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Krauthammer’s Sacrilege: When Reactionaries Fire Up their Sunday Missals–and Miss

I woke up this morning to a curious comment on reactions to Obama’s Ramadan message, where the president defends the building of an Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero. “It’s obvious more people are against Christianity than where the mosque is being built,” the commenter wrote. She has a point: When Christianity is misrepresented as somehow either superior, cleaner or more virtuous than Islam, the record ought to be corrected. Islam’s massacres have a few centuries to go before they catch up to the genocidal graveyards of Christianity.

The commenter then reached for scriptures: the latest column by Charles Krauthammer, with the kind of headline you’d get if you cross-fertilized the Inquisition with National Lampoon: “Sacrilege at Ground Zero.” Policing idiocy is futile (and more dangerous than spreading it). Undressing it is more useful.

Krauthammer’s point is that the Islamic center should not go up “at” or near Ground Zero for the same reason that the Pope years ago told Carmelite nuns in Poland to leave a convent they’d established near the Auschwitz death camp (once again Charles, near, not at), for the same reason that Disney’s attempt to build a theme park near Manassas Battlefield was defeated in 1993, or that a commercial viewing tower near the Gettysburg battlefield was taken down.

Krauthammer’s comparisons are as vile as they’re false. At Auschwitz and Gettysburg Carmelites and Disney were rebuffed for good reason: they’d have been stood out in extreme contrast to the grounds in question, which, at Auschwitz especially, are surrounded by a buffer of, let’s say it, sacred emptiness.

What’s Ground Zero surrounded by? Forget about two blocks away. Let’s go literally across the street and take an inventory. Let’s walk up Trinity Place beginning at Liberty Street, catty-corner from the blasted grounds. There’s a Starbucks right there, one of many in the perimeter, in the same building as a dental implants center and a bunch of CPAs. Very sacred, those. Walk up past Maiden Lane. There’s a Century 21 department store. No, not the real estate company, but the place to “turn heads this year” because the place is “here to chic you out.” Oh yes, Charlie, Ground Zero “belongs to those who suffered and died there.” Absolutely. Let’s make sure they bring their credit card. Walk up past Dey Street. Look at that: the Millenium Hilton, site of a thousand Wall Street scores a day that keep Wall Street adulteries and shareholder call girls more lubed up than Richard Simmons in his prime. Superb “lesson in respect,” all that not-so-metaphorical screwing in full, unobstructed view (viewing tower style) of the place where 3,000 souls were pulverized. Let us bow at the patriotic altar of executive blow jobs and coital ladder-climbing and by all means, “show some special sensitivity to the situation.” CEO balls are the unquestioned dribble of American business.

Let’s take a quick shower, call the wife back in Jersey and continue our little jaunt, past the Payless Shoesource. Did I mention the McDonald’s and the Majestic Pizza earlier? Did we ask for fries with that prayer to the heroes of 9/11? Here’s St. Paul Chapel along Vessey Street–careful not to fall of your ass on your road to Damascus, Charles–, and across from that, St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, the acceptable kind of religious houses of worship because they’re one of us, and Christian genocide is, well, another story. Besides, the Catholic church isn’t really in full view of Ground Zero. There’s a building right there at the corner of Vessey and Church with… why, yes! It’s Jean Louis David, where you can get that botox look without the botox, and under $1,000. A look even a Carmelite would envy, mortal sins aside. Make a left on Vesey Street. Here’s the New York Department of Health, site of a million diseases, free condoms by the thousands, female condoms too (come get yours: easier finding them there than in Flagler County), convenient, too, for those cheapskates not wanting to pay for their own before going to the Millennium Hilton. It’s also where Lower Manhattan’s hardest-working women get treated for all the diseases they pick up from Wall Street’s Most Moral and Upstanding Men. Excellent location right there across from the former towers, “unlike any other place.”

And we’re just getting started. Haven’t touched on those other houses of worship lining the grounds–the banks, the law firms, the telecommunication companies, the other kind of churches (there’s an Orthodox one somewhere in the mix), the other McDonlad’s and fast-food joints, all as wonderfully sacred and hallowed as that other kind of hole–not so hallowed, necessary though it is and common to every one of us–from where asinine comparisons find inspiration.

And then Krauthammer’s climax: the Aulaqi slander. (“Who is to say that the mosque won’t one day hire an Anwar al-Aulaqi — spiritual mentor to the Fort Hood shooter and the Christmas Day bomber, and onetime imam at the Virginia mosque attended by two of the 9/11 terrorists?”). It’s the classic smear of 1.5 billion Muslims with the terrorism of a few fanatics who have as much in common with Islam as Krauthammer does with intellectual honesty.

Krauthammer might get his head out of his Aulaqi and look at the American scene around him, its 6 to 8 million Muslims and reigning champion-victims of double standards especially. When he writes columns like that, those Muslims are more American than he is on his best Fox-waving day.


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Pierre Tristam

Pierre Tristam

Pierre Tristam is a journalist, writer, editor and lecturer. He is currently the editor and publisher of, a non-profit news site in Florida. A native of Beirut, Lebanon, who became an American citizen in 1986, Pierre is one of the United States' only Arab Americans with a regular current affairs column in a mainstream, metropolitan newspaper. Reach him at: or follow him through twitter: @pierretristam

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