The 9/11 holocaust and the ground zero mosque

The monument at the hypocentre of the Nagasaki atomic bomb blast

Another way of saying “sacred” is to say “off-limits.”

Something can be sanctified by placing a barrier around it constructed from rigid taboos. The most extreme among those taboos dictates not only silence but also exclusion.

In such a way, for many Americans, 9/11 has been sanctified. The sacred idea occupies a sacred space and only those willing to display sufficient awe and reverence can be allowed to enter.

Yet there are limits on how high this sacred narrative can be raised. We do not, by and large, talk about the 9/11 holocaust — and rightfully so. To link a day on which 3,000 Americans died, to a period during which 6 million Jews were systematically slaughtered, would be absurd and obscene.

When on 9/11 Benjamin Netanyahu said it was “very good” — because it would generate sympathy for Israelis — his response would no doubt have been rather different had he been asked whether the attacks would help Americans now better understand the significance of the Holocaust.

So we don’t talk about a 9/11 holocaust. Instead, with little to no comment, the attacks have another but equally perverse association: with the nuclear devastation brought down on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945.

The more obvious World War Two association — with the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 — was initially referenced through headlines that reinvoked Roosevelt’s description of that day as “a date which will live in infamy,” but beyond the date — 9/11 — the name that stuck was “ground zero.”

The rubble and dust at the crushed feet of the World Trade Center might have conjured images of nuclear devastation yet little sense that a stolen word required a buried memory.

If Americans were polled today and asked which city they associate with “ground zero,” would any answer “Hiroshima” or “Nagasaki”? Most likely, very few — even though the anniversary of the nuclear bombings has only just passed.

On August 6, a ceremony marking the 65th anniversary of the bombing that killed 140,000 people in Hiroshima, was attended for the first time by a representative of the US government, the US ambassador to Japan, John Ross. This was not the first time an American official had been allowed to attend — it was the first time an invitation had been accepted. So far, no sitting American president has ever visited Hiroshima.

Within a decade of the nuclear attacks, the Catholic Memorial Cathedral for World Peace had been opened in Hiroshima. The Japanese raised few objections to the construction a church close to the original ground zero.

Meanwhile, Pearl Harbor is being invoked once again in a vain effort to conceal the Islamophobia that permeates objections to the New York mosque.

Dr Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, and a member of the federally created United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, “insists that his opposition to the Cordoba House project is principled — that he would and has opposed similar efforts when they upset local populations.”

“There is a Japanese Shinto shine, I am told, blocks from the USS Arizona,” Land said. “That isn’t appropriate even 60 years later. Three-thousand Americans died there and they died at the hands of people acting on behalf of the Japanese Empire.”

There isn’t, in fact, a Shinto shrine near Pearl Harbor [writes Brian Beutler], though many conservatives use this hypothetical as an example of a non-Muslim shrine they’d oppose for similar reasons.

Around the same time that Western dignitaries gathered in Japan in order to commemorate the ghastly effects of nuclear destruction, another group of public figures embarked on an equally historic pilgrimage.

Eight Muslim-American imams, along with President Obama’s envoy to combat anti-Semitism, Hannah Rosenthal, traveled to the sites of the former Dachau and Auschwitz concentration camps in Germany and Poland.

“These Muslim leaders were experiencing something they knew nothing about,” Rosenthal told Politico. She had many family members at Auschwitz, including her grandparents. “I can’t believe anyone walks into Auschwitz and leaves the same person. I watched them break down. I broke down in front of suitcases. … It is the cemetery of my whole family.”

The American imams later released a statement saying:

We bear witness to the absolute horror and tragedy of the Holocaust where over twelve million human souls perished, including six million Jews.

We condemn any attempts to deny this historical reality and declare such denials or any justification of this tragedy as against the Islamic code of ethics.

We condemn anti-Semitism in any form. No creation of Almighty God should face discrimination based on his or her faith or religious conviction.

We stand united as Muslim American faith and community leaders and recognize that we have a shared responsibility to continue to work together with leaders of all faiths and their communities to fight the dehumanization of all peoples based on their religion, race or ethnicity. With the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hatred, rhetoric and bigotry, now more than ever, people of faith must stand together for truth.

Strangely, the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman and the Investigative Project’s Steve Emerson, author of “American Jihad,” lobbied U.S. officials against participating in the trip.

Perhaps if those now concerned about the Cordoba House project gave more attention to what it means to enter a sacred space, rather than how to keep others out, they would understand that a real sense of the sacred springs from keeping ones eyes open — not sealing them closed.

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9 thoughts on “The 9/11 holocaust and the ground zero mosque

  1. Vince J.

    I would love to see a ‘sacred’ footage of a ‘sacred 757’ hiting the ‘sacred pentagon’.
    I would love to know what a ‘sacred E4-B plane’ was doing flying over whashinton on that day.
    I would love a ‘sacred’ explanation for the ‘sacred nanothermite residue’ found on the dust of the building WTC1,2 and 7.

  2. Vince J.

    “Ground zero in NY is not a memorial, it is a crime scene that was cleaned up without proper investigation.

  3. scott

    well done. I wrote Richard Lamb asking how can the Baptist Church open churches in the South where KKK members lynched blacks and burned their churches. The KKK were conservative Christians, he must understand it’s too sensitive to have Churches in the South. The Southern Baptist convention is housed in a building on McKinney Ave, in Dallas, in the densest gay neighborhood in the USA. Their outreach and evangelism has been poor in the neighborhood. They can seldom be seen outside their granite walled skyscraper.

  4. scott

    If I were President I’d go to the ceremony. I’d apologize for the suffering of the Japanese people. (7 of the 9 jurist in the Asian equivalent of the Nuremburg Tribunals found the Japanese justified in attacking Pearl Harbor as our blockade has so effective strangulated the island nation.) I would use the occasion to announce cutting the Pentagon budget in half. We cannot engage in war so lightly, nor blockade or use subterfuge against fellow nations. No one knows where the dogs of war will lead us. The two nuclear bombs were devastating but this ignores the tremendous damage incendiary bombs inflicted on Tokyo and other cities in Japan and Germany.

  5. Norman

    Agreeable to all of the above. It’s too bad that the leaders of all the governments of the World are either sitting on the fence, or are siding with the Israeli Governments stance. I have a question for those in our Government: “Just what do we, the American public stand to gain from continually backing the Israeli Government, giving them aid, equipping their War Machine, financing their form of Apartheid, Ghetto building, treating the Palestinian people as second class citizens, being threatened by do what we want or else? It seems that since 1947, instead of making Peace with the people they took the land from, avoiding the building of the Middle East as a true powerhouse, they have chosen instead to act more like a bully, or perhaps a spoiled brat would be more like it? I also wonder why there are more Jews in America as well as the rest of the World, instead of living in Israel? This nonsense about a 9/11 holocaust seems to me to be just more of the same, perhaps being the last gasp of clutching at straws. When a Government becomes paranoid seeing everyone who doesn’t approve of their mantra as against them, i.e. “Your either with us or against us” GWB, don’t care how many innocent people are hurt, Then it’s time to take the bully to the wood shed.

  6. Christopher Hoare

    Using the designation ground zero for the site of the ruined World Trade Center is absurd and obscene. It belittles the reality of the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, and serves to obscure those greater tragedies in the American public memory.
    Perhaps the tragedy of those who died on 9/11 would be better memorialized with a unique name of its own.

  7. Renfro

    It’s an absurd world isn’t it?

    The US pays billions to the Jews for Israel when Americans had nothing to do with and actually don’t owe the Jews anything for their holocaust.

    And we say nothing about dropping the A-bomb on Japan.


    But I’am glad the imams mentioned the ’12 million’ that died in the camps, not just the Jews.

  8. rupert small

    “But I’am glad the imams mentioned the ‘12 million’ that died in the camps, not just the Jews.”
    Yes, quite.

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