Since long before the Islamist terrorist attack of Sept. 11, 2001, a storefront mosque has been sitting on West Broadway in TriBeCa, a dozen blocks from the World Trade Center. No one seems to have ever minded its being there.
No one is known to have protested the fact that three blocks from ground zero, on Murray Street off West Broadway, there is a strip joint. It prefers to call itself a gentlemen’s club. A man stood on the street corner the other day handing out free passes to willing gentlemen.
On Church Street, around the corner from where Cordoba House would rise, there is a store that sells pornographic videos and an assortment of sex toys. A few doors east of the planned Islamic center, there is an Off-Track Betting office.
So what is all the fuss about? Starting with the mainstream on this, Bret Stephens at the WSJ enlightens us:
Opponents also argue that building the center so close to Ground Zero is an insult to the memory of the victims of 9/11. Germany has spent six decades in conspicuous and mainly sincere atonement for Nazi crimes. But it surely has no plans to showcase the tolerant society it has become by building a cultural center down the road from Auschwitz. Japan is no doubt equally disinclined to finance a Shinto shrine in the vicinity of the Pearl Harbor memorial.
Actually, Auschwitz is in Poland and the Poles turned it into a memorial site in 1947. As for the second example, the US has caused all sorts of problems with military bases on Okinawa since the end of World War II. For what it’s worth, Okinawa is something like a Japanese colony where one of the most horrifying battles in human history took place between the US and Japan, with Okinawans caught in the middle. The Japanese military forced many of them to commit mass suicide with grenades so they wouldn’t be captured.
WSJ readers hold similar opinions:
Which I guess puts one of the columns Bret Stephens cited into perspective:
One only need look at the current situations in Muslim-majority countries today, where non-Muslim minorities suffer human rights violations sanctioned under Shariah law, which dominates the constitutions of those nations. The reality of a supremacist system within Islamic culture should be enough to preclude any dialogue with those who live by the U.S. Constitution and subscribe to the modern culture of New York City.
In Asia, the SOFA is a modern legacy of the nineteenth-century imperialist practice in China of “extraterritoriality”-the “right” of a foreigner charged with a crime to be turned over for trial to his own diplomatic representatives in accordance with his national law, not to a Chinese court in accordance with Chinese law. Extracted from the Chinese at gun point, the practice arose because foreigners claimed that Chinese law was barbaric and “white men” engaged in commerce in China should not be forced to submit to it. Chinese law was indeed concerned more with the social consequences of crime than with establishing the individual guilt or innocence of criminals, particularly those who were uninvited guests in China.
Following the Anglo-Chinese “Opium War” of 1839-42, the United States was the first nation to demand “extrality” for its citizens. All the other European nations then acquired the same rights as the Americans. Except for the Germans, who lost their Chinese colonies in World War I, Americans and Europeans lived an “extraterritorial” life in China until the Japanese ended it in 1941 and Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang stopped it in 1943. But men and women serving overseas in the American armed forces still demand that their government obtain as extensive extraterritorial status for them as possible. In this modern version, extrality takes the form of heavy American pressure on countries like Japan to alter their systems of criminal justice to conform with procedures that exist in the United States, regardless of historical and cultural differences.
Rachel Cornwell and Andrew Wells, two authorities on status of forces agreements, conclude, “Most SOFAs are written so that national courts cannot exercise legal jurisdiction over U.S. military personnel who commit crimes against local people, except in special cases where the U.S. military authorities agree to transfer jurisdiction.” Since service members are also exempt from normal passport and immigration controls, the military has the option of simply flying an accused rapist or murderer out of the country before local authorities can bring him to trial, a contrivance to which commanding officers of Pacific bases have often resorted. At the time of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001, the United States had publicly acknowledged SOFAs with ninety-three countries, although some SOFAs are so embarrassing to the host nation that they are kept secret, particularly in the Islamic world. Thus, the true number is not publicly known.