Journalism in the Public Interest

For Mosques, ‘Anywhere But There’ Echoes Far Beyond Ground Zero


Demonstrators protest the construction of an Islamic center and mosque near Ground Zero, Aug. 22, 2010 (Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images).

Last week, we noted that the Islamic community center planned near ground zero is safe on legal grounds. Political outcry, nonetheless, has not subsided. (Note to our readers: The Park51 plan is indeed for a community center, which will house, among many other things, a mosque.)

While many opponents of the plan acknowledge a legal right to build two blocks away from the site of the 9/11 attacks in Lower Manhattan, they have argued instead about the need for sensitivity concerning the area around ground zero.

Op-eds and editorials from across the country have called for the mosque to be built “anywhere but there.” And the former House speaker Newt Gingrich, for one, has said he would be “quite happy” if Muslims wanted to build a community center near Central Park or Columbia University in New York.

Despite such rhetoric, mosques elsewhere in New York City—and across the country—often aren’t welcomed by local communities.

In recent months, New Yorkers have also opposed two mosques planned in Brooklyn and on Staten Island. Opposition to both those plans have cited practical reasons—such as parking and traffic—in addition to heated accusations that the planners have connections to terrorists. According to the New York Post, one opponent of the Brooklyn mosque even threatened to blow it up if it was built.

The Washington Post noted today that in Tennessee, plans for three Islamic centers—one of which has already been abandoned because of opposition—have also faced stiff resistance and organized protests from residents of suburban Nashville. (Read some of the local coverage.)

Time magazine noted over the weekend that a plan to build a mosque in Southern California has also split the community there. It, too, has sparked protests.

And USA Today, in a 2004 piece, reported that plans to build mosques had faced resistance in New Jersey, Illinois, Arizona and Georgia.

In one case in Illinois, a mosque in Morton Grove, a Chicago suburb, was permitted to be built after two years of dispute, a federal lawsuit, and a civil rights investigation by the Justice Department. Both the lawsuit and the investigation centered on the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which, as we have noted, is a federal law passed by a Republican Congress in 2000 to protect against land use discrimination on the basis of religion. The agreement to allow the project to move forward was finally reached in 2004 with help from the Justice Department.

So perhaps USA Today is right to ask: Given the widespread opposition to such projects over the years, is anywhere far enough from ground zero to build a mosque?

I am not a religious person. I practice no religion. With that said I strongly oppose the building of a Mosque near ground zero. By doing so it shows a lack of respect to all Americans. Its not about First Amendment rights nor is it about the legal good graces of our laws it is simply about respect for the American peoples. Sensitivity would have won them points.

The tenets of Islam, practiced over-whelming by Muslim decent is so antithetical to American religious values explains the push back. Muslims who practice Islam, which can only be defined as a political religious institution bent on world domination, have already pushed/lobbied for Sharia law in both Canada and the U.S.. This can, and will, lead to violence in America. We must ask ourselves if we are willing to pay this price. I for one wish not to. Islam and its violence and intolerance belongs exclusively to Muslim countries and that is where a Mosque belongs. Ask yourself if a Christian church would be allowed to be built in a Muslim country, I think not. If it was built how long would it be allowed to stand? Not long. The Americans value of intolerance with regard to Islam is a recipe for disaster.

Wake up to Islam America. It’s not just a religion. One of the five pillars of Islam is to use Jihad to spread Sharia Law which is at odds with Democracy and Freedom. If you want to know more;

Joego displays ingnorance.
Jihad is NOT one of the five pillars of Islam. Check any relaiable source.

#1 - The US doesn’t take its moral compass from intolerant countries.  We lead, not follow.

#2 - It is easy to tolerate things you like.  The true test of character is to tolerate the things that you don’t agree with because you know that it is essential to our values and to what our country stands for.

#3 - If this is a test of American character, how are we doing?

+1 for Mike!!! Well said!

pgillenw - When you speak, make sure you know what you speak about. The ‘Five Pillars’ of Islam are the foundation of Muslim life:

  * Faith or belief in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad;
  * Establishment of the daily prayers;
  * Concern for and almsgiving to the needy;
  * Self-purification through fasting; and
  * The pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able.

Sorry pgillenw, wrong person joega is the one that just listens to people instead of investigating and finding out the truth.

The property was acquired a year before there was a ground zero with the plans to build exactly what is planned now. It was out of respect for the victims and their families that they have waited till now to move forward with the project. We expect the Iraq people to put aside their differences and tolerate living in the same country but we don’t practice the same tolerance at home. It’s time for all good people to stand together against extremism where ever it festers Muslim and Christen alike.

Religion is institutionalized insanity.

So you are saying that spreading Sharia law through Jihad is not part of the Koran???? It is very clear that it is! If Islam is so tolerant then why do Muslim countries reject other religions?

Let us not forget the (around) 164 Jihad verses in the Qu’ran:

I find myself amazed at how many people think and speak with such a generalized (ignorant) understanding of Islam.  The Sufi sect (which characterizes the Imam for this particular organization) is a very liberal, accepting, and peaceful “denomination” of Islam. The hard line Sunni Salafists of Al Qaeda consider the Sufis to be unbelievers and on .

That said, I frankly don’t believe any ONE religion should build memorial at the “ground zero” site.

As a Christian, I would be offended if some particular Christian denomination built on the site.

Bottom line, as I see it, this site should be preserved for those who explicitly represent and welcomes all religion, race, gender, and ethnicity of Americans.

And, I think we should really be ashamed that our national dialogue on this issue has degenerated into division and discrimination.  This site should be respected and remembered as a place of peaceful lament and reflection, as well as a place of respect for what happened there. 

By contrast, it should not be remembered by the of discrimination which facilitated the hateful attack against it.

there was hundreds of muslim killed in the world trade center bldg,they worked and prayed there the plan to build a mosque at that site was ayear before 911

‘Tolerance’- often invoked when there is an absence of conviction. This is not a religion that preaches tolerance. Ask a true-believer what the penalty is for rejecting Islam. Seriously, go out and find a devout muslim from, say Sudan, and ask them what is the suggested Islamic penalty for rejecting or ‘leaving’ their own religion. Tell me that this is tolerable in the 21 st century. Next we’ll let them establish Sharia law in their own communities, in the interests of being ‘tolerant’

The Sufi sect practice Orthodox Islam. Read the Koran;

Islam is Islam

Wow, once again reasonable voices are drowned out by stupidity! First it was Catholics, then it was southern europeans, eastern europeans, and Jews. Now it’s Muslims; which faith will be targeted next for scapegoating and bigotry? Thankfully all these yahoos who support falsehoods and bigotry are perfect examples of why the Founding Fathers worked so hard to make sure there were no established religions in America and that everyone could practice their beliefs freely. Whatever your personal convictions are this is America and we are Americans. We are practically obligated to support the right and intent of the Park 51 organizers to build their community center. It used to be that America stood for something, that being American meant we held ourselves to higher standards. So what happened? As an American who is also a Jew I fully support Imam Rauf and all those involved in this project. Whatever happened to treating others as we wish to be treated?

It wasn’t that long ago that the meme “Jews drink the blood of Christian babies” was an “accepted fact.”

joego: “If Islam is so tolerant then why do Muslim countries reject other religions?”... I don’t know, maybe they’re following *our* lead. We’ve been pretty intolerant of anything other than certain types of protestantism for quite some time. We’re not supposed to have a state religion here, but far too many people try to find any excuse to turn this into an “us versus them”, “Christian versus Muslim” conflict.

This is another embarrassment to America ; our bigotry and xenophobia shines through again, in that even as we have American-born missionaries trying to convert people, we’re scared of anything that might be different, as if their faith somehow lessens our respective faiths (or lack thereof).

“I strongly oppose the building of a Mosque near ground zero. By doing so it shows a lack of respect to all Americans. Its not about First Amendment rights nor is it about the legal good graces of our laws it is simply about respect for the American peoples. Sensitivity would have won them points”...........“Muslims who practice Islam, which can only be defined as a political religious institution bent on world domination,”

So, are you opposed to the community centre because of their insensitivity, or because they are bent on world domination?  Would you be okay with them planning world domination from a community centre near Washington Square?

claims that this is just about sensitivities over this spot, and not about prejudice would be a lot more believeable if they weren’t immediately (and almost invariably) followed by rank ignorance, stereotyping, and fearmongering.

Saying that there is no distinction among Islamic sects is like saying that there is no distinction between Catholics and Unitarians, or between Mennonites from the fundamentalists who have assassinated doctors—simply because they base their beliefs on the same book.

Most Muslims practice their religion peacefully.  Also, a very large number of Muslims accept democracy and practice separation of church and state.  If you do not accept those simple facts, then you have simply chosen to be ignorant, joego.

I’ll just add to Scott by pointing out that most Muslim countries have communities of other religions.  Iran in fact has Jewish members of Parliament.

I love reading the comments from all these “experts” on Islam, who get all their info from the idiots on Fox News and AM talk radio.

When can Rupert Murdoch be tried for sedition already? What will it take for us to get serious as a nation about the danger of allowing hate-mongering propaganda to pollute our airwaves 24/7?

Does it feel like the terrorists are winning just looking at this conversation.

We are restricting places of worship, it takes hours to cross the border into Canada, I can’t take a bottle of water into the waiting area of the airport, we are spoending our childrens money on a senseless war, it goes on and on.

We should all take a step back and remember the beliefs this country was founded on and relax.

No more knee jerk reactions

To Scott,
“Most Muslims practice their religion peacefully.  Also, a very large number of Muslims accept democracy and practice separation of church and state.  If you do not accept those simple facts, then you have simply chosen to be ignorant, joego.”

I’m working on my ignorance by reading the Koran are you? If you were reading it yourself you might be surprised by what you find there. This is not about religion vs religion or right versus left. This is about freedom and democracy vs Jihad to spread Sharia law in America. If you want to know more just read the Koran;

Wake up America or be a doormat for the intolerance of Islam in America.

The ‘too close’ argument is intellectually untenable.  The 9/11attacks were against the notion and perceived transgressions of America as a whole against the expansion of a militant interpretation of Islam, the twin towers were a symbolic target (as well as the Pentagon and White House).  This was not a specific and localized attack in the sense that it was meant for these specific people at this specific locale.  It would rather be more intellectually honest of those who oppose the Islamic center to simply oppose any and all Islamic expression within our boarders.

We can not argue the Islamic Center is too close to the ground zero, because all of America is ground zero in both the terrorist’s eyes and in the view of every American.  9/11 was a shared national tragedy, and not localized solely to lower Manhattan.

The irony of the fringe argument against the Islamic center is that it strikes at the core constitutional rights of freedom of religion, and private property that these same individuals so harp on.  The message then is that it is okay to take away the rights of individuals based on religious/ethnic labels; something usually only done by the ‘fascists’ they incorrectly align with Obama

Riding fascism of one stripe with fascism of another still leaves us with a fascism of either a Christian or Islamic tint.  It does not provide for healing, reconciliation, or a downfall of those ideals which continue to enslave humanity to the will of the few and powerful.


Aug. 24, 2010, 2:48 p.m.

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Iran has Jewish members of Parliament? Wow! If I didn’t know better I would call that complete fiction.

To all that have commented.

Our world has become over populated. Never in history has there been such migration of peoples. It is occurring all over the world. With this human migration comes ever new issues for the host countries. The issues that arise today are different and can not be compared to those of say the American industrial revolution. America is barely holding on. Her people are hurting. Our standard of living is declining. Asking America to take in the masses, especially those who do not embrace our cultural values is a recipe for disaster.

As a daughter of America it has been in recent history that women of this country have had to struggle to gain a modicum of equality. That struggle has brought gain but it is way from over. The majority of those who practice Islam have demonstrated misogynistic behavior that results in the degradation and slavery of women and girls. Genital mutilation of girls in America is on the rise. Should we tolerate this practice?

It was not long ago that the Muslim community around Detroit were calling for a separate Muslim State. While this was squashed, for now, it is an act that should not go unnoticed.

Gay Americans are making headway in the U.S. These good Americans are far from gaining equality and respect. Those of Islamic faith and allowed to have Sharia law would condemn Gays to death.

To all who say that wars going on now are not about Christians vs. Islam are mis-guided. It is Islam vs. Jews, vs. Christians vs. Western democracies. No not all Muslims who practice Islam are bad people but the numbers in their ranks whose believe that all Jews are to be destroyed and all non believers of Islam either convert or be destroyed can’t be denied. The numbers of hate filled Muslims overwhelm the numbers of “good” Muslims.

It is so righteous of those Americans who seem to believe that they can show the radical Islamic that our way is superior if they only live among us, they will change. That attitude is, in my opinion, ignorant, patronizing and arrogant. On going threats and recent events prove that this does not work. We have educated in our Universities many of the actors who have either planned or carried out Jihad on our soil or attacked abroad.

It is the sole responsibility of Muslims to change their own beliefs if they so wish. It is the Muslim who believes in democratic values to show other Muslims the advantage of these values. It is not America’s responsibility.

To believe that throwing the most virulent believer of Islam in to the melting pot will alter their behavior is an ill-conceived plan. The tolerance and guidance of our founding Fathers, for which many of us practice, is now being systematically used against us. Americans are loosing their freedoms. As one commenter noted our freedom to board an airplane with out being subjected to degrading security searches is but one example, there are many others.

You can refer to me as ignorant, racist or xenophobic but those words are meaningless to this woman who has little fuel left to mount a struggle to possibly persuade the most ferment practitioner of Islamic values that our beliefs, values and way of life is better. That seems arrogant and is not in my best interest.  It is instead an action that would be futile.

I’m glad that Americans finally are participating in this debate. Our lips have been unsealed. This is certainly about more than the Mosque at ground zero. This is about who we are as Americans. Most Americans are not hateful people but freedom is fragile thing and we need to be able to debate threats to our freedom as Americans without fear.

i’d just like to know why the opponents of the Cultural Center lower themselves so much.

i guess they don’t believe in the United States.  otherwise they’d know something about this country, and the Constitution. 

i guess they don’t know that the Constitution stands for everybody, not just a privileged few whenever they have something to whine about.

i guess they’d rather put themselves on a level with the real terrorists by spreading their own messages of hate and intolerance.

i guess ‘freedom’ only means freedom for them; not for anyone they don’t like.

sad, pathetic, frightened, scared little people. . .

Is this still open for comment? I don’t see any new posts but I’m still getting email about it.

joego—you need to calm down. You say you’ve read the Koran. Good. Have you read the Bible? Do all Christians believe and practice everything in the Bible in the same way? No. There’s alot of smiting and violence in the Bible. There’s alot of ancient culture that we don’t understand. There’s alot of stoning of sinners. Do we still do that? (So far) No. Likely, that is also the case with the Koran. Spirituality is a process…a journey over hundreds of years. There are peaceful Muslims and violent Muslims. There are peaceful Christians and violent Christians. Those who would like to destroy us are counting on this division and hatred. Don’t let them get the better of you, sir. Don’t let them get the better of all of us.

Those involved in stalemates always face the question whether they want to be happy or whether they want to be right.

Tunnel-vision joe, and your chorus, sound like people who have chosen to try and be right. I’m afraid that your lived will be filled with judgment and alienation.

Americans are a very tolerant and proud society and if wasn’t for our efforts and blood this world would most likely be living under some sort of dictatorship or communist rule. Our constitution guarantees Americans rights but only if you swear to uphold it as an American citizen and not to sabotage and undermine it to implement a system such as Sharia law which is at odds with freedom, democracy and the constitution. Find out more about Islam at;

For those of you who say I have tunnel vision- you are right. I have tunnel vision for freedom and justice in this world. For all of the peaceful Muslims in the world God bless you! And for those of you who say that seeking the truth about Islam as a non believer is being a bigot then I’m a bigot. You can change my mind when a majority of Muslims stand up and say no to Jihad and sharia law. I don’t see that happening now or the near future and so the best I can to is to study the source of Islam which is the Koran. Unfortunately I can hardly find any peace in reading it, atleast for a Kifir like myself;

Your criticisms are weak in the face of the reality of the facts we face today as Americans.

“Iran has Jewish members of Parliament? Wow! If I didn’t know better I would call that complete fiction.”

I guess you don’t know better.  What a surprise.

“The Sufi sect practice Orthodox Islam. Read the Koran;....Islam is Islam”

If you had actually read the Koran you would find 0 references to Sufism in it.  The reason being that sufism developed 3 - 400 years after the Koran was written.  It would be easier to believe you knew what you were talking about, if you actually knew what you were talking about.

The Jew in Iranian parliament is most likely there for propaganda purposes.

It’s ok in Islam to fool a kifir right?

So for the Sufi argument I’m sure that many westerners would be pleased to here that they don’t practice Jihad or Sharia law? Is this true (question for the true expert) And what version of the Koran do they use?

Seems to me, as a Jew, that the core tenets of Islam and Christianity are equally offensive - Jihad and Evangelism amount to the same thing - an unwillingness to accept the other as spiritually complete and legitimate. 

So to watch Christians with their undies in a bunch about Muslims seems pretty much to witness a case of the pot calling the kettle black.  These are both “offensive” (on the offense) religions.

Of course some forms of Jewish nationalism have been accused rightly of being aggressive, but Judaism’s aggression has almost never been spiritual.  Whatever political aggression we are guilty of, we’ve been pretty content to accept that the righteous of all nations can find favor with God and have no need of our religion to do so. 

Be that as it may, the idea that there could be a serious discussion about NOT building a mosque in lower Manhattan is absurd beyond belief.  We’ve reentered the dark ages, and are witness to an effort to make the US into what it never was - a Christian nation in law. 

Any Jews who don’t understand what this means for them are living in a dream world.  You will be absorbed or you will be ejected.  Our peaceful coexistence with Christian America is coming to an end.  A Christian America that cannot tolerate a mosque will never in the long run tolerate a synagogue either.   

We Jews who are under attack from radical Islam may feel animosity toward Muslims and friendship with Christians who attack Islam, but this is a foolish path.  Only the constitution and political leaders that protect Muslims will protect Jews.  If Christians succeed in making America a place without mosques, we Jews are most certainly never secure here.

The security of Jews is oddly, but completely, tied up with creating an America in which Muslims can build a mosque in lower Manhattan.  We should all be fighting for it as if our children’s futures depending on it, because they do.  American Jews need that mosque in lower Manhattan more than anybody.  The people who oppose it our our mortal enemies because they are enemies of the open society upon which our security depends.

Wow.  I have to take a moment in order to organize my thoughts….

Ok.  I’m good.

The Bible and the Quran preach violence in some passages.  But we don’t take them all literally anymore.  Most religious folk look at them like metaphors- the smart ones also understand a lot of what’s in those books must be taken in the context of when they were written.

That said, many of the Muslim countries that are strictly Muslim and don’t have much tolerance for other religions are farrrrrr behind the modern world.  So they are living in a much different world.  How can we fault them for the way they live when we don’t do too much to help change it?

And, last but not least, why is it wrong for Muslims to be “hell bent on world domination,” but the Evangelical church is okay?  Christianity has just as much ugliness from within as any other religion.  The only difference is they don’t have complete control over an entire country (thank, ehem, God).

So Muslim countries probably wouldn’t be too tolerant of a Christian church being built on their land.  You’re right.  But why as Americans, where we love to boast about freedom just as rapidly as we deny it to some through ignorance, can we use that as an excuse to deny someone their inherent rights in this land?

You ignoramus’s (no, not an ignorant lawyer) need to grow up and do some research.

I see that in Isreal there are mosques and synagoges in the same country and they tolerate each other fine right? I’m sure that the same will work here in America when there are say 40 million Muslims or so. For those Jews who encourage mosques I wonder if they are really not asking for conflict considering what is said about them in the Koran;

All the comparisons on the various religions are very interesting but what you all don’t get is that Islam is not just simply a religion it is a complete civil code and enforcement (e.g Jihad and Sharia law). You are comparing apples and oranges. The goal is to replace our laws, constitution and way of life by force if necessary. If you want to know more I recommend this site;

Thank you for articulating about how violence in the Quran is not necessarily interpreted literally. That needed to be said.

However, I would not compare peaceful evangelism—however repellent evangelism can be—to world domination.  True evangelism is accepted only by choice and left up to God by faith; in other words, it is anything but domination, which implies control by force.

Joego, when you claim to be highly educated and knowledgable about Islam and then continually link to a xenophobic hate site, it is a bit like claiming to be highly educated and knowledgable about Judaism and then citing The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as your source.  You are only going to convince other racists.

First of all Islam is not a race and so how can I be a racist.  I’m not a very religious person although I believe that a higher order than mankind certainly does exist- but since God hasn’t directly contacted me I’m keeping an open mind regarding religion. To me Islam is a collection of ideas and some of those ideas are at odds with my freedom. The key problem ideas are Jihad and Sharia law. I personally don’t have a problem with people in general and I’m not a hateful person. I think that people who read these Ideas about Islam (Jihad and Sharia Law) and execute them are a threat to the American way of life. And so far I don’t see a majority of Muslims refuting these ideas. If you are a Muslim are you willing to refute these ideas? If a substantial number of Muslims are willing to abandon these ideas I’m willing to listen and change my position on Islam.

Way out here in the Middle of Nowhere, Wyoming, we have a couple of miffed cattle ranchers who hired a lawyer to keep Park County Planning & Zoning from granting permits to construct a French Gothic catholic monastery out in the country 15 miles from the nearest town ( population 200).  They say it goes against their ‘cowboy’ custom and culture.

Plus ca change.  ( Google for Carmelite + Meeteetse )

The attackers were Muslim, that doesn’t make all Muslims responsible.  We don’t hold all Christians accountable when an abortion clinic gets bombed, just the ones that did it!

“And so far I don’t see a majority of Muslims refuting these ideas. If you are a Muslim are you willing to refute these ideas?”

The Imam of the “9/11 TERROR MOSQUE” has publicly and repeatedly refuted violence and Jihad but that doesn’t change your mind, so why on earth are we to think anything will change your mind.  On top of which, all kinds of muslims have denounced violence and extremism within their communities, but since you are not in their communities, you don’t hear it and so assume it doesn’t happen.

You’ve repeatedly demonstrated that you don’t know what you are talking about.

Stef, you say “don’t let them get the better of us”. Thus far they are, let me remind you “they” have us fighting two wars with others in the making. They have invoked terror on our soil. They have successfully thrown in our face the building of a Mosque near an attack, an attack steeped in hatred. America is going bankrupt fighting the despotic Islamic. Wake up they are systematically biting piece by piece out of the American way of life. Its past time to say no to Islam.

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