Is the Ground Zero Mosque back? According to Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer (who helped get it nixed almost a decade ago), a Muslim "cultural center" is once again in the works just a few feet from where their coreligionists killed 3,000 people and left a smoking crater. The principal evidence is a sentence at the end of a report on a neighboring property:
Construction has also yet to begin on 51 Park Place, which is slated to become a 71-foot-tall, 16,000-square-foot Islamic cultural center.
On the other hand, the developer - Sharif El-Gamal - is said to be debt-riddled, with $10 million in unpaid bills and crews no longer prepared to swallow the assurance that the check's in the mail.
If that's the only obstacle, then the mosque will be built, albeit after a cash injection from some obliging Saudi or Emirati. The mosque will rise because what started on September 12th 2001 as a politic euphemism - "the war on terror" - has become a form of self-castration: unless you're flying a plane into a skyscraper or riding your rental vehicle up onto the sidewalk, almost any other Islamic provocation is not only unobjectionable but has to be actively encouraged. That, after all, is how it went last time round. Recall that both the President of the United States and the Mayor of New York City were all in favor of the Ground Zero Mosque. From my book After America:
Nanny Bloomberg went to the Statue of Liberty of all places to tell the plebs he has the misfortune to rule over to shut up. The man on whose watch Ground Zero degenerated from a target of war to a victim of bureaucracy was there to lecture dissenters that the site of the 9/11 attacks is a "very appropriate place" for a mosque. The people of New York felt differently, but what do they know?
"To cave to popular sentiment," thundered Nanny, "would be to hand a victory to the terrorists - and we should not stand for that."
We used to hear this formulation a lot in the months after 9/11: If we do such-and-such, then the terrorists will have won. But this surely is the apotheosis of the template: If we don't build a mosque at Ground Zero, then the terrorists will have won! You're either with us or you're with the terrorists – and apparently the American people are with the terrorists.
As is the way with the Conformity Enforcers, Nanny Bloomberg pulled out all the abstractions. "It was exactly that spirit of openness and acceptance that was attacked on 9/11."
Really? That's not what Osama bin Laden said. And my increasingly hazy memory is that it was actual buildings and large numbers of people that were attacked. But, if we put away our abstract generalities and listen to what the enemy is actually telling us, then the terrorists will have won! For a fellow so open and accepting, Nanny Bloomberg seems awfully dogmatic and strident.
How do you think he'll be this time round? Or his successor Bill De Blasio? And the Islamophilia has gotten a lot worse over the last eight years - and those who stand against it are under far greater pressure to shut up.
Historically, Islam has always understood the power of symbolism - which is why it builds mosques on the sites of Islamic conquest, from Istanbul to Samarkand. A mosque at Ground Zero is an absurdity, but, as Osama bin Laden would put it (at least when being channeled by would-be President Bloomberg), our eagerness to build a mosque on the burial pit of victims of Islamic terror attacks is exactly the spirit of openness that prompted Osama to give us such a big burial pit to build it on in the first place. But don't worry: If someone self-detonates in a shopping mall, the authorities will see if he has "links" to Isis. As I wrote in National Review eight years ago:
The designation of the "war on terror" was the first equivocation, and one that hobbled its strategists: For, in the absence of "terror," where was the "war"? As I note in my new book, over the course of the decade, the more alert the security state was to shoe-bombers, panty-bombers, implant-bombers, and suppository-bombers, the more indulgent it grew of any Islamic initiative that stopped short of self-detonation.
What, after all, is al-Qaeda's end game? They want the West to live under Islamic law. Hey, take a number and get in line. So does Imam Rauf, the Ground Zero Mosque guy, who was in Scotland the other day at a "Festival of Spirituality and Peace" arguing that sharia should be incorporated into U.K. and U.S. law. He's such a "moderate Muslim" that he's subsidized with your tax dollars: The State Department bought thousands of copies of his unreadable book to distribute at U.S.-embassy events throughout the Middle East, and they paid for his book tour, which they've never offered to do for me. Flying Imam Rauf to the United Arab Emirates to talk to other imams apparently comes under State's "multifaith outreach" program.
Wait a minute: He's an imam, they're imams. Where's the multifaith? If we have to have taxpayer-funded multifaith outreach to imams, why can't we send 'em Jackie Mason, or that gay bishop the Episcopalians are hot for?
But don't worry, he's "moderate..." In Edinburgh, Imam Rauf was at pains to reassure the crowd that his plans for sharia-compliant common law wouldn't involve any stoning and whatnot. On the other hand, on page 58 of his 2000 book Islam: A Sacred Law, he says that with sharia you can't pick and choose: It's the set menu, or else. So Imam Rauf largely shares al-Qaeda's goal.
But why hold that against him? So does the Archbishop of Canterbury, who's argued for the incorporation of sharia into British law. And so does Piet Hein Donner, the Dutch cabinet minister who said he would have no problem with sharia if a majority of people voted for it. And, even if they don't, the French de facto acceptance of polygamy in les banlieues, and the UK Department of Pensions' de jure recognition of polygamy for the purposes of widows' benefits, and the American Academy of Pediatrics' proposal that its members meet female genital mutilation halfway by offering to perform a "ritual nick" on Muslim girls, all suggest that, as long as you mothball your Semtex belt and don't rush the cockpit, the Western world will concede almost anything in order to demonstrate its multiculti bona fides.
A few months ago, I walked at sunset from downtown Malmö to Rosengård. The gaps between Nordic blondes grew longer and the gaps between fiercely bearded young men grew shorter, and finally I was in the heart of Islamic Sweden. No blondes in sight. All the women were covered, including those who'd never been so back in their native lands: That's to say, they adopted, perforce, the veil only when they moved to Sweden. Sweden! Land of arthouse erotica: I Am Curious (Yellow). These days, they're yellow, and not so curious. Like the Israelis in Gaza, they're trading land for peace, and unlikely to retain much of either.
No one flew a plane into any buildings in Rosengård. No one had to. Islam's good cop proved cannier than its bad: The losers holed up in the caves want to nuke us. The shrewder Islamic imperialists want to own us. Ten years on, stealth jihad is proving a better bet.
And so the Ground Zero Mosque goes quiet, but it never quite goes away. 9/11 was "the day that everything changed" mainly in the sense that the urge to self-prostrate became pathological: precisely because America was attacked in the name of Islamic supremacism, it is no longer acceptable to object to Islamic supremacism.
The above includes an excerpt from Mark's book After America, autographed copies of which are available at the SteynOnline bookstore. (If you're short of gift ideas this Yuletide, we have bargains galore among this year's Steynamite Christmas specials.) If you disagree with Mark and you're a member of The Mark Steyn Club, then feel free to have at him in the comments.