring together those from both sides (and the middle) to see if they can come up with a workable approach to any given problem. Absent this, it is difficult visualizing how we can ultimately survive the onslaughts of Islamism, Chinese and Russian imperialism, and trending world forces in the Middle East and elsewhere.

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