The Ground Zero Mosque: Jason Rosenhouse on Muslim American Collective Guilt for 9-11

At EvolutionBlog, Jason Rosenhouse weighs in on the proposed mosque at ground zero:

The notion that somehow there is a radius around Ground Zero that is now a Muslim-free zone is obscene and bigoted. This isn’t even an issue of freedom of religion. It’s about being innocent until proven guilty.

Jason Rosenhouse has hit the nail on the head here: the most nefarious element to this whole story is the right’s tarring of Muslim Americans with collective guilt for 9-11. It smacks of the Herderian politics of the 1930s, and as such it’s an attack on the very Jeffersonian foundations of our country: an American citizen is an individual first, presumptively endowed with universal human reason, and in the unalienable possession of certain rights. A Muslim American is not akin to a herd animal, nor is he or she psychologically opaque to all those outside his or her “herd.” To believe this about another human being is to exchange in our politics the Anglo-French Enlightenment for ethnic and religious nationalism. What is first about us is our individuality, not our tribal identifications. And we have far more in common than what divides us. This isn’t political correctness. This is the human universalism of the Enlightenment. And if it’s wrong, then America is wrong. But America is very, very far from wrong.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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7 Responses to The Ground Zero Mosque: Jason Rosenhouse on Muslim American Collective Guilt for 9-11

  1. Paradigm says:

    You must really hate this guy Herder. I think he has a point though. A nation is essentially its culture, traditions and history. Not a set of principals put down on a piece of paper.

    And Muslims are herd animals – we all are. Social psychology has ampel evidence of that.

    As for reason: did Obama reason with people during his campaign, or did he tell stories about himself as the guy who came from nowhere and beat the odds?

    • santitafarella says:


      Yes, I have a serious problem with Herder. And no, a nation is not “essentially” its culture, traditions, it’s history; it is a conglomeration of individuals who collectively decide what their nation is and will stand for. The Enlightenment opened up the possibility for a different kind of politics and I am fighting for that; that you are happy with traditional forms and wish to be a pragmatic apologist for them is your choice. I’ve made a different choice. And did you know that in Tennessee last night a mosque fire was ruled an arson?


  2. concerned christian says:

    This is not a Mosque, this is some construction equipment at the site of a future Islamic center. There are crazy people on both sides, so you better be accurate on news reporting.

    • santitafarella says:


      Oops. If I make a post on that I’ll make sure that I make the distinction clear. You’re right; it was just the construction site; the mosque itself is not yet built.

      But is this a distinction without a difference? If the wood frame were up and someone set that on fire, how is that different from setting the equipment for construction at the site afire in the first place? I understand that the wood frame would look like a building, and so its burning would send a stronger symbolic and visual message, but hasn’t a signal already been sent by this act that, whatever stage the building process is in, it is always going to be subject to an act of terror? How do the Muslim Americans in Tennessee proceed with this project after such an overt gesture of intimidation against them?

      Would you at least agree that whoever did this engaged in an act of religious terrorism?


      • concerned christian says:
        Lets begin by clearing the air, what was burned was not even a wood frame of the Mosque it was just a vehicle on the future construction site of the Mosque. While I agree with an active and strong opposition to all these mosques spreading through our land, I do not agree to any acts of violence to try to stop them. We should use all possible legal means to stop them including voting out people who approve them. Having said that I want to make sure that no one can stifle this discussion by trying to blame these crazy violent acts on conservative groups. Sometimes after the full investigation takes place we find that the criminal was not one of the usual suspects. There was a rash of Church burnings which turns out to be committed by an ex member of the Church. Similarly there was various staged hate crimes against certain groups which turn out to be set up by deranged members of the same groups.
        Finally, if you want to force conservatives to stop opposing GZ Mosque to prevent such vandalism from happening, then you should silence all environmentalists to prevent the burning of resorts such as the Half Moon Bay Hotel, which was burned just before opening, or the burning of tens of new Gas Guzzling cars in various auto dealerships. And how about silencing animal right groups to prevent all the vandalism targeting University professors and their research labs.

  3. Paradigm says:

    I’m not happy about the traditional forms. I wish we could all be free spirits. But that’s a fantasy. Right now America is experiencing an identity crisis – is it Herderite or is it a set of principals? It’s also complicated by the fact that the principals in question have become part of history and tradition – articles of faith to some.

    I don’t know how this crisis will be resolved, but I imagine most people are more Herderite than Enlightenmentite (if such a word exists). Most New Yorkers seem to be opposed to the Ground Zero Mosque, and New York is not rural Tea Party country.

    • santitafarella says:


      America’s identity crisis is clarifying, and I think that we are, at our core, a Jeffersonian nation, not a Herderite one. Most Americans in polls agree that Muslim Americans have the right to build the mosque, they just don’t like it. In other words, they are putting Jefferson (however begrudgingly) first and ethnos second. That, to my mind, is the victory here over Herderian politics. And when this building in New York gets built, I hope to visit it and take a swim in the pool. But I’ll be really pissed if I learn that mixed (male/female) bathing in the pool is strictly forbidden. What bullshit that will be, huh? And maybe I’ll register my protest about sexism outside of the Islamic center’s building at that time, and refuse to swim there in protest. That’s the American way. : )

      In all likelihood, however, and on balance, this center in NY is likely to be a beacon of America’s strength and a symbol of our commitment to religious freedom. And Americans will get used to it, and it will be a tourist destination and a lesson in civics classes. This is just part of the process of Americans coming to accept Muslim Americans as just another assimilated group of citizen-individuals. America is still the great experiment in Enlightenment universalism and individual liberty. This is the latest test of it.

      And one reason I think that this mosque is important is because I am convinced that Enlightenment universalism will one day be the model for a world government, a United States of the World (which I support). We’ll keep our ethnic and religious identities, but they’ll be in second place to individualism and global citizenship and universal human solidarity. But America is where such a Jeffersonianism vision of human beings must work first. And I think that it does (though the ethnos-driven Tea Partiers are pushing back against it ferociously).


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