Flight 93 Memorial: What if it Really is an Islamic Symbol?

I am a recent participant in the Flight 93 Memorial blogbursts. United Flight 93 crashed into a field outside Shanksville, Pennsylvania on September 11, 2001. It was the fourth passenger jet to go down, first the two World Trade Towers were hit, then the Pentagon and then the field in Shanksville.

Controversy and emotion have tracked this Memorial design. Some feel the design includes significant Islamic symbolism. The hijackers were Islamic terrorists. If I understand correctly, with the exception of one family, all other families currently believe the Memorial plans are a fitting tribute to their loved ones (although there were additional dissenters earlier on).

So why would one family feel passionately that their son will be buried at the foot of an Islamic Mosque paying tribute to the 9/11 hijackers? Is it even reasonable to believe that this family has valid objections to the design? (See the video of Tom Burnett at the end of this post).

That question, and two others are the reason for this post. Why would the architect, chosen out of some 1500 designs, include Islamic symbolism, and if there is any doubt about its presence, why would the plan not be scrapped in favor of a plan that clearly does not include such symbolism?

The following is a list of seemingly verifiable facts. If it is assumed the following are correct, and there are links within the post, and at the end, for your own research, are we just assuming this is coincidence? Are we just assuming that the dissenters are theory or truther conspiracists? Are we just choosing to ignore what we see? Are we just ignoring what we know?

According to Alec Rawls, at Error Theory, who has done the huge work of explaining and verifying his claims, the Memorial Project [U.S. Parks] admits to the following:

…that the Mecca orientation claim is accurate.
They know that ALL of our factual claims are accurate and admit it in private conversation, but have decided that the very outlandishness of all somehow implies that it has to be a coincidence.

Here’s the pertinent, culled-through list from my perspective:

1) The Memorial site is filled with “crescents.” The architect first named the Memorial the Crescent of Embrace. The name has now been changed to the Circle of Embrace. The architect, Paul Murdoch, says that he subsequently changed the design from a crescent to a circle by adding trees to fill in the gap and close the circle. The links I’ve provided below, and the discussion by Alec Rawls, shows clearly that trees were added, but they do not close the crescent assuming Mr. Rawls’ evidence is correct.

From Alec Rawls on the “broken circle”:

The Memorial Project claims to have an innocent explanation for why the central feature of the Flight 93 memorial is a giant Islamic shaped crescent. As architect Paul Murdoch has been saying since September 2005, the flight path breaks the circle, turning it into what was originally called the Crescent of Embrace.

But this isn’t a memorial to an airliner. It is a memorial to human beings. So just who is it that architect Paul Murdoch is depicting as breaking the circle?

As a secular symbol, the circle signifies peace and harmony. There is no way that the heroic passengers and crew can be charged with breaking the circle. It is the terrorists who broke the peace.

Think what that means thematically. The terrorists broke our peaceful circle and turned it into a giant Islamic shaped crescent that just happens to point to Mecca. You could not come up with a more blatant depiction of al Qaeda victory.

2) The Crescent of trees is an arc to be filled with red maple trees. The crescent is in the exact shape of the Islamic crescent and star. The “Sacred Ground” within the Memorial is in the exact place of the Islamic star.

The Tower of Voices is also in the shape of a crescent. It is also a “year round accurate Islamic sundial.” The short story of this confusing detail is that the dial’s shadow falls perfectly for Islamic afternoon prayers – the same as the shadow of the Tower of Voices.

The Tower of Voices is also in the shape of a crescent.

The symbolic lives of the forty heroes literally dangle [wind chimes] down below the symbolic Islamic heavens, projected against the sky above. Not a lot of different possible meanings here.

Dissenters see this as symbolic “damnation” – the infidel passengers dangling forever below an Islamic heaven.

3) There are two Memorial tree groves. Both contain nineteen nested crescents, for a total of thirty-eight nested crescents. Why thirty-eight, when the Memorial advertised forty groves. There were forty heroes that day and a total of nineteen hijackers. The plans clearly show two clusters of nineteen nested crescents.

4) If the orientation of the Crescent/Circle of Embrace were coincidentally and unintentionally oriented toward the spiritual center of Islam, as the architect asserts, wouldn’t we want it changed?

The exact direction to Mecca from the crash-site (about ten miles east of Somerset) is 55.19° clockwise from north. Thus the Crescent of Embrace is oriented about 1.8° north of the exact Mecca line.

Advocates for the design say that to be Islamic, the center of the crescent must be exactly pointing to Mecca, not 1.8 degrees off, but Rawls offers example of other Mosques oriented at varying degrees off of dead center.

5) There are forty-four translucent memorial blocks, forty of which are inscribed with the name of a passenger. There were forty passengers and crew and four terrorists. Forty of the inscribed blocks are positioned below the Islamic star – “symbolically cast out of the symbolic Islamic heavens,” …implying damnation. Three blocks are inscribed with 911 and placed in the Sacred Ground area (where the star is located in the Islamic crescent and star symbol), and one at the upper crescent tip. According to dissenters, the extra four blocks are located withing the Islamic heavens.

If the Memorial actually memorialized the forty heroes, it could not be a mosque, as Islam believes all non-Islamics to be infidels. Adding four additional blocks and placing only the four “within the Islamic heavens,” places the Muslim above the damned infidels.

The three blocks inscribed with 911 will be on a section of the Memorial Wall, centered on the bisector of the crescent, which is the exact position of the star on an Islamic flag, set in the exact position of the star on the Islamic crescent and star flag.

6) The central feature of a mosque is a “crescent.” The crescent is faced-into at prayer time. A visitor to the Memorial, when facing into the Crescent of Embrace, is facing toward Mecca, whether they want to or not.

7) In a mosque, the crescent is know as a “mihrab.” The “mihrab” is similar in meaning to a Muslim worshipper, as the alter is to a Christian worshipper.

In 1981, Ayatollah Khomeini explained the meaning of a Mecca-direction indicator (called a mihrab), like the one now being planted on the Flight 93 crash site:

Mehrab means the place of war, the place of fighting. Out of the mehrabs, wars should proceed, just as all the wars of Islam used to proceeded out of the mehrabs. [Hat tip Yoel Natan, Moon-o-theism, p. 30]

The I-ah-told-you-so wasn’t just speaking allegorically either. The University of Chicago’s Francis Joseph Steinglass Comprehensive Persian-English dictionary lists amongst its definitions for mihrab: “warlike,” and “a field of battle.” (Hat tip Czechmade.)

Why would the architect, Paul Murdoch, wanted to introduce Islamic symbolism into the design, if he did do so?

The Flight 93 Memorial Project consulted experts on the question of Islamic symbolism. It seems from my reading of the report that Rawl’s mathematical arguments are correct but that Rawls is not considering the landscape of the crash site – which is a crescent-shape. Nassar Rabbat, who graduated UCLA in 1984 and was a classmate of Robert Murdoch, scoffed at the idea of any Islamic symbolism. You can read his comments here, along with those of the other experts. Dr. Rabbat makes several statements that have been disputed by Alec Rawls, such as the crescent and star are not often used in Islam, Mosques are not in the shape of an arc, etc.
Rawls’ Error Theory blog discusses this at length.

A check of Rabbat’s background shows that he was a classmate of Paul Murdoch, both getting masters degrees in architecture from UCLA in 1984 and both doing their masters work on Middle Eastern subjects. Murdoch wrote a “masters project” titled: “A museum for Haifa, Israel.” Rabbat did a masters thesis titled: “House-form, climactic response and lifestyle: a study of the 17-19th century courthouse houses in Cairo and Damascus.”

This connection between Murdoch and Rabbat raises the possibility that Murdoch himself orchestrated the Park Service investigation into warnings about his own design. Rabbat denies knowing Murdoch, but given the blatant dishonesty of what he told the Park Service, that denial cannot be trusted.

One of the experts, Dr. Kevin Jacques of Indiana University School of Law “sponsored a forum on the likely legal fallout from the attacks: consequences for immigration law, civil rights, etcetera. As the university’s resident expert on Islamic (sharia) law, Jaques was invited to say something about our looming engagement with the Islamic world and their systems of law.

He chose to write a prescriptive article, urging the United States to frame its response in conformity with traditional sharia requirements:”

In formulating an American response to the acts of terror, it is necessary to define them according to the provisions of Islamic law.

So, is it possible that there’s far too many connections to Islam? Is it possible that Rabbat and Murdoch conspired to come up with a design that actually honors Islam and shows Islam as victorious over the infidels?

Well that’s the short story. I’m not in a position to prove anything, but it I find it hard to believe that the Project will go ahead with this design, although that appears to be exactly what is going to happen if we cannot get the media interested, or Congress interested in investigating.

I know the families are exhausted with emotion and weary of the controversy. Maybe it’s just easier to get it over with, but after it is all over with, won’t these families go to bed at night wondering if Alec Rawls is right? What if he is right? Why would we as a Nation take that risk.

A Flight 93 family member was quoted in the New York Times as saying:

The land speaks for itself,” she said. “It’s in the shape of an embrace.”

Were all of the designs submitted in a crescent shape; were other architects restricted to only a crescent design because of the lay of the land?

When looking for the chronological story of the Flight 93 Memorial, I like to use Cao’s Blog as a chronological database.

Or…the real authority on the Memorial – Alec Rawls at Error Theory Blog documents everything. Check out the links in his sidebar. Rawls has also written a book, Crescent of Betrayal. A link is available at Error Theory Blog and the download is free until the 2009 print date.

Pertinent links from the above discussion:
A statement from Muslims Against Sharia
Families Divided
A video put together by Muslims Against Sharia
Is this a “truther” or “theory” conspiracy?
The Sacred Ground

To close, here’s a video of Tom Burnett, Sr., the father of Flight 93 passenger, Tom Burnett. The video is featured in the latest blogburst. Listening to Mr. Burnett, a retired school teacher, makes me wonder if I could stand up under this battle. Mr. Burnett and Mr. Rawls are true heroes. Here’s the question again: what if Alec Rawls and Tom Burnett are right?

Let me know what you think.