“Why There?” Islamophobia, Environmental Conflict, and Justice at Ground Zero
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Conflicts over environmental spaces that are sites of trauma or have been designated as sacred involve questions about who has a legitimate stake in determining the use of the site, and where the hallowedness attached to that space ends. We examine these questions in a study of the 2009–2010 controversy about the Park51 [sic] Islamic Community Center, sometimes called the “Ground Zero Mosque,” to examine how issues of distributive, procedural, and inclusionary justice play out in a conflict over valuable land close to Ground Zero. This conflict, though in a specifically fraught locale, speaks to resistance to mosque construction in the USA and Europe. Using newspaper articles on the public debate as data (N = 65), and performing a thematic analysis, we identified four key themes: (1) views of Islam, (2) conflict, (3) American identity and ideals, and (4) proximity and place. Utilizing Chi square analyses to examine the effect of propinquity on support for Park51, we found that people living within New York City were more likely to support Park51 than those outside of the city. Our conclusion discusses constructs that link values, space, and social relations—hallowed ground, place attachment, social distance—and discuss their relationship to justice. We argue that while several kinds of justice are relevant, at its heart, this conflict concerns inclusionary questions about who can speak, who belongs, and who should be excluded.
KeywordsEnvironmental conflict Distributive justice Procedural justice Inclusionary justice Islamophobia Ground zero
We thank Naomi Podber for her assistance, and we appreciate helpful comments on an earlier draft by Dominique Grisard, Markus Brunner, anonymous reviewers, and the editors.
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