Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

NOTICE: Inside Opinion has moved.

With the launch of our new website, we've moved Inside Opinion.
Visit the new section.

A mosque and the ghost of Senator McCarthy

Post by Brian O'Neill on Aug. 28, 2010 at 2:07 pm with 16 Comments »
August 28, 2010 2:07 pm

The “Mosque at Ground Zero” has been a great story for the media.

National TV news channels, radio talk shows, magazines and newspapers have all stepped in to clarify/muddle the issue, succeeding only in creating the media equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard.

The controversy has also inspired the classic game of finger-pointing, so popular during the Spanish Inquisition and the McCarthy Trials. But rather than the devil or communism, this time the target is Islam.

If you are unfamiliar with these previous events, here’s how the game is played. Let’s say that you are one of the growing lunatic fringe that can’t seem to drop the irrational notion that our president is a) not a citizen, b) not a Christian, and c) in fact a Muslim. You get to start the game by running the ring, tagging your opponent and shouting, “You’re a Muslim!” loudly. Then (and this is important) you run for the sidelines.

The person who gets tagged, i.e. the President, then has several options. First, he can run back at his opponent and tag him in a similar fashion. Hardly dignified. Next, he can remain in the ring and loudly proclaim that he is not, in fact, a Muslim. If enough people cheer for him, then he’s free to run around the ring some more. His last option is to politely say that he’s not interested in playing this childish and mean-spirited game because he’s got a country to run. Choice number two it is.

This game may not reach the incredible popularity that it had when Senator McCarthy made a career of tagging pinkos, reds and commies, but the fact that it gets any play at all doesn’t depend on the people who use broad brush strokes to stain others’ reputations. The success of any defamation truly depends on our willingness to consider the term, in this case a Muslim, to be derogatory.

Our country has suffered much at the hands of Islamic extremists. Many would say that it’s not surprising we choose to denigrate this religion, especially in light of proposed expansion of an Islamic facility so close to Ground Zero. But freedom of expression is one thing, and freedom of religion, protected by the First Amendment, is another.

In addition to this domestic repercussion, our lack of tolerance won’t play well in places like Iran, Syria, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. Coverage of events such as “Burn the Koran Day” will only make terrorists’ recruiting efforts easier.

No matter what side of the mosque issue you are on, we all have the ability to argue the point without stirring up the fear-mongering ghosts of ghost of McCarthy’s era. We just need to change our tune.

Leave a comment Comments → 16
  1. Zillahboy says:

    I have enjoyed most of your comments in the past, but I think you have shoot yourself in the foot by using McCarthy’s tactics to attack what you perceive to be McCarthyism.
    I don’t think President Obama is a muslim, I don’t doubt that he was born in America and If he says that he is a Christian that’s fine with me. However, although I agree that those who want to build the mosque/healing center/whatever have the right to do so, I think it would do far more to divide Americans than it would build so-called bridges, and I deeply resent being labeled as a member of the lunatic fringe because I don’t happen to agree with you.

  2. Brian O'Neill says:

    I appreciate your viewpoint Zillahboy, but I am afraid you are taking offense where none was given. The lunatic fringe I referred to were those individuals and groups that continue to raise the question of not only the President’s citizenship, but his religion. Since you claimed that you were not among them, then clearly this label was not meant for you.

    On another note, while the proponents of a mosque expansion at Ground Zero do have a Constitutionally protected right to worship and build on this site, you and I both have the same Constitutional protections that permit us to speak our mind on the subject.

    For the record, I think that Muslim-Americans would do their cause a great service if they were to drop their intent to expand their complex in favor of the victims, their families and the tenuous nature of our country’s relationship with their religion.

    I would have mentioned it, but blogs have a diminishing rate of return based on length.

  3. stradivari says:

    Either you believe in the First Ammendment–or you don’t.

    President Obama took an oath to defend the Constitiion of the United States of America. It is ironic that self-proclaimed “patriots” are against him for so doing. The ” sensitivity” reason for opposing a Muslim center is thinly veiled bigotry no matter how one slices it. We Americans should be beyond that.

  4. scott0962 says:

    I’m afraid the relevance of McCarthyism to the mosque near ground zero escapes me, Brian. No one is suggesting a government sanctioned witch hunt with Muslims as the target. At worst, the idea of building a mosque near ground zero shows an insensitivity toward victims and survivors that is difficult to reconcile with “moderate Islam”, and it will provide immoderate Muslims with a symbol of and “Islamic triumph” over America. (You may disagree with that last but once it’s built it’s there’s no do-over if that proves to be true.)

    I still think it would make sense form a standpoint of peace and reconciliation if the imam agreed to find a different location and the opponents agreed to provide a substantial part of the financing to build there. Such a gesture would demostrate good will and mutual respect on both sides.

  5. scott0962 – Your proposed solution sounds on its face to be somewhat reasonable, however the question that really needs to be answered for me and I believe many others is how far away from the World Trade site is OK? If two blocks is too close is four good or ten? I grew up in New York City and used to work in Manhattan. I know that you can’t see the Trade Center site from were Islamic center is to be built and vice versa. So this “its too close” thing just strikes me as made up, like I feel most of this controversy is –made up.

    As to similarities to McCarthyism I believe there is at least some truth to that. You just have to listen to some of the more colorful members of congress like Republican Rep Gohmert (Terror babies). Or the recent call by a group of Republican representatives in congress calling for an investigation of Muslin political activities because they are trying to plant Muslim interns in congress and they believe who might be spies (see link).

  6. ratujack says:


  7. ratujack says:

    While on a plane I found a newspaper in the rack. It was the Manchester Guardian UK. There was a story about a young girl in Aghanistan that was raped by a Taliban Islamic soldier. Within in minutes 5 men hung her from a crane because she was now…. un-pure. No conviction on the rape and sharia law agreed she was un-pure to allow herself to be raped. All went free.
    If they build the mosge at ground zero and somone puts a gay bar next door and if gay patrons of the bar walk by and see all those men bending over praying and there’s a rape do they hang em, on the streets of Manahtan for being un-pure?

  8. Zillahboy says:

    Investigations Afret? Nancy Pelosi called for an investigation to find out where people opposing the mosque got their money. By the way, 71% of the more than 2,000 people who have responded to the Hot Button’s current question disapprove of its construction at that site. But then, who cares about what the people think anymore.

  9. Senator McCarthy was proven correct . . . The actions of the House Committee on Unamerican Activities may have been over the top but . . . Senator McCarthy was proven correct . . .

  10. larsman says:

    afret – your link to “Salon” is interesting however the Council on American Islamic Relations is just a little bit more than over the top with or without the smiley P.R.face – follow the Zukat (money)…
    Will you condemn the charter of Hamas as a terrorist organization or not?
    Not really a trick question here. C’ mon Imam. It’s a yes or no thing. But we’ll have to know your answer in English AND Arabic and at the same time in the same place so that we all avoid Taqiyya. Time’s running out to biuld your “bridge”…

  11. larsman says:

    Brian – grab a handy (I know you must have one close, right?) Qur’an and remembering that Islam / Qur’anic context is time-line generic, neutral, that means it is applicably relevant regardless of the calendar, and check out these moderate, peaceful, bridge-building concepts, ahem :
    Surah 2 : 61 – 66
    Surah 2 : 96
    Surah 4 : 47
    Surah 5 : 12 – 13, 59
    Surah 9 : 29

  12. BlaineCGarver says:

    Brian….McCarthy was proven right. Exposed and exchanged KGB papers showed that beyond a doubt. If, in years to come, you have Sharia Law jammed down your throat, or have to get rid of a unclean pet, or your female family member is attacked for being a “slut”…well, get back to me. BTW, this is all happening in Europe, especially England, where they let the muzlims bully them into thinking they were racist. It’s perfectly legal to fly the Confederate Flag, but most do not out of respect for Confederate enslaved persons. Also, do you realize it has always been customary for muzlims to build a great mosque at the site of great victories? Hmmmm? It is easier to check these facts than it is to hang a label on me, bubba <{:-)~

  13. scott0962 says:

    Regarding Muslims building mosques on the site of victories that is true. The great mosque in Istanbul was once the Church of Haigha Sophia when the city was called Constantinople by the Byzantines and the Muslim holy site of the Ka’aba itself was once a place of worship for pagan Arabs before Mohammed’s conquest of Mecca.

    The proposed name for the new Islamic cultural center is “Cordoba Center”. In the Spanish city of Cordoba stands a spectacular Moorish mosque on the site of what was once a Visigothic Christian church. Inside the former Great Mosque of Cordoba is a Christian cathedral built when the Moors were driven out of the capital of Al Andalus during the Reconquista.

    But the name Cordoba probably has no particular significance to the imam or Muslims.

  14. Zillahboy – Do you know what rights are? A right means it can’t be taken away no matter what some poll says. Would you like the TNT to have a poll question that asks if Zillahboy should be allowed to continue to comment on the website? What if the poll said 70% don’t think Zillahboy should be allowed to continue to comment? Should it be taken seriously? Of course Not.

    Let me quote Dick Cheney when he was told in 2008 that in a recent poll the majority of Americans thought the war in Iraq was not worth it, he responded with “So”

    Oh and Nancy Pelosi can still say what she wants too even if you take what she said completely out of context.

  15. Zillahboy says:

    Yes, Afret I know what rights are: Six members of my family voulintairly served in the armed forces during time of war to protect our rights. But make no mistake, rights can be taken away. I don’t know why it seems to upset you when all I am trying to say is that our so-called leaders should pay a little more attention to what the people have to say.

  16. Zillahboy – I also voluntarily served during our recent times of war so I guess I can have an opinion too. And one of the things I served for was to make sure our rights are not taken away.

We welcome comments. Please keep them civil, short and to the point. ALL CAPS, spam, obscene, profane, abusive and off topic comments will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked. Thanks for taking part and abiding by these simple rules.

JavaScript is required to post comments.

Follow the comments on this post with RSS 2.0