Archive | August 27, 2010

Stop Gramercy Green!

Gramercy Green: tower of terror?

Gramercy Green: tower of terror?

I’m shocked to learn that NYU has a student residence hall called “Gramercy Green” (a misleadingly bucolic name for an intimidating 22-story structure) at E. 23rd St. & 3rd Ave. – just two blocks away from E. 24th St. & 2nd Ave., or “Intersection Zero,” where a student recently assaulted a taxi driver for being Muslim.

It’s remarkably insensitive toward the cabbie community for NYU to operate, so close to the site of the tragedy, a center catering to the very group responsible for causing the tragedy, namely students! That would be like having a McDonalds at Hiroshima.

NYU’s so-called Gramercy Green is less a building than it is a knife at the throat of Manhattan’s yellow rows of taxis. We demand that NYU respect our feelings by demolishing their Intersection Zero School for Assassins.

The Road to Roundabout

Hibbs coughed considerately and said, “Of course all our things came from the East, and” – and he paused, being suddenly unable to remember anything but curry; to which he was very rightly attached. He then remembered Christianity, and mentioned that too.

I’m surprised that none of the right-wing Islamophobes seems to have found his way to G. K. Chesterton’s 1914 novel The Flying Inn (read it online or buy it), the tale of an alliance between Islamic radicals and left-wing progressives to impose Shari‘a law on Britain.

G. K. Chesterton

Chesterton’s target, of course, was the progressives rather than the Muslims; rather than imagining an Islamic Menace, he was simply poking fun at progressives’ enthusiasm for paternalistic legislation in general and alcohol prohibition in particular by comparing it to the Islamic ban on alcohol. The whole book is a satire on what Hayek would later call “constructivist rationalism,” or the impulse to “straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard [i.e., the particularities of local tradition] made.”

The book is excellent fun, and I’m rather glad it hasn’t yet been pressed into the service of evil. My favourite passage occurs in the back rooms of Parliament, between Lord Ivywood, who favours prohibition, and his cousin Dorian Wimpole, who opposes it:

“It’s awfully jolly that we’ve met. I suppose you’ve come up to make a speech. I should like to hear it. We haven’t always agreed; but, by God, if there’s anything good left in literature it’s your speeches reported in a newspaper. … Do let me hear your speech! I’ve got a seat upstairs, you know.”

“If you wish it,” said Ivywood hurriedly, “but I shan’t make much of a speech to-night.” And he looked at the wall behind Wimpole’s head with thunderous wrinkles thickening on his brow. It was essential to his brilliant and rapid scheme, of course, that the Commons should make no comment at all on his little alteration in the law. …

“It’s about this public-house affair of yours, I suppose. I’d like to hear you speak on that. P’raps I’ll speak myself. I’ve been thinking about it a good deal all day, and a good deal of last night, too. Now, here’s what I should say to the House, if I were you. To begin with, can you abolish the public-house? Are you important enough now to abolish the public-house? … You will abolish ale! … The fate of the Inn is to be settled in that hot little room upstairs! Take care its fate and yours are not settled in the Inn. Take care Englishmen don’t sit in judgment on you as they do on many another corpse at an inquest – at a common public-house! Take care that the one tavern that is really neglected and shut up and passed like a house of pestilence is not the tavern in which I drink to-night, and that merely because it is the worst tavern on the King’s highway. Take care this place where we sit does not get a name like any pub where sailors are hocussed or girls debauched. That is what I shall say to them,” said he, rising cheerfully, “that’s what I shall say. …”

Lord Ivywood was observing him with a deathly quietude; another idea had come into his fertile mind. He knew his cousin, though excited, was not in the least intoxicated; he knew he was quite capable of making a speech and even a good one. He knew that any speech, good or bad, would wreck his whole plan and send the wild inn flying again. But the orator had resumed his seat and drained his glass, passing a hand across his brow. And he remembered that a man who keeps a vigil in a wood all night and drinks wine on the following evening is liable to an accident that is not drunkenness, but something much healthier.

“I suppose your speech will come on pretty soon,” said Dorian, looking at the table. “You’ll let me know when it does, of course. Really and truly, I don’t want to miss it. And I’ve forgotten all the ways here, and feel pretty tired. You’ll let me know?”

“Yes,” said Lord Ivywood.

Stillness fell along all the rooms until Lord Ivywood broke it by saying:

“Debate is a most necessary thing; but there are times when it rather impedes than assists parliamentary government.”

He received no reply. Dorian still sat as if looking at the table, but his eyelids had lightly fallen; he was asleep. Almost at the same moment the Member of Government, who was nearly asleep, appeared at the entrance of the long room and made some sort of weary signal.

Philip Ivywood raised himself on his crutch and stood for a moment looking at the sleeping man. Then he and his crutch trailed out of the long room, leaving the sleeping man behind. Nor was that the only thing that he left behind. He also left behind an unlighted cigarette and his honour and all the England of his father’s; everything that could really distinguish that high house beside the river from any tavern for the hocussing of sailors. He went upstairs and did his business in twenty minutes in the only speech he had ever delivered without any trace of eloquence. And from that hour forth he was the naked fanatic; and could feed on nothing but the future.


The Sinister Truth

Christopher Hitchens looking sinister

Christopher Hitchens looking sinister

To his credit, Christopher Hitchens is no fan of the anti-mosqueteers, whose arguments he has called “so stupid and demagogic as to be beneath notice.” But, as usual, he undermines his case by issuing very anti-mosqueteer-ish attacks on Faisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the non-ground-Zero non-mosque.

I don’t know enough about Faisal Rauf to assess the charge that he’s less moderate than he seems. I do know, however, that the main argument that Hitchens and others have been offering savours of merde du taureau.

Hitchens’ (and others’) chief case against the imam is that he made shady and creepy, or sinister (a favourite term of Hitchens’), remarks about 9/11 on 60 Minutes a few weeks after the attacks.

So okay, let’s check out Faisal Rauf’s shady, creepy, sinister sentiments:

Faisal Abdul Rauf, perhaps strangling an invisible baby

Faisal Abdul Rauf, perhaps strangling an invisible baby

Fanaticism and terrorism have no place in Islam. … There are always people who will do peculiar things, and think that they are doing things in the name of their religion. … God says in the Koran that they think that they are doing right, but they are doing wrong. … [Anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world] is a reaction against the US government politically, where we espouse principles of democracy and human rights, and where we ally ourselves with oppressive regimes in many of these countries. … I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened …. because we have been accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA.

Oh, I see. So by “shady,” “creepy,” and “sinister,” Hitchens evidently means “utterly reasonable and obviously true.” No wonder he wrote a book about Orwell.

Tertium Datur

gay Muslim demonstrators

I’m curious to know what the right-wing anti-mosqueteers’ response will be to this proposal (CHT Starchild) to open a gay bar – catering specifically to gay Muslims – next to the non-Ground-Zero non-mosque.

It puts them in a bit of a bind, I should think. Lately, people who’ve never given a damn about the rights of gays before have been invoking Islamic homophobia to justify their own Islamophobia. It’ll be interesting to see whether the conservatives’ newfound concern for gays will extend to a support for this latest effort, i.e., whether their anti-Muslim bigotry will be strong enough to overwhelm their usual anti-gay bigotry.

In other words: will the anti-mosqueteers be willing to pass beyond mere lip service, suppress their gag reflex, and swallow a gay bar? (Sorry.)

I reserve the right, however, to remain skeptical about the claim that the bar will have better music than the Islamic center. But then, I really like Islamic music.

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