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Republicans are outdoing one another in coming up with analogies. Newt Gingrich said about the building of a mosque, two blocks away from Ground Zero:  “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.” There are many, too many other disgusting examples.

How did this become an issue? Even though the plans were announced in December last year, there were no negative reactions until May, when right-wing extremist Pamela Geller blogged that the “monster mosque” represented “Islamic domination”. This was quickly taken up by the usual suspects in the news media: New York Post, Washington Examiner…

But then. To my utter amazement, CNN-US (and CNN-Europe) have been inciting the public against the mosque by ceaselessly offering negative comments on the building plan. One of their European reporters (I think it was Colleen McEdwards) even proudly announced that without CNN, the issue would have gone away by now. What the hell is going on here?

I’m afraid the same thing that has been going on since September 11, 2001. It’s apparently irresistible to take the opportunity to sell more newspapers, get more viewers by tapping into an undercurrent of xenophobia. What these news outlets don’t seem to understand, is that they are digging their own graves.

It has been the same here in Holland: Mr Wilders would never have gotten this many votes if it weren’t for the media, who have been working as his PR-agents. Every word, the untruer the better, was recorded; reporters still have to ask the man their first critical question. In other words: the Dutch public was led by the media to believe that islamophobic hate speech is okay and that is legitimate to question the fundamental human and civil rights of Muslims in The Netherlands.

The news media is supposed to be the watchdog of democracy – don’t they teach that in Schools of Journalism anymore?

In any case, Dutch public television, one of the main culprits,  will have time to think this over: the new right-wing government (if and when it will come to power) will cut at least two public channels. The point: they will come for you, too!

But seriously: What are my journalist-colleagues thinking? Why fan the flames of hatred, if you have the means and opportunity to report objectively and – for example – let the public know that (1) the planned cultural center/mosque/swimming pool is two blocks away from Ground Zero; (2) there are already two mosques in the area, one four blocks away and one twelve blocks away; (3) there is this thing, called the Constitution, which guarantees freedom of religion (as President Obama pointed out correctly, before he “nuanced” his statement the next day).

More importantly though, if you want to protect your own freedom, freedom of speech in the case of the news media, it is probably not a good idea to promote taking away freedoms (like freedom of religion) from others. Freedom needs our help; she is in serious danger. Let’s not turn our backs on her.



  1. Not Allowing the Mosque is Total Admission of Defeat

    In considering whether to support a mosque and Islamic community center in downtown Manhattan doesn’t it really comes down to “fear”?

    War is war: opposing forces with claims of territorial and/or ideological turf in the balance. The side that exerts the most physically damaging destruction typically wins. But “terrorism” is about evoking terror. It’s less about physical destruction. It’s about creating fear as a state of being in a populace; in a culture – and thus creating a people that operate out of that fear. Cultures that live in fear lose.

    Business decisions and actions that are fear based will never be competitive since innovation and service, the stalwarts of business, require the opposite: hope, morale, encouragement, inspiration, openness. Yes, fear can be and should be a motivator – especially and only if the source of the perceived fear is real. The human/bodily response to fear is a version of a shutdown. When the body ‘realizes’ that it is injured it goes into shock – immobilizing itself in order to create conditions to best heal itself. If one feels terrorized and fearful that he is in bodily danger from, say, Islam than not allowing a Muslim presence remotely near Manhattan let alone the hollowed grounds of 9/11 is an obvious response.

    But personal decisions based on fear consciousness, although designed to alleviate immediate fearful sensations, are unlikely to be life enhancing or beneficial in sustaining a quality of living – let alone promote democracies. Like business, people thrive on expansiveness not the opposite that fear creates. In fear we build walls, add more locks, numb our senses, arm ourselves, close ourselves off and limit our reach under the rubric of protection. Certainly, to various degrees this is and or should be an appropriate response to rationally perceived dangers for an equally appropriate period of time. However, if we as a nation are fearful ‘because’ of the perceived greater implications deriving from the 9/11 attacks and we act accordingly out of that fear, then the perpetrators of that very attack have totally and completely reached their objective: to create a self destructive fear based western culture. The attackers stand victorious. We, the fallen, remain fearful.

  2. I’m looking at the Cordoba House discussion from a distance, and I can not help wondering which came first: the actual situation that Cordoba House presented, or the desire by media and right wing politicians to keep the flame of fear burning.

    The people who describe Ground Zero as a ‘hallowed place’ maybe do not realize that they are doing the victims and their families a disservice. Instead of hallowing, they are hollowing the place out. In Europe, there are many ‘Lieux de memoire’, Places of Memory, to commemorate atrocious acts perpetrated in World Wars I and II, and subsequent historical occurrences. Oradour-sur-Glane, Putten, Bergen Belsen, Omaha Beach, Monte Cassino, Ieper (Ypres), Gallipoli, Srebrenica etc.
    And a funny thing happened: the less post-war emphasis there has been on the ‘hallowdness’ of these places, the more serene and well appreciated they have become over time as, indeed, a place of memory, and a conduit to the lessons the past may be able to teach us.
    The more later generations have gone on about some place’s ‘hallowdness’, the more it subsequently turned into a nasty kind of war zone theme park. Take, eg. the Anne Frank House, a commercial venture.
    Whether or not the anti-Cordoba House gang will win this battle or not, they have not contributed to the educational, emotional, intellectual or spiritual development of Ground Zero as a Lieu de Memoire. They have tainted it with their small-minded agenda. It will eventually become a theme park. And then, one day, because the Wheel of Karma keeps moving, it will turn into a Place of Memory for the time of the great anti-Muslim Inquisition.

  3. A great article Manja, personally I don`t know anymore if pointing a finger at journalism is it or the whole pot just stinks from top to bottom, there is been a shift in focus on life for the last I don`t know how long now that almost all don`t know anymore what to live for or fight for, it is directionless for the moment if anybody else can tell me different then am all ears…(remains a personal opinion of mine ofcourse)

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