Gingrich wrong on mosque, mostly

Newt Gingrich has taken what might be termed an ‘interesting’ position with respect to the Islamic building which people are … Continued

Newt Gingrich has taken what might be termed an ‘interesting’ position with respect to the Islamic building which people are trying to build down the block from Ground Zero. I refer to it as an Islamic building because the ongoing fight about whether it is a mosque or a cultural center is irrelevant. Typically, if you are in favor of the building’s construction, you refer to it as the latter and if opposed to it, as the former.

Personally, I think that ultimately it’s a reasonable, if not wise project. Though I think the timing and the process stink. This should not be about the assertion of religious rights but about the building of consensus. While those who favor construction clearly have rights on their side, they seem to be completely tone deaf regarding the feelings of those who are opposed.

It ‘s simply not true that all who oppose this building hate Muslims, any more than it is true that all those who oppose Israeli policy are anti-Semites. Sadly, those who support the building seem to appreciate the second claim, but not the first. But this is not about my response to the proposed mosque/cultural center, it’s about Newt’s. And it’s about why he’s wrong – not entirely, but largely.

Gingrich’s response is 20% intelligent critique of the American Muslim community’s inability to engage in appropriate self-critique, and their failure to champion the cause of freedom of religious expression, not only in America but in the world and for all religions. To that, add 60% ridiculous/erroneous analyses of the facts related to this particular issue, and 20% rage and you get the Newt Gingrich approach to why the Mosque at Ground Zero ought not to be built. His position is actually proof that no matter how smart someone may be, and Newt Gingrich is very smart, it’s no guarantee that your stance on any given issue will be as smart as you.

Gingrich’s claim that there should be no mosque at Ground Zero “as long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia” is inane unless one assumes two things: A, that we should now use Saudi Arabia as our benchmark for what is appropriate as far as freedom of religious expression, and unless they are as good as we are, we need not be as good as we have traditionally been. And B, that this is a Saudi project lead by people who could change the Saudi position on religious freedom but have failed to do so.

The first assumption should embarrass anyone proud of America’s history of religious freedom being second to none and never contingent on the behavior of other nations. I am not looking for parity with Saudi Arabia, and can’t imagine why any American would settle for that. We should be proud that we are arguably the best nation in the world on religious freedom, not proud to be equal to, or slightly better than, some other nation doing a lousy job, as Gingrich’s approach would have us be.

His second assumption is simply unfounded. There is no question that the funding of this project should be more transparent than it is, but to suggest that it is a Saudi project or that its supporters could change Saudi policy and should be punished for not doing so, is simply absurd.

As to the history of Cordoba, Mr. Gingrich is partially correct. Life under medieval Muslim rulers was no picnic for Jews and Christians, and would certainly not pass any test of American constitutionality – not even close. But it’s also true that life under Medieval Islam was far better for Jews and Christians than life had been for Jews and Muslims living under Christian rule. So if Gingrich wants to remind us of the past sins of one religious community, he ought to remind us of them all. Failing that, his selective reading of history does sound suspicious, even to those of us who are tired of all questions about Islam being met with the cry of “Islamophobe”.

Newt Gingrich may be right that building any Islamic structure that close to Ground Zero is bad idea, at least for now. But his arguments for that position are at least as bad as the worst ones which favor its construction. We need to think this one out together, not compare the best of whatever tradition we hold dear to the worst of whichever one we oppose.

Brad Hirschfield
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  • cgallaway2000

    It seems to me that the critics against the building forget that we do have freedom of religion. I would like to see how these same people would respond if any government entity tells a Christian Church that they could not build in a particular area….without valid infrastructure/zoning concerns. The positions of Gingrich, Palin, etc., would be better if they were at least consistent with ALL religions, as opposed the ones they tell their voters they believe in (ironically is not the same as what they follow as evidenced by their actions)

  • bjm4545

    Newt is right on in his protest of the mosque at Ground Zero. It is not only ill advised, it makes a mockery of the tragedy at that site. I loathe the darker muslim world gloating over our monumental loss–not only people and real estate, but a way of life that has changed dramatically since 9/11.

  • sbiecko7575

    We are at war with religious muslim extremists. To suppose otherwise is nonsense.

  • Arif2

    you are an appeaser. Newt is spot on. The muslim terrorists of 911 were Saudi, the bet is that most of the funding for this “Cordoba” center is from Saudis. Building a mosque is all about muslim superiority and where best to build one than on ground zero. There is great reward for muslims in their next world for building a mosque and converting an infadel. Attack it first then seal it with a mosque, how appropriate.

  • jdiehl6

    I have several questions about all this.And why is it that Islam is still considered a religion when Muslims have openly avowed their plan to dominate the earth. This is a political cult and should now be regarded as such. And as such should be banned from the US and it’s territories. I see a parallel also that the federal government has decided not to face this issue head on but is taking the same approach as they used in Arizona when people there complained that the place was being over run by illegals – they are ignoring it. Time for similar laws for Muslims simply make Islam illegal. If your representative government fails to provide proper protection then it must become a local matter. And suddenly taxes begin to be seen as a device in this case. What are we getting for what we are paying?

  • ramanthunda

    The point is that had Muslims not been ousted out of Spain, today, Spain would have been just another Arab Muslim country where the number of Christians and Jews would be minuscule to non-existent. Frankly, the Jews were friendly with the Muslims of Spain and were eventually ousted along with the Muslims. All who are blind to the very obvious, by now, Muslim modus operendi for conquest of non-Muslim lands are blind fools. Muslims take over lands by force, quickly eliminating non-Muslims by forced Islamization or by genocide. If they lack the military might to do that, then they patiently build up their population and eventually their power in the land they are attempting to Islamize. Make no mistake, it is always their goal to Islamize whatever land they have set their sites on. Eventually, of course, their goal is to Islamize the entire world. Of course they will first concentrate on the countries where the laws are lax and can be used to accomplish the ultimate goal of Islamization. Today it is Europe and North America. Next it will be Asia. It may take a thousand years, but they are patient. What you and all non-Muslims under attack need to focus on is how to stop the advancement of Islam within the countries where you live. The building of Islamic institutions is, of course, a major part of advancement of Islam within that country. So stand with the side fighting Islamic advancement or stand aside.

  • Unpaid_Intern

    I think this is an important point. Whatever one’s view on a mosque near ground zero, this post reminds us that it’s vital to be intellectually honest, linguistically neutral, and internally consistent in express an opinion, especially on inflammatory topics.

  • twforg

    9/11 was not the work of 19 Arab hijackers led by bin Laden — Enver Masud

  • AGentleman49

    NEWT IS RIGHT – HIRCHFIELD IS AN IDIOTBrad Hirchfield, you’re an idiot. Who the HELL are you to think that you can hold a candle to the brilliance of Newt Gingrich. You are not only an idiot, but you are also a fool and your judgment is completely clouded and muddled by your corrupt and immoral world view. In fact, you don’t deserve to share a stage with him, and not even the media. Listening to Newt gives us all great relief from the painful idiocy of people like much as Preparation H rids a man of the painful effects of hemerroids.

  • AGentleman49

    Listening to Newt gives us all great relief from the painful idiocy of people like Brad Hirchfield muck like Preparation H rids a man of the painful effects of hemerroids.

  • AGentleman49

    Listening to Newt gives us all great relief from the painful idiocy of people like you much as Preparation H rids a man of the painful effects of hemerroids.

  • WmarkW

    I have no objection to an Islamic center in the neighborhood, but without a line-of-sight to Ground Zero.People visit the WTC should not have to look up and see a mosque looking down on them; not should pro-radical Muslims be able to look down with satisfaction on the destruction their brethren wrought.

  • darling_ailie

    While those who favor construction clearly have rights on their side, they seem to be completely tone deaf regarding the feelings of those who are opposed. Rabbi, you do know that that in the bad old days of gentlemen’s agreements the ‘nice people’ used this same argument to justify discrimination against Jews … don’t you? If you don’t remember, it went as follows:~’Oh, some of our best friends are Jews. And I’m sure Mr Hirschfield is a very nice man. But we have to consider the FEELINGS of our neighbours/the other members/the other students. We have to decline. The timing is wrong. People aren’t ready.’~Do you remember the neighbourhoods, accommodations, and quotas that were ‘restricted’ to keep Jews out? The Jews who worked at breaking down those barriers were also accused of being ‘completely tone deaf regarding the feelings of those who [were] opposed’ to having to associate with Jews. Soft segregationists used a similar argument.Do you believe we have a moral obligation to stand up for what is right, or are you secretly one of those nice white shoe Protestants… in a kippah?

  • probably-no-deity


  • muslim1908

    Once again, more sweeping collective judgments from Hirschfield as he decries the “American Muslim community’s inability to engage in appropriate self-critique.” Would it be fair of me to decry the inability of the Jewish community to end the illegal and brutal occupation of Palestine? I would argue not, since this is the mentality that justifies terrorism against Jews everywhere (even in Mumbai). However, this is the kind of Judgment Hirschfield thinks American Muslims deserve: collective guilt and punishment. All of his articles treat Muslims like they are the Borg (from Star Trek), although I appreciate his pro forma statements of tolerance and nuanced analysis.Once again, more viral Islamophobic hate in the comments section. Just another day at the On Faith blog!(yawn)

  • EddietheInfidel

    If the proponents of this project are truly interested in inter-religious outreach, they should include a Jewish synagogue, and Catholic and Protestant chapels in their design. Alternatively, they could design the building as entirely secular, with no religious prayer spaces at all.

  • EddietheInfidel

    Oops, I forgot to mention that Hindu, Buddhist, Sihk and Flying Spaghetti Monster temples should be included as well.

  • areyousaying

    I would support Newt if he were equally adamant about not building Catholic Churches near middle schools for similar reasons.

  • Jihadist

    So, Newt is also a historian in a field I know not, a writer of historical fiction, an ex-speaker of the House and possible Republican presidential candidate in 2010 among other things.It would seem that he is building up and on a particular target group in the US for his support base. And having links with the American Enterprise Institute gives a particular flavour and texture on where he is coming from and where he is going. If and when Newt succeeded in becoming the President of the United States, he will find Russia and China a bigger challegene and threat to US global pre-eminence in the politial, economic and security sphere. For now, he is wasting time doing a sort of quid pro quo with Saudi Arabia on Park 51/Cordoba House which seem to have pitted American Muslims and mosques as bargaining chips. Countering terrorism in Newt’s way by alluding Park 51/Cordoba House’s links with terrorists’ and/or alleged Muslim beach head in the US is not unique to him. His reasoning and language is the same as terrorists and hyperbolic-nationalist sorts in the world heightening fear, feeding off fears and mistrust and fanning them on. May at least cooler hotheads prevail if there be no cooler heads on this.

  • johnhouse

    ONE MORE TIME – Newt is wrong in his story telling about the mosque in Cordoba. It was the Christians who ousted the Muslims (in the 13th century) and then turned their mosque into the cathedral that stands today. Not the other way around like Newt tells it. And if you want to see people gloating about their conquest go look at the images depicted in that very church with Moors on their knees begging for mercy from their Christian conquerors while offering up the keys of the city. With that obvious misunderstanding (or blatant lie) by Newt, the rest of his argument has no credibility.

  • tlwinslow

    Who’s right about the Muslim invasion and occupation of Spain? Find out by studying Islam’s history with your browser free with the Historyscoper and see how deep the rabbit hole goes. Keep up on daily news:

  • pandemonium57

    If you object to the Cordoba Mosque at Ground Zero, sign the petition at

  • phackit

    I don’t fully agree with Mr Newt Gingrich, but I somewhat understand what he is saying. I understand the point he is trying to make.

  • rosebud6642

    Once again, a liberal spews forth garbage! Rails against non-Jews and fails to remove the planks from his own eyes!

  • Rosary1

    Johnhouse, get your facts straight; you say Newt is a liar because the Cathedral was built on top of a Mosque? That’s true; however, the Mosque itself was built in place of the Church of St. Vincent, a Christian Visigoth Church, and was built in part with materials that were originally part of the church. Therefore, you owe Newt an apology.

  • johnhouse

    Rosary – I would apologize to Newt if I thought for one minute that he was talking about the building of a mosque on the same land that occupied St. Vincent. But he said the name Cordoba “refers to Cordoba, Spain – the capital of Muslim conquerors who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosque complex.” Reading the history of the mosque you will find that there was no “symbolized victory.” In fact the Emir Abd ar-Rahman I bought the church, and he and his descendants reworked it over two centuries to refashion it as a mosque, starting in 784. Hardly the actions of bloodthirsty conquerors. According to some authors the church of St. Vincent was demolished after it was bought from the local Christian community. Sounds like a peaceful process to me.Go visit the Cathedral of Our Lady of Assumption that stands there today, the church the Christians built to celebrate their conquering of the Moors, and see the images depicted on the walls, showing the Moors on their knees begging for mercy. That is the image that we as Christians should be railing against. No I don’t owe Newt an apology because I understand exactly what his motives were. He took a bit of history and twisted the facts, hoping we wouldn’t notice, the same way he operated in the House. This time he got caught.

  • Carstonio

    Some hypervocal atheists make the mistake of treating all Christians as though they are Fred Phelps and James Dobson, and Christians are right in pointing that out. What we’re seeing here is some Christians doing the same thing with Islam, treating all Muslims as though they endorse the extremism of Osama bin Laden or Iranian mullahs. Hirschfeld’s point about “feelings” is misguided because the emotions stem from mistaken assumptions about the different religions. If some atheists knew more about Christianity, and some Christians knew more about Islam, they might not be so quick to characterize those religions and their adherents as barbaric extremists.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    Do you believe we have a moral obligation to stand up for what is right, or are you secretly one of those nice white shoe Protestants… in a kippah?Posted by: darling_ailie

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    Persiflage,Your post comment is reminiscent of many comments of mine, with which I did not think you were in agreement. It was our 1979 involvement, as I’ve mentioned many times, that began the Afghanistan we have today. The young communist leader, whom we could not abide because he was a communist, had, in a very short time, implemented secular reform in Afghanistan.The Russians held out before sending aid. It was only when they saw he was serious and capable that they began to help him. Enter US. That would be the same US that dispensed with Ali Bhutto and helped to bring Zia to power, he who with our US trained OSama and Mujahadeen, won the proxy war in Afghanistan. That would be the Zia who turned secular Pakistan into what it is today, with aid from the Saudis (our BFFs) who built Wahabi madrassas well known to us. Now, we are giving 500,000,000 to Pakistan and our Secretary of State says that it will help to build up Pakistan’s agriculture since Pakistan’s economy is agricultural. READ: The money will go to the wealthy landowners since it is they who own the “agriculture,” who also have indentured tenants, wearing bracelets around their ankles to identify them. Zardari, aka Mr. 10 per cent, will get his share, and the rest will go to the wealthy in the military and, of course, to the NGOs, American imperialistos, who will drive around in humvees and live like lords and ladies among the poor.What should be done: Pakistan needs to industrialize, first priority. With industrialization comes taxation and a need to educate the masses. Then, there is the need for infrastructure at all levels: roads, sewers, etc., as well as hospitals, schools, etc.Not news. Everyone knows this. 500,000,000 dollars.

  • packaride

    “Gingrich’s claim that there should be no mosque at Ground Zero “as long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia” “I’ll do Newt one better: Politicians in the United States should not be able to speak freely until politicians in Saudi Arabia are able.

  • persiflage

    Hi Farnaz. In my view US foreign policy is always based on ‘our own best interests’, at least as far as the policy makers go anyway. Consequences never seem to enter the picture as part of the short-range planning (our specialty), so we then spend additional lives and money trying to clean up the inevitable mess. But of course the news spin portrays something else completely. Initially, the invasion of Iraq lifted spirits and fueled a new surge of nationalism – but turned out to be the most wrong-headed political quagmire since Vietnam. But wait – we’ve just moved the action over to Afghanistan, so not all is lost…..that’s how we work. Looking at Vietnam today, one has to wonder what all the killing was all about – it didn’t change a single thing about their eventual destiny. The toll – 58,000 American dead and about 1 million Vietnamese, give or take. Totally senseless – it could be the CIA is actually in charge after all….

  • probably-no-deity

    Dear Brother B. Hirschfeild & Co. Note: In essence, Brethren N.G., is Right (Not Wrong).AMERICA, not Israel (Whom Lives & Breath’s off America’s “Goy”s, Heretics, Kafirs, … ) should establish a “U. S. — R E L i G I O U S — P O L i C E”. WHY?Because “WE, THE PEOPLE” of the Pure “APOCALYPTIC-ON NATiONAL’S” here, NOt Abroad, “Need-To-Know” WHERE: are ALL, Every & Any ‘SiNAGOGUE’, Mosque, Ashram, Church, Temple and other ‘I.R.S. 501 3(c) Tax-Exempt Org/Institution [In America, aka U.S. of A) is at. NO Exceptions! ANDand “WE-THE-PEOPLE” need-to-know WHO(?) [Rabbi, Imam’s, Bishops, any direct or indirect Theocracy’s Leaderships) Owns WHAT(?) & WHERE are All the Tax-Expemt Castles in the Air on Space-Ship Earth are. (?) etc.. It is OUR Business + our Right To Know; Includes Market Value of All [THEOCRACY’s] Properties in Question is/at/are.Note: That Newsweek, “50 of America’s most Influential(?) Rabbi’s” blablabla decoy, is as Lame & Blind as Ye god(s) System {Human Built Institution; Zero G-D built, only ‘gods’ built); unlike OUR “Gridarian Democracy” System (HUUMATE built Institution via awareness of the HOlyi COsmic ‘E-K-L-A-H’ [“IT”] not a HE not a SHE]-built. Soo, Sweet Sweet U.S.A. sais, “No more ‘Gods & No-More ‘Goddess’s etc. (includes their Churches/Mosques/Synagogues…)Pleazzza!V-O-T-E: TiME for ALL, Every & Any APOCALYPTic-ON, to wean the PRE-Apocaltic-OFF’s (Ju’s, Ishmaeli’s, Xrstian’s, Hindu, Buddhists..) off their PRE-APOCALYPTic ‘ABE’ic & Pre-apocayptic ‘VED’ic Religious System(s).V-O-T-E: Time to STOP ‘Subsidizing’ Any & All “Religious [Profit disguised as Prophet(s))] Institutions, includes their ‘Yashiva’s, Parochial Schools, Seminary’s, Monastery’s, Madrasa’s , Ashrami,, Sunday Schools/Camp..) NOW!Example: WHO’s WHO in U.S.A. (NOt Israel) as the Top 50 Imam’s, or 50 Monks, 50 Priests, Guru’s..? 2 of 2

  • Carstonio

    Gingrich’s claim that there should be no mosque at Ground Zero “as long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia” is inane unless one assumes two things: A, that we should now use Saudi Arabia as our benchmark for what is appropriate as far as freedom of religious expression, and unless they are as good as we are, we need not be as good as we have traditionally been. And B, that this is a Saudi project lead by people who could change the Saudi position on religious freedom but have failed to do so. While I agree with Hirschfeld on these two points, there’s a much more problematic assumption at work – Gingrich wrongly implies that this is about Islam versus Christianity and Judaism, or that America has an interest in defending those two religions.

  • autumneve

    Allowing Muslims to live in America and to avail them of all the freedoms, rights and privileges that our servicemen have fought and died for is equivalent to having allowed Japanese and Germans to have done so in the years 1941-1945. Wake up America, the takeover has begun.

  • farnaz_mansouri2

    Persiflage,RE: the documentsThere is nothing surprising in ISI’s support for the Taliban. This is a regional/religious/ethnic thing, loosely speaking. It was the ISI and the Taliban of yesteryear (the Mujaheddin) who fought our proxy war in Afghanistan, bringing us, through our sponsorship of Zia and Osama the Pakistan and Afghanistan we have today.It is principally, the poor among the ISI who support the Taliban, but not exclusively they. They are joining their Muslim breathren to ward off the imperialist Christians. This is not rhetoric on my part. I was in Islamabad in the Spring and shall be again in a few months.There are ways to ease the situation, but we shall not take them, partly because we are too blind, partly because we are too lazy, and, perhaps, partly, because we are too corrupt.The Afghans do not wish us to leave, and neither do the majority of Pakistanis who are secular. They want us to be effective, which we have not been. We should never have abandoned Afghanistan to direct our warrior, oil-mongering attention to Iraq. Now things are truly in a bad way. However, they are not hopeless.We need to get into Pakistan. There are persons with whom we can work and we know who they are. We cannot drive the Taliban out of Afghanistan since it is to Pakistan that the remainder will go. We need to keep mission heads in Islamabad longer than eight months–ridiculous, but that is their tenure.Our Secretary of State plans to give 500,000,000 dollars to Pakistan to “develop the agricultural sector,” since Pakistan is “primarily and agricultural economy.” LOL. Pathetic us.Pakistan’s farms are owned by the oligarchy, and manned by indentured servants, who wear ankle bracelets to identify themselves. (This is also known as slavery.) Many have simply walked off the farms, and so now there is a class of “landless men,” Taliban material. Clinton donating our money to the oligarchy, Zardari, aka MR. 10 per cent, and the military will not stop the Talibanization of Pakistan.Pakistan MUST industrialize. That is its only hope. With industrialization will come taxes (currently, there are no taxes), a demand for mandatory education, etc. Next they need infrastructure on every level–roads, sewer systems, electric plants, hospitals, schools, etc.The Saudi funded Wahabi madrassas must be closed. All of this can be done. Clinton knows it all. Everyone does.Btw, WaPo is carrying this story.