>The crusade against the Islamic cultural center

>Ah, mid-term elections. Midway through any given presidential term, we are bombarded with explosive, negative and oft exaggerated claims about Americans being under attack and about a certain politician’s ambivalence towards his or her’s constituents’ plight. Case in point is the campaign to villianize the right to religious freedom and expression in a request to build a Islamic cultural center and mosque near Ground Zero.

Contrary to popular belief, the mosque is part of a “$100 million Islamic center two blocks from where nearly 3,000 people perished when hijacked jetliners slammed into the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001,” according to The Huffington Post. But, according to conservatives, you would think these plans would plop the cultural center directly onto Ground Zero. Republicans who criticize the plans for the center and mosque claim it’s disrespectful to the pain and suffering families of victims of the 9/11 attacks have gone through.


Marco Rubio, the Republican favorite in Florida’s U.S. Senate race, took aim at President Barack Obama and Charlie Crist’s support of the construction of the center:

“We are a nation founded on strong principles of religious freedom,” said Rubio. “However, we cannot be blind to the pain 9/11 caused our nation and the families of the victims. It is divisive and disrespectful to build a mosque next to the site where 3,000 innocent people were murdered at the hands of Islamic extremism. I strongly disagree with President Obama and Charlie Crist.”

U.S. Senator John Cornyn called said the president was “disconnected” in his support of the center:

“I think this is sort of the dichotomy that people sense, that they’re being lectured to, not listened to, and I think that’s the reason why a lot of people are very upset with Washington,” the senator said. “The president himself seems to be disconnected from the mainstream of America and I think that’s one of the reasons people are so frustrated.” Cornyn said supporters and opponents “respect the right of anyone to worship according to the dictates of their conscience.”

“But,” he added, “I do think it’s unwise … to build a mosque at the site where 3,000 Americans lost their lives as a result of a terrorist attack.”

Rep. Peter King of New York called Obama’s support “wrong.”

“It is insensitive and uncaring for the Muslim community to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero. While the Muslim community has the right to build the mosque they are abusing that right by needlessly offending so many people who have suffered so much. The right and moral thing for President Obama to have done was to urge Muslim leaders to respect the families of those who died and move their mosque away from Ground Zero. Unfortunately the president caved into political correctness.”


In the same article, Newt Gingrich referred the president’s support as pandering to “radical Islam” and that his support isn’t about religious liberty. 


Mr. Gingrich said the proposed mosque would be a symbol of Muslim “triumphalism” and that building the mosque near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks “would be like putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum.”


Oy…all this pandering to conservative extremism is giving me a headache. But, this is an election year, right? Don’t all politicians use hot-button issues to rack up votes to secure their election come November? Don’t all politicians seize the opportunity to bash The Others and use American’s ignorance and oblivion to exaggerate the threat to our way of life? 


New York’s Conservative party is planning an advertising campaign to oppose the proposed cultural center, which will begin running this week.  

The ad states “patriotic Americans” want “real answers” about the cultural center proposed for lower Manhattan in a building partly owned by Consolidated Edison. Plans call for the Muslim center to include a mosque in the building about two blocks from the Sept. 11, 2001, attack. The ad asks viewers to contact the utility, which has more than 3 million customers, at a phone number provided on screen and is the first effort to try to get customers to target the company.


I’m amazed at the argument that this ground is sacred because more than 3,000 people were killed by radical Islamic terrorists who used their warped versions of Islam as the basis of their crusade against the West. Just how sacred is Ground Zero and the couple of blocks surrounding it? According to Time:

For example, New York Doll’s Gentleman’s Club,  and the Pussycat Lounge are two strip clubs that sit within a block of Ground Zero, but are not seen as a threat to the land’s hallowed nature. So it seems to some, freedom of religion might be a problem, but a $10 lap dance is not (or maybe it’s $15 now, NewsFeed hasn’t been there in a while). 

Then there’s Off Track Betting, where visitors to the sacred neighborhood are able to place bets on the horses without even breaking their solemn focus on the dump trucks and cranes that sit where the Twin Towers once stood. Think about it: where else can you show your reverence while at the same time putting all your faith in Fat Chance Cinnamon or Poco’s Black Charger? 

Let’s not forget Thunder Lingerie and More, where you can pay your respects to the 9/11 tragedy, then take in a peep show, or pick up a few naughty items for that trip back to the hotel. And most noticeable of anything you could see around this untouchable area are the dozens of street vendors who sit a stone’s throw away from Ground Zero capitalizing on the fact that it is one of New York’s most visited tourist attractions. Possibly millions of dollars change hands every weekend all in the name of capitalist gain and certainly not any reverence for the 2,700 who died in the space right behind them.

One problem I have with the efforts to demonize the plan to build the cultural center is that it uses Islam as an insensitive religion that could care less about the terror 9/11 inflicted onto this country. Islam has been and continues to be the religion that’s seen as an enemy against Christianity and American values. And the attacks on the proposed cultural center is just an extension of this anti-Muslim crusade conservative Christians have embarked on since Sept. 12, 2001.

Mainstream Muslims here and abroad were also grief-stricken and saddened by the terror attacks that took the lives of probable Christians, Jews, Muslims, atheists, agnostics and Buddhists. It’s safe to say these attacks on American soil shook the core of a broad spectrum of Americans. It’s unfair to say only blue-blooded Christian Americans were touched by the tragedy.

Unfortunately, the some media outlets have not served in its traditional watch dog and fact-finding role in this matter. Fox News, one we know we can count on to spread misinformation, has continued to inform the public that the cultural center would open Sept. 11, 2011.

http://cloudfront.mediamatters.org/static/flash/player.swf

Sean Hannity claimed that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf (the imam behind the center) wants to “shred our Constitution” and replace it with Sharia law.

Media Matters compiled a list of guests on Fox News that show an overwhelming majority of those who oppose the mosque have appeared on the network:

It’s become not only popular culture to demonize Islam and Muslims alike, but it’s also become part of the political discourse. It was seen as patriotic for Americans to rally in the streets with American flags on the night of Sept. 11 and to beat up those who even appeared to look like Arabs. It continues to be the norm for politicians to fan the Islamic terrorists flames and bombard their constituents with statistics and reports about another imminent threat from Al-Qaeda to attack innocent Americans. Terrorism and the threat of an Islamic takeover of America, unfortunately, have become popular checkpoints for politicians to use to inform Americans how determined they are to our national security and defense.

Another problem I have with the criticism is that it encourages the government to decide which religious structures are allowed based on religion as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently pointed posed the same question:

“Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion?” Bloomberg asked. “That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here. This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions, or favor one over another.”



Bloomberg raises a pertinent point here: does the government have the right to deny private citizens the right to build a church, mosque or synagogue based on their religion? Should we as Americans expect our government to protect “our interest” and deny a citizen to build a place of worship when it makes us uncomfortable? Who are we to decide where, how and when our fellow Americans can worship?


Opposition to the Islamic cultural center is being propelled by the ignorance, racism and xenophobia by those on the right. These opponents are also using the public’s lack of knowledge about the proposal to bolster their political standing. This isn’t about protecting the sanctity of Ground Zero and preserving the memory of the lives lost in the terrorists attack on 9/11. This isn’t even about preventing another stomping ground for Al-Qaeda or other terror organizations.


This is about a group of people who are using the emotions and ignorance of the public to promote their own anti-Muslim agenda.