LSAT Logic and "Ground Zero Mosque" Arguments, Part 2

LSAT Blog Logic Ground Zero Mosque ArgumentsThis is the 2nd part of a 2-part series on LSAT Logic and the "Ground Zero Mosque."

In the 1st part, I analyze some arguments opposing Park51 and their connections to logical fallacies tested on the LSAT.

In this part, I offer counterarguments to other claims advanced by Park51 opponents.

Reactions to Various Arguments Against Park51

Claim that Ground Zero has Privileged Status as Sacred Ground

The site itself being "sacred ground" is certainly fair. However, New York is a living city. Some people go about their day-to-day lives next to Ground Zero. Cheap souvenir stands and strip clubs are in the immediate vicinity. Park51's short distance from both a strip club and an OTB suggests its backers are tolerant people.

Many non-New Yorkers seem to believe all of Lower Manhattan is a memorial with a 24/7 prohibition on business as usual. Things actually went back to normal soon after it was safe to return.

If it's to be a "victory mosque," it'll have to be much taller than 13 stories. Maybe 13 stories sounds big to those outside NYC, but if you've ever been to Wall St. or Lower Manhattan, you'll know many buildings down there are dozens of stories tall.

If you're creating a brand-new building in Manhattan, you're probably not going to bother making it less than 10 stories if zoning allows you to make it a decent size.

Manhattan's a pretty small island, and real estate tends to be expensive, so builders need all the vertical space they can get to make purchasing land worthwhile.

Park51 won't even be visible from Ground Zero (and vice-versa).

Furthermore, how does being sacred ground mean that one can't have a mosque a few blocks away? 2 long blocks away (the equivalent of 6 normal city blocks) is a decent distance when one considers how tiny Lower Manhattan is. If the ground is too sacred to have a community center containing a Muslim prayer space nearby, perhaps it's also too sacred to have 2 churches within one block. (At the very least, maybe those 2 churches can "protect" Ground Zero from Park51 or "cancel out" its Muslim influence.)

After all, if we're committing the part-to-whole flaw by lumping together moderates and extremists within a religion of over 1 billion people, we might as well extend it and blame religion in general for 9/11. Should we ban all churches and synagogues from Lower Manhattan as well? Since all the 9/11 hijackers were men (and since they were all humans), should we ban all men (and humans) from Lower Manhattan? After all, it's an insult to women (and animals) to have them walking around freely as if it were business as usual.

Sure, it'd be an insult to allow members of Al Qaeda to hold parties there, but let's not forget that Al Qaeda doesn't represent the wishes of all 1.5 billion Muslims.

The First Amendment does not allow for exceptions based on national tragedies. As The Daily Show reminded us, Charlton Heston held the national NRA convention in Denver one week after the Columbine High School shooting. His excellent keynote address discussed the connection between tragedy and blame and the resulting need to defend the Bill of Rights.

The Catholic Church placed a "Center for Dialogue and Prayer" the equivalent of 2 blocks from Auschwitz, and their center actually sounds rather nice.

Claim that the Name "Cordoba House" Symbolizes Triumphalism

Opponents latch on to the idea that calling the Islamic community center by the name "Cordoba House" is meant to invoke the Muslim conquest of the Spanish city of Cordoba.

Rauf says he chose the name to invoke 8th-11th century Cordoba, Spain, a period in which Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived in peace.

I suppose that if we knew nothing about him, we wouldn't know which interpretation to believe.

However, given his background and track record, it seems pretty clear that we should take him at his word.

Furthermore, he appeased opponents on this issue and changed the center's name to the very neutral Park51 (the building's address), which indicates some desire to compromise and avoid confusion.

Concern that We Don't Know How the Imam's Financing It

Some keep raising the question of how Rauf got the ~$4 million for the current buildings, and how he'll get the $100 million for the construction of Park51 itself. They suggest he might get money from conservative Muslim countries.

First, getting ~$4 million from a congregation to establish a new house of worship in NYC probably isn't very difficult. In NYC, donors have money, and wealthy people often donate to their houses of worship.

Second, people involved in fundraising often don't know where their money's coming from until the check arrives.

Third, is it that surprising that some of the money for an Islamic community center might come from an Muslim country? Are there not ties between Jewish organizations in the U.S. and Israeli organizations? Are there not ties between the Catholic Church in Vatican City and Catholic churches in the U.S.? Are there not ties between Prince Al-Waleed of Saudi Arabia, the News Corporation, and the Republican Party? (Prince Al-Waleed has also donated to Harvard and Andover, and I don't see them preaching shari'a.) Has George W. Bush not held hands with, and kissed, Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah?

Argument by Analogy that Saudi Arabia Doesn't Allow Churches

That doesn't seem to stop all the hand-holding, kissing, and exchanging of money referenced above.

Fox News keeps pushing the following idea:

"Since Saudi Arabia doesn't allow churches or synagogues, why should we allow mosques?"

Since Fox News and its guests keep putting words in the mouths of 9/11 victims, I'd argue it's insult to 9/11 victims to suggest that we should become more like Saudi Arabia, especially near the site of the World Trade Center.

Discouraging Muslims from exercising their right to build a mosque on private property, based on the idea that neither Saudi Arabia nor Al Qaeda is big on religious freedom, suggests we should lower ourselves to their standard.

In other words, these Park51 opponents suggest we become more like religious extremists and discourage the free exercise of religion, making ourselves more like the people we find abhorrent, not less.

Claim that the Government Should Stop Them From Building

According to a recent Fox News poll, 34% of registered voters believe they do not have the right to build it. For those people, the issue is the legal right.

Just in case anyone's not clear on this, government is not in the business of deciding what sort of speech or religion is "right" or "wrong." It's in the business of allowing and protecting the free exercise of speech and religion.

People's opinions on what's morally right, good, decent, or offensive vary significantly, making opinions regarding decency an unreliable source of authority.

While laws are also open to interpretation, the text of a particular law is (relatively) fixed.

We can't make policy based upon what Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, or Fox News consider to be an acceptable distance from Ground Zero.

Apparently, a few blocks away isn't far enough for them, but at what distance does one say "new mosques can be built north of this particular street, but not south of it?" Where do we draw the line? For how long should that policy remain in effect? Should one's freedoms be dependent upon the popularity of their expression in a particular community?

Following that policy exposes everyone to the tyranny of the majority.

Concern that the Imam Has Not Condemned Hamas / Terrorism

This recent article in the New York Times pretty much covers it.

Claim that 9/11 Victims' Families Don't Want It There

Sure, some don't. But many do. Those who do might be offended if Park51 were not built. Whatever happens, some victims' families will be offended, so we can't satisfy everyone's desires.

And then, of course, there's the issue that the First Amendment does not allow exceptions for simply offending someone.

Claim that Islam is a Violent Religion

Opponents of Park51 often claim Islam is a violent religion, contrary to expressions of peace by many of its members.

Sure, the Qur'an says some things I don't care for, but the Hebrew Bible and New Testament also endorse plenty of hateful and backwards stuff. If you're going to apply strict scrutiny to the Qur'an (and assume that all members of a religion actively endorse every word of their religion's texts), you're obligated to do the same for other religions. Religion today is not the same as religion in the time these texts were written.

Since the texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all endorse violence against nonbelievers, one might reach the conclusion that it wouldn't be decent for any religion to establish houses of worship near Ground Zero. However, no one really follows most of the prescriptions of their religious texts. Furthermore, how many people do you know who actually read their own religion's text, let alone obey a majority of its commandments?

Claim that Building Park51 Lets The Terrorists Win

Imam Rauf's proposed Islamic interfaith community center presents one of the greatest threats to Al Qaeda. It proves that Muslims can happily and successfully live in American society, in peace with neighbors, without oppression from government or from non-Muslims.

All the vitriol against Park51 serves as a recruitment opportunity for Al Qaeda. (Yes, the rest of the world has heard about the controversy.)

On the other hand, Park51 were to be built, it'd serve as a great symbol of American tolerance - proof that America is not at war with the religion of Islam.

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

Daily Show: Michael Bloomberg

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

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

For further reading: 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


  1. Hey moron, for some reason I don't see you talking about the Imam saying America is worse than Al-Queda. Missed that one didn't you lol

  2. Link or it didn't happen

  3. In response to 'zhirne' who said "Hey moron, for some reason I don't see you talking about the Imam saying America is worse than Al-Queda. Missed that one didn't you lol"

    "Hey moron(...)" - Appeal to Force (ad baculum)

    "(...)I don't see you talking about Imam saying (...)" - Missing the Point (ignoratio elenchi)

    "(...)Missed that one didn't you" - Attack on the Person (ad hominem)

  4. Steve-- You should delete comments that do not make sense or are just stupid (zhrine). Nice work!

  5. Great blog. Allowing the government to deny them the right to build the mosque would open the door to allow all sorts of oppressive rulings and tyranny. Our constitution is designed to prevent this very scenario and anyone who lives here and has gone thought grade school in the US should at the very least understand this very fact.

  6. I would support building another strip club on the site called Park DD. There is precedent for this, as evidenced by Steve's argument above. Plastic boobs would be the strongest message we could send the terrorists. However, Steve would probably critique my argument as being Ad Hoohoominem (attack by Hoohoos).

  7. Wow! This is the most clearly laid out set of arguments for building the mosque that I have seen. (And thank you for relating it back to the LSATs, I actually found it really helpful to relate this to the sometimes confusing wording of the questions.) MSNBC should interview you! Bravo to you for having the courage to express support for the mosque. My question is this: Are there any churches in the vacinity of the Oklahoma City bombing? If I remember correctly, Timothy McVae was an extreme fundamentalist christian, similar to the 9/11 terrorists in this regard. I've never heard anyone make this argument and I wonder why not. Thank you for this! America needs more voices of reason like yours.

  8. I disagree with Helen. It is perfectly appropriate for there to be churches in the vicinity of the OK city bombing. Remember, McVeigh like Jesus, was tried and executed by the state for his actions. Hence, building churches in his memory are perfectly appropriate.

  9. 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! libertarian-in-san-jose/nyc-mosque-set-to-open-on-9-11

  10. Hi Anonymous,

    I really do appreciate the service you did for your country - protecting ALL American's freedoms and rights. This includes your right to voice your opinion about any matter that you choose in whatever way you choose. This also includes protecting yours and Muslim American's right to worship in whatever way and wherever they choose. We've been down this road multiple times before - McCarthy-ism, Japanese American internment camps, Jim Crow - and history hasn't looked favorably upon these infringements of peoples rights. I dearly hope that we are not entering one of these phases of fear-mongering and extremism again.

    If you insist on questioning people's morality and personal commitment to their chosen God, I want to share this with you. In my personal journey with Christ, the most important verse in the bible is Jesus' new commandment to his disciples in John 13:34-35: A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 14:21 - Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." To me, this includes Muslims, but this is my personal interpretation.

  11. Thank you so much for quoting John 13:34-35 on loving one another. Now I finally begin to understand the cause of the recent sex scandals in the Catholic church. Obviously, when you read John 13:34-35 in Latin, "love" is translated in the transitive sense as "make love" (Fare Amore). No wonder Catholic priests reading the Latin Bible have misunderstood John 13:34-35 as meaning, "make love to one another" and "make love to the children."

  12. Hi Anonymous, you are incorrect in your conclusion that John 13:34-35 is the cause of the Catholic sex scandal. Actually, there is no sex scandal at all. In Catholic doctrine, the priest is Jesus's bodily presence on earth. For example, when one confesses to a priest in a confessional, one is actually confessing directly to Jesus. Hence, when a priest enters a child from behind, he is signifying the presence of Jesus within the child. The priest entering the child is bringing the body of Christ into the child, which is a sacred event, not something to feel bad about.

  13. "...Hence, when a priest enters a child from behind, he is signifying the presence of Jesus within the child. The priest entering the child is bringing the body of Christ into the child, which is a sacred event, not something to feel bad about."


  14. I appreciate the time and energy to be "logical" about the issue regarding those of us that are opposed to the mosque. However, I wholeheartedly agree that there are too many "coincidences" and "non-accidental" details of the plans to build this "inter faith" center.

    What say you on making this a true "interfaith" center, and have an Altar for Christians and a Bimah and Ark for the Jewish, and symbols for Buddhism, Mormons, and Hindus? But, this will not happen, because there is no such thing as Islamic tolerance of other religious freedoms.

  15. "According to a recent Fox News poll, 34% of registered voters believe they do not have the right to build it.....For those people, the issue is the legal right...Following that policy exposes everyone to the tyranny of the majority"

    - How is 34% the majority? According to their own poll, 66% of registered voters *don't* believe they do not have the right to build it. Doesn't this make your own argument a strawman?

    The real issue at hand is not about the right to build a mosque. Of course they have the right, just as people who oppose it have the right to express their opinion as such.

    It appears the mosque is going to be built, no matter how 'passionately' you feel about it (Question: Would you feel as 'passionate' if Jehovah's Witnesses wanted to build a center? Baptists? Mormons?)

    What then is the post about? They have a right to build the mosque, and they are building it. So it seems as if you mean to tell those who oppose the mosque being built that THEY have no right to THEIR personal feelings.

  16. Actually, their own poll says 61% believe they have the right, and 5% were undecided.

    You left out the part before "tyranny of majority" where he said "in a particular community" (so the poll wouldn't apply to that). Also, if you read the previous post, he talked about NYC as a whole opposing it.

  17. ^ that means 66% don't believe they don't have a right to built it.

    It doesn't matter what particular community as a whole opposes it, as there is no legitimate legal challenge to building the mosque. They are entitled to their personal feelings against the building of the mosque, just as anyone is entitled to feel those people aren't entitled to such feelings.

  18. The point is that just because you have the RIGHT to do something, does not mean that it is the RIGHT thing to do. Sure, they have the right to build a mosque 2 blocks from ground zero. But in my opinion is it not the RIGHT thing to do, and I am offended by it, and many other Americans and NYers are offended by it. If building a Church actually brings up a great deal of negative feelings and polarizes people in the community, to such an extent as this mosque development has done, it is perhaps a sign that it is offensive, or at least not appropriate/respectful to do so. Yes, they have the right to build it. Just as I have the right to call them assholes for doing so.

  19. Hey last person who posted, perhaps you should ask yourself why you are offended by it. Perhaps you have made unwarranted assumptions regarding Muslims in your mind (no small task since at least a billion people on this earth are Muslims) and now are appealing to emotion since you have no logical basis to your assumption at all. Hope you don't think like this on the LSAT otherwise you are sure to fail. Although maybe it would be a good thing for you to fail, because we sure don't need future lawyers like you!

  20. This is way late, I know, but to add to the counter-arguments for "Analogy that Saudi Arabia doesn't allow churches":

    A mosque is a place of worship for all Muslims, and Park51 would be for all Muslims (and in fact for people of other faiths or no faith, since it will also be an inter-faith center). Park51 will not be a center for only Saudis, so why is Saudi policy specifically relevant here? Saudi Arabia's population represents approx. 1.6 percent of the global Muslim population, and the Saudi government's actions represent exactly 0% of the Saudi population, since it is an unelected monarchy.

    To analogize the use of this flawed analogy, to argue that Park51 should not be built because churches are not allowed in Saudi Arabia is like saying that movies about Asia should not be allowed in the U.S. because Burma censors a lot of American movies.

    Anyway, thanks Steve.

  21. Great weblog. Allowing the authorities to disclaim them the right to build the mosque might open the door to permit all forms of oppressive rulings and tyranny. Our constitution is designed to save you this very state of affairs and anybody who lives right here and has long past notion grade school inside the US have to at the least recognize this very fact.

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