City of Brass

City of Brass


ADL: “let the bigots win”

posted by Aziz Poonawalla

The Anti-Defamation League has betrayed itself and its own principles, by coming out against the Park 51 project (which is still being characterized incorrectly as the “ground zero mosque”). Their press release (in full below) is even worse than the denunciation of the project by Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich, because they explicitly concede that the muslim community has the right to build – but they then argue that rights don’t matter. This is an astonishing position for a civil rights organization to take, and one that undermines their own moral authority.

In response, Greg Sargent at the Washington Post notes,

The foes of this mosque whose opposition is rooted in bigotry are the ones who are trying to stoke victims’ pain here, for transparent political purposes. Their opposition to this mosque appears to be all about insidiously linking the mosque builders with the 9/11 attackers, and by extension, to revive passions surrounding 9/11. To oppose the mosque is to capitulate to — and validate — this program.

On this one, you’re either with the bigots or you’re against them. And ADL has in effect sided with them.

I’ve long argued that the muslim community should seek to build a working relationship and make strategic common cause with the Jewish community, because of our shared experiences and civil rights concerns. But I was bitterly disappointed in the decision by the Simon Wiesenthal Center (Los Angeles) to screen The Third Jihad, a grotesquely Islamophobic film created solely to disseminate hatred towards muslims. And now it’s clear that the ADL has no such interest in any universal application of their cause; they will only defend Jews from defamation and persecution. It’s truly depressing that the ADL should need to be reminded of the famous words by Pastor Martin Niemoller,

“THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,

and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,

and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,

and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

THEN THEY CAME for me

and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

We muslims should continue to speak up, in defense of ourselves and Jews and anyone else – in support of the very freedoms that drew us as immigrants to America, and which the terrorists sought to eradicate on 9-11.

Here’s the ADL press release:

We regard freedom of religion as a cornerstone of the American democracy, and that freedom must include the right of all Americans – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths – to build community centers and houses of worship.

We categorically reject appeals to bigotry on the basis of religion, and condemn those whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry.

However, there are understandably strong passions and keen sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center site. We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel – and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001.

The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process. Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.

In recommending that a different location be found for the Islamic Center, we are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build it, and what connections, if any, its leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values. These questions deserve a response, and we hope those backing the project will be transparent and forthcoming. But regardless of how they respond, the issue at stake is a broader one.

Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right.



  • Craig

    They do not speak for Jews, they speak only for themselves, and today they have officially become irrelevant. Let another group rise from their ashes, one that truly does believe in the goal of “securing justice and fair treatment to all”. The ADL was a great institution, and the work it does is important, but the people who run it have destroyed it, and that is a crying shame.

  • lara50

    ADL is a voice of common sense. Please listen.

  • MidwestJew

    As a Jew, as a native of New York City, and as frankly a foreign policy conservative, I am appalled at what the ADL, an organization I have loved, supported, and respected all my life, has done in this case.
    Followers of Islam, believe me when I say, “This is not us”. My Jewish friends and I wish you nothing but peace, happiness, freedom, and prosperity in your center which WILL be built and opened.

  • http://muslimbuddhist.blogspot.com Teed Rockwell

    This message sounds just like someone saying “Of course, these Nazis are terrible, but they will cause so much trouble if we try to build a synagogue here, so let’s not do it.” The idea that a person can cause pain just by being near you is preposterous. That is practically the definition of bigotry. What these people need to do is learn that their fears and reactions are unjustified, and the Park51 center can help with that. I wish them well.

  • Thomas Cornell

    Dear Friends,
    Below is an excerpt of an e-mail I submitted to the ADL National Office today. I hope more will reach out to them in this and other ways to express their concerns. Peace.
    “I feel compelled to reach out to you and express my dismay, sadness and yes, anger, at your official response to the proposed Muslim Community Center near Ground Zero.
    As a community organizer in DC in the 90′s, I regularly sat at the table of the ADL, attending the National Hate Crimes Coalition meetings. I was also living and working in Manhattan on 9/11 and suffered my own losses on that day.
    I am so incredibly disappointed and confused by your choosing to take what, I believe, is a bigoted and hateful stance on this issue. This action truly makes me question, for the first time, the real intent and integrity of the mission of the ADL. You have embraced and legitimized, for some, a position that is at best misguided, and at worst hateful.
    Although I cannot claim to be a (current) financial supporter of the ADL, I can claim to have been a faithful defender of what I once believed to be an organization that valued, celebrated and most importantly, defended true diversity. I no longer hold this belief and I can no longer, in good conscience, be a defender and supporter of the ADL.
    I deliver this message with a heavy heart and with much disappointment and sadness.”

  • Miri2

    I’m Jewish and usually support the ADL, but I’m offended and dismayed by their position here. It’s at times like these — times of high emotion, when it’s particularly easy to fall into the trap of bigotry — that a position consistent with the ADL’s history of fighting bigotry, is called for. It’s shameful hypocrisy for the ADL, first, to disclaim the ‘bigotry some have expressed” in attacking proponents of the Islamic Center, and then to support those bigots in opposing the Center . . . because SOME “victims” will be pained by it — presumably, because THEY wrongfully equate the terrorist attack on the WTC with all Muslims. How ridiculous!

  • M. Hassan

    As Salaamu Alaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh,
    I am a Muslim from New York City and I don’t believe that building this Islamic Center is in the best interest and safety of the Ummah. It is not about our rights. Of course we have the right to build there but are our brother and sisters who worship there going to be safe and free from harassment? Absolutely not. It is like throwing a piece of raw meat into a hungry lions cage and expecting him not to eat it. Muslims are going to be seriously hurt or killed if this Islamic center is built and they come to worship there. What is the point? We are accomplishing nothing by this except proving that we have the right to do it. But does it make sense? NO!
    Not to mention the point that we should be considering the victims of all the other religions feelings and trying to minimize conflict and more pain. Don’t we already have enough bad feelings towards us?
    Wasalaamu Alaikum

  • Ariana

    First, I want to say its heartwarming so see so many people speak out about this travesty, especially non-muslims. I think its this type of islamophobia that is only going to radicalize the muslims of this country. When we as a community keep to ourselves, we’re accused of refusing to integrate and contribute to American society. When we try to reach out to others and become part of mainstream society, our rights to do so are rejected on the basis of stroking up old fears and “pain”. People need to stop using 9/11 as an excuse to stir up and justify racism. It’s disgusting how time and again, 9/11 is used to rile up people’s emotions and make excuses for disgraceful behavior. This country has murdered over 600,000 muslims in Iraq alone, and yet muslims the bad guys because 2 people who claim to be from the community knocked down the towers and 2000 people died. 9/11 was a tragic day and I’m sorry people lost their loved ones, but this country’s military has killed more people than that on a monthly basis and those people are expected to move on and forgive. One day people will come to their senses and realize what this generation has done, or failed to do, is shameful and against the principles this country was built on. That’s when the Sarah Palins and the ADL will be regarded in our history books as the bigots they truly are.

  • Linda

    Sure Muslims have the right to build a mosque there, but it is VERY insensitive to the families of the victims of 9/11.

  • Mike

    they will only defend Jews from defamation and persecution.
    Don’t get carried away with yourself Aziz… they have in the past and surely continue to to do A LOT more than that – not that I don’t have my issues with Foxman….
    All the strong reaction particularly from people supposedly Jewish and then the tempered comment from a Muslim who is against it…
    Let’s restate a couple of facts -
    1) In NO Muslim majority country in the world would a Muslim civil rights organization speak up to allow Jews to build a synagogue anywhere let alone near a site where Jews had flew an airplane into a huge skyscraper…
    2) The ADL’s letter is far from over the top – in fact it even specifically acknowledges that part of the movement against the Mosque is Islamophobic groups and individuals.
    3) There is a section of Islam in the world that is radical and they do copiously cite the Koran and Hadith which is radical in sections… and in the home of Islam – SArabia – they are in fact closer to the mainstream that is preached today…..
    4) There are mosques in this country that do in fact teach the ideology that spawned Al Queda – Muslim Brotherhood – and this has been documented where Western converts have become radicalized etc…
    5) There have been homegrown attacks emanating from #4 – the 1st world trade center terrorist attack/
    6) The fact we are even entertaining this idea is a testament to this country – because you can be sure it would not be entertained in many other countries – Western – and certainly not Middle Eastern…
    While I see the racism involved here and the shrieking groups against – at the same time people like Midwestern PC Super Jew – while liking to preach from his morally superior pulpit – doesn’t acknowledge that there are in fact likely many 9/11 families that would likely feel more comfortable if the Mosque/Community Center were more than just a few blocks away…
    Manhattan is a big place why does this have to be 2 blocks from the WTC??? WHY IS THAT?
    AND WHO IS FUNDING THIS? MOST LIKELY THERE ARE WEALTHY SAUDI FUNDERS… which rubs salt in the wound….. for a MULTITUDE of obvious reasons….
    Newt Gingrich asks can we also now build a Church or Synagogue in Medina? After all in the city where Mohammed supposedly grew up there was a whole tribe of Jews who made up a great portion of the city/town population at the time…
    Of course the answer is N – 0 -….
    and on top of that the Saudis are now likely the major funders of building a huge community center 2 blocks from 9/11….
    They undoubtedly fund Mosques all over the country so why the great need to have one 2 blocks from the WTC site?
    That in fact seems rather provocative to me – as the Muslim commenter pointed out…. that this brings out Islamophobes into the fold of those yelling loudly against this aside – it does not change the prior point….
    Sure in this country any religious group can build a place of worship or community center anywhere they choose within ordinances etc… However, that STILL DOES NOT change the question of why 2 blocks from the WTC?

  • Mike

    By the way I meant to add that while Newt’s comment is simplistic as many of his and his buddy’s Hannity’s are – and I typically find them unwatchable etc…
    he nonetheless points out the big hypocrisy which is not acknowledged by the self appointed PC mouthpieces like ‘midwestern jew’

  • Alicia

    I am a liberal Christian, and I live in Washington, D.C. I was two blocks from the U.S. Capitol on 9/11, and was, as so many others were, deeply affected by what happened on that day. (We thought we might be bombed again, and so I was wondering if I was in my last hours, and spent quite a while trying to phone my mother and brother, since the circuits were all busy.)
    If the developers and the planners of this building and mosque were planning to build it in the footprint of Ground Zero, I would be opposed to it. And I must admit to some mixed feelings about it. But, the people on the Right such as Palin and Gingrich lining up to attack it, and people whom I believe should know better, like the leaders of the Anti-Defamation League, coming out against it, make me feel that the right thing is to support the Cordoba Institute, in defense of religious freedom and against bigotry.
    Aziz, I would love clarification, if you are willing, about the choice of the name for this Islamic center and mosque. While I am aware that the Moorish-Spanish civilization had a great reputation for pluralism, intellectual and artistic development and tolerance (all good things, IMO), that civilization did result from the Moorish invasion and conquest of Spain (or parts of Spain). Not the symbolism that I would choose for this particular center. I realize you didn’t choose the name, but would like your opinion about it if you are willing.

  • Mike

    Alicia -
    I don’t disagree with your sentiments…the only question I would have is this… If you can build anywhere in Manhattan why build a huge complex 2 blocks from the WTC site? This does not seem to be a coincidence to me? Leaving aside the grandstanding and simplicity with which politicians like Palin and Newt are using this for and the racism present in some of those strongly opposed to this – why build a huge complex 2 blocks from the WTC?
    Is that not provocative? is that not a way of slyly saying we can and are doing this?
    And does it not bather you in the least that the funding is likely coming from Saudi sources and perhaps from those who have also funded mosques in Saudi Arabia and throughout the world that support Al Queda and extremism?
    And by the way for the record the ADL’s letter was far more balanced and thoughtful than the statements by Newt and certainly than Palin, not that that is saying much in comparison (to Palin)….

  • Jacques

    muslims should show ….
    `sensitivity to the families of the 911 families and friends`
    Muslim families were also affected by 911. They lost family members in the 911 attacks on the world trade center and the pentagon.
    the first so called 911 baby was born to a muslim woman who lost her husband in the collapse of the towers.
    1 NYPD first responder`s family was subjected to interrogation by the FBI because he dissapeared on 911 and was 911. It turns out he was killed in the collapse.
    It is sheer arrogance on the part of americans to think they were the only ones to suffer on 911. people from countries around the world and from many religions were killed in that attack.
    Let them build their mosque and community center OR.. the terrorists win yet again.

  • Alicia

    Hi, Mike. I think raising questions about funding sources (or the choice of a name) are perfectly legitimate. And I am aware that Saudi money (which promotes the Wahabi form of Islam which has caused so much damage, in my opinion) funds many U.S. mosques. I appreciate the fact that Aziz raised many of these questions in his interview with the developer. As for Imam Rauf, I’ve read one of his books, and found him to be a very reasonable and tolerant person.
    When it comes to ties between Rauf and others in the American Muslim community and groups such as Hamas, I have no patience for support for terrorism. However, this is not a new thing in America. Many, many Irish Americans were sympathetic to the IRA, and that doesn’t mean they were all terrorists. We can’t entirely discount every Muslim leader or thinker who has expressed sympathies we may find strange or abhorrent, which doesn’t mean we shouldn’t ask them for an account of those sympathies.
    Thanks for listening.

  • Tad

    To reject an argument based on the entity making the argument is to fall into the ad hominem fallacy, and is error. The basic argument:

    There are understandably strong passions and keen sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center site.
    Building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain
    [Therefore] The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process.
    Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.

    is a logically valid argument, whether made by ADL or anyone else, and should be examined on its merits and not on its source.
    I would further say that to ignore this argument and proceed without addressing it would indeed be insensitive, and would add to the conflict rather than take away from it.

  • David K.

    I, too, am disappointed in the ADL. Although I can appreciate their concern about sensitivity to “victims and their families,” the reality is that the attacks were made by depraved individuals who happened to be Muslim, and do not represent Islam and most Muslims. The center should stand as a reminder that “collective guilt and punishment” are unfair practices and contrary to the Abrahamic faiths.

  • Alicia

    On his blog, Mark Silk linked to this excellent article critical of the ADL’s decision by Stephen Prothero:
    http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/08/01/my-take-how-the-anti-defamation-league-lost-to-moral-high-ground/

  • ds0490

    “Hi, Mike. I think raising questions about funding sources (or the choice of a name) are perfectly legitimate. And I am aware that Saudi money (which promotes the Wahabi form of Islam which has caused so much damage, in my opinion) funds many U.S. mosques.”
    Yes, and FOX News has some new joint ventures with Saudi interests.
    http://www.wnd.com/index.php?pageId=179533
    http://www.aim.org/press-release/saudi-billionaire-boasts-of-manipulating-fox-news-coverage/
    If connections to Saudi money are grounds for suspicion, why isn’t FOX news more closely investigated?

  • Mike

    Jacques -
    Muslim families were also affected by 911. They lost family members in the 911 attacks on the world trade center and the pentagon.
    It is sheer arrogance on the part of americans to think they were the only ones to suffer on 911. people from countries around the world and from many religions were killed in that attack.

    Well in that vein let’s make a world commemoration holiday as a remembrance where human beings somewhere in the world were all equally affected… The Genocide in Rwanda affected people from all over the world as well – thus the Rwandans claiming that as their national tragedy seems arrogant as well.
    It took place in AMERICA. And Muslim radicals – mainly Saudis – who received money from likely some of the same sources that re funding this mosque flew the airplanes into the skyscrapers.
    Jacques go back to your private planet somewhere on Pluto.

  • Mike

    Alicia
    I hope you’re right however, it still seems suspicious the necessity to build a huge complex 2 blocks from the WTC site – the fact that its named after the Muslim conquest of Spain doesn’t help either – but the name is 2ndary to the need to build it 2 blocks from the WTC. That has a wey’re building this in IN YOUR FACE whether you like it OR NOT feel to it. It’s brazen and the fact the Saudis are likely funding it confirms that all the more.
    Further, the IRA never bombed the US mainland once let alone twice in the SAME SPOT.
    Tad
    I would further say that to ignore this argument and proceed without addressing it would indeed be insensitive, and would add to the conflict rather than take away from it.
    Like I said it has an IN YOUR FACE brazen quality to it… there’s been talks about building a Muslim monument there since 9/11 and now years later they picked a spot only 2 blocks away.. AGAIN IT’S GOT A BRAZEN QUALITY TO IT.
    David K
    the reality is that the attacks were made by depraved individuals
    Again – this ignores identifying them at all – they were simply depraved radicals of the human race… it also ignores the sympathy many in the Muslim world felt with this event… but ignoring that much more complicated question -
    These “radicals” were predominately Saudi Muslims – well educated – well off – and all educated in Saudi Arabia from Mosques/Madrassas which are funded directly and indirectly by the Saudi gov’t which is in bed with and share power with the Wahabists who run that country and fund mosques/madrassas around the world…
    If you close your eyes and simply state your an Alice in Wonderland analysis – then you lose credibility.
    ds0490
    Yes, and FOX News has some new joint ventures with Saudi interests.
    If connections to Saudi money are grounds for suspicion, why isn’t FOX news more closely investigated?

    I don’t own a Fox News fan t-shirt. But regardless of the validity of your links – it is a TOTAL RED HERRING and 3rd grade
    avoidance point/whine….
    If Fox is receiving money from sources that fund Al Queda directly or indirectly than that is worthy of pointing out… if Fox promotes the building a Mosque/Center 2 blocks from 9/11 because the Saudi Prince calls in his Fox contacts than that is noteworthy as well…
    Again – it doesn’t address the point -
    1) Why a huge complex 2 blocks from the WTC? Manhattan is big place with many blocks.
    2) They’ve been talking about putting a Mosque/Complex commemoration there since 9/11 – why?
    3) Is it not absolutely brazen – yes or no?
    4) Why the secrecy where the funds are coming from? For good reason.
    Mike

  • Alicia

    ds0490, asking me to defend Fox News is asking me to defend the indefensible, IMO. The Saudis may be our allies, but they fund and support and preach Wahabism, an extremist version of Islam that has been documented by respected groups such as Freedom House as preaching hatred and division: http://www.freedomhouse.org/uploads/special_report/45.pdf
    Or try googling Saudi Textbooks Hate and see what you come up with.
    But, this takes me away from the point I was trying to make to Mike, which is that people are complicated, and that includes American Muslims.
    I believe the example I gave about Irish Americans being sympathetic to the IRA holds. If the IRA had bombed here, I think many of those same Irish Americans would have been horrified. Ditto if they had dealt with the violence from both sides on a daily basis. People can have all sorts of sympathies and ideas but they never find out what they really believe until those ideas are tested in practice, or until they see the consequences up close.
    I think it would be a testament to religious freedom to build Cordoba House two blocks from Ground Zero. As for the question of funding, see the interview with the project’s developer in Aziz’s previous post.

  • Alicia
  • Rabbi Dr. Bernhard Rosenberg

    To the editor, How dare the Anti-defamation league downgrade the swastika as a Jewish Hate symbol. Almost a year ago on Yom Kippur evening my synagogue, Congregation Beth El had numerous swastikas painted on the building. No one has still been caught. Numerous additional swastikas have appeared in Edison New Jersey, with no one captured. I saw a skin head personally and no one followed up on my report. It is stupid to say as the ADL claims that” the swastika has become a more generalized symbol of hate.The extensive article in the Jewish Week conveniently leaves out the Edison story and the swastikas on my synagogue in particular. I HAVE BEEN ASKING FOR AN INVESTIGATION BY THE ADL FOR ALMOST A YEAR. THIS ARTICLE EXPLAINS WHY THE ADL HAS DONE LITTLE OR NOTHING. THE ADL WIEGHS IN ON THE MOSQUE NEAR GROUND ZERO, YET REMAINS RELATIVELY QUIET ABOUT SWASTIKAS IN MY TOWN AND IN PARTICULAR ON MY SYNAGOGUE BUILDING. THE ADL ALSO FORGIVES OLIVER STONE
    WHO IS LAUGHING ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK GETTING FREE PUYBLICITY ON HIS ANTI-SEMITIC REMARKS. I LOST MOST OF MY FAMILY IN THE HOLOCAUST INCLUDING TWO SIBLINGS AND ALL GRANDPARENTS I WILL NOT REMAIN SILENT. I OWE IT TO MY PARENTS, OF BLESSED MEMORY WHO SURVIVED AUSCHWITZ AND BUCHENWALD. RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG EDISON NJ

  • Alicia

    Good quote from Andrew Sullivan in the Daily Dish today:
    “It has always seemed to me that this war against al Qaeda is a war for religious freedom, and ultimately for the separation of church and state. It is al Qaeda’s psychotic conflation of politics and religion that we fight, not their religion itself. But these are very abstract things for anyone to fight for, to identify with emotionally and viscerally. And so, even when we start with good intentions and clear minds – we are fighting not Islam but Islamism, not religion but theocracy – we can soon simply drift and degenerate into more primitive associations.
    What we’ve been watching from Palin to Gingrich is an exploitation of this human degeneracy, or in the ADL’s case, sheer liberal cowardice in the face of tribalism. Even now, Gingrich and Palin fail to understand that rhetorical polarization may be good politics but it is terrible statesmanship in a war of ideas as well as physical combat. It’s a long war that will only be won in the minds of most Muslims, which is why how we act remains of importance. Yes, the human psyche will make easy and common and hard-to-resist associations between a religion and an act of war by the most deranged and nihilist members of that religion.
    But resisting it is what makes us decent. And to be, at a minimum, decent is, to my mind, the core aspiration of Anglo-American political morality.”

  • Mike

    Except for 1 thing -
    Sullivan acts as if Al Queda/Taliban/Muslim Brotherhood mentality is an isolated thing in the Muslim/Arab world – where Islam rules most even so-called Secular countries there…. Jordan the unelected King – keeps outlawing honor killings only to have the elected parliament re-instate shortly thereafter…. every country in the Middle East is ruled by Islam… and the Arabs while complaining of “colonialism” have no problem imposing this in Africa where millions have been killed in the process..

  • Alicia

    Consider this from Goldblog (which I linked to earlier today):
    “This seems like such an obvious point, but it is apparently not obvious to the many people who oppose the Cordoba Initiative’s planned mosque in lower Manhattan, so let me state it as clearly as possible: The Cordoba Initiative, which is headed by an imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf, is an enemy of al Qaeda, no less than Rudolph Giuliani and the Anti-Defamation League are enemies of al Qaeda. Bin Laden would sooner dispatch a truck bomb to destroy the Cordoba Initiative’s proposed community center than he would attack the ADL, for the simple reason that Osama’s most dire enemies are Muslims. This is quantitatively true, of course — al Qaeda and its ideological affiliates have murdered thousands of Muslims — but it is ideologically true as well: al Qaeda’s goal is the purification of Islam (that is to say, its extreme understanding of Islam) and apostates pose more of a threat to Bin Laden’s understanding of Islam than do infidels.
    I know Feisal Abdul Rauf; I’ve spoken with him at a public discussion at the 96th street mosque in New York about interfaith cooperation. He represents what Bin Laden fears most: a Muslim who believes that it is possible to remain true to the values of Islam and, at the same time, to be a loyal citizen of a Western, non-Muslim country. Bin Laden wants a clash of civilizations; the opponents of the mosque project are giving him what he wants.”

  • http://winceandnod.blogspot.com Tom DeGisi

    Boy, Aziz you really blew this one. The ADL clearly came out against bigotry against Muslims. It was a very balanced press release by people who have had to learn to be very careful of their P.R., and how often outreach is met with hostility. Muslims are very lucky that their attempts to reach out are not treated as badly as Jewish attempts to reach out. Muslims are similarly lucky that their attempts at improving their image and protecting their reputations are not met with the same hostility as Jewish attempts. I think you are blinded by your own belief in four things: mosques are good, Islamic Cultural Centers are good, Islamic outreach is good, and there are a lot of bigots against Muslims and Islam.
    You need to work harder at giving people the benefit of the doubt that you constantly (and correctly) demand from us.
    I’m very disappointed.
    Yours,
    Wince

  • nnmns

    Israel, in its criminal behavior toward its neighbors, has created many victims and the ADL has, I suspect, never uttered word one about Israel’s continuing victimization of, for instance, the Palestinians which generates thousands of times as much bad feeling as building this center would.
    I’m sure I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong and the ADL has in fact faulted Israel for their war crimes and crimes against humanity.

  • cindy

    I write as a member of the Mormon faith– a church that is often misunderstood and misrepresented in the media. We know what it’s like to be marginalized by a few other Christian churches—which like to refer to us as a cult, and not a true faith.
    That said, if my church wanted to build a temple on a site near where a great tragedy had occurred—and it had been committed by an apostate fundamentalist off-shoot of our church, my first thought might be to take offense or object that we had nothing to do with the incident.
    But that would only be my first thought. After I got over my initial umbrage, I would look at the bigger picture. If the community where we wanted to build the temple, was not objecting to our building a temple anywhere—just there on THAT site—I would strongly support moving it our of respect for those who had been hurt. Indeed, in the Catholic faith, the pope fairly recently advised moving the site of a convent in Germany near a former concentration camp, when it became clear that it would offend members of the Jewish faith.
    If members of the Muslim community adopted that same approach, such a magnanimous act would do so much more to forge an understanding between our faiths than insisting the Cordoba House be built despite all the objections. It would be a sermon without words. It would melt hearts and convince most of the objectors that their fears were unfounded—and that there IS genuine respect in the Muslim community for those who were hurt on 9/11.

  • Mike Nargiziain

    Cindy I couldn’t have said it ANY BETTER myself.
    And let me add – it is my feeling that the reason why this site is so attractive is because it is right next to the WTC – the location was NO coincidence.
    nnmms
    Israel, in its criminal behavior toward its neighbors, has created many victims and the ADL has, I suspect, never uttered word one about Israel’s continuing victimization of, for instance, the Palestinians which generates thousands of times as much bad feeling as building this center would.
    I’m sure I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong and the ADL has in fact faulted Israel for their war crimes and crimes against humanity.

    This is off topic but I would like to respond to this nonetheless -
    A) Let’s suppose your pretext is correct so than you would understand a 1000x more hatred and disdain for Muslims then?
    Saudi Arabia – a criminal gov’t supporting REAL genocides all over Africa
    Indonesia
    Phillipines
    Darfur
    Ethiopia
    Somalia
    India/Pakistan
    Bombings/terrorism in Spain, England and Russia
    Afghanistan
    Just but a few
    So if we categorize the level of ‘criminal behavior’ and just suppose Israel is a “criminal” state – a FAVORITE word of any Arab arguing about Israel or any state they’ve been brainwashed about how bad it is – and we then compare the level of criminality of the Arab and Muslim states EQUAL to the level of criminality – lack of human rights – support of terrorism – level of freedoms in said country for citizens and foreign nationals – degree of rights afforded by the justice system etc…
    We would be left with some conclusions -
    1) Hatred and bigotry would be 100000x more allowable against Muslims and Arabs than against Israeli Jews…
    2) Muslims and Arabs are involved in more deadly conflicts and terrorism around the world than any other sect of society.
    3) Building of the Cordoba House 2 blocks from the WTC should N-E-V-E-R happen.
    4) Arabs and Muslims are more responsible for bad treatment and death of Arabs and Muslims than ANYONE else by 10000000000000000000%.
    There you have it….
    NMMS
    And I am sure you condemned the Lebanese Army 10000x as strongly as you condemned Israel for the Flotilla considering they went into a refugee camp one weekend and mowed down by some estimates a few hundred Palestinians for committing terrorism in Lebanon…
    You see Arabs know how to handle terrorism – it’s only when Jews respond to it they have a problem…. ask Assad and his daddy…
    What – you never heard of the above incident which occurred last year? YOU SEE that is bcs the world media – the UN and the Arabs could give a shit about uppity Palestinians getting mowed down by other Arabs – only when it involves Israel or the US do they give a shit…..

  • nnmns

    Mike N. Two points:
    Israel is reasonably viewed in much of the world as our agent since we provide them with so much money and so very much political cover. Of course if they understood US politics better they’d understand it’s more like we are Israel’s agent since it’s political death for an American politician to suggest we end the Israel’s parasitism on us.
    So my main concern is as a US citizen that our current relationship with Israel is a millstone around our neck and is costing us a lot. We are too close with Saudi Arabia but we don’t have nearly the kind of relationship with them we do with Israel. If we did believe me I’d be complaining about them.
    No I’m not familiar with the incident you mentioned but I’d condemn it also.
    But since you brought up news media, for decade after decade the US mainstream news media described Israeli attacks on Palestinians as responses to Palestinian attacks, but Palestinian’s attacks on Israel were treated as rabid, irrational actions. In reality of course both were often retaliation for what the other did but the Palestinians suffered ten to a hundred times the casualties and it was their homes being destroyed on a mass scale and their land being stolen.
    You do love throwing in factors of ten for effect don’t you.

  • Alicia

    An excerpt from Michael Bloomberg’s impressive statement posted by Andrew on the Dish today:
    “This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But 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.
    We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that,”
    Read the whole thing:
    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/08/quote-3.html#more
    On the downside something like 85% of people polled about the mosque on SLATE opposed it. It’s amazing how quickly people throw liberty out the door when fear and anger are involved.

  • Mike Nargiziain

    ………..

  • Frank

    I am a gay, Catholic apostate. I’ll support the building of this Islamic center if it’s the sort of place that would allow even me to visit.

  • Alicia

    You want to know where the money to fund this mosque is coming from? It’s coming from people like me. I just donated $20 to the Cordoba Initiative, because illiberal bullies make me mad, whether they call themselves patriotic Americans or whatever religion or god they claim to worship. Andrew has a link to a way to donate through Paypal on the Daily Dish: http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/08/donating-to-the-cordoba-project.html
    I encourage anyone who believes in religious freedom, not mob psychology, to donate.
    Read more: http://blog.beliefnet.com/beliefbeat/2010/08/nyc-denies-landmark-status-to-ground-zero-building-slated-for-islamic-center.html#preview#ixzz0vg5RR4y2

  • Zees

    The intention behind this center is to promote interfaith dialogue and be a space for ALL. There will be a room for a Muslim prayer space but also a gym, basketball courts, auditorium and meeting rooms. Muslims also died on 9/11 as victims and as rescue workers. It breaks my heart that the protesters do not see this. Also I feel like they just don’t want to talk to Muslims or know them. Ignorance breeds hatred. This also goes for idiots in muslim-majority countries who blame the US for everything–ignorance breeds hatred.
    The hijackers had a political agenda and claimed they did this in the name of Islam. I hate them and their worldview. Islam has given me peace and purpose.
    Lastly NO house of worship has to release their sources of funding. So shouldn’t we change our laws so that everyone has to release this information? There are extremists in many faiths so what if we find that any other house of worship was funded by extremist groups or affiliates? I completely understand the concern about fundraising but the truth is maybe it is time to change US law to apply to everyone equally.
    Muslims have set up groups that provide guidance so that they fundraise and manage funds ethically and responsibly and legally (ie no funny money). My point is, they are most aware of the need for transparency and oversight.

  • Alicia

    I have a suggestion for those opposed to the building of this mosque/center, which is two blocks from Ground Zero (would anywhere in lower Manhattan be acceptable to opponents? I doubt it.) Instead of assuming that you know that the intent behind building this mosque was some sort of in-your-face triumphalism, as Mike (above) suggests, why not take the stated intentions of the developers and of the Cordoba Initiative at face value?
    As I said above, I decided to support this project with a small contribution. There are no “strings” attached to that donation, but at the same time, as a small donor, I am going to encourage the Cordoba Initiative not to take any money from Saudi Arabia, because that country promotes an illiberal version of Islam, Wahabism, which, far from being traditional Islam, is actually a relatively recent “reform” movement. Maybe if we did something like that instead of indulging in paranoid fantasies, we would actually have more of an impact. Just a thought.
    Last but not least, I recommend this excellent “Daily Beast” piece, “Why I Love the Mosque,” by Elizabeth Wurtzel:
    http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-08-04/ground-zero-mosque-the-political-reason-to-build-it/?cid=hp:mainpromo5

  • Mike Nargiziain

    Alicia
    I have a suggestion for those opposed to the building of this mosque/center, which is two blocks from Ground Zero (would anywhere in lower Manhattan be acceptable to opponents? I doubt it.) Instead of assuming that you know that the intent behind building this mosque was some sort of in-your-face triumphalism, as Mike (above) suggests, why not take the stated intentions of the developers and of the Cordoba Initiative at face value?
    Alicia – for the reason I have stated and Cathy very eloquently stated – why the need and intention – as was rumored as far back as a year after 9/11 – to have a Mosque/Islamic Center – at or very near/adjacent to the WTC site?
    Manhattan and downtown is a big place so why at or adjacent to the site of 9/11? It seems insensitive to me and kind of brazen.
    The site’s being built so it doesn’t matter – but that’s the gut feeling I and many others are left with…. And what if you’re wrong about the intentions or final outcome – what then?
    I know many Muslims and Arabs – believe it or not – some very well – I like some very much particularly their kids bu most are very devout even westernized ones – and it makes me uncomfortable.
    Any ultra devout religious person makes me uneasy – but yes Muslims more than others….

  • Mike Nargiziain

    No I’m not familiar with the incident you mentioned but I’d condemn it also.
    Yes you are soooooooooo politically correct… and I thought you were such a humanitarian and interested in the unfair treatment of the Palestinians – Y E T you do not know about an incident where a few hundred Palestinians were mowed down by the Lebanese Army several months ago?
    SHOCKING!
    Yes those website you memorize your talking points on Israel – as well as the UN Security Council and General Assembly – AP – AFP Al Reuters – must’ve missed that one? ehhhhhhhhhh????????????????????????????
    But since you brought up news media, for decade after decade the US mainstream news media described Israeli attacks on Palestinians as responses to Palestinian attacks, but Palestinian’s attacks on Israel were treated as rabid, irrational actions.In reality of course both were often retaliation for what the other did but the Palestinians suffered ten to a hundred times the casualties and it was their homes being destroyed on a mass scale and their land being stolen.
    Their land was ‘stolen’ in Gaza? that’s why they’re shooting thousands of rockets into Israel?
    And it’s always “in retaliation”… ok go back to your KOOL AID…..
    You do love throwing in factors of ten for effect don’t you.
    Here’s another factor of 10 for you….
    You are boring – trite – repetitive – and uninteresting…..
    Now go back to memorizing your E Intifadah points…
    Ah Salaam Alechem to you my brotha from another motha from PLUTO..

  • Alicia

    Thanks, Mike. A gut feeling is important, I grant you, but it may also be wrong. My first gut feeling on hearing of the plans to build this mosque were “No Way.” Then I reconsidered.
    Multiple sources, from liberal Muslims to former Muslims (I refuse to consider them apostates) and academics who study Islam acknowledge that there is a major debate going on among Muslims all over the world over the heart and soul of the faith, and that the Islamists, other sorts of radicals, and conservatives have been in the ascendancy for some time.
    This presents a problem which primarily should be solved by Muslims, with support from people of good will. To me this is all the more reason to support interfaith dialogue. Sometimes that support may take the form of gentle nudging, which is what I tried to do when I sent my comments to the Cordoba Initiative following my contribution. I believe that those who support the building of this mosque/community center also need to hold the Cordoba Initiative accountable if it turns out to promote an illiberal version of Islam.

  • Mike Nargizian

    Alicia -
    After 9/11 – I was in the city at the time – I can’t tell you HOW MANY Muslims my age – mainly Pakistani though – that I and my friend knew that afterards decdied they no longer wanted any non Muslim – particularly Jewish friends – NOT the other way around ironically!
    They all said the Jews and US framed the Muslims – that Jews control the media and that’s why Muslims look bad (Most Arabs and Muslims still believe this bull sh**!)
    That Jooooooz are in a holy war against Muslims – Jews stole all “”"” THEIR “”"” land – etc.. etc..
    Most weren’t regular Mosque attendees prior to 9/11 and suddenly most became more religious and regular Mosque attendees… so the Mosque and Satellite channels overnight – transformed them….
    I can’t tell you how many stories at the time I read – even in the NYTimes – [which wouldn't even use the word Muslim and/or terrorst or extremists on the same page let alone sentence] – admitted that most Imams in the city – even those prior engaged in interfaith ‘dialogues’ (excuse me for my ahem skepticism with that word) refused offers from Rabbis to make a joint statement condemning the terrorist attacks on 9/11 etc… An absolute outreach for the Imams from the Rabbis – for the Muslims benefit!!! not the Rabbis’.
    All of this I can’t forget…
    In my heart of hearts I will always feel this is in a way capitalizing on the tragedy of 9/11….
    Again – I hope you’re right about Cordoba House end result and I’m wrong – but I don’t think in the end I will be wrong – MONEY always talks – and in the end Saudi money will be controlling this project – as it controls Islam throughout the world – directly or indirectly….
    Even if building it 2 blocks away is in poor taste – ok fine – but if it is truly a ‘moderate’ outreach – I could live with it – not like it still – but I think in the end – it will be a place of rallying the troops against the West and Israel….
    There’s multiple HUMUNGOUS Mosques in Manhattan – again the need to build one right next to the old WTC site – to me is a brazen way of capitalizing… I don’t buy that it’s because this particular Imam wants to “fight against the extremists”….
    Ask him what he thinks of Al Bannah? He didn’t advocate violence but he is one tiny branch removed from the ideology of Al Queda…
    So if it means I’m fighting for Al Bannah like Immas versus Al Qeueda extremist type Imams – then I couldn’t care less… they’re both dark ages extremists to the Western way of CIVILIZED life.
    Mike

  • Alicia

    Thank you, Mike. You clearly have very strong feelings about this, and I appreciate your sharing your personal experiences with me. There is no doubt that a substantial minority in the Muslim world either believes ridiculous conspiracy theories about 9/11 or celebrated when it happened, and it is very discouraging to come face to face with such ignorance, willful blindness, and hatred.
    If you really want to get discouraged, read this article from Salon’s Glenn Greenwald about Obama’s declining popularity in the Muslim world, based on the most recent Brookings Institute poll:
    http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/08/05/muslims
    Of particular note: “For the question of which world leader they most admire, Turkey Prime Minister Recep Erdgoan was first (with 20%), Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was second (with 13%), while 12% named Iranian President Mahmoud Amedinajad (Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Osama bin Laden were named by 9% and 6%, respectively, while Barack Obama did not make the list).”
    I don’t honestly know much about the prime minister of Turkey, except that I believe he is an Islamist. But the second most popular person on this list is an anti-democratic lunatic dictator-wannabee: http://www.slate.com/id/2262520/
    The third person on the list is also a dictator and the fourth and fifth are famous terrorists.
    I don’t have my eyes shut about the challenges that liberal-minded people face, but I am recommitting myself to dialogue, and sometimes to respectful disagreement. That’s why I support the Cordoba Initiative mosque project.

  • http://www.sharpiron.org Christian

    It seems to me that the ideal solution to this situation would be the result of two responses:
    The first response, from the non-Muslim community, would be to, as Alicia said, accept at face values the reasons they give for building the community center and ‘graciously’ allow them to do so (I put graciously in quotes because as Bloomberg said, they have every right to build their center there).
    The second response, from the Muslim community, would be to say that, in light of all the strong feelings and controversy, perhaps another location might make more sense.
    Mutual submission. Respect. Empathy. I don’t think there is any other way for this to be resolved in a fashion that does not leave wounds open for many years. This is no longer a situation where anyone can win – whoever “wins” this battle, all will, in some way, lose.
    Actually that’s not true. No matter who comes out on top, Al Qaeda and ALL terrorists along with Islamist troublemakers and the xenophobic fear mongers on cable TV, AM radio, the internet and in the pulpits of reactionary Neo-Evangelical churches – those who really have no interest in peace but only the triumph of their own agendas – THEY will have won.

  • Alicia

    Here is a link to an excellent article on the history of Cordoba (which I found thanks to Andrew Sullivan, as usual) which answers my earlier question about why the choice of “Cordoba House” as name:
    http://gotmedieval.blogspot.com/2010/08/professor-newts-distorted-history.html

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  • Abambagibus

    Those who were ethically bound to create Ground Zero by destroying the towers were doing so in the solemnity of the sentiment ‘Allah be praised’. Those who are ethically bound to erect a towering Mosque within easy sight of the gloom of Ground Zero are doing so in the joyf of the sentiment ‘Allah be praised’. Those in said Mosque, should its erection come to pass, will gaze at ground zero and be doing in the ecstasy of the sentiment ‘Allah be praised.’ I do the same when I look at the lines at the airport, but only with sadness. Am I alone in this? If so, then I pray for the intercession of the Paraclete. Abambagibus Adeamus.

  • Ibrahim

    I thought this mosque was a bad idea when I first heard of it. The phrase “unbelievably stupid” came up.
    Don’t get me wrong, I want nothing to do associating myself with these anti-Muslim bigots, some of whom have used language directed towards Muslims that would fit in Mein Khamph had it been used against Jews…But anyone with an eye on reality would have known there would be an epic level of fear and doubt that would be created by this plan. Americans, especially these days, are not an intelligent people. They are far more easily swayed by fear and hate than by any message this Imam could sum up in justifying his position.
    And though I feel the ADL should have taken a stand reflecting its support for religious rights, the logic of their argument stands: WHY needlessly create a structure that inevitably will create provocation? Did they honestly not see this outrage coming? If not, can I really trust that once they build this mosque, they won’t say or do dumb things that further injures the Muslim community as a whole?

  • http://www.jfseostudio.com Jason Fandeli

    thanks for the post great read and let the bigots win is a great title

  • Mustafa

    I had composed a lengthy commentary on this issue, but deleted it a short while ago in favor of simplicity:
    The ADL, of all groups, should have been the first to step up in defense of religious freedom and against intolerance. As we have seen they have not and hence they are no better than those who stood by and averted their eyes as the trains rolled out of European towns some 70 years ago. Shame on them.
    In the same sense, what would the view of the ADL be if it were proposed to build a Christian church next to say, the Holocaust Memorial? After all, the horrors of that time were visited upon the Jews mainly by White European Christians! How dare they, of all people, inflate the deeds of a few to an indictment of many? If this is the case, let us revisit the early days of Israel itself; I have no doubt the families of those killed by Jewish terrorist bombs and bullets would have a few thoughts on the matter of intolerance.
    No, the ADL has brought shame upon themselves by their refusal- their cowardice- to stand up for others in what is shaping up to be a very dark period in American politics, religion, and society.

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