Nine years ago, terrorists destroyed the Twin Towers, killing thousands and inciting fear in millions. In fact, fear is perhaps 9/11’s most pervasive legacy, and it follows that fear-mongering has become a trick of the trade among politicians, news outlets, and basically, anyone with an opinion. Case and point — 56 percent of New Yorkers fear another terrorist attack, according to a Marist poll reported by the Daily News.
Reasonable, maybe, but why is that fear so focused on one Islamic Center?
Check this graphic from the Post (via the FDNY);
it maps the area where rescuers found human remains after 9/11. The Post presents this as “chilling proof that Ground Zero stretches well beyond the boundaries of the World Trade Center site, and reaches close to the proposed mosque and community center.”
Certainly, 9/11 was horrific, and “Ground Zero” as defined by the reaches of human remains is larger than Ground Zero proper; Ground Zero defined by the reaches of humans who felt its awful impact, regardless of whether they lived in downtown Manhattan, would extend even further.
But how is this linked to the Islamic center site? Developers and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf are not exhuming bodies to build the Islamic center; they’re not even building where human remains were found nine years ago. The closest human remains were found a block away, but it’s not as though construction has halted in that area since 9/11. For almost a decade, people haven’t been particularly pious about where human remains were found with regard to development — there are probably more shovels and cranes here than anywhere else in Manhattan. So, why has the argument come to this, and why now? Also, what about this map?
Fear is the primary fuel in the mosque fight: fear of a religion that intolerant hacks won’t take a minute to learn about; fear of accepting an Islamic Center near where that happened; fear of not being right; fear of losing an election; fear of the unfamiliar; fear of something as horrible happening again. It’s worth pointing out, of course, that fear is what terrorists want to imbue us with in the first place.
It’s also worth noting that there was a Muslim Prayer Room inside one of the twin towers. It was destroyed along with many of the people who worshiped there.
What if the human remains found — chillingly, as the Post says — so close to the site of the proposed mosque were actually those of a Muslim victim of the attacks? Would that make a difference to people?
At this point, there is too much fall-out to sweep under a rug — it would overflow a room. Whatever happens, there will be people who are not happy. And yet, the most frightening thing of all is continuing to direct our fear at whatever is simply the easiest target.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 10, 2010