Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Between a ‘Mosque’ & A Hard Place by Mahmoud Fadli

Between a ‘Mosque’ & A Hard Place
A closing argument in support of the construction of the ‘controversial’ Park 51 Islamic Community Center

By Mahmoud Fadli


It was called a place to be used by “terrorists to worship their monkey god” by Tea Party Spokesman Mark Williams, and has many conservative commentators such as Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich in the United States voicing their open opposition to its construction. Rights groups such as the Anti-Defamation League have said that the project to build a “nonsectarian community, cultural and interfaith spiritual center along with a Muslim prayer area and a monument to honor all those … lost on 9/11” would be “counterproductive to healing” nearly nine years after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City. The controversy, which came almost three months before mid-term elections in the United States, even saw attention from President Barak Obama, who said that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guaranteed the freedom of religion, and that the right has been “upheld ever since” its addition to the Constitution. President Obama even noted that Al Queda, the terrorist network which claimed responsibility for attacks, does not equate to Islam, and that Al Queda’s cause “is not Islam – it is a gross distortion of Islam.”

While from a legal standpoint the community center’s construction is in compliance with local zoning ordinances, there remains a larger, more pressing issue that is beyond the law. Many unspoken assumptions lay hidden in the arguments presented against the project, assumptions evident when “many families of those killed in the attacks have mounted an emotional campaign to block the community center, calling it provocative and a betrayal of the memory of the victims.” These assumptions, erroneous from the very core of the arguments against the project, stem from an association between the September 11, 2001 attacks and Islam, with many conservatives viewing the project as a blatant insult to the United States and a declaration of victory by Muslims against the Nation. This erroneous association has led many to view Muslims as a threat to the United States, and have caused many to launch bitter and emotional campaigns in opposition to the Park 51 project. Allegations against the project’s head, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, include his refusal to classify Hamas, the Palestinian faction now in de-facto control of the Gaza Strip, as a terrorist organization, and stating that US foreign policy was an “‘accessory’ to the [September] 11 attacks.” These allegations have led many to begin smear campaigns against the project’s head, associating him with terrorists and the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks. Despite the Imam’s insistence that the statements against him are false, the stereotype and stigma associated against him still persist.

These issues have caused deep divisions in American society, with one part viewing the opposition to the project as an evil that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution was meant to undo, and another part viewing this as an insult to the sensibilities of the families and friends of those lost on 9/11. In this paper, I will endeavor to write a closing argument to a Commission in support of the project. This will require that I look beyond the legal aspects of the project and deal directly with the emotional impact that the project has on the nation. Indeed, there are many emotions – fueled in part by conservative commentators – that have allowed an almost bigoted approach to the opposition, with anti-Islamic rhetoric now prevalent in the opposition to the project. 

This closing argument will use all the lessons learned from studying tactics of persuasion in this course, and will comprise of a rational, yet emotional, argument in favor of the project. The argument will draw on basic constitutional and societal principles such as the freedom of religion, the freedom of expression, and the overcoming of prejudice in which this nation has found immense pride and dignity; it will use them in a manner which truly sheds light on the underlying issues, assumptions, and fears that many have expressed throughout the discourse related to the project. In the end, I will conclude that it is not only right, but in line with true American principles, to allow this project to proceed, and seek to make it clear that this is not only an opportunity to show those that perpetrated the 9/11 attacks that this nation’s values will not be compromised in the face of duress and attack, but that a nation bound by the rule of law will never succumb to bigotry, even in the face of staunch opposition.


In 2009, the New York Times ran a news story about Muslims using a vacant building, damaged by the 9/11 attacks, as an overflow place for Friday prayer services. The building, 45 Park Place in Manhattan, was built in 1923 and was formerly owned by Sy Syms and Irving Pomerantz. It became home to one of the early Syms stores in 1968, a department store chain that still exists today, until 1990, when the store closed and Syms and Pomerantz “parted ways.” The Pomerantz family leased the building to the Burlington Coat Factory, who operated it until September 11, 2001. On that day, a piece of an aircraft’s landing gear assembly from either United Airlines Flight 175 or American Airlines flight 11 crashed through the building’s roof and severely damaged the building’s internal structure.

As a result of the damage, the Pomerantz family attempted to sell the building for years, “at one time asking for $18 million,” though not finding buyer. As the current economic rescession hit, the Pomerantzs found a buyer, Soho Properties, in July of 2009. Soho Properties, founded by Sharif El-Gamal, a New York City real estate developer and Park 51 project developer, purchased the building for “$4.85 million in cash.” From July of 2009 onward, the property used as an overflow place for Muslim worshippers of the Al Farah Mosque, in TriBeCa, a few blocks away.

The Al Farah Mosque congregation is lead by Imam Feisal Abul Rauf. Abdul Rauf, born in Kuwait and immigrated to the United States in the 1960s, is a Sufi Muslim and follows the Sufi tradition of “[emphasizing] a direct and personal experience of God through chanting and other acts of devotion,” such as meditation. Studying physics at Columbia University, Abul Rauf “dabbled in teaching, sales and real estate” before being asked to lead prayers at a small mosque in lower Manhattan in 1983. He is currently married to Daisy Khan, his third wife who is also the executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement. He committed himself to “bridg[ing] divisions, be they fissures between interfaith husbands and wives or political chasms separating the Untied States and the Muslim world.”

Abdul Rauf, or “Imam Feisal” as he is commonly known, has had a long standing relationship with the United States government since the [George W.] Bush administration, often being paid, in part, by the United States Government to travel the world on “good will” trips to preach tolerance and understanding between Muslims and the West. Imam Feisal was even called upon by various news agencies to “help explain to Americans why the [United States] was so hated by some factions in the Muslim world.” As part of his efforts to try and bridge differences between the West and the Muslim world, Imam Feisal has endeavored to create an organization that would be the “headquarters” of a movement festering a true understanding of moderate Islam, which Imam Feisal believes is truer to Islamic principles. To do so, he founded two non-profit organizations with a stated goal of “building dialogue between Muslims and the West,” the American Society for Muslim Advancement, directed by his wife Daisy Khan, and the Cordoba Initiative, the latter being the subject of the current controversy.  

The Cordoba Initiative was founded by Imam Feisal in 2004 with the vision of creating a “multi-national, multi-faith organization dedicated to improving understanding and building trust among people of all cultures and faith traditions.” The initiative chose to name itself “Cordoba” in honor of “the time in history when Muslims, Jews and Christians lived together in peace and harmony and created a prosperous center of intellectual, spiritual, cultural and commercial life in the city of Cordoba in Southern Spain.”  In 2009, this vision was realized when the Initiative began evincing plans to build a 100 million dollar community center with a prayer area. Apart from an article in the New York Times, little reporting was done about the project until mid-December when Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Favor” interviewed Daisy Khan, Imam Feisal’s wife; surprisingly, the interviewer, conservative guest-host Laura Ingraham, was favorable to the mission the Park 51, then known as the Cordoba initiative, was aiming to accomplish, though she noted that there was still misapprehension by Americans about the statements made by Imam Feisal. 


It was not until May 26, 2010 that the Community Board 1, responsible for representing Lower Manhattan, held a board meeting to discuss the project and determine whether it would be viable for the community. The meeting, described as a “raucous,” was heated and at times disruptive, with supporters and those in opposition to the project vehemently defending their positions. While supporters of the project included New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, victims’ families and various members of the city council, opposition to this project came from national political groups and some of the families of the 9/11 victims themselves. Opposition to the construction of the Park 51 project have called it insensitive, stating that “their objections are largely out of respect for the dead and concern for the families who have spent the past nine years trying to rebuild their lives.” This movement has gained the attention of notables in American political society, including former Republican House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who coined the project as an indication that Muslims wish to show “supremacy” over the United States. Despite this attention, the Community Board 1 meeting resulted in the approval of the Park 51 project, much to the dismay of the opposition.

On August 3, 2010, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted to deny landmark status to the Park 51 building on the grounds that the building’s proximity to ground zero and the fact that it was damaged by debris from the attack do not, alone, qualify the building as a landmark. Opponents attempted to thwart the project by arguing that the location for the Park 51 project should be protected as a landmark, also noting the building’s age and design as significant. The Landmarks Preservation Commission denied the status much to the approval of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg who told reporters that, “we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves, and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans, if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan." Despite the Commission’s ruling, opponents will continue to voice their disapproval of the project’s progress.

Moreover, opponents to Park 51 raise questions about the source of the project’s funding, fearing that it will come from sources that have ulterior motives or adverse interests to the United States. In particular, there are those who fear that the Park 51 project would receive funding from Iran or the Muslim Brotherhood and thus oppose the project’s fruition. This has lead many to demand transparency in the funding records of the Park 51 project’s organizers, despite assertions from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who says that such would be “un-American.” Despite Imam Feisal’s assurances that the Park 51 will identify all of its financial backers, skepticism remains. Project developer, Sharif El-Gamal, directly addressed the funding issue on August 27, 2010 during a televised interview with CBS News, stating that the project will “not take money from Iran,” and that the project will “not take money from Hamas.” El-Gamal went further, telling CBS News that the project will not take money from organizations that have “un-American values.” Despite these reassurances, it is still not enough for to undo the opposition to the project.

Primarily concerned with the fact that the perpetrators of September 11 identified themselves as Muslim and purportedly acted in the name of Islam, many opponents see Park 51 as a “slap in the face.” Victims’ families have also called Islam a “religion of hate,” with one family member stating that he did not want to “have to go down to a memorial where [his] son died on 9/11 and look at a mosque.” The opposition has stirred national campaigns that have become platforms for political candidates. The point is clear, however: the opposition is not about intolerance, or so they claim, but about insensitivity to the loss of thousands of lives on September 11, 2001. While some openly denounce Islam, the core of their argument is that while Muslims have a right to build whatever they wish wherever they wish, so long as it is legal, the wisdom of building a “mosque,” or even a community center so close to ground zero, would be unwise.

Such an argument is primarily based upon emotion and not upon law. In fact, many who oppose the Park 51 project acknowledge that while the project supporters have a legal right to pursue the project, to do so would be unwise and insensitive. This argument is dangerous as it circumvents the law by adding an additional emotional argument. In essence, this line of reasoning is acknowledging the denial of a legal right through an emotional justification, something that is very dangerous and difficult to overcome. In the next section, I will discuss the various tools of persuasion available to assist in attempting to counter this line of reasoning not just with law, but with an equally emotional counter-argument. 


I will first begin by outlining two of the various tools available to assist in presenting a clear and persuasive case. Argumentative strategies such as the “Send a Message” tactic, the “Conscience of the Community” argument, and a variation of the “Golden Rule” argument will be instrumental in proving this case. While many of these tactics may be prohibited in court, this argument is presented to a non-judicial decision-making body, which presumably does not have many of the restrictions on the methods and tactics that can be used. This allows more flexibility and creativity when constructing the argument, as I am no longer bound and hindered by the various restrictions that may be prejudicial in a formal adversarial proceeding in court.


Michael Frost’s Law Review article, “Ethos, Pathos & Legal Audience,” gives a clear and convincing explanation of the role that a lawyer’s credibility and emotion play in many legal arguments. According to Frost, many lawyers ignore the importance that “emotional appeals based on the facts of the case or the decisionmaker’s personality and their own personal appeal or credibility” have on the outcome of a case. He also noted that legal arguments are “not won solely on the basis of logical consistency and substantive merits;” rather, there are “intangible factors that often affect the outcome” of cases. Thus, to better understand these concepts, I will look through the lens of Frost’s article and look at the historical examples cited therein to assist in understanding just what is at stake in this argument. Given the highly charged and emotional context in which this argument is likely to take place, it will be vital to understand the true weight and effect that emotions will have.

Many classical Roman “rhetoricians” relied on Aristotle’s rhetorical analyses, dividing “persuasive discourse, and legal arguments in particular, into three categories: logical argument (logos), emotional argument (pathos) and ethical appeal or credibility (ethos).” Aristotle in particular understood that, in essence, it is the people one is trying to persuade that are the judges; in the American system, this can be the judge (if it is a bench trial, or perhaps an argument in a Court of Appeals) or the jury depending on the nature of the proceeding. Aristotle noted that “the term ‘judge’ means simply and solely one of the persons who decide the issue in the disputes of civil life, where, as in law-suits, there is a question of fact to be settled, or, as in deliberations of State, a question of policy.” Thus, in essence, the definition of “judge” was extremely flexible and not necessarily limited to the highly trained judicial officers of today. In fact, in many cases at that time, lawyers had to argue before untrained and unsophisticated audiences who routinely adjudicated most disputes, thus making non-legal aspects of an argument, such as emotion, a very important aspect of proper argument structure.

Moreover, Kalthleen Dillon Narko in her article “Persuasion: Aristotle Still Works for Webb, Wood, and Kocoras,” interviews two judges and a trial lawyer to examine the effectiveness and relevance of Aristotle’s categorization of ethos, pathos, and logos in modern advocacy today. In doing so, her article defines and discusses the important of the three aspects of Aristotle’s theories on persuasion. Stating that the ethos was based upon whether or not the speaker was “believable, honest and credible,” Narko notes that human beings are more likely to “believe someone who appears trustworthy,” with such being a “pretty powerful” thing. Central to ethos is the notion that a “lawyer ‘must manifest sincerity and belief in the propriety of the case,’” and cannot be viewed as someone “[merely] doing a job.”

Indeed, according to Frost, many rhetoricians of the time, including Aristotle, “[decried] the effect emotions may have on judges, but grudgingly [conceded] that, since they often [had] a profound effect, advocates must exploit them whenever possible.” It was Cicero who, in one instance, emphasized the importance of emotions in persuading a judge. He noted that it is “the feelings of the tribunal … [which must] be won over, as far as possible, to goodwill towards the advocate and the advocate’s client as well.” Quintilian further noted that emotional arguments, in having the greatest appeal of all, dominate the court, with “this form of eloquence [being the] queen of all.” However, some have cautioned that emotional arguments should be used with a “great deal of caution and care,” as modern day juries are often aware of the phenomenon of “phony emotion,” which can actually hurt the credibility of a case.

When used properly, however, it is this “queen of all” that becomes the centerpiece of this closing argument. According to Aristotle, an advocate should use the closing argument to “‘put the audience in the right state of emotion,’ and that an advocate should ‘make the audience feel the right emotions—pity, indignation, anger, hatred, envy, emulation, [and/or] antagonism.’” It’s placement in the end, according to Quintilian, provided “freer opportunities for exciting the passions of jealousy, hatred, or anger” in the judge. In particular, Quintilian noted

“[in the closing argument] we have to consider what the feelings of the judge will be when he retires to consider his verdict, for we shall have no further opportunity to say anything … It is therefore the duty of both parties to seek to win the judge’s goodwill and to divert it from their opponent, as also to excite or assuage his emotions…”

Frost further notes that “[c]losing arguments are important for establishing a favorable emotional climate just before the judge retires to reach a decision and for refreshing his memory of sympathetic facts and argument.”

It is with this in mind that the argument must be structured. While there is growth in the percentage of supporters of the project, the argument is still unpopular as the majority of New Yorkers still oppose it, and contending with the emotions associated with the September 11, 2001 attacks will be no easy task.  To evoke the right emotions, a theme must be selected. The theme should be “more emotional than intellectual,” and should be weaved into the arguments made before a judge. In this particular case, the most difficult task is choosing the theme itself. Given the highly volatile emotional landscape, the wrong theme can either make or break the case. According to Stephanie A. Vaughan’s Law Review article, “Persuasion is an Art… But it is Also an Invaluable Tool in Advocacy,” an effective theme should be “anchored in common sense, reason, and, most importantly, the law,” creating an “emotional connection between the legal arguments and the tribunal…” Thus the theme of the argument will be vital – and it must be one that will “highlight the aspects of [a] client’s story that will evoke the audience’s emotions (or pathos).” In this case, the theme would be “two wrongs don’t make it right.”

The next two sections of this paper will discuss two techniques used in argument that can be called upon in developing the proper theme: the “Send a Message” argument and “The Golden Rule” argument. 


A “Send A Message” argument essentially tells the tribunal, commission, or any decision making body that they, in deciding the matter at hand in a certain way, would be sending a favorable message to the community. Their verdict, in essence, is a message to the community, and may motivate a decision-making body or a jury to decide in a manner that is not necessarily based upon the evidence, but upon a certain policy objective. A similar, albeit different, argument, known as the “conscience of the community” argument, is equally helpful and persuasive in crafting a closing argument in favor of Park 51. A “conscience of the community” argument asks juries to decide based upon a “a sense of community loyalty, duty and expectation.” These methods have seen both praise and criticism from various commentators. In some instances, they are clearly improper as they are considered to be highly prejudicial, especially in criminal cases. While this argument is made in civil suits for punitive damages and criminal closing arguments and sentencing hearings, it can be of great use in hearings before a commission. In summary, it asks the jury to become the “conscience of the community,” sending a message that expresses the “convictions and conscience of the entire community” through their verdict. The argumentative tactic rests on the notion that the jury is the

“…oracle of the citizenry in weighing the culpability of the accused, and should it find [them] guilty it condemns [them] with the full legal and moral authority of the society. The public listens with rapt attention to the jury’s pronouncement of guilt or innocence, for in that singular moment the convictions and conscience of the entire community are expressed.”

An example of a “Send a Message” argument was presented in Gary R. Will’s Law Review article on effective trial themes. It was in the context of a civil case dealing with deplorable and “inhumane” claims-handling practices of insurance companies in Canada. In such cases, Wills emphasized that an effective advocate would help the jury to understand that they have a “very important function to fulfill,” noting that it is their opinion that is important, not the defense counsel’s or even the judge’s. His purpose was to empower the jury, and while addressed in various sections of his paper, it was somewhat clear that the sending a message argument was one way of doing so. Will’s example is indicative of a typical ‘Send a Message’ argument:

“You are the conscience of the community. What do I mean by that?

By your decision, you are going to set standards in this community, not only for the parties in this case but for everyone in the community—for your neighbours [sic], your friends, your relatives and your family.”

In the context of that particular example, the message would be that certain types of unethical and “inhumane” claims-handling practices would not be tolerated, with the intended effect not being large punitive damage settlements in such cases, but ensuring insurance companies engage in “humane claims-handling practices.”

In this particular case involving the Park 51 project, the message would be, as retired United States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said, that “we should never pass judgment on barrels and barrels of apples just because one of them may be rotten.” In other words, “to the perpetrators of terrorism and extremism, we say this: America and its values of religious freedom and tolerance will not be undone by the actions of a select and extreme few.” This, however plausible a message to send, may be subject to a potentially fatal flaw: if the “send a message” argument implies that the body making the decision is the conscience of the community, would it be a contradiction to decide in a manner that is not in line with the community’s true feelings on the issue? In other words, if the community is against the project going forward, would the decision making body be essentially overriding the community and sending a message not to the those who committed the acts of September 11, but the very community that they wish to represent and or serve, forcing them to accept something that they do not want?

The argument’s saving grace may lay in a basic and foundational understanding of the term “conscience.” Defined as “the sense or consciousness of the moral goodness or blameworthiness of one's own conduct, intentions, or character together with a feeling of obligation to do right or be good,” a conscience is essentially the after-thought that one experiences after certain kinds of conduct or emotions. A telling example of conscience comes of Justice Stevens’ experience when he observed Japanese tourists while visiting the Pearl Harbor Memorial in 1994. Justice Stevens explains that his initial reaction was that to think that “[t]hese people don’t really belong here,” but that upon reflection he realized that he “was drawing conclusions about a group of people that did not necessarily fit any one of the tourists he saw at Pearl Harbor.” It was this reflection that essentially reflected his conscience: it was wrong to categorize an entire group of people for the actions of the very few. The decision-making body hearing this argument will be in a similar position: they must ultimately act in a manner that, while initially unpopular according to polls, reflects a morally desirable decision that is in line with the “obligation to do right…” 

This in and of itself plays on a central tactic that Will’s article highlighted: empowering the jury, or in this case, the decision making body. It is the notion that the decision-making body has a greater responsibility that places it above and being the opinions of community – it acts in a much higher and more admirable capacity as its conscience, the final arbiter and guardian of the values that the community was founded upon. It is at this juncture that arguments telling the decision-making body that if it finds in favor of the project it would essentially be upholding the founding principles of this country would be presented, giving the decision-making body a more augmented and morally-praiseworthy task to do what is right, and not what is popular. This in and of itself is a powerful tool, and one that will play into the emotional desire to do what is morally praiseworthy – it stimulates the pathos (the emotional aspect) of the decision-making body, and it allows them to emotionally court the prospect of making a decision that is unpopular, but just. It is for this reason that the ‘Send a Message’ argument, especially in this case, is of extreme value. Combining this argument with ‘The Golden Rule’ will help make the argument more persuasive, combining the cannons of right and wrong with a clean conscience and allowing the decision-making body to take that final step and make a favorable decision. The next section will address this argumentative strategy. 


A “Golden Rule” argument “suggests to jurors that they should do unto others, particularly the attorney’s client, as they would have others to unto them,” essentially placing the jury in the shoes of the attorney’s client. This requires that advocates appeal to the jury’s “self-interest by asking ‘how much would you be willing to pay to avoid the harm yourself that the plaintiff has suffered?’” It places the jury, or in this case the decision-making body, in the shoes of the plaintiffs, in this case the project coordinators for Park 51. As a result of this, Courts have concluded that the “Golden Rule” argument is improper as it “contaminates the impartiality and neutrality of the jurors by asking them to decide the case on their subjective personal feelings rather than on the objective evidence.” Courts have condemned such arguments “as improper distractions form the jury’s sworn duty to decide the cases based on logic and reason, not emotion.” While not acceptable in a courtroom setting, a “Golden Rule” argument may prove helpful in a proceeding before a non-judicial decision-making body such as a housing commission or a zoning board.

In this particular case, the “Golden Rule” argument can be used in historical analogy. As part of an overall effort to connect with the audience and invoke the proper Pathos, it is relevant to look to the history of New York City as a city and raise arguments that are premised on de ja vu. In particular, Irish immigration to the city in the 1800s is of great value, with the rise in number of Irish immigrants to the United States causing alarm and fear among Protestants in the country. This fear resulted in the notion that “if the numbers of Roman Catholics were increasing[,] then the power and influence of the Papacy in America was also increasing, threatening America’s political independence.” Such a fear was premised on the idea that Roman Catholics were not loyal to the United States, but to the Holy See in Rome and the Pope. These are similar to fears raised with regard to the Park 51 project, where some outspoken critics of project claim that Muslims are not loyal to the United States, but rather some Islamic Government or Sharia, and that by sanctioning this project, the decision-making body is essentially facilitating the desire of Muslims impose Sharia law on the United States. While beyond unfounded, these claims necessarily lay the foundation of the counter-argument which associates Islam with Terrorism, and thus Islam with the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon.

To use the “Golden Rule” argument in this regard, it would be necessary to place the members of the decision-making body in the same position that they are in now, but with hindsight and in a historically analogous situation. The hypothetical to which the “Golden Rule” applies would be simple: “how would you make this decision if, with hindsight, you were in a position to decide whether or not to approve the construction of a Roman Catholic Church in mid-1800s to be built by a Irish Catholic in New York City?” While not the traditional type of “Golden Rule” argument, it in essence asks the decision-making body to decide the case with hindsight in a situation which is analogous – it tells them “now that you know what you know, what makes this different than the previous historical situations?” It carries with it all the historically relevant knowledge of how Irish Catholics were treated in the United States and the relative inaccuracies of the many stereotypes held against them. Of course, one may counter with “the Irish did not attack the United States,” but such a counter argument would be nothing more than a restatement of current argument against the project and not necessarily address the point behind the argument it is attempting to refute.

The tactic here is to help the decision-making body understand that in hindsight, the Anti-Irish sentiment in the United States was unfounded, if not silly, and nothing more than a result of a perceived political threat. The implication here is that this situation is no different – that the fears of Muslims and the repercussions of the approval of this project and more imagined than they are real, and that even if the wrong decision is made now, a future decision-making body, or even the nation, will correct it to the shame of the current body. The only variation on the traditional “Golden Rule” argument is that instead of asking the decision-making body to “do unto others, particularly the attorney’s client, as they would have others to unto them,” the argument is asking them to “do unto others, particularly the attorney’s client, as should have been done to others of a different time” in a historically analogous situation. However creative the variation, it still serves a very key purpose in highlighting the wisdom behind ruling in favor of the attorney’s client and provides the necessary foundation to create the proper Pathos, warming the decision-making body up to the initially unpopular, but correct, decision, and one’s desire to continually strive for the most just solution. It plays on the notions mentioned in the previous section on “Send a Message” arguments that allows the decision-making body to truly act as the conscience of the community and not as a rubber stamp to illogical and stereotypical notions of a segment of the population.

An even more contemporary illustration of an adapted “Golden Rule” argument of this kind is that of the plight of Japanese Americans during World War II after Japan’s attack on Peal Harbor. In 1942, less than a year after the attack on Peal Harbor, President Roosevelt signed an executive order which ordered the relocation of “all Americans of Japanese ancestry to concentration camps in the interior of the United States.” This resulted in over 127,000 American citizens being relocated to camps throughout the United States. Even after the end of the war, when the camps were closed and Japanese Americans were allowed to return to their homes, many had found that the anti-Japanese sentiment still remained; it meant for many of them, even though they were “free,” they could not return home. The trauma and the lack of wisdom that went into the order calling for the internment of Japanese Americans eventually led to a formal apology being issued by United States Government in 1988 which “formally apologized, provided compensation to those who were interned, and created an education fund to preserve the history and to teach the lessons of this shameful episode.”

The internment was to traumatic to the nation that President Gerald R. Ford wrote in his comment upon signing “A Proclamation Concerning Japanese-American Internment During World War II” that

“February 19 is the anniversary of a very, very sad day in American history. It was on that date in 1942 that Executive Order 9066 was issued resulting in the uprooting of many, many loyal Americans. Over 100,000 persons of Japanese ancestry were removed from their homes, detained in special camps, and eventually relocated.

We now know what we should have known then -- not only was that evacuation wrong but Japanese-Americans were and are loyal Americans. On the battlefield and at home the names of Japanese-Americans have been and continue to be written in history for the sacrifices and the contributions they have made to the well-being and to the security of this, our common Nation.

I call upon the American people to affirm with me the unhyphenated American promise that we have learned from the tragedy of that long ago experience -- forever to treasure liberty and justice for each individual American and resolve that this kind of error shall never be made again.”

While the issue in the present case is not about internment or the curtailing of any civil rights of Muslims or those who wish to proceed with the Park 51 project, it is nonetheless based on the same type of notions and stereotypes that led to the various executive orders that curtailed the rights of so many others in the past. Presenting this to the decision-making body and calling upon them to decide the matter in hindsight of analogous historical situations would necessarily provide a persuasive argument in favor of the project. By taking notice of historically extreme situations which can be rooted in the same types of fears, stereotypes and assumptions that prevailed during times of similar circumstance (war, attack, and mistrust), the decision-making body can better appreciate their role as the “conscience of the community,” and decide in favor of the project. These historical comparisons and the adapted “Golden Rule” argument of  “do unto others, particularly the attorney’s client, as should have been done to others of a different time” in a historically analogous situation will be highlighted in the next section which will present a potential argument in favor of the Park 51 project.


Ladies and gentlemen, we are now at a crossroad between feeling, and decision; between a tidal wave of fear, and reason. Between the hopes and aspirations of a community of Americans who wish to create the foundations of tolerance, understanding, and peace, and the tidal wave of opposition and misapprehension. So much is at stake here – so much that we had not expected to deal with, here and now, in your very hands. The burden upon your shoulders today is one that we could have never anticipated – one that quite literally came out of the blue and struck us all by surprise. It is a burden that weighs heavily, a weight that I could only imagine. You have my thanks, and respect, for carrying this burden, and serving your community. It is admirable, and I thank you.

One might say, ladies and gentlemen, that such is how history is made in times where the unexpected occurs, and good men and women must act and decide what is right. It is in these times that the values and principles of this nation are placed upon a scale, weighed against the tidal wave of public opinion and fear; it is in these times that our strength as a nation is tested, and that the hearts and minds of men and women such as yourselves are courted by those driven by such fears, and by immense pain. It is no surprise to any of us, the opposition – the protests and the outcry. It is no surprise that there would be this much animosity toward Muslims in this day and age. But it is in these times that a conscience intervenes – that a conscience begins to play its part in reminding ourselves of what is truly important, and what is truly at stake.

We all remember the sights and sounds of that fateful day in September. Whether we were on our way to work, driving during the morning hours listening to our radios, at home watching the morning news on TV or walking down the street in Manhattan, we remember. The television coverage – the sound of airplanes hitting those towers – the loud rumble as they fell to the ground – the hundreds who fell to their deaths in desperation – all forever ingrained in our memory. We remember the feelings of anger and sadness that overcame us when as we watched thousands of innocent men, women and children perish in the wake of savagery. Indeed it was hard to comprehend. “How could any human being do this?” It didn’t make sense to us; we tried to reason with it, but still, we could not – we thought, ‘this wasn’t a military base. It wasn’t a branch of the military or of the government – it was an office building, a place where thousands of people worked to make a living – to feed their families. These people weren’t in the military – they weren’t government officials – they were ordinary people like you and me.’ It didn’t make sense then, and even now, it still does not, no matter how much we try to reason with this tragedy. 

And when one does not even know why something happened, it makes the grief all the more painful. For even now, nearly ten years later, we do not know what to tell the innocent men, women and children that died on that day; we do not know how to answer them when they pleaded with us, asking to know why they perished. We cannot give them the one thing that deserve above all else: an explanation. A reason. For nearly ten years we have been searching, ladies and gentlemen, and we cannot yet find one.

No one can blame us; its hard to try and comprehend who could do such a thing; who could dare attack thousands of innocent people or fathom violating the concept of taking the lives of the innocent. Who could dare lose the fundamental concept of humanity – to hate their fellow brother and sister to the point of senseless and mindless destruction? In our hearts, ladies and gentlemen, there is no greater wrong, and no such thing creates a greater sense of pain and resentment. And it is because of this that we are here today.

Such inhumane savagery is never justifiable – it follows no creed, it follows no political ideology, it follows no morals – it is senseless, and it is beyond wrong. It violates the very teachings of Abraham, Jesus Christ, and Mohammad, all of whom preached peace, love, and tolerance – to love thy neighbor, and wish for my brother what I would wish for myself – it violates the very rule upon which we build our entire morality: ‘do unto others as you would have others do unto you.’ It is beyond the principles of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam – it is beyond humanity – and it does nothing other than reaffirm the principle that religion doesn’t kill people, people kill people, for no holy prophet and no merciful God could ever condone such a devastating thing. And yet, there are many who believe otherwise – who will push you to think otherwise and decide based upon a misconception. They will tell you that:

"…[i]t is not about reconciliation or understanding. It is about marking religious, ideological, and territorial conquest… This mosque is a Martyr-Marker honoring the terrorists who less than a decade ago killed thousands of us just two blocks away, and it must be stopped."

Ilario Pantano, Former Marine, North Carolina Congressional Candidate. 

And I am not paraphrasing, ladies and gentlemen; what I have just said comes from the mouth of a Congressional Candidate from North Carolina. It is this notion that is the binding force which presses this perspective onward in its quest to ensure that this project that you now consider never takes hold – it is a source of fear, and a source of pain, that drives it. It may be easy to call it hatred, or even ignorance – but it is not our place to blame those who act in response to this notion, or anyone by that matter, simply for a view that they hold. Every human being is bound by the convictions that they hold dear; however understandable the pain, however distraught their method of expression. After all, it is the very core of our founding principles that allow them to voice their opposition, and to do so freely, without hindrance. 

But I would ask you, would you dare tell it to those who died on that day? Would you tell the victims themselves, now, many of whom were Muslims, that in their name, and in a sense of misplaced sensitivity to their loss, we will deny this project because of our perverted views on the faith that they chose to believe in? That, in essence, their death was a result of the faith that some of them peacefully and lawfully believed in? That we, as a nation driven by conscience, would, in the words of former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, pass judgment on barrels and barrels of apples because one of them may be rotten? That when a man, a Muslim man, dares come forth to try to reconcile two diverging perspectives, to try and denounce the very acts that were done in the name of over a billion human beings who peacefully follow the same God that had come to Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, that his efforts are an ‘insult’ to the thousands who perished on that day? That they strike at the sensitivities of those who perished?

Ladies and gentlemen I do not deny the concerns some may have over this project. There have been accusations against the project’s developers, claiming that their motives and their intentions are far from pure. There have been reports that the project’s head, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, has failed to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization, and that he has even blamed the United States for September the 11th, a charge and a claim that cannot be grounded on any reason or any morality. I have heard these claims, and the accusation that this community center will be nothing other than a tribute to the terrorists who attacked us on that day, and that the name Cordoba does not imply any collective learning or cooperation; but that it means conquest, dominance, and a show of strength. I am also aware of the accusations that the project will be funded by terrorists and those with interests and values adverse to that of our nation. These concerns have made their way into the mainstream ladies and gentlemen, and the people behind this project have been placed upon hot cinders of the every-inquisitive public eye, and answers have been demanded; yet, when they tried to answer, no one listened; more excuses were made, more loopholes were found, and the tarring and the feathering continued without heeding a word. 

And if that was not enough, we did something far worse than refuse to listen, ladies and gentlemen. Many in this very community tarnished the head of this project, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf – a man who has consistently, unequivocally, and passionately decried terrorism, condemned its perpetrators and did everything in his power to divorce the fanatics that dare claim their acts were sanctioned by God. They labeled him a terrorist sympathizer and likened to those who follow the doctrines of fanatics on very fringes of our society. A man who had come to this country in the turbulent 1960s to build bridges and encourage understanding – who worked with communities to try and make mends to long-standing stereotypes that have long plagued our relations with one another. A man whose purpose and mission was so strong that it won the attention of the United States Government and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and led them to finance goodwill tours across the world, including the Middle East, to try and bridge differences and show the world that not only are the conceptions of Islam in the West inaccurate, but that the Muslims World’s conception of the United States is inaccurate. That the United States is perhaps the only place in the world that a Muslim can live knowing that they are given the rights, the freedoms and privileges, that every human being is entitled to, both under our Bill of Rights, and under Islamic principles; that they, and all those who live in this nation, are allowed the freedom to worship, in peace, and in harmony, with one another.

Those opposing this project have claimed that its head Imam, a proud American, wishes to depose of the constitution and its freedoms and replace it with Sharia, or Islamic, law, a claim that he has denied over, and over, and over – a claim that he has said is at odds with the very principles of Islam which calls upon those who adhere to the Islamic faith to follow the laws and principles of the nations in which they live. And yet, despite his pleas for calm, for understanding and reconciliation, he is met with more opposition – opposition which claims that he has yet to denounce Hamas, the organization in de facto control of the Gaza Strip, despite his repeated denunciation of terrorism and calls for peace, despite his labeling of Hamas’ actions against innocent people as terrorism, and even going as far as calling them ‘un-Islamic;’ yet still, he is labeled as a terrorist, and an extremist. And he is not the only one, ladies and gentlemen, who is being demoralized and denounced for him willingness to step forward and build bridges. That this community center is nothing but a “terror mosque,” that despite the oversight and the eyes of the world upon this small plot of land, something will happen that will dare escape the careful observer – that for some reason, because of our willingness to tarnish one man’s reputation, the entire goal of promoting tolerance and true understanding must be equally as damnable. But we did not stop at the Imam, we went further.

There were many who perished that day. Many who answered the call and risked their lives to rescue innocent men, women and children who were caught in the savagery that occurred. Many of these people were Muslims themselves – Muslims who never raised a finger at any human being – Muslims who believed in the very same Quran that was manipulated and raped of its dignity by those who committed these acts. Was it fair that Dr. Rudina Odeh-Ramadan, a doctor who worked to rescue the victims on 9/11, a Muslim, who was buried in the rubble twice as a result of her selflessness and efforts to save as many as she could, was booed when she spoke at Community Board meeting and revealed that she was a Muslim? Was this fair to Mohammad Salman, a police cadet and paramedic who died on duty on September the 11th working to save as many lives as he could? Who, at the age of 23, gave his life for others, not just in the line of duty, but for the protection of the innocent? He was not there, ladies at gentlemen, at that committee meeting where Dr. Odeh-Ramadan was booed – he could not speak. He could not tell you that his faith had not commanded him to attack, to kill and maim, but that it was this very faith that was hijacked on that day that drove him to serve, and to put his life on the line, and to give it, to those who could not defend themselves; to stand in the face of those who attacked all of us on that day and say that this is not in his name, or the name of any faith. And sadly, he, like many thousands of innocent human beings of all faiths, of all creeds, could not be here today to try and right the wrongs that we face today. That day, ladies and gentlemen, terrorists attacked more than just two icons of American history – they attacked America itself, and set in their sights the very freedoms that our forefathers had fought for. They attacked our unity, our communities, and our pursuit of happiness, be it through faith or otherwise. And in their wake, the residual anger, fear, and prejudice has placed our very freedom to worship in the crosshairs, and in a matter of days, or even hours, you will decide whether this anger – this fear and prejudice, will undo what is central to the founding of this union: the freedom to worship, without fear. 

Is this not the very thing that drove our forefathers to come to this great land in the first place? To worship peacefully and not be condemned because of your beliefs?

Indeed it was, ladies and gentlemen - it was the thirst for this very freedom, this very principle of the freedom to worship that led the pilgrims to escape Great Britain and seek a new start here, in The New World. This principle was so strong that it found itself incorporated into our very Constitution in 1789. And it is this principle that is at stake here – it is this value that our Founding Fathers cherished enough to make it the first of all the Amendments; and it is this principle that stands in the crosshairs of a force justified only by emotion, and fueled by fear; a fear that has taken an entire community and aligned it with murderers – a fear that has us suspecting every-day Americans simply because of the faith that they hold.

But this is not the first time, ladies and gentlemen – this is not the first time a founding principle of this nation has been assaulted by this very force. Nor will it be the last. There have been instances in history where these principles were, for a time, defeated – where they were placed in the dark confines of our subconscious as we pondered ways of curtailing them. They sat, at times for years, waiting for our conscience to aroused by a hint of reason, only to leave us sitting in shame as we reflect upon our woes and attempt to undo the wrongs we had done.

The history of this very city is filled with stories of “NINA,” the famous signs indicating that No-Irish-Need-Apply. Our own history shows that the fear of Catholicism, then – the fear and disdain held against the Pope – led many Americans of that time to start smear campaigns against the Irish – immigrants fleeing the an Gorta Mor, the Great Famine, in their homeland. Instead of opportunity, they were met with hostility here, in this city – an irrational hatred of their purpose driven by fear of the unknown. This notion that they were somehow loyal to the Pope – a Pope in Rome who had done nothing to save them from their plight in Ireland – and not this nation, echoes the types of fears and sentiments held against Muslims in this country today – that Muslims are somehow loyal to this concept of ‘Shaira’ or Islamic Law, and that they must be questioned – that every project envisioned by a Muslim must be screened adequately and its funding sources scrutinized – sentiments which fuel the opposition to the project you now consider. We have hindsight, both now, and even then – and even after we had established better relations and truly understood the now Irish-Americans who had come here looking for opportunity, we did not take the lessons that we had learned with us to the future.

We did not heed such hindsight when it counted. We did not listen. Just ask the over one-hundred thousand Japanese Americans who were placed in concentration camps throughout the course of World War II just how much we learned from our experience with the Irish. Ask them how strong our values and principles were. Ask them if they had ties to the ‘Empire’ when the attack on Pearl Harbor occurred – ask them if they were loyal to the Emperor when they wept and felt the same sorrow for the thousands of their countrymen and women, Americans, lost on December 7, 1941. Ask them if an ‘apology’ is worth more than the relentless upholding of principle – if a signed apology by a United States President would ever be enough to replace the freedoms that they lost because of the same seed planted here today. What will we say to them if they ask us today where was our conscience then? What would we do if we could go back to February of 1942 with what we know now?

Ladies and Gentlemen of this committee, we need not go back to 1942, or the mid-1800s. We needn’t travel far to experience de ja vu. Before us, today and now, is an issue that is far deeper than our laws – it is an issue that strikes at the very foundation of our nation. It is the never-ending battle between fear, principle, and reason; and history tells us that in these times, fear is victor.

Now I will not deny the anger and the sorrow that I felt on September the 11th – the emotions that I felt that day were beyond words. Tears were not enough. Nor will I deny the anger and sorrow that the families of the victims felt then and continue to feel now as a result of these attacks. I will not deny the sensitivities of those who were directly effected by these acts – it is not my place to do so. I will not deny the anger and that blame that is pointed toward Muslims – I will not blame anyone who holds such a feeling in their hearts for what happened. There is no such thing as a right or wrong feeling, even if it is not grounded in reason – but there is a such thing as a right or wrong decision.

And that is why you, ladies and gentlemen, are the conscience of this community. You are the very voice deep within the confines of the community’s mind that leads the march of reason against the tidal wave of fear. Your decision today speaks to more than what the community may feel – it speaks to the value we place upon our founding principles and freedoms. Weighing upon your shoulders are the values of our Constitution and our Founding, and the pressure from a nation screaming in opposition to this project. The burden you bear is no easy one to carry – it is neither a point of envy nor a point of desire. But it is a point of admiration, and one worthy of respect – it was not your choice to carry this particular burden, and yet, you did so anyway. And for that, you have our deep appreciation. Burdens like the one you carry are placed upon those who least expect it, be it their choice or not. And such is akin to the purpose of conscience, ladies and gentlemen – a conscience is not something that we are given by choice, but by design; its purpose to ensure that our moral compass continues to point to what is right, and continues to guide us in pursuit of it. And such is the role you now play – to guide us all to what is right.

There are times when we act in ways that we cannot explain – ways that we cannot justify with adequate reason. Our justification for our historical wrongs were never grounded upon principle, but upon fear, and hate. And just as we were placed in a position to make a decision in light of those factors then, we are in such a position now. And being in such a position, I ask: what have we learned? What have we learned from our history? And given what we learned, what will you decide? Will you allow fear and prejudice to drive us, yet again? Or will our community have a conscience worthy of admiration? Will you tell our community that the fear that they have of Muslims is irrational? Will you tell them that history teaches us that every time we associate the many with the very extreme few, we choose paths we should not? Will you stand in the face of public opinion to uphold the cherished principles of our Constitution?

We have seen what the tidal wave of fear can do – we have experienced the repercussions of hatred time and time again. History has presented us with opportunity after opportunity to truly learn from our mistakes, but instead, we wait decades before writing letters of apology and struggling to find a way to adequately undo our wrongs. You have a chance, ladies and gentlemen – a genuine chance – to show the nation, and the world, that we have learned. That we have escaped the shackles of human habit and truly lived up to what we fight for – that we truly live up to what was attacked on that morning in September nearly ten years ago; that freedom and liberty are not just words that we use in our rhetoric, but actual principles that we uphold no matter what the opposition; no matter how strong the hysteria and fear. This, ladies and gentlemen, is what is before you today; this is what you, as a conscience, must contend with, as did the conscience of our nation many times in the past. The only difference, I hope ladies and gentlemen, is that this time, our conscience takes a stand, and that you will be the ones to lead it.

And ladies and Gentlemen I won’t deny that this is no easy task, and that it is no easy decision, but it is one that must be made; for when you go home at the end of the day, and your son or daughter asks you, “mommy, daddy, what did you do today?” you will answer, “I had to make a tough decision. I had to think about what really matters to me, to all of us – I had to decide whether fear, and hate, would drive me to do something I should not do – whether I would let something that was wrong push me to do something that I know would not be right.” And when your son and daughter asks, “what did you decide?” you will say, “I decided to speak for so many who could not speak today, and say that fear, and hatred, are not what make our America great – I spoke for those who could not speak now, and I decided that I could not stand by, idly, and let love, tolerance, and understanding be overcome by fear and hatred. I stood tall, and I did the right thing.”

If you don’t, ladies and gentlemen, then who will?

Thank you.


The argument above has many dynamic components, which I will address in this section. Each part of the argument serves a specific purpose, and highlights a particular aspect of the ethos, pathos, or logos that I intend to project to the decision making body. While there are some things that the argument above cannot convey, such as the tone, the pitch, and the speaker’s body language, it can nonetheless give a rough outline as to the purpose behind each section and the intended emotion it is supposed to arouse.

The first section of the argument begins with a brief introduction and an acknowledgement of the burden upon the decision making body. The pertinent part reads:

Ladies and gentlemen, we are now at a crossroad between feeling, and decision; between a tidal wave of fear, and reason. Between the hopes and aspirations of a community of Americans who wish to create the foundations of tolerance, understanding, and peace, and the tidal wave of opposition and misapprehension. So much is at stake here – so much that we had not expected to deal with, here and now, in your very hands. The burden upon your shoulders today is one that we could have never anticipated – one that quite literally came out of the blue and struck us all by surprise.

My goal in this section was to greeting the decision making body and acknowledge their burden in this situation. The purpose was to ensure that the decision making body was aware that I understood the gravity of the decision they must consider, especially given the public attention aggressive public campaigning against the project. This would promote a more likeable ethos toward the decision making body as I attempt to genuinely come off as sympathetic toward their burden. The notoriety of this issue was quite unexpected, though the arguments against the project were not – the sentiment against Muslims as a result of September the 11th was not new, but the way the project turned into a symbol of potential Islamic dominance in the wake of September the 11th was, and it was something that I felt should be acknowledge.

The next section of the argument was geared more for setting the scene – taking the decision making body back to the day the attacks occurred to begin the process of setting up the decision-making body for the sections that would invoke the proper pathos. The section reads:

One might say, ladies and gentlemen, that such is how history is made in times where the unexpected occurs, and good men and women must act and decide what is right. It is in these times that the values and principles of this nation are placed upon a scale, weighed against the tidal wave of public opinion and fear; it is in these times that our strength as a nation is tested, and that the hearts and minds of men and women such as yourselves are courted by those driven by such fears, and by immense pain. It is no surprise to any of us, the opposition – the protests and the outcry. It is no surprise that there would be this much animosity toward Muslims in this day and age. But it is in these times that a conscience intervenes – that a conscience begins to play its part in reminding ourselves of what is truly important, and what is truly at stake.

The effectiveness of this section can be traced to the concept of “flashbulb memories.” Dr. Jessica Chaudhary’s article, “Memory and its Implications for Asylum Decisions,” notes that the “psychological importance of events determines how they are remembered[,]” with a person’s memory of their wedding being remembered differently than “what [a person] did last week.” Thus, a highly traumatic or extremely significant moment in a person’s life, or the history of a nation, will be remembered more vividly than any particular day or moment.  Defined as a “vivid and total recall of a stressful, emotional and often historic event,” flashbulb memory can be used as a way of bringing the decision making body back to the very day that the attacks of September 11th occurred and help to make a strong connection to the speaker. Labeled as “flashbulb” memories, implying that they are “photographic … [and] can be remembered in great detail,” they can be extremely helpful in starting the process of arousing the proper pathos for the next sections of the argument.

Beginning from “[a]nd when one does not even know why something happened, it makes the grief all the more painful…” and continuing through “[t]hey attacked our unity, our communities, and our pursuit of happiness, be it through faith or otherwise…,” my purpose was clear: to arouse a feeling of sadness, legitimizing the grief and anger that we all felt on September the 11th. It was imperative that I connect with the decision-making body and share the proper emotions with them so that there could be a more direct and powerful connection. During this phase of the argument, I truly attempt to capitalize on my ethos as a person. In Aristotle’s words, “it is highly important that the speaker should evince a certain character, and that the judges should conceive him to be disposed towards them in a certain way[;]” I have interpreted this to essentially mean that I should do my best to “meet the audience at their level” of emotion.

As projecting a proper ethos toward the audience is important, I must be mindful of many things that could potentially work against me. While it may not be all that clear from what has been written thus far, the speaker in this case, the author, is a Muslim. Given the sensitivity of the issues noted herein, and the great opposition against the project, the person giving the argument may or may not be a source of mistrust and apprehension. While the constitutional and emotional principles may be mutually agreeable, the person who is presenting them may not be. Thus, not necessarily knowing what the decision-making body may think of me or my motives, I must present the case from a perspective that I have taken it “from a moral consideration.” Moreover, it is imperative that, given the potential for my identity as a Muslim American man to work against me, I create “goodwill” with the decision making body. “Goodwill,” being a “concern for the audience’s viewpoint and respects their intelligence, sincerity, and common sense,” creates a sense of connection and common ground with the audience. By acknowledging the emotions that the decision-making body and myself both felt on that particular day, I believe that I establish the necessary goodwill to press forward to the next sections of my argument.

The next pertinent section begins with “[t]he history of this very city is filled with stories of “NINA,” the famous signs indicating that No-Irish-Need-Apply…” and ends with “[w]hat would we do if we could go back to February of 1942 with what we know now?” Many things happen in this section, which highlights the introduction of both the “conscience of the community” argument and what I call the modified “golden rule argument.” Moreover, it is in this section that aspects of the logos appear, highlighting the constitutional logic behind the argument, giving it both a legal and emotional backdrop. For example, the statement that:

“…this is why you, ladies and gentlemen, are the conscience of this community. You are the very voice deep within the confines of the community’s mind that leads the march of reason against the tidal wave of fear. Your decision today speaks to more than what the community may feel – it speaks to the value we place upon our founding principles and freedoms…”

…is an example of a “conscience of the community” argument. It is telling the decision-making body that they have an obligation to look at not just the facts of the case, but toward a particular policy that they wish for the public to pursue. It is in essence an appeal to “social conscience.” What I am attempting to do is raise the decision-making body’s morale and place them, essentially, upon a pedestal, noting that their role is not an isolated mouthpiece to the public opinion, but as a noble, honorable and socially desirable conscience that steps in to correct a perceived wrong in our society: the stereotyping of an entire community for the actions of the very few.

To buttress this, the following section applies a modified golden rule argument:

“[a]sk them if an ‘apology’ is worth more than the relentless upholding of principle – if a signed apology by a United States President would ever be enough to replace the freedoms that they lost because of the same seed planted here today. What will we say to them if they ask us today where was our conscience then? What would we do if we could go back to February of 1942 with what we know now?”

The last two sentences highlight the purpose of this section by emphasizing analogous historical scenarios to what is occurring today. While there is no internment of Muslim Americans following the September 11th attacks, there is nonetheless a wide spread stigma held against them by the society at large. Such fear and stigma, when viewed in light of the Japanese-American experience in World War II, would create the association between what could happen when such stigma is attached to an entire population during war-time, thus evoking a sense of what the decision-making body should not do, which is refuse the project based on the fear and hysteria surrounding its opposition. Moreover, the reference to “NINA,” or the “No-Irish-Need-Apply” signs, which are a particular part of New York’s history, further stress that in historical hindsight, decisions made based on the same type of opposition faced by the Park 51 project rarely, if ever, result in the right things being done. In stressing this point, the decision-making body is reassured that not only is there a moral and emotional aspect to their decision, but a fully justifiable historical argument in support of a decision to allow the Park 51 project to move forward.

From that point on, the argument pushes to paint the project in a positive light by first highlighting the arguments and concerns made by the opposition, and reframing the decision-body’s perspective by panting the project’s head, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, as a victim of a smear campaign against him. Given the association of a person subject to an unjustified smear campaign with being a victim, the decision-making body would look more favorable not only on the project’s head, but the project itself, as it would highlight that the advocate “took the case from good or moral considerations.” In so doing, it makes it easier for the decision-making body to accept the arguments in favor of the project, resting assured that the arguments against the project have not only been addressed, but legitimized, yet ultimately clarified and rejected as inappropriate and contrary to the principles that the decision-making body has to uphold: that of the constitution, freedom of religion, and simply doing what is right. Coupled with the proper emotions and constitutional and historical support and analogy, the argument attempts to provide the decision-making body with a compelling case in support of the project and its eventual goals of promoting tolerance, peace and understanding.


The argument above reflects the lessons learned in provoking the necessary emotional response needed for the decision-making body to arrive at a decision. Concepts such as sending a message as the conscience of the community clearly echo throughout the transcript, as a hidden “golden rule” argument presents itself three times, once during the discussion of the Irish-American history, second during the discussion pertaining to the Japanese-American internment, and lastly when the decision making body was asked to render a decision in light of the historic lessons learned. Thus, the resulting argument, I believe, would provide a persuasive case in favor of proceeding with the Park51 Project in New York City.

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