This is excepts from an original post here: http://kasamaproject.org/2010/08/22/bizarre-controversy-over-a-ground-zero-mosque/
by Gary Leupp
Here is some background on the so-called “Ground Zero” Mosqe:
In 2009 A Muslim organization having arranged to purchase an abandoned Burlington Coat factory on Park Place in Lower Manhattan plans to build a 13-story Islamic community center. It will feature a culinary school, conference hall, basketball court, swimming pool, and place of worship among other things and while principally servicing the Muslim community be open to all. It is to be called the Cordoba House, an apparent allusion to Muslim Spain in which Islam flourished alongside Christianity and Judaism from the eighth century up to the “Reconquest.”
In its mission statement the group says the center “will be dedicated to pluralism, service, arts and culture, education and empowerment, appreciation for our city and a deep respect for our planet. [It] will join New York to the world, offering a welcoming community center with multiple points of entry. With world-class facilities, a global scope and strong local roots, [the center] will offer a friendly and accessible platform for conversations across our identities.”
The key organizer, Kuwait-born Feisal Abdul Rauf, is an imam of the Sufi school of Islam, generally described as “moderate” and mystical. He holds a degree in physics from Columbia University, had been hired by the FBI to conduct sensitivity training among their agents, and had worked with the U.S. State Department. He had met New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg, who strongly supports the plan for the center.
In December 2009 the New York Times runs an article on the project. It is generally positive, citing two Jewish leaders and the mother of a 9-11 victim in support. In the same month conservative commentator Laura Ingraham, guest-hosting FOX News’ “The O’Reilly Factor,” interviews Rauf’s wife, Daisy Khan. The interview is as Salon’s Justin Elliot later notes “remarkable for its cordiality.” “I can’t find many people who really have a problem with [the project], declares Ingraham. “I like what you’re trying to do.”
On May 6, 2010, after a public hearing in which New Yorkers express strong feelings pro and con, the New York City community board committee unanimously votes to approve the project.
Now onto the lies:
Pamela Geller, who maintains a blog called Atlas Shrugs. She has written a book about Barack Obama in which she alleges his real father was Malcolm X. She leads a tiny wacko group called Stop the Islamization of America.
Seeing the opportunity to have her moment in the sun (and she is soon interviewed by FOX News and CNN), she lashes out at Cordoba House. She declares on her blog, “this is not about religious liberty. No one has suggested abridging the First Amendment to stop the mosque, and to oppose the Ground Zero mosque is not to oppose the First Amendment. There are hundreds of mosques in New York, thousands in America. This is not a religious issue. This is an issue of national dignity and respect for those who were murdered at that site in the name of Islam.” She begins to organize a protest at the Park Place site.
Soon New York Post columnist Andrea Peyser references Geller’s group, falsely describing it as a “human rights group.” This brings the movement against the “Ground Zero mosque” out of the blogosphere and into the mainstream press. She sensationalizes the issue, falsely reporting that the center is to open on Sept. 11, 2011.
Newt Gingrich comes out an writes, “‘Cordoba House’ is a deliberately insulting term. It refers to Cordoba, Spain–the capital of Muslim conquerors, who symbolized their victory over the Christian Spaniards by transforming a church there into the world’s third-largest mosque complex… every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest.” In response to this absurb allegation the center organizers change the name to “Park51.”
(Gingrich who postures as an historian and scholar might have noted the Visigothic church was purchased by the conquering emir after 718 and that the Arabs during their rule in Spain pursued a policy of far greater religious tolerance than the Christians had before them. They allowed churches and synagogues to operate freely. When the Christians regained power, they expelled all Jews and Muslims, or forced them to convert, and conducted the Spanish Inquisition.)
New York gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio, Gingrich, and Quinn all call for an investigation of the center’s funding, suggesting that some of it might come from “Islamic terrorists.” Lazio speaks ominously about the “the questionable backers of the Cordoba Mosque at Ground Zero” and calls for a public investigation. Quinn says, “let’s at least find out where the money is coming from to pay for this thing.” Soon House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is on board the program, although, alarmed at the backlash from Obama’s remarks, she suggests the “anti-mosque” movement should also be investigated.
By innuendo they assert that Rauf is linked to international terrorism. That seems unlikely since he’s been hired by the FBI since 2001 to offer sensitivity training to agents and has also just been asked by the State Department recently to tour the Middle East to “foster greater understanding” about the U.S. and its Muslims.
What does this tell us about this country? It tells us that nine years after 9-11 (and nice centuries after the First Crusade), Islamophobia is rampant and politically useful. Even though U.S. troops are supposedly fighting to help Muslims in two countries and both Bush and Obama have officially (for whatever reasons) emphasized that the U.S. is not against Islam, Islam is a religion of peace, we value our Muslim citizens, etc. the “us vs. them” mentality remains strong.
The prevalent argument against the center—that it may hurt people’s feelings—is an argument that people should be hurt by the mere existence of an Islamic site near “Ground Zero.” That they should feel hurt at the site of a Muslim establishment as they walk around Lower Manhattan, associating it with the 9-11 hijackers. That they should conflate Mohamed Atta and Rauf, or that at least if they do, their feelings should be respected. Of course Rauf’s hope is to counter precisely such feels by encouraging understanding and dialogue. (The fact in any case is that according to an August 10 Marist poll only 31% of Manhattan residents oppose the center!)
What about the feelings of U.S. Muslims, including those who had family members perish in the 9-11 bombing? They read about the plans of the “Dove World Outreach Center” in Gainesville, Florida—a “New Testament church, based on the Bible”—to promote an “International Burn a Quran Day” this September 11. They read about anti-mosque campaigns in Murfreesboro, Tennessee; Temecula, California; Sheboygan, Wisconsin. The Tea Party movement and mainstream politicians enthusiastically embrace the anti-mosque movement. I imagine there are some hurt feelings among people unfairly associated with terrorism just because a handful of Saudis attacked the U.S. nine years ago. To be told “this sacred ground—our American ground” so we don’t want your Muslim center here “degrading” and “disrespecting” it (Pawlenty’s terms) is to be told you’re not really a full citizen and your religion (as opposed to, say, Catholicism) isn’t an American one. It must be insulting.