Bigotry at the Center of Ground Zero Mosque Protest
by Charing Ball
This morning, the New York Landmark Preservation Committee is meeting to vote on the landmark status of 45-47 Park Place, a five-story building which stands as a prominent example of the store and loft structures that dominated the dry goods warehouse districts of Lower Manhattan. As titillating as real estate preservation may sound, there is another part of this story, which has pretty much been ignored by the mainstream press, about the proposed constructing of a Mosque near the site of the World Trade Center.
Ok, I’m kidding as many of you have by now read or heard the headlines about the mosque, which isn’t really a mosque but an Islamic cultural center, being constructed near the site of the World Trade Center, two blocks north. Furthermore, the World Trade Center Mosque, as it has now been dubbed, has been in operation at another site farther north in the neighborhood for 29 years.
But don’t let these facts get in the way, as some have likened the building of this “mosque” near ground zero to constructing a memorial to Hitler at Auschwitz . And what started out as a small chorus of Islam phobics in New York, has been given some weight thanks in part to the media, which has provided a platform to every right-wing, irrational bigot, this side – and that side- of the Mississippi.
Even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has the common sense to see through this obvious anti-Islamic sentiment and phony outrage to remind folks that “government shouldn’t be in the business of picking” one religion over another. But that hasn’t stopped his Republican opponent Rick Lazio, who is asking for an “investigation” of where this $100 million is coming from, with no basis other than the good donors being Muslim.
Nor has it stopped Sarah “Refudiate” Palin, who has taken her sentiments to twitter saying that “Peace-seeking Muslims,” must understand that, “Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts.” Even the American Defamation League, a group that is supposed to fight against anti-semitism and other forms of racism, has joined the chorus of bigoted loonies to denounce this project.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the founder of the proposed Islamic Center and a Kuwait-born cleric of Egyptian background, had hoped that the proposed cultural center, which will feature a swimming pool, library, and a cafe among other things, would help to bridge the divide between Muslims and the rest of America. He had reasoned, maybe naively, that through this space, which would be open to the public, integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion through the arts and culture, would happen. And folks would begin to understand that most Muslims, you know, are not terrorists.
However, that reasonable and noble action has been lost on many opponents, including some family members of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, who claim that the establishment of an Islamic community center near Ground Zero will somehow hinder America’s healing process and, worse yet, would defile the memories of the nearly 3,000 that perished on the site.
Never mind that many of those expressing these sentiments for the families of the victims of the tragedy have no problem with the planned construction of new tower ON the site. Or that the terrorists responsible for 9/11 attacks also managed to kill 60 Muslims, who too worked in the World Trade Towers. And never mind that after the 9/11 attacks, many Americans that practice Islam and have nothing to do with the attacks found themselves the victims of attacks by the hands of so-called freedom-loving, flag waving Americans.
The reality is that the warmongers and right-wing propagandists have done a good job of making this a war on Islam as opposed to a war on terrorists, who happened to misuse religion ideology as justification for their disgruntlement with America. And unfortunately, the outcome of this fear campaign has made it acceptable to lump all Muslims together as one big terroristic network and refuse them the same rights afforded to other religions.
To be outraged about an Islamic Cultural Center blocks away from the World Trade Center is the equivalent of being outraged at a church being constructed near the Murrah Building/Oklahoma City Bombing site, based on the idea that Timothy McVeigh subscribed to some of the views of the extremist Christianity Movement. It just doesn’t make much sense.