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August 27, 2010

LSAT Logic and "Ground Zero Mosque" Arguments, Part 1

LSAT Blog Logic Ground Zero Mosque ArgumentsAs regular readers may agree, aside from a few simple dissections of logical fallacies on The Colbert Report, I've rarely revealed, let alone promoted, my personal opinions on this blog.

However, the more I read and watch about Park51 (the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque"), the angrier I get.

It looks like this will be a major issue in the Congressional elections this November unless something more controversial comes along (unlikely).

Since I know you all come here for LSAT advice (not for my personal opinions), I've debated for a while on whether to blog about it.

However, since I have a strong opinion on this, I feel the need to share it with others and present my arguments to those who may not agree with me.

Don't worry - I'll relate this to LSAT Logical Reasoning prep. The arguments on the opposing side contain many LSAT-style flaws, so I'm going to analyze several of them.

If you care about this issue and want to inject some reason into this debate, please forward this to your friends and post the link on Facebook and Twitter.

If you think you'll be offended, or you'll disagree, I especially want you to read this, and post a comment. It's healthy to read things you disagree with, and you're the folks I'm really writing this for, anyway.

***

Before we get into things, a few notes:

1. These are not the only flaws in the arguments of my opponents. Just some of the big ones.

2. I have not dissected every flaw contained in each video I link. Within a 30-second clip, several flaws may appear. Relatedly, even within a section on a specific flaw, I may make points addressing other flaws. This is simply because real-world arguments are more complicated than those on the LSAT. Consider yourself lucky.

3. This is the first part of a 2-part series. The 1st deals with LSAT-style flaws contained in some arguments opposing the construction of Park51. The 2nd deals with general arguments opposing its construction, and my responses to those arguments. While some are certainly related to the LSAT flaws in the 1st section, I haven't explicitly connected them.

If you're living in the LSAT vacuum (it happens, believe me) and don't care at all about the Park51 debate, focus more on the 1st part. However, if you engage with the arguments and analyze them, you may become interested enough in the general debate to read the 2nd out of curiosity.

***

Finally, I just want to say it's perfectly fine to disagree - you can still do perfectly well on the LSAT. Again, I encourage everyone who holds any position at all on this to leave a comment on this blog post.


Some Flaws in Arguments Against Park51

Appeal to Emotion

The Anti-Defamation League betrayed its principles when its Chairman stated, with regard to (some) 9/11 victims, "[t]heir anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted.”

I suppose what he really means that their anguish "entitles" them to irrational and bigoted positions. That's perfectly understandable.

However, I hope it doesn't take you future lawyers too long to determine the problems inherent in deciding public policy based upon the wishes of the more emotional and irrational members of society.

The fact that some find the exercise of a particular religion to be offensive is not sufficient reason to ban it or to ask it to go somewhere less bothersome.

One downside of freedom of speech and religion is that sometimes you'll be offended by a particular form of speech or religion. Similarly, sometimes others will be offended by your speech and religion. That's part of living in a free society. I'm sorry.

Attempting to avoid offense is certainly something you can pursue on your own, but don't ask others to step in to prevent speech or religion simply because you're upset.

(Here's a perfect example of appeal to emotion. Maybe it's insensitive to equate those building their version of the 92nd St. Y with extremists just because they happen to fall within the same general religion.)

In LSAT language:

"It appeals to the emotion of pity rather than addressing the issue raised"

Example of the same flaw in an actual LSAT question:
PrepTest 26 (September 1998 LSAT), S2, Q1 (p258)



Appeal to Popular Opinion

A Time Magazine poll states 61% of Americans oppose the mosque, and "more than 70% concur with the premise that proceeding with the plan would be an insult to the victims" of 9/11. (This poll's similar.)

A Fox News poll shows, while 61% of registered voters believe Muslims have the right to build the mosque, 64% believe it would be wrong to do so.

"Because the majority of those surveyed believes that building Park51 would be wrong, building it would be wrong."

However, just as emotion is not the soundest guide to public policy, neither is public opinion.

Just because a majority holds a particular opinion, this doesn't necessarily mean their wishes should be followed or their viewpoint is correct.

Our Founders specifically established the First Amendment in order to protect civil liberties - to prevent the government (the expression of the will of the majority) from infringing upon the rights of an unpopular minority.

An example of LSAT language describing this flaw:

"taking evidence that a claim is believed to be true to constitute evidence that the claim is in fact true"

Examples of the same flaw in actual LSAT questions:
PrepTest 28 (June 1999 LSAT), S1, Q9 (p324)
PrepTest 32 (October 2000 LSAT), S4, Q13 (p141)




False Analogy

Newt Gingrich argued by way of analogy, "Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington."

Whether or not that's true, 9/11 is not on the same scale as the Holocaust, those who want to build Park51 are not part of Al Qaeda, and Park51 is not being built by radical Islamists as a symbol of "Muslim Triumphalism," as Gingrich claims at 3:10 in that clip (more on that below).

Additionally, Park51 is not at Ground Zero.

In other words, Gingrich's example treats the two different situations as if they are similar.

In LSAT language:

"treats as similar two cases that are different in a critical respect."

Examples of the same flaw in actual LSAT questions:
PrepTest 29 (October 1999 LSAT), S4, Q25 (p43)
PrepTest 31 (June 2000 LSAT), S3, Q5 (p97)
PrepTest 33 (December 2000 LSAT), S3, Q15 (p172)




Straw Man (Misrepresenting the Argument)

In the same Gingrich interview, Gingrich is also commits a Straw Man argument. In a Straw Man argument, one misrepresents the opponent's position in order to more easily argue against it.

The false claims about the Park51 folks (described in below sections) function as part of a Straw Man argument. By portraying Sharif El-Gamal and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf as radical Islamists, and it becomes easier to argue against their establishment of a community center.

In fact, El-Gamal is a real estate developer (a businessman), and Rauf has been an imam in NYC for nearly 30 years (not exactly off the plane from a terrorist training camp).

In LSAT language:
"makes exaggerations in formulating the claim against which it argues."



Ad Hominem Attack (Personal Attack)

In this flaw, one attacks the source of the argument rather than the argument itself.

Example #1:
Simply because the imam behind Park51 has ties to an organization supporting the Gaza flotilla raid (segment starts ~3:53), this doesn't make him an extremist. It means he supports an organization that supports activism. People of various faiths support this type of activism without supporting terrorism. It has nothing to do with whether it's appropriate for the imam to build Park51.

Example #2:
Taking $305,000 from Saudi Prince Al-Waleed doesn't make the imam an extremist.

After all, the News Corporation's second-largest shareholder (with a $2.3 billion stake) is that very Saudi prince. In other words, taking money from Prince Al-Waleed does not require one to promote radical Islam.

In LSAT language:
"rejects a claim by attacking the proponents of the claim rather than addressing the claim itself"
"attack employers' motives instead of addressing their arguments"
"criticizing the source of a claim rather than examining the claim itself"

Examples of the same flaw in actual LSAT questions:
PrepTest 19 (June 1996 LSAT), S2, Q14 (p24)
PrepTest 26 (June 1998 LSAT), S4, Q4 (p241) (esp. relevant to Park51)
PrepTest 32 (October 2000 LSAT), S2, Q6 (p139)
PrepTest 34 (June 2001 LSAT), S2, Q1 (p194)




Failure to Acknowledge Opposing Evidence

The imam behind Park51 has been imam of a mosque in Lower Manhattan for almost 30 years. He's not new to the U.S. or NYC. He's written 3 books about Islam's role in the West, as well as quite a few articles on various Islam-related subjects.

Furthermore, opponents of Park51 also fail to mention that Rauf was selected by the Bush administration as a paragon of moderate American Islam, and he called himself both a Jew and a Christian when giving a eulogy at an Upper West Side synagogue for Daniel Pearl.

Finally, Glenn Beck and the imam had a perfectly nice conversation on Good Morning America a few years ago. If Beck thought he was extreme back then, you'd think he would have mentioned it.

Those who oppose Park51 and portray Imam Rauf as an extremist neglect to mention these facts on their shows.

As a separate issue, Muslims who work in the Pentagon have been praying there ever since the building was repaired, and no one's ever seemed to mind.

Examples of the same flaw in actual LSAT questions:
PrepTest 30 (December 1999 LSAT), S2, Q2 (p54)
PrepTest 34 (June 2001 LSAT), S2, Q24 (p201)




Part-to-Whole Flaw

This video is guilty of this flaw.

(I picked it simply because it's the most-viewed video on YouTube for the search "ground zero mosque.")

In summary, "Islam contains some extremists, therefore all Muslims are extremists."

Is it right to equate the actions and opinions of a radical minority (Al Qaeda) with the actions and opinions of moderate Muslims? If certain people aren't able to distinguish between terrorists and the majority of moderate Muslims, why should moderate Muslims further confuse things by humoring and accommodating those mistaken beliefs?

Why should they be maligned in the press, and why should their perfectly-clear motives be challenged due to the actions of people from a radical sect within their religion?

In LSAT language:
"improperly draws an inference about the scientific community from a premise about individual scientists"

Examples of the same flaw in actual LSAT questions:
PrepTest 19 (June 1996 LSAT), S4, Q3 (p36)
PrepTest 35 (October 2001 LSAT), S4, S18 (p245)




Confusing a sufficient condition for a necessary condition:

The same video is also guilty of this flaw.

In summary, "extremists want to build more mosques, so if the people in question weren't extremists, they wouldn't want to build more mosques."

Evidence: Extremist -> Want to build mosques

(Flawed) Conclusion: Not extremist -> Not want to build mosques

This is the inverse of the original statement. Statements are logically equivalent to their contrapositives, not their inverses or converses.

Examples of the same flaw in actual LSAT questions:
PrepTest 31 (October 2000 LSAT), S1, Q10 (p121)
PrepTest 34 (June 2001 LSAT), S3, Q23 (p208)
PrepTest 37 (June 2002 LSAT), S2, Q3 (p296)




Failure to Obey Principle of Local Self-Government

(Failure to obey a general principle is not necessarily a flaw, but accusing someone of inconsistency in their positions makes for a compelling argument. It suggests some opponents are not always driven by the principles they claim.)

There's irony in that those who've never lived in NYC claim the right to determine what happens here. Of course, 9/11 is a national tragedy, but one could broaden it to include a general attack on the West. In that case, perhaps Europe and Canada would have a say as well...

Even in NYC, no one was talking about the planning of Park51 until a New York Post columnist publicized the story and Fox News picked it up. Prior to that time, both Jewish and Christian community leaders in NYC had met with proponents of the project and endorsed it. For quite some time, Muslims have been praying in the dilapidated building where Park51 will be with no problems at all.

What happened to the very conservative principle of local self-government?

Applying this principle to the Park51 situation, if you live outside NYC, and you're not related to any 9/11 victims, what happens in NYC isn't your business.

If one wants to support the general principle that local communities should decide things (rather than the 1st Amendment), take a look at the below-linked polls.

(Now, I know that, on the LSAT, polls and surveys are often flawed, but I have no particular reason to believe there's anything wrong with these two, so I'll throw them out there.)

While NYC as a whole opposes Park51, let's look at Manhattan in particular (since a population of 1.6 million is more of a "community" than a population of 8.4 million).

Both Survey 1 and Survey 2 show that Manhattan residents are in favor of it.



Failure to Obey Principle of Protecting Religious Freedom

Many of those who oppose Park51 usually advocate the practice and expression of religion in public space. (See O'Reilly's "War on Christmas" coverage.)

In fact, Republicans passed a Congressional bill back in 2000 to protect the establishment of houses of worship. It focused on local authorities who attempt to block them under the guise of zoning regulations. Of course, this inadvertently protects the establishment of Park51.

Notably absent from Park51 opposition are religious leaders of other faiths (at the very least, fewer than I might have expected). However, I've seen many express support.

I suspect this is because these religious leaders don't want to set a precedent for banning or discouraging houses of worship from a particular faith. They know that a wingnut from their own religion may commit a terrible act in the future. These leaders are concerned with the protection and promotion of their religions in the long-term. On the other hand, Fox News is more focused on the short-term (their ratings and the upcoming election).

***

Read on for Part 2, where I analyze the claims advanced by Park51 opponents and offer counterarguments.

***

For further watching:

Daily Show: The Parent Company Trap

Daily Show: Extremist Makeover - Homeland Edition

Daily Show: Mosque-Erade


Daily Show: Municipal Land-Use Hearing

Keith Olbermann: Special Comment: There Is No 'Ground Zero Mosque'

YouTube: "We've Got To Stop The Mosque At Ground Zero"

Daily Show: Michael Bloomberg


For further reading:

FactCheck.org: Questions About the 'Ground Zero Mosque'

NYC Mayor's Speech Supporting Park51

Top Religious Leaders Denounce Growing Anti-Muslim Sentiment; Express Support for NY Mosque, Community Center


The New Yorker: Park51, the proposed mosque near Ground Zero

Cracked: 3 Reasons the "Ground Zero Mosque" Debate Makes No Sense

AP: Behind the News: Describing the proposed NYC mosque

The Economist: Build that mosque

The Economist: Sense and sensitivity

Fareed Zakaria: Build the Ground Zero Mosque

Slate: Islam is Ground Zero

NYMag: The imbroglio over the ground-zero mosque

NYTimes: News Corp. Gives Republicans $1 Million





80 comments:

  1. I...I...think I'm in love with you. I also get very angry reading all the hullabaloo around the "Ground Zero Mosque" and have also been recently agonizing whether or not to make my opinion public, especially to people I know who are opponents to Park51. NOW I CAN JUST SHARE THIS LINK *AND* IT GOES TOWARDS MY LSAT STUDYING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! YOU RAWK!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Steve,

    Well-written and interesting. Although I highly recommend you read this article.
    http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/sam_harris/2010/08/silence_is_not_moderation.html

    ReplyDelete
  3. You are a SICK man. I am going to go to law school and my number one goal will be to shut up ignorant people like you. This issue has NOTHING to do with freedom of religion but the freaking DECENCY to respect those who died on 9-11. And there is nothing wrong with accepting 300,000 grand from Saudi Arabia?? Are you kidding me? lol! Go live in Saudi Arabia with a christian and a homosexual for a week. You'll be figuring out that you will be the only one coming back home alive. Idiot.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I think Zhirne will be quite disappointed when he goes to law school and realizes thing thing called the constitution won't allow him to "shut up" other people.

    Also worth noting, Zhirne commits an Error of Division, where he assumes that because one segment of 9/11 survivors are against it, that all must be against it. Muslims were also among the victims on 9/11, and their families would likely be in favor of Park 51.

    Steve should also point out another error in Ignoring Other Evidence: the other site of the 9/11 attacks, the Pentagon, has a Muslim prayer room that is used daily by its employees. Yet, no one is declaring that the Pentagon Muslim Prayer Room is an affront to "sacred ground" or the families of the victims.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Glad folks are enjoying it!


    re: the Sam Harris article

    Yes, I think we'd all like to see the statement Sam Harris proposes, but, practically speaking, it'd be difficult for Rauf to get the necessary donations for Park51 from Muslim countries if he called out Islam like that.

    He might be banned from several countries he'd like to visit. Part of the reason he was picked to represent American Muslims abroad is that he's able to speak to people in their own language. While that statement might appeal to American Muslims, he'd probably be hated elsewhere. A more gradual approach might be more effective.


    re: Pentagon

    Thank you for reminding me about the Pentagon chapel. I felt the post was too long to include *everything*, but on further consideration, it's certainly worth noting since most probably don't realize it exists. I've added a sentence about it.

    ReplyDelete
  6. As a regular reader of this blog I don't have any problems with political issues being discussed, and I think you set forward your argument well (as if there's any way you couldn't...I have no doubt you are extremely intelligent). But, what I would enjoy more than this is the break down of the arguments that are being made on the other side, because though some of them are probably logical, I'm sure many of them aren't as well.

    I guess I just respect your overall attempt to keep your blog non-political and I would better appreciate this if it included an objective look at the issue. Illogical arguments are almost always made on both sides of the aisle on each issue. Also, as far as LSAT related logic goes, I think it can only take one so far in evaluating issues like this, because values and beliefs do play a role and they can't thoroughly be evaluated through that lens. So ultimately, I would just appreciate this more if it were a look at both sides.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Zhrine:

    There are over 5,000 Saudi Princes, and the Saud family has very close ties to the US. They financially invested in more American businesses than you can imagine, accumulating up to a TRILLION dollars in our markets.

    Secondly...rather than obviate, care to explain what exactly is so shady about the Saudi Princes in general that has to do with 9/11?

    Is it simply that they are Arab's or they govern the country that these terrorists came from?

    Last I checked, they've been extremely instrumental in arresting or killing members of al-Qaeda, and sharing intelligence with the US. Their agenda is monetary certainly not fanatical religious ideas.

    What exactly are you charging the Saudi's with that has to do with anything here?

    Good luck on the LSAT, you'll need it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Some Flaws in Arguments in Favor of Park51


    Appeal to Emotion

    "Moderate Muslims in the U.S. already have been through so much (hate crimes, suspicion, racism, etc.). Now you don't even want to let them have their community center?"



    Appeal to Popular Opinion

    "A majority of Manhattan residents are in favor of Park51, therefore we should ensure that it's built."



    Appeal to Authority

    "Mayor Bloomberg spoke in favor of it. Therefore, it should be built."



    False Analogy

    "This is like saying no churches should be built in Oklahoma City simply because Timothy McVeigh was a Christian."

    Park51 opposition might argue that this fails to consider that he was not motivated solely by religion, and was not part of an established group seeking to destroy America/the West, etc.



    Straw Man (Misrepresenting the Argument)

    Claiming that anyone who opposes establishing Park51 in its proposed location doesn't want mosques anywhere in NYC/the U.S./the world.

    While some who oppose it in its present location don't want mosques in Manhattan, period, others simply don't want it in Lower Manhattan.

    Portraying those who oppose its establishment as simply being bigots.



    Ad Hominem Attack (Personal Attack)

    Example #1:

    "You don't want to establish an Islamic community center because it's from a religion you don't like."

    In other words, claiming opponents of Park51 don't want it to be established simply because many of the opponents themselves are not Muslims.


    Example #2:
    "Because the media and the Republican Party benefit from using this as a wedge issue, they're biased, so there's no reason to address their concerns or take them seriously."

    Claiming the media (Fox News and the NYPost, in particular) give this issue excessive coverage in order to drive ratings and don't have legitimate reasons for their coverage.

    Claiming Republicans use this as a wedge issue for November elections and don't have legitimate reasons for their positions.


    Example #3:
    "Because Harry Reid and Howard Dean stand to help the Democratic Party by taking the position most voters hold (that Park51 shouldn't be built there) they're biased, so there's no reason to address their concerns or take them seriously."

    Claiming Harry Reid and Howard Dean are suggesting Park51 be moved simply to benefit Democrats in the November elections and don't have legitimate reasons for their positions.



    Failure to Acknowledge Opposing Evidence

    Disregarding Imam Rauf's statements about American policies being an accessory to 9/11.



    Part-to-Whole Flaw

    "Because some who oppose building Park51 near Ground Zero are bigots, therefore all who oppose it are bigots."

    "Because some who oppose building Park51 near Ground Zero don't want any mosques in Manhattan/U.S./the world, therefore all who oppose it feel that way."



    Confusing a sufficient condition for a necessary condition:

    Evidence: Bigoted Anti-Muslim ---> Not want Park51 near Ground Zero

    (Flawed) Conclusion: Not bigoted Anti-Muslim ---> Want Park51 near Ground Zero

    ReplyDelete
  9. False Analogy

    "This is like saying no churches should be built in Oklahoma City simply because Timothy McVeigh was a Christian."

    Park51 opposition might argue that this fails to consider that he was not motivated solely by religion, and was not part of an established group seeking to destroy America/the West, etc."

    Wait, I think you are wrong in this criticism of the pro-religious freedom/property rights argument. The point is not that Tim McVeigh was not primarily motivated by his Christianity, but that not allowing the mosque to be built would be like banning Christian houses of worship near the Fed Bldg precisely because Christians in general were not responsible for the bombing, just like Muslims in general were not responsible for 9/11.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Interesting points and I love the use of logic to apply to the situation, rather than emotion. Although, I'd dispute the false analogy argument on the mosque supporters side. I don't know that religion was the *sole* motivation of the terrorists. Had it been, why not attack a religious site? Why attack a commercial area in our largest city? I'd argue that politics play a greater role in their motivations than religion, even though that's not what we're led to believe.

    ReplyDelete
  11. For some reason, my comment from last night explaining the "Some Flaws in Arguments in Favor of Park51" comment didn't going through. Here it is:




    @Anonymous 10:15PM Eastern

    I greatly appreciate your comment.

    You make an excellent point: I haven't analyzed both sides.

    In my overall effort to keep the blog neutral, I did consider analyzing the arguments of both sides.

    However, I feel too strongly about this issue to want to give ammunition to the opposition.

    Unlike LSAT arguments about fake people and countries, analysis of a real-world situation has real-world consequences. With public opinion opposed to Park51, and my own personal feelings on the matter, I don't wish to use my blog to help the other side.

    However, you've sold me on the idea. In the above comment, I've taken each of the flaws used in the blog post and applied it to the pro-Park51 position in a quick rundown. No outside links, but you'll get the idea.


    Please feel free to leave any comments you like if you want to analyze the arguments of those in favor of Park51.

    (Btw, you're right that LSAT-related logic only goes so far. This is because the LSAT tests a limited set of methods of reasoning, flaws, etc.)



    ***



    @8/27 12:28AM / 12:37AM Eastern

    I do believe the Timothy McVeigh analogy is compelling. My point is that the analogy is not perfect (as analogies rarely are). For that reason, it can be disputed by Park51 opponents.

    in order to satisfy the request of the commenter "Anonymous 10:15PM Eastern," I was just giving an example of the types of potential flaws a Park51 opponent could point out.

    If one wants to dispute it, one can argue that capitalism is the American religion, and that's reason alone to attack the WTC. One can also argue that it's a big symbol, and that alone makes it a target for those motivated by religion.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Sure, it’s an elementary technique to split an argument up to tear it apart- the same as it is in combat (conquer & divide). However, when you look at the evidence collectively, the motivation for muslims to build a mosque near Ground Zero is highly questionable.

    Why isn't this building being referred to as a mosque instead of the softer termed "cultural center?" Why is this debate being referred to as “Park51” instead of “the mosque near ground zero” issue? People are in denial about what the issue really is and don’t like to hear the ugly truth. Is it because they will deny their involvement when our children are forced to pray to Allah?

    Why is the building being named Cordoba again? “Cordoba,” in Islamic symbolic terms, means Islamic rule in the West. It does not mean “coexistence,” unless coexistence is interpreted as referring to Islamic rule. It bears within it significance and dreams of expansion and invasion [into the territory] of the other, [while] striving to change his religion and to subjugate him2 3. Put down the LSAT’s and pick up a history book! Cordoba was “the seat of the caliphate established in what is now modern Spain after the Islamic invasion from North Africa in the 8th century A.D.” Cordoba is emblematical of secret handshake that Imam Ruaf is giving the rest of the middle east; no one else will recognize it unless they know to look for it, which muslims do.

    Why is the mosque 592 feet from Ground Zero? Sure, it’s “two big blocks” away, but the dust, debris, and the human particles from the dead, innocent civilians from the towers, spread beyond this distance. This mosque is being built, in effect, at the very base of the disaster. Why, when offered heavily discounted property, didn’t Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf decide to move the mosque? This demonstrates that the mosque is being built there for a reason. They had the opportunity to move to heavily discounted, much sought after state land, and intentionally chose to stay near Ground Zero.4

    Why is the scheduled date to open the mosque September 11th? This date was not coincidental or accidental.1

    Why is the mosque going to be 13 stories tall? Sure, because real estate is so expensive that builders feel compelled to build skyward, but could it symbolically represent the muslim religion overseeing and outshining the Ground Zero memorial? How many mosques are build that high anywhere else in the world? Let’s see, well of the 5 middle eastern countries I have spent years in, I have never seen it! This is not a coincidence.

    These decisions were not random, incidental, or even accidental. Muslim terrorists are not stupid. They know that liberal American’s are sappy, bleeding hearts (not intended to be ad hominem), and they love to exploit that (e.g., naming the mosque Cordoba, opening the mosque on 9/11, making a 13 story mosque symbolically overseeing Ground Zero).
    A large portion of the funding comes from muslim groups and countries that, as the author claims, do not directly support terrorism. This does not mean they are not sympathetic toward terrorist ideology. If you are a Christian, you should feel a sense of disloyalty, disgust, or even embarrassment in yourself- if you have a solid Christian moral base.

    You can make yourself feel good about how smart you are by hiding behind your "logic." Reality is your insensitive liberal (ad hominem intended) views on this issue reiterate your lack of appreciation and foresight to many of us combat veterans- most whom have lost family members or friends that paid the ultimate sacrifice to give you that right.

    It is my general conclusion this blog is flawed!

    http://www.examiner.com/ libertarian-in-san-jose/nyc-mosque-set-to-open-on-9-11
    http://lonestartimes.squawkboxnoise.com/?p=3081
    http://www.hyscience.com/archives/2010/08/the_ground_zero.php
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/17/ground-zero-mosque-paters_1_n_684814.html
    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/0821/fox-shareholder-funded-mosque-imam/

    ReplyDelete
  13. Steve,
    Is the Pentagon chapel used JUST by Muslims or is it an ecumenical chapel?

    I read your blog. Interesting and very good points. But not all opposition to the mosque is irrational. As many have said, certainly they have the right to build it, but that doesn't make it prudent to do so. Just because people see this as offensive doesn't automatically make their feelings irrational.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is the exact argument I'm glad to see someone who utilizes and teaches the tools of logic make. Great job, however I would be interested in seeing the other side logically analyzed as well. I have also recently gone over from the "sensitivity" camp to the "logic" camp due to being angered by just the idiocy involved in the opponents to the construction of the mosque. If perhaps we just stuck on the one reason of the appeal to emotion, the good, kind person in me would say sure, I get it, even though it's not logical per say, it's the "right" thing to do. But it seems that that one reason isn't good enough, even for the right wing, which is why there's now multiple opponents with multiple opposing viewpoints all in the name of pushing forward individual agendas rather then preserving any sort of memories of those who passed on 9/11.

    ReplyDelete
  15. To the commenter directly above me:

    I did address the arguments on the other side - in the above comments.

    Glad you've joined the "logic" camp. I might argue that the logical thing and the "right" thing aren't different, but that's open to debate, of course.


    ***

    To the Pentagon chapel commenter (two comments above mine):

    Thank you for your very reasonable and well-thought-out comment. While the Pentagon chapel is ecumenical, that may perhaps be outweighed by its proximity to the site of the attack when it comes to sensitivity (in the arguments of mosque opponents).

    It's important to consider that the so-called mosque isn't really a mosque - it's a community center that contains a Muslim prayer space. No minarets or loud calls to prayer heard outside the building. It won't even look like a mosque. It'll be a Muslim version of a JCC, and open to all.

    I suspect that if the situation were reversed - if Park51 had been around for a long time and the public hadn't noticed or cared, but the media learned that someone newly proposed that Muslims use a prayer space inside the Pentagon - I believe many people would be crying out that it was both insensitive and some kind of national security risk.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi Steve,

    This is my first ever blog post, and I disagree with your support of the GZM. As an engineer, I invoke the principle of the greatest good. What will bring the greatest good to NYC? Instead of a mosque, they should build either a clinic where uninsured patients could be treated by doctors who wish to work pro bono. Failing this, a school could be built for lower-income kids who cannot afford private school. Either of these two options would have a greater benefit to NYC's people.

    If a clinic or school is out of the question, they should build a library filled with books by Locke, Hume, Jefferson and other authors of the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment, is more than anything else, what saved Western Civilization from the church.

    Furthermore, the National Cathedral and other Hindu or Jewish places of worship in the country should be converted into secular schools, hospitals or libraries as I describe above.

    I am not an atheist. Atheism is the polar opposite of Theism. Belief in Enlightenment values is the logical opposite. For example, a believer of Religion A might say, "Vanilla is the only ice-cream flavour in the world." A believer of Religion B might say, "Chocolate is the only ice-cream flavour in the world." A believer of Religion C might say, "All flavours are equal, but I like Strawberry." An atheist would say, "Ice-cream doesn't exist."

    The enlightened person says, "I don't really spend any time thinking about which flavour is best, and trying to prove others wrong. If it is hot, I might go out and get some ice-cream. And then not care anymore again until the next time it is hot."

    Thanks,

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  17. I'm disappointed you chose to blog about Cordoba House/Park51 project/ mosque near ground zero.

    This has nothing to with LSAT prep, regardless of weak attempts to classify it as an exercise in argument analysis.

    When you said, "Since I know you all come here for LSAT advice (not for my personal opinions), I've debated for a while on whether to blog about it."

    It would have been a more professional decision not to press on with your personal political views. Simply advising people to "not read" the post is simply not good enough. Your site has been so helpful and insightful that I couldn't help but read on, and I'm sure others felt the same.

    I would like to be unsubscribed from your list.

    All the best.

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  18. I disagree with the previous comment. This blog post is great stuff. Particularly of value is that you give us specific examples of the same flaw in actual exams. This really drives home the point and is priceless.

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  19. I think the fact of the matter is that the mosque is a highly contentious issue- even for those who normally don't care much about contentious issues.

    First, people are riled up because of what a mosque near Ground Zero represents to them, then others are riled up because of their negative perception of the first group. It seems virtually no one is taking a middle position, if there is one.

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  20. Hey Steve,
    I would like to start off by saying that I really appreciate all of the FREE posts and help you are giving people through this blog as a whole.

    Now, to try and stretch my LSAT wings a bit I will take a stab at answering the questions of Anonymous 9:57. First he/she asks “why it is being called the Park 51 issue instead of ‘the mosque near ground zero’ issue?” Then he/she states, what I can only assume to be a two part conclusion, the first of which is that “People are in denial about what the issue really is and don’t like to hear the ugly truth.” This simply ignores the fact that it is called the Park 51 issue because that is the name of the building is called Park 51 and that the so called “mosque” is actually a small portion of what is actually in the building.

    The second part of his/her conclusion is a little tricky, as it is phrased as a question. For those taking the LSAT soon I think this might be a good look at how conclusions may be hidden on the real test. “Is it because they will deny their involvement when our children are forced to pray to Allah?” This conclusion, at best, commits the slippery slope fallacy by first assuming that a mosque built near ground zero will force our children to pray to Allah and then linking that to the phrasing of the debate as the Park 51 issue as a cover for their involvement in this building that will supposedly lead to forced Allah worship.

    Next is the Cordoba part which is discussed in Steve’s next post.

    After this he/she makes the argument that the proximity to Ground Zero and the timing of the opening of Park 51 are not coincidental or accidental. I think here he/she is implying that the only explanation is that this is that it is a deliberate slap in the face to or maybe part of the “secret handshake” he was referring to earlier within the Muslim community. However, none of this is backed up by an argument and therefore there is no reason to accept these claims.

    Next, he/she attacks the height of the building, saying that in his 5 years of experience he/she has not seen a 13 story Mosque. He/she then jumps to the conclusion that the only explanation is that it is meant to oversee Ground Zero. First of all, just because you haven’t seen something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, second of all the conclusion fails to take into account the fact that only one story will be an area of worship (a mosque) and the other 12 or so will consist of recreational/administrative space that will be open to anybody.

    He/she ends the “argument” by making an acknowledged ad hominem attack (recognized=/= correct). The first of which he does by making the broad generalization that liberals are insensitive.

    He makes an additional nonsensical claim at the end that this blog is flawed. Even if I give him all of his claims about how wrong he thinks it is to support Park 51, it does not logically follow that this blog as a whole is flawed…


    As a reply to hiding behind “logic,” my advice to him/her is DO NOT take the LSAT or go to Law School as this misinterpretation of the function of logic will lead to miserable failures in Law School.

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  21. There is only one article that I have read that sums this debate up perfectly, which I was glad to see you had a link to, and that is Lexington's article (Economist) from August 7th. It is incredibly hard to argue and can be understood by any thinking person.

    BTW, if one is secure within their own beliefs then he/she can take the opinion of another (I hope you enjoyed my logic), so if someone has an issue with you sharing your political views than they should question their own foundation, not you.

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  22. I have to say, I agree with your Constitutional analysis. I see no legal standing for standing in the way of building the mosque. In fact, I would fight for their right to do so, even while begging them to change their minds about the location. The reason I would ask them to reconsider? In part because of their own rhetoric--one cannot promote peace and understanding by trouncing all over the emotions of those you wish to achieve it with. However, bad diplomacy is certainly no crime, and see no reasonable way for NYC to deny them the permit. And being that I am not willing to give up my own rights to free speech and religion, I must respect theirs, as you said, even if their use of it is entirely offensive.

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  23. For Anonymous @ 8/27/10 1:45PM-

    I find it hysterical that you failed to grasp the most important 'broad principal' of my statement, which was to look at the evidence collectively. You unwisely and (apparently) blindly trampled through my statements in such haste in attempt to ‘captivate’ your fellow liberals that share your insensitive view with you infinite wisdom, but you failed. Miserably!

    Why didn't your rebuttal include comments on the name Cordoba? How about the mosque's opening date of 9/11? Did you forget about the state's offer for more lucrative land?

    Also, I never said “5 years of experience.” I said, “In the 5 years I have worked in the middle east,” (intentionally not mentioning the majority of that time was fighting terrorists). My experience would include another 10 years where I've worked/played in 25 other countries. How many times have you left your hometown? Please, tell me more about your views with all of your worldly experience about Muslims!

    Your "case" is a joke, and your 'pattern of reasoning' is nothing more than you opening your LSAT Prep Book to find the most ridiculous sounding concept in a sad attempt to establish a 'conclusive opposing position,' in a distant (silent) hope to demonstrate to yourself that you might eek by as a lawyer. Again, you failed. Miserably!

    The part I cherish the most is your infinite wisdom in advising me not to take the LSAT or go to law school because I, according to you, “misinterpret logic” since we do not agree. Well, by the looks of it, you struggle to read and/or comprehend the basics, so by that logic, you should quit school, quit typing the English language ANYWHERE, and consider employment at your local humane society... where all the cute little puppies and kitties will make you think your opinion matters!

    Jokes on you, kid!

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  24. Thanks for posting this on the blog. Great analysis. As another combat veteran, I feel I have to apologize for the previous post's illogical emotional appeal. Please avoid committing a part to whole comparison flaw in believing we're all illogical bigots.

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  25. for the person two posts above me:

    for clarity, could you restate your argument in a way that just sticks to the logical reasons to not allow this building permit, reasons im sure will take into account your constitution? (im canadian.) Im sure your more emotional and angry sentiments have value, but they dont serve you well here. Im sure you have a good, reasonable argument buried underneath it. Let it shine!

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  26. I am much educated about the issue after spending time reading most of the stuff here and understanding it as well.

    I find it a bit amusing the discussion on the meaning of the word "Cordoba", but I will get down to more elementary and point out the meaning of he word "Islam". It simply means "security" and "peace".

    Next, its standard greeting (or more correctly a prayer) "As-salam-alaikum" is its derivate, means "May peace be upon you".

    Before we part, its all wrong to "assume" what Islam is like by looking at the selective deeds of some Muslims and using this ignorance as a sword.

    What Islam stands for is necessary for understanding the whole issue. Islam is non-violent and moderate in its approach.

    I wish my comments go on to moderate the impact of "chinese whispers" that I blame for the opposition to the community center, not Mosque. However, as a Muslim, this project should not go ahead unless the concerns of so many are taken care of to our utmost. If it takes a decade or more, so be it.

    Altaf Noor Ali

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  27. Thank you for providing a logical analysis of these arguments. If only the mainstream media would do the same.

    One recommendation: Instead of relying on that simplified and dumbed down version of the Qur'an, I would recommend reading a website that gives the history and explanation of the verses that you have a problem with as the history is crucial for understanding the Qur'an. Try this website: http://www.qtafsir.com/index.php. It includes the "tafsir" or explanations for each verse.

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  28. Well done. I appreciate your stance and thoughtfulness in addressing the arguments against the "Ground Zero Mosque".

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  29. Thank you so much for taking this brave stand, Steve! I'm sorry you're getting so much hate, but please know that many, many people do appreciate you speaking out. You have made my day.

    Also, as a quick response to Debra, who said "And being that I am not willing to give up my own rights to free speech and religion, I must respect theirs, as you said, even if their use of it is entirely offensive." Debra, please think about why you find a Muslim community center two blocks away from Ground zero "entirely offensive." Because Muslims are terrorists? Because Muslims remind you of terrorists? Please, you seem like you want to be a reasonable person, so think about why your emotional reaction is what it is, and whether it's reasonable. I think building the center at Park51 is far from "bad diplomacy" as you suggest. It is in fact a crucial step towards building bridges, because it brings into sharp relief exactly what the problem is: widespread prejudice against Muslims. That prejudice is the emotion that you feel Park51 is trouncing all over.

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  30. You know what, I agree with you that Muslims have the right to build this Mosque. By the same logic, protesters against gays have the same right to go and chant that god kills American soldiers because we don't kill gays. This is irrespective of the emotional impact it may have upon the families who have lost loved ones in a conflict they may or may not agree with.

    I agree that the vast majority of Muslims are peaceful, respectful citizens. It is a shame that Muslim identity has become a symbol of terrorism to such a large proportion of America. I mostly blame movies such as "The Siege" and "Delta Force" for perpetuating these fallacies since the media rarely gives us examples of sane Muslims for which we may association with Islam.

    However, the consequence upon the individuals who have these associations drawn is the same regardless. Just because we might disagree with someone's animosity towards a symbol, or not comprehend the origin of someone's negative association with a symbol does not make that symbol's impact upon an individual any less traumatic. A Jewish man who barely escaped death in an incinerator may be emotionally stressed whenever he is in the presence of an oven. Though this anxiety might seem odd or foreign to you or I, that Jewish man's perception still has the same impact upon his psyche. In this sense, it is entirely insensitive to summarily dismiss someone else's perception simply because you do not draw the same emotional attachment.

    The problem does not lie within the legal right to construct this mosque. The domain of this issue is the wisdom of constructing it in such an irreverent way. Muslims point to the constitution and say that we are ignoring the first amendment by attempting to oppose it. Constructing the mosque in this sense would be a victory for the constitution.

    However, it would be a hugely negative event for Muslim-Americans and their inclusion among the prevalent western cultures. It's net effect will have a chilling and distancing consequence among non-Arab Americans. Due to the terrible marketing of Muslim religious ideologues, we are now having this controversy. They need to dissociate themselves in the mind of the average American away from Muslim extremists who resort to terrorism.

    Personally, I believe that Muslim-American, Western-American relations are of paramount importance in this matter, and while it is a victory for the Constitution since it will be tested and reinforced; it will be a loss for cultural relations. We already have cab slashers and other morons running about. I have yet to see any positive signs of improved Muslim-Western relations in the last decade, and this will only serve to exacerbate the situation.

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  31. The Imam's team has continuously argued that this project is about about bridge building and a community center. I am not sure how to juxtapose the "tolerance" of the Imam's beliefs (and I will not address his advocacy of Sharia law and whether or not that will promulgated in the mosque) and his stated intent in light of the clear sensitivities (whether legitimate or not they exist) that have been exposed and his at best, obtuse response. If these are the true goals, I am not sure what is lost by moving the mosque a few blocks over as it would (a) gain a large amount of support from the community (especially on 9/11/14 when mourners do not see a celebration for the opening of the center) (b) a community center would still be present (c) it isolates the bigots who would still be against the mosque. If this was a religious freedom issue I would feel differently, however no government entity has infringed on the ability to build the mosque, and the builders are being protected by the state in this endeavor.

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  32. "clear sensitivities"? No one cared about Park51 when the story was first reported in December 09. I remember reading half of it in the Times before clicking away as it was ho-hum. It even got *Fox New's* blessing. Now it's election season... so it's a great story to dig up, distort, and suddenly it's okay to openly hate muslim americans. This insanity has already spurred hate crimes. But I guess hate-speech and asking people to renounce their freedoms or acquiesce to clear prejudice is fine against certain select groups. There is no way this would be an issue if it was a catholic or jewish cultural center.

    This attitude also assumes and/or says it's okay for people to assume that "muslim" and "american" are mutually exclusive (and a terrorist group and a belief system are synonymous), and that Muslim Americans in the NY/NJ area were not utterly devastated by 9/11, Some of us watched the towers fall with our own two eyes from our high school windows terrified and numb with ineffable pain, lost loved ones and friends, waited on bated breath for others to call and confirm where they were and if they were miraculously late for work or didn't take the train that day. Many dealt with a backlash from fellow Americans and it's spiking once more. Besides the illogic of this argument, anyone even vaguely familiar with NY real estate knows it's not a simple process to "just move it".

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  33. I haven't seen any real confirmation that the Park51 opening date would be on any 9/11 anniversary - have only heard lots of random people saying it, which doesn't really make it true, of course. Any real confirmation from a major and reputable media outlet?

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  34. Do not remember where I read opening date, and could be wrong - I will look. However my larger concern would be is Sharia going to promoted at the mosque (and the Imam's spoken support of Sharia law is well documented) and will there be gender equality at this tolerant mosque i.e. and will prayer services be open to both men and women, will it be "tolerant" of free speech etc. (the Imam spoke out frequently against the Danish cartoonists and some blame this for the a limitation on the ability to see the cartoons here in the states) would Rushdie be welcome?

    Regardless of how people felt on 9/12, a majority has clearly formed an opinion (CNN/Marist etc) ; in part due to the Imam's team not handling questions well. This happens with pretty many major things that end up being headlines, so not sure I agree with the argument. Granted there is a lot of emotion on both sides with this, and not all are genuine. Many Muslims have also come against the center, and I am not sure if they were influenced by Fox. I would think no. I am very familiar with NY real estate and politics and the Imam's team has flatly refused offers (governor, local assembly and NYS Senate) to move it to state/city land in the area that would satisfy both the bridge building element, as well as a much needed cultural center.

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  35. wtf? will sharia law be in the mosque? um, first of all, get a clue: there are about twenty bajillion jurisprudential interpretations in Islam on any given issue, so there's no one bogeyman "sharia law." secondly, what on earth does "sharia law in the mosque" mean?? is the mosque going to take law and order into it's own hands? of course not! what a straw-man. if you're talking about males and females praying separately (i don't even know if this is going to be the case), that's not "sharia law" (there's no consensus on this point, and actually a lot of historical evidence says that men and women prayed in the same room at the time of the Prophet), that's just what is accepted, comfortable and convenient for most Muslims praying in mass numbers. what next? am i not allowed to wear a headscarf in the mosque because that seems like "SHARIA LAW" to you? do you want me to wear my shoes inside too? trample over some Qur'ans while i'm at it? and why the hell should rushdie, the danish cartoonist and other islam bashers be invited to speak at the mosque, any more than a neo-nazi would be invited to speak at a synagogue? this is a private space.

    everybody likes saying, "ohh i'm not racist, i know not all muslims are bad, but i just don't want them to practice their religion peacefully or in any way remind me that they, too, are americans living in america, in new york city even, working by ground zero, land of free and home of the brave." yeah? take a good, long, hard look in the mirror, buddy, it ain't pretty being a racist.

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  36. (This is a pre written post that I didn't feel like rewritting)

    Debris from the aircraft's hit this building, so it is considered apart of ground zero. That is fallacy number one. Dissent is an American ideal. That means it is American to oppose something that may be morally wrong. That is fallacy number two. If money was issued from a fox affiliate, was it given before these questions and worrying circumstances came to light? If so, the donation is irrelevant because it was given before the possibility of this mosque being a victory mosque. That is fallacy number three. This doesn't come from FOX, but my own personal research. Maybe this information should be examined, don't you think? I have many friends from the islamic religion and during my brief stance as an atheist, I considered turning to islamic beliefs. If this mosque (it is a mosque because it is a religious center for islam) turns out to be a victory mosque for extremists, would you be agaisnt it?

    Think about it. Spies from russia were just discovered here. Some were here for 20 years. That means they pretended to be americans to protect their intent. Islamic extremists are not stupid. It is a possibility that the imam is an extremist and helped the FBI to seal his cover. How else could they be able to mark america with a victory mosque? Before you dismiss this, double agents and spies are common in war and this is a holy war for extremists. Is this the case? I don't yet know and won't know until all the questions are answered. I remain suspicious and oppose the mosque until answers are brought to light. (My three muslim friends are the ones who pointed some of this out to me. They believe even if this is a true peaceful mosque, it still shows intolerance to sensibilities). We are not all bigots.

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  37. (Continued from above)

    One fallacy on your part: Beck met the imam on the interview, so he could not have known who he was. That is a very interesting piece you missed. This makes me think you really only did enough research to prove your own beliefs, rather than trying to find actual relevance on both sides.you have some good points, but it still doesn't quell the unanswered questions. Just by naming it the Cordoba initiative paints a grim picture. Research the Cordoba victory mosque in Spain. Look at the day they wish to open the mosque. Now, remember debris hit this building. An extremist would build a mosque there. There has been praying there for a long time, which would be less suspicious. It is either just an act of Islamic faith continuing to share itself in our society, which is fantastic, or it is a near perfect plan to build a victory mosque. The evidence to the latter is evident and decently strong.

    (This last post is directed to you) (the blogger I mean)

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  38. @ Zhirne

    You're the only idiot here. I currently live in Saudi Arabia and ALL of my neighbors are Christian Expats. They're treated beyond great by the Saudis. Also, one of the neighbors' sons is Homosexual and he likes it in Saudi way more than Oregon where he was harassed!!!
    So, don't speak on matters you have no clue about.

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  39. The 9/11 date apparently came from a misunderstanding, possibly a poorly quoted story, quoting Daisy Kahn, a board member of the initiative. The story said: "The Muslim organizations plan to announce the groundbreaking later this year, possibly to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the attacks, Khan said." http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2010-05-07-mosque-ground-zero_N.htm

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  40. "a majority has clearly formed an opinion" So what? Why validate prejudice, majority or minority? Why reaffirm the offensive ideas that: muslim americans are not true Americans with the same constitutionally guaranteed rights, weren't affected by 9/11, and that they are as a group synonymous with the terrorists who attacked us on 9/11. Why give credence to the illogical assumptions that are fueling the outrage? There were majorities against women's suffrage, the civil rights movement and integration, etc. Citing some poll still does not suddenly render a stance reasonable or make a sound argument for why people who took the proper legal channels should change plans around to quell groundless fear and outrage.

    If those same people would not have a problem with a catholic cultural/interfaith center (or strip clubs in the vicinity) then this is singling out one group b/c of irrational bigotry, plain and simple. I'm certain that people identifying from whatever religion Timothy McVeigh was were not met with this insanity when they tried to open religious centers. Double standards cannot be defended.

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  41. I would note a distinction between institutionalized prejudices vs. a community issue i.e. it is not the law telling the board that they cannot build the center, and in fact both federal and state entities have protected the right to build. The law on the other hand, prevented women from voting, prevented equal rights to minorities etc. The state is showing the board of the mosque more tolerance and protection than the Imam showed the Danish cartoonist, or Rushdie. I am curious, were you this vocal/impassioned about freedom of press when the Danish cartoon came out? Would this be one of those double standards you stated in your comment?

    The group has said that the purpose of building there, is (1) building bridges and (2) a community center. In light of the huge opposition, do you think that (1) is realistically satisfied at all in light of numerous polls? If this was a freedom of religion issue, you and I would be on the same side.

    I disagree with the assertion that this is strictly about signaling out one group because of bigotry; though think it does motivate a portion of the people, and this is clearly wrong. I initially supported the mosque, however reading about the insensitivity being shown in light of a clear majority who are not denying the right to build, but rather asking just to move it and an uncompromising other side with the goal of "building bridges"; it started to raise questions in my head. When I read up more about the Imam and his stance on the Danish cartoon issue, and questions about what level of Sharia law will be practiced in the mosque, more questions came up. I am not totally decided, but am leaning more and more against it; and think too much emotion is coloring the debate on both sides, and the real questions are not being asked.

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  42. IF it is true that the mosque near Ground Zero is to promote tolerance, I think that a gay nightclub should be opened next door to the mosque. Two names suggested are;

    "Turban Cowboy", or "You Mecca Me Hot".

    On the other side they should open a butcher shop that only sells pork.

    And across the street a store that sells and displays bikinis or ladies lingerie featuring Live Nude Models.

    Aren't we all for promoting tolerance?

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  43. "I am curious, were you this vocal/impassioned about freedom of press when the Danish cartoon came out? Would this be one of those double standards you mentioned?"

    I am curious, why are you asking me about a danish controversy apropos of nothing? And why would you assume you know my response, already dubbing it a "double standard"? Actually, I was in journalism at the time and I was/am a staunch advocate of the first amendment and press freedom. Sorry to disappoint--no double standard on my end.

    But now I'm wondering why of all the free speech dilemmas you couldve cited, a commitment to stated principles re: the Constitution is measured by how supportive one is of a European newspaper cartoon that depicted a faith and by extension its followers as violent? Would you have been concerned about/asked me about analogous fear-mongering cartoons that stereotyped a different faith as sinister, like: http://www.bytwerk.com/gpa/images/diebow/cover.jpg If the Danish newspaper had printed that instead, what response would be satisfactory? Old propaganda cartoons like that, and the atrocities borne of unchallenged dehumanization, are part of the reason many European countries--unlike us--have anti-racism/anti-hate speech laws that actually LIMIT speech. Including Denmark.

    There's a difference b/t supporting the right to speech/expression, and denouncing the content of deliberately inflammatory or irresponsible expression. Europe has it's own unique issues and context with immigration and religion/secularism which can't be conflated with our own. Using the Danish cartoon as some sort of litmus test is baffling. The KKK marched on NY once, and yes, I do support constitutionally protecting even ugly expression like that (excepting incitement). But I wouldn't ask an African American to demonstrate her commitment to free speech by asking how "vocal/impassioned" she was over art that negatively stereotyped AAs as a group. *boggles*

    "note a distinction between institutionalized prejudices vs. a community issue"

    Yes, community opinion does not always catch up/line up to legal mandates. What's your point? There are still "community issues" raised by "sensitive" citizens who don't want, say, certain ethnicities buying real estate in their neighborhoods, or gays marrying. This disconnect is still not a justification for treating a group differently, it just repackages the emotion (non)argument.

    Take the uproar that surrounded the Little Rock Nine, despite integration as law, that forced President Eisenhower to send in troops to safely escort the children to school. They were not moved to assuage tensions. I don't understand how one can argue that acting only acc. to irrationality, fear, and prejudice is ever the "right" course to take. No progress was ever made that way, and in fact the framers foresaw and addressed preventing "tyranny of the majority".

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  44. (continued)

    "When I read up more about the Imam and his stance on the Danish cartoon issue...more questions came up."

    Clearly you are not reading carefully/seeking accurate sources as you are still calling it a mosque. The only thing I found on his opinion is his column in the WaPost where he refers to it as a "crisis".

    So your beef is that the imam didn't support a Danish cartoon depicting a prophet (representative of his religion) with a lit bomb in his turban? The same imam who wants to dispel such stereotypes? Tell me, would you honestly expect a priest to support art that depicts Jesus in a derogatory way or Christianity as a violent religion? Or expect a priest to support that Ofili piece that used elephant feces to depict the virgin Mary? I remember then-Mayor Guliani not only expressed personal offense, but took it further and threatened to cut city funding to the Brooklyn Art Museum over this piece, and he's not even a religious leader. Did this imam threaten the cartoonist, or try to control the expression to the same extent as this politician did right in NY?

    Funny, I don't remember people calling for Mayor Guiliani to resign from his job or calling to investigate him for trying to coerce and manipulate the museum into shutting down the exhibit via financial black mail. And he was an elected official, not a religious leader, someone who is not supposed to enforce his religious beliefs re: the city's museums.

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  45. IF it is true that the mosque near Ground Zero is to promote tolerance, I think that a gay nightclub should be opened next door to the mosque. Two names suggested are;

    "Turban Cowboy", or "You Mecca Me Hot".

    On the other side they should open a butcher shop that only sells pork.

    And across the street a store that sells and displays bikinis or ladies lingerie featuring Live Nude Models.

    Aren't we all for promoting tolerance?

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  46. Sorry but I don't agree with this argument. It shouldn't be built and we have seen the Imam refuse to condemn terrorist organizations and accused America of being an accessory to 9/11. It is causing the 9/11 families pain and should not be built there. By the way this post leaves out of course that Americans are not opposed to a mosque being built but think that one at Ground Zero is wrong and should not be built. This article is just another example of the left saying that if you oppose anything you are a racist and a bigot.

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  47. The disease of conceit is a dangerous disease and you show signs of that disease. People's feelings and emotions often do not fit into nice logical arguments, in fact if they did much of the world's history would be different. But what often appears logical today in retrospect is proven illogical.

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  48. RE:re: the Sam Harris article
    Yes, I think we'd all like to see the statement Sam Harris proposes, but, practically speaking, it'd be difficult for Rauf to get the necessary donations for Park51 from Muslim countries if he called out Islam like that.
    He might be banned from several countries he'd like to visit. Part of the reason he was picked to represent American Muslims abroad is that he's able to speak to people in their own language. While that statement might appeal to American Muslims, he'd probably be hated elsewhere. A more gradual approach might be more effective.

    PLEASE, EXAMINE YOUR OWN REASONING.
    FIRST OFF, THESE MUST BE TREATED DIFFERENTLY THAN US. YES, SOME MUSLIMS ARE EXTREME, AND AS A MINORITY, THEY INTERPRET ISLAM THAT WAY. BUT WHERE IS THE OUTCRY FROM ALL THE OTHER "PEACEFUL" MUSLIMS AROUND THE WORLD CONDEMNING THEIR INTERPRETATION? THEY DONT IF ONE MUSLIM INTERPRETS ISLAM EXTREMELY, ALL OTHER MUSLIMS THAT CHOOSE TO INTERPRET ISLAM "PEACEFULLY" DONT NEED TO(OR CANT, BASED ON INTERPRETATION OF COURSE) CONDEMN THEM, BECAUSE THEY ARE ALL MUSLIM.
    AND YOU SHOULD USE THE FACTUAL SOURCES ON ISLAMIC LAW TO CLERIFY-THE ENCYCLOPEDIA IS A GOOD START,THEN ACTUAL ISLAMIC RECORDS; NOT A MUSLIM CLERICS BOOK.
    AS YOU REVEALED, IN MUSLIM COMMUNITIES OUTSIDE THE UNITED STATES, MERELY SPEECH OF THE SORT THE CLERIC DISCUSSED WOULD GET HIM BANNED FROM THERE. BANNED FROM THE COUNTRY FOR PROMOTING PEACEFUL ISLAM. NOT ONLY WOULD HE BANNED YOU SAY, BUT HE WOULD ALSO BE HATED. THE COMMUNITY WOULD HATE HIM? I DONT SEE ANY AMERICANS WANTING TO BAN ANYTHING, AND WE DEFINATELY DONT HATE ANYONE, IN FACT WE DO OUR BEST TO ACCOMODATE THEM(As this debate illustrates..)
    AMERICANS HAVE NEVER BANNED, HATED, OR TAXED ANYONE BECAUSE THEY THOUGHT OF A POSITIVE WAY TO BETTER A RELIGION.
    YOU ALSO ADMIT IT WOULD BE DIFFICULT FOR RAUF TO GET ANY MONEY FROM ANY OF MUSLIM COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, PRACTICALLY SPEAKING. WELL, I AGREE WITH YOU THERE. IT WOULD NOT BE PRACTICALLY DIFFICULT; IT WOULD BE IMPOSSIBLE! AND WHAT IS YOUR REASONING FOR MUSLIM COUNTRIES (YOU CONSIDER THEM COMMUNITIES AS WHOLES, I ASSUME) TO NOT GIVE HIM DONATIONS? HE “CALLED OUT” ISLAM. OH MY! HE SAID SOMTHING THAT MIGHT BE OFFENSIVE TO SOME MUSLIMS!
    YOUR "SOME NEW YORKERS DOESNT MEAN ALL NEW YORKERS" REASONING DOES NOT WORK HERE, WHEN IT COMES TO ISLAM, I THINK WE CAN CONSIDER 'SOME' TO BE THE 'WHOLE'-- BECAUSE IF 'SOME' REFERS TO EXTREME ISLAMIC BEHAVIOR, AND THE 'WHOLE' REFERS TO THE MAJORITY OF MUSLIMS, THEN WE CAN INFER THAT THE MAJORITY OF MUSLIMS ARE, AT THE VERY LEAST, NOT OPPOSED TO EXTREME INTERPRETATION, BECAUSE THE 'WHOLE' LIVES IN A PLACE THAT
    EXTREME ISLAMIC BEHAVIOR (SUCH AS BANNING AND HATEFUL SPEECH/ ACTION) IS PROMOTED BY GOVERNMENT AND CIVILIAN GROUPS; IN FACT ITS THE LAW.
    THE 'WHOLE' OF ISLAM DOES NOT LIVE IN AMERICA.

    THEY LIVE ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD AND AS A WHOLE, THEY WOULD BAN, HATE, AND NEVER GIVE FINANCIAL AID TO MUSLIMS THAT WANT TO PROMOTE PEACE AND UNDERSTANDING WITHIN ISLAM? YOU'VE MADE THIS POINT CLEAR.
    According to your reasoning, any non-Muslim should definately reconsider doing something as extreme as to "call-out" Islam by stating they should consider modernizing their religion into 21st century peace. Why? THEY WILL BE BANNED, HATED, and the many other negative things that I think we can agree go along with your examples.
    THAT IS WHY THEY ARE DIFFERENT THAN US. Its not much to ask to show respect..just build elsewhere. We dont promote evil Hollywood near mosques in Iraq. But we do give 2 billion a week in aid.
    They got you fooled man. Looks like they're one up on the country as a whole though. They can work our system better than we can! Ignorance is useful to enemies. Read Sun-Tzu, time tested bro.

    Your hypocrisy is entertaining to me, but thats whats cool why we are differant than Muslims. AS AMERICANS, WE CANNNN DISAGREE. As you agree, the bulk of Muslims see it a differant way.

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  49. Re the AUGUST 30, 2010 3:21 PM comment, what zoo did you escape from? All that pent-up hate about "they" and "these people", what was the Glenn Beck rally not exciting enough? That all-caps foaming at the mouth really convinced people!

    Hollywood near Iraq? thanks for the laugh. Because American citizens' property rights are sooo analogous to Hollywood presence in a foreign country.

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  50. WHY ARE WE YELLING?

    Back to studying...

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  51. RE: Aug. 30 2010 10:17 PM> (and everyone) Sorry bout the caps, couldnt figure out how to switch them to lower case with this dang mac after writing the PAGE.

    Jk. I was not discussing property rights, nor property law as it relates to the mosque issue. I was discussing the implications of the religious aspect in response to these claims of the mosque being an "Islamic triumph", or whatever the 'Glenn Beck zoo creatures' are theorizing it is. They seem to be convinced its all about a war between Christianity and Islam, where Islam is trying to take over the world or something.

    As far as Hollywood in Iraq-just observing reality man. I was looking beyond simple citizenship rights when it came to Muslims, because as the Glenn Beckites seem to believe, its about "Islam taking over the world!" So in response to them, if that is/was the case, Muslims would know that there are trained people that could help them gain the rights of being an American citizen, thus working themselves into the system they are "plotting to take over" or whatever. Citizenship rights are just a protective shield they gain in order to carry out their "true agenda".

    Not saying I'm convinced, just interesting.

    Im not us against them, and Beck is just an entertainer bro. I like everyone:) Just responding to arguments like good 'ol Steve asked!

    Attacking ones delivery only shows a weakness that the attackee can then use..might want to look into that.

    ..and once again opposing opinions only get the standard insult of being a hate monger in response.Brilliant. Yet disappointing.

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  52. jeez everything is offensive these days..even caps! Live a little

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  53. How are people not getting that the Constitution protects freedom of religion, freedom of speech (1st amendment) and the right to private property (5th amendment). Legally, you cannot stop them from building a mosque on this particular spot unless the courts grant an eminent domain ruling on the case and the land is taken for a better "public use".

    Under Kelo, the Supreme Court upheld this sort of use, although most states have laws forbidding Kelo-like decisions. New York doesn't have strong anti-eminent domain laws, so that is the only legal way to prevent it from being stopped. Logical fallacies don't win cases, precedents and evidence does.

    However, lawyers for the Mosque would certainly have a strong case against due process private property deprivation (again, 5th amendment) given it's location. Legally, the builders have every right to build that mosque. I personally believe in others rights as I do my own. If we start to pick and choose who gets what rights, we stand to begin losing them.

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  54. These comments are useless. As soon as I posted facts...mysteriously my comment didn't apear.
    I'm supposed to take you guys seriously? Really?
    My conclusion is the guy who wrote this is as pathetic and disfunctional as this current adminisrtration! You're just bringing more stuff to our attention that MUST be fixed.
    Let's see if this comment makes it.

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  55. Its surprising that you write a blog about LSAT preparation since you seem to be missing the issue here and IRAC is what law school is all about, is it not?

    The issue is not whether there is a right for this group to build the mosque. Of course they have the right, under the laws of this wonderful country (unlike the laws of countries that base their law on Shariah law) to build the mosque in conformance with the law (zoning, etc.)

    The issue is whether an organization that is claiming the purpose of this community center mosque is to promote "understanding" between Islam and the rest of society is furthered by ignoring the completely legitimate views of those most affected by the 9/11 activities of people acting (whether true or not) in the name of Islam.

    I think that it is fairly obvious that "understanding" is not advanced by ignoring the views of these people. I look forward to you explaining why "understanding" their views results in the building of this mosque in this location.

    In addition, I look forward to those defending the building of this mosque to reconcile the fact that many aspects of Shariah law promoted by even moderate Islamists do not conform to the rights protected under the U.S. Constitution, such as equal protection under the law. The treatment of women under Shariah law is frightening (if you've bothered to analyze it). Its great that you are so protective of the constitutional rights of proponents of Islam. However, there seems to be a bit of a gap when it comes to some of the other rights such as women's rights? To me, there is where your arguments fall short.

    Freedom of a religion is not the correct multiple choice answer in this case. It is a distractor.

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  56. If any of your comments didn't go through, it's likely due to a technical difficulty, and I encourage you to re-submit them. I allow all non-spam/on-topic comments.

    If you look at the above comments, you'll see that I've allowed plenty of critical ones. I'm not into censorship.

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  57. Oh and p.s. some of the people advocating for the building of this mosque are the same people that call Americans who are not in favor of modifying what has traditionally been known as "marriage" to include same sex marriage. I believe you call them "haters" and I have personally observed the vitriol unloaded on them. I am for acknowledging the right to gay marriage, but let's just ask the imam what he thinks of gay marriage.

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  58. Just a comment about the "false analogy" part - a more correct analogy might be that placing Park51 near Ground Zero is more like placing a German cultural center near the Holocaust museum. Nobody would object to this, I presume?

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  59. I like the German cultural center-Holocaust museum analogy. What about this one? A Catholic priest training seminary next to the site of a counseling center for the childhood victims of Catholic priest abuse...no objection there either I presume? It would probably promote "understanding," correct?

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  60. Yes, that's a fair analogy, since the proposed Islamic community center is a terrorist training camp.

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  61. @ David. it's interesting cause not all religion ar ethe same. there are certain religious practices that have been banned by the law and for good reasons. for example, there has been attempts to build a church or marijuana so that people can smoke legally and get tax exemption. also...polygamy is banned by law, and I feel that that is for good social reasons. So the first amendment isn't black and white and that is precisely why lawyers are still around.

    @Steve: does businessman ---> ~ radical islamist? (isn't he the Soho property owner the nephew the secretary general of Arab League who hate Jews and fund Muslim groups?)

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  62. Does anyone realize Muslims come from all over.
    Turkey, Albania,Italy,China, etc. Has anyone taken a poll on where these Muslims who will pray at the Mosque come from? Does anyone understand Allah means God in Arabic? Does anyone understand that a small group of terrorists can not control a large group of peaceful people? Does anyone have any respect for American Immigrants? Does anyone in this country understand most people who live in US come from immigrants themselves? Does anyone care about keeping the US a free country? Everyone is hurt and speaking from the heart.

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  63. One question - does this guy who work this LSAT has any knowledge of what he is saying??

    two - it looks like what he has said amounted to another set of lies as he had indicated that the mosque is not at ground zero - this is not about a mosque building exactly at ground zero but about the "Shrine" done for the glorification of killers and muderers and to build something like that next to a place where people who had been murdered by just that bunch of devils is just like telling the world - hey we MUSLIMS CAN MURDER AND KILL AND IS ABOVE THE LAW OF AMERICA - A CALL TO ALL TERRORIST COME KILL WE WILL HONOUR ALL MUSLIM KILLERS AND TERRORIST - LOOK WE HAVE THE SHRINE FOR HONOURING YOU >>>>

    CAN AMERICANS HAVE THIS ???? ONLY THIS LSAT GUY CAN !!!!!

    SO IS THIS GUY TEACHING NONSENSE WHEN HE IS NOT EVEN SURE OF HIS FACTS - Period

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  64. @Anonymous who referenced me-

    Relgions are not outlawed, only certain practices if they happen to either break any part of the USC, or infringe on anyone else's Constitutional rights. The examples you stated actually more strongly support my conclusion rather than your own. Social reasons have no impact on court rulings.

    To the guy above me, English obviously isn't your first language, and argumentative skills need work. But anyway, have you ever even met a Muslim person? Do you know anything about Islam? Are you suggesting that all of Islam is the same? Just for the record, I'm not Islamic, I'm a spiritual person with no religious affiliation.

    You're obviously what most Americans would call Right Wing; and one person shouting from one extreme to another does little in the way of presenting anything other than negativity. You are free to be as hateful as you want to, but in my opinion, a life full of hatred will never produce anything other than more hatred.

    The reality is that, like Christianity and Judaism, there are many sects, offshoots and types of Islam practiced. Not all of them want Sharia, the majority of them aren't extremists, and most of them would like to change some of the laws of their religion if they could. Many of American Muslims came here to practice a freer type of Islam that isn't so dogmatic or fundamentalist in view. The Quran, like the Bible, was written a very long time ago, not everyone takes the Bible literally, just like not everyone takes the Quran literally. Some do take the Quran (and any other religious doctrine) literally, usually accompanied by their own specific interpretation of what should be done under the literal reading, and that's where our problem lies.

    Nothing about the religion of Islam has been "outlawed" and Islam as a faith has not done anything wrong. There are Christian and Jewish extremists in the world who would kill because they believe in their own interpretations of their respective doctrines, yet because we are at war with predominantly Islamic people, any who follow Islam tend to be demonized as a result. This is a Part-to-Whole flaw as Steve states, which no rational person should accept as true.

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  65. I agree completely that the freedom of religion/speech clauses in our Constitution protect the rights of these people to build their mosque and hence they should be allowed to do so. The main issue I have with Steve's argument is his analysis of the part-to-whole flaw. Of course not all Muslims are terrorists. However almost all terrorists are Muslims. Can Americans really be blamed for questioning the motives of a Muslim group who decides to build a mosque near an area where another group of Muslims murdered so many Americans? If Muslims want us to stop treating all of them like terrorists, why don't they appeal to their own people to stop the radicalism instead of labeling all of us racists and bigots. We're only trying to protect ourselves, our families, and our country.

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  66. Let me make sure I understand you correctly; you're saying that Muslims living in America are responsible for appealing to those in training camps in Afghanistan?

    How exactly do you suggest they take care of that when they're busy trying to make a living for themselves and their families in America?

    Do you also hold all white Christian Americans responsible for appealing to Neo-Nazis in Middle America and the Pacific Northwest?

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  67. If you treat all Muslim like terrorists, wouldn't that really make you a racist and a bigot? How is that different than treating all Germans like Nazis or all African-Americans and accountants like criminals?

    Furthermore, how are ordinary moderate Muslims supposed to get in touch with radical Muslim terrorists abroad? Through the listserve they're all secretly subscribed to?

    You do know there are 1.5 billion Muslims, right? How are moderate Muslims part of the same community as terrorists (a different group) any more than Catholics are part of the same community as Baptists/Lutherans, etc.? Or do you think they all know each other?

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  68. A great article, though I fear those that are in the most need of reading will not.

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  69. to zhirne:
    "And there is nothing wrong with accepting 300,000 grand from Saudi Arabia?? Are you kidding me?"

    CLEARLY you didnt read steve's post to carefully..
    The saudi arabian prince who donated 300,000 for the project IS ALSO THE SECOND LARGEST SHAREHOLDER OF FOX! is fox a terrorist organization?

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  70. I have been so tired of studying for standardized tests without being able to apply the logic to current world affairs. I am very much interested in current world affairs, and the fact that you just connected LSAT logic to the "Ground zero mosque" issue is amazing!!! I am so thankful! This stuff finally makes sense to me!!!!!!!! I <3 you!

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  71. By the way. It is proposed to be a community center where people can pray. Not a full blown mosque. There are multiple mosques a few miles from Ground zero already built, there was no opposition to that. Google maps.

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  72. Oh my. Well... I enjoyed the article, Steve! Just thought I'd add my voice to the rest. This page has turned into quite the spectacle. And the rest of your site is truly a treat, and has formed the basis for my LSAT study. Thanks so much for your generosity and insight.

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  73. I've been looking for a perspective like this one for quite some time. I'm a conservative and educated Christian and I live in the South, where I'm sad to say that I've heard too many ignorant comments about what is going on in NYC. I'm sure this isn't unique to my region, but some people around here tend to jump to conclusions and go beat the snot out of someone before they have their facts straight. I've heard a lot of relgious people complain, but like you said I've heard very few religious LEADERS fight this because they know what it could mean for their freedom. Giving freedom to people that I don't always agree with protects my freedom and our potential for a strong united community. Thank you for providing an excellent resource to which I can refer others.

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  74. For Anonymous "AUGUST 27, 2010 4:23 PM"

    Well, if the proponents behind the Park 51 Project actually intend to build the mosque at the site for the purpose of promoting reconciliation, then your entire argument is nothing but a house of cards.

    What better day to introduce a project for peace and reconciliation then on the very day that the crime was committed? If the Muslims behind the project are trying to distance themselves from the extremists within their religion, then it is certainly plausible to think that they would view September 11 as a day to publicly make amends specifically because it affords them the opportunity to send a different message that the NYC community than extremists had done in 2001. In short, 9/11 could give them a day to paint a different - more peaceful - picture of Islam in the eyes of the community.

    Further, following this line of logic, it would make sense that they might choose to turn down cheaper land offered to them in another part of the city. Why? Because closer proximity to Ground Zero may be viewed as a "more visible" opportunity to make a statement of reconciliation within the community then if it were much further away.

    This is all conjecture though. Do I truly know their intentions? Nope. But it's certainly within the realm of possibility.

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  75. Steve, you are amazing!!! This is such a brilliant post! Not only have you made completely rational arguments but they are compassionate as well! Well done!

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  76. Thanks so much for posting this. I think it's high time that moderate voices are heard in America as it truly feels like hate and fear mongering has taken unprecedented highs.

    I love the following quote by Dante and think it aptly applies here: "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality."

    Thanks for speaking up.

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  77. "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

    — Martin Luther King Jr.



    "History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people."

    -Martin Luther King, Jr.

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