Is Religious Freedom a Casualty at Ground Zero?

Kambiz GhaneaBassiri is the author of "A History of Islam in America: From the New World to the New World Order" (Cambridge University Press 2010) and a 2006 Carnegie Scholar. This article appears courtesy of Religion Dispatches.

New York City’s Landmark Preservation Commission’s unanimous decision on August 3, 2010, to allow plans for the construction of a mosque and community center near Ground Zero to move forward has been hailed by some as a victory for religious freedom, but it has also provided more fodder for latent anti-Muslim sentiments that have surfaced nationally since plans for the project were made public.  Regardless of how one views the decision, the controversy surrounding the project is a reminder of the fact that while religious pluralism was a founding ideal of the United States implicit in the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom, Americans historically have edged toward it kicking and screaming. 

In the nineteenth century, it was Roman Catholicism that represented the most prominent threat to what were believed to be sacred American values.  Detractors called it “Romanism” or the “popish” religion, and the claims made against it were that it did not recognize secular authority, that it promoted intolerance and violence, and demanded blind obedience to its ancient doctrines.  These are all charges currently made against Islam as a religion.

In the late nineteenth century, the prominent nativist Josiah Strong wrote, “It has been shown that it is the avowed purpose of Romanists to ‘make America Catholic.’  It has been shown that this could not be done without bringing into active conflict the diametrically opposed principles of Romanism and the Republic, thus forcing all Romanists in the United States to choose between two masters, both of whom they now confess to serve.”

I suspect it would be with a great sense of irony that Strong would view today's Catholic American leaders such as Rick Lazio, Carl Paladino, and Newt Gingrich on the political stage assessing the threat that members of another religious tradition pose to Americans and their values.

How did the tide of perception change for Catholic Americans?  Their assimilation was successful largely because of the establishment of religious institutions through which they could participate in and adapt to their local American communities.  A major impetus for the rise of Catholic schools in this country was anti-Catholicism.  Catholic schools and organizations such as the Knights of Columbus, like Jewish organizations and Jewish Community Centers, became safe havens through which distinctly American Catholic and American Jewish communities and identities were formed.

In recent years, an American Muslim identity is also emerging from the long history of Muslim community building in the United States.  This story dates back to the European discovery of the Americas. We often forget that Europeans crossed the Atlantic in search of trade routes that would bypass Muslim empires and merchants.  People of Muslim heritage were involved in the encounters and rivalries that established the Atlantic world, and some of them ended up in the Americas.

It was not, however, until the rise of the Atlantic slave trade that tens of thousands of Muslims were brought to America.  They participated in local slave communities and even entered into relations with whites.  For many, Islam played an important role in these relationships. Some African Muslims living on Georgia plantations reinforced their communal relations by making rice cakes and distributing them as alms (sadaqa or saraka)among the local children.  Others formed relations with their masters through religion. ‘Umar ibn Said, who left us with a precious autobiography in Arabic, distinguished himself from his master religiously.  Yet, he had a prayer which opened with “God, our Lord, our Creator…open my heart to the Gospels, to the path of guidance,” and closed with a qur’anic phrase, “Praise belongs to God, the Lord of the Worlds.”

The first American Muslim institution was founded on East 23rd Street in lower Manhattan in 1892 by Mohammed Alexander Russell Webb, an American diplomat and Theosophist who converted to Islam and was funded by Indian merchants to proselytize in the United States.

Webb’s efforts failed, but he was followed by thousands of immigrants from the Middle East, Eastern Europe, and South Asia, and by African Americans, who converted to varying forms of Islam, some of which, such as the Nation of Islam, were distinctly a product of African American experiences.  They built American mosques and Muslim institutions in such diverse places as Brooklyn, Detroit, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Ross, North Dakota, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  The mosque built in Cedar Rapids in 1934 is the oldest American Muslim institution and is on the national register of historic places.  American Muslims refer to it fondly as the Mother Mosque.

American Muslims’ community building efforts between the World Wars were so successful in shaping a specifically American Islamic identity that when American Muslims who had fought in World War II returned home they sought to gain national recognition for Islam.  They held a convention of some four hundreds Muslims in 1952 in Cedar Rapids in order to start an umbrella organization that came to be called the Federation of Islamic Associations of the United States and Canada (FIA).  The first president of the FIA, Abdallah Igram, a World War II veteran, approached President Eisenhower in 1953 to ask, “Why is there no symbol for the Islamic faith on a Muslim serviceman’s identification tags so that he might be given fitting burial rites if he’s killed in action?”  His query led to the use of an “I” on the dog tags of American Muslim soldiers.

In the 1950s and 1960s, as immigration laws were liberalized and as Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam came to play a national role in the civil rights struggles of the period, the number of Muslim immigrants and converts increased.  Many of these Muslims were politicized by anti-colonial movements abroad as well as civil rights struggles at home.  Much of their activism took the form of Muslim community and institutions building.  Although in the beginning they required support from Muslim organizations abroad, they became, in time, more and more independent as well as more engaged in local civic and political activities.  The Council of American-Islamic Relations (established in 1994) is but one example of such institutions.  It was founded with the aim of fighting for causes of concern to Muslims abroad (such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict), but, as the needs and concerns of American Muslims changed, it evolved into an advocacy organization for American Muslim civil rights.

The local and national Muslim institutions built throughout the twentieth century provided a way for Muslims to participate in American society as both Americans and Muslims despite the stigmatizing discourses they faced related to both Islam in the United States and America in the Muslim-majority world.

While Newt Gingrich and other opponents of the planned mosque and community center in lower Manhattan try to convince Americans that the so-called Ground Zero Mosque is “all about conquest” and “Islamist triumphalism which we should not tolerate,” the history of Islam in America tells a different story.  It suggests that the proposed mosque and community center, which is modeled after the New York YMCA and Jewish Community Center, is a continuation of century-old efforts at community building and an attempt to represent Islam in lower Manhattan as American Muslims have understood and experienced it rather than through the actions of terrorists.  The decision to allow the building of the mosques and community center is yet another episode in American history that moves us closer to the realization of our nation’s founding ideal of religious pluralism and freedom amidst a din of protests.

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Richard Brodie - 8/24/2010

"Unless you're a Crow or Navaho or Lakota, Richard, you're an alien."

Actually I'm part Cherokee.

"Not that there's anything wrong with that."

Why do I think you don't mean that? I would imagine someone like yourself would maintain that of all the the population displacements that ever occurred on the North American continent throughout history and pre-history - including the Asiatic invasion across the Bering land bridge that wiped out the earlier (white) Kennewick peoples - it is only the coming of the Europeans that is to be decried as a cruel and despicable takeover.

/truth - The indians (including "my" people) never utilized more than a minuscule percentage of this continent's vast territory. The white man eradicated inter-tribal warfare, and supplied the native inhabitants with sovereign territory for their own nations, where they can still maintain their own peculiar racial and cultural identities in a perpetual state of peace and prosperity they never knew as savages. (Similar blessings were bestowed upon the African savages who were fortunate enough to have ended up in America rather than as REAL "slaves" in some other considerably more barbaric country.) - /endtruth

Elliott Aron Green - 8/22/2010

1-- I don't know about the landscape outside of cities, but in cities zoning rules apply. I am sure that Philadelphia was no different from other major cities. And zoning laws apply to houses of worship too.

2-- Con Ed may or may not be privately owned, but is subject to special regulations by state agencies as it is a public utility with a monopoly position in its operating area.

james joseph butler - 8/22/2010

Elliott, houses of worship are scattered willy nilly o'er the American landscape; urban, suburban, country, big or small, entirely DIY or institutional edifices, you never know where the sacred might appear.

Con-Ed is a privately owned corporate utility company.

Elliott Aron Green - 8/18/2010

Dear Ms Kambiz, there is another point about the proposed mosque-cum-Muslim-community-center that I did not notice in your article. That is that American city governments typically divide up cities into zones. Different kinds of structures and human activities are permitted and forbidden according to the pertinent zoning rule. For instance, most cities would forbid a pig slaughterhouse in a residential neighborhood, a least not in a neighborhood inhabited by prosperous people. In fact, I lived near one such establishment when I was a kid, although my family's tradition was not partial to eating swine. I remember hearing the squeals of the swine being hoisted on hooks before slaughter. In fancier neighborhoods, that and other sorts of establishments and facilities are forbidden. Likewise, stores are forbidden in many residential neighborhoods except on streets zoned for that purpose. And factories are forbidden in park zones. And apartment buildings are forbidden in some places, and so on and so forth. So current American law does not give anyone the right to set up a church or synagogue or even a mosque just anywhere that he wants to do so. So I agree with President Obama that religious freedom should be respected in America --and I would add, in Saudi Arabia too-- although the right to build a house of worship cannot by law be exercised everywhere that might like. To be sure, the USA does not go as far as the Wahhabite Kingdom does, which bans all overt non-Muslim public worship. Yet the USA and its people have rights to determine through their elected officials and representatives where such houses of worship may be erected.

Another point in regard to the proposed 10-storey mosque and center may have been the subject of a mistake by the President. I have heard that the building now held under lease by a Muslim society, is partly owned in fact by the Consolidated Edison Co. of New York. This is the NYC electric company and is heavily regulated by the state and state agencies. So this means that Mr Obama's belief or claim that the property is entirely privately owned may be in error. That is another consideration.

Elliott Aron Green - 8/17/2010

jjb, you don't think that the train is an Auschwitz train but a "love train." Yet the Hamas charter says in Article 7 that the Muslims should slaughter the Jews, albeit at the End of Days. But you know that a fanatic isn't going to be deterred by a mere date when he's convinced that he's doing the right thing, just maybe a little early. Further, the Hamas has demonstrated its commitment to mass murder of Jews time and again. How many mass murder terrorist attacks by Hamas are needed for you to understand that??

Then you call the Arabs in the country "natives", forgetting that the Arabs invaded and conquered the country in the 7th century, less than 1400 years ago, and also forgetting that the Jews were in this country about 2000 years before the Arabs.

jjb, you will have to come a long way to convince me that your train is a "love train" and not an Auschwitz train.

james joseph butler - 8/16/2010

Elliott, the "Auschwitz train", when will Israelis stop hearing that train's whistle? When they've bulldozed every Palestinian home? When they have 300, 500, 5,000 nukes? When they've clear cut the natives in all directions or shackled them behind concrete walls?

"Let's cut this crap about the 19th century vs 21th century, claiming that in the 19th certain things were OK that are not OK now." What can I say Elliott? Do you really want me to list the differences between 1810 and 2010 regarding human rights in America? You do live in Israel. Shalom brother.

Elliott Aron Green - 8/16/2010

Get on the love train, you say, jjb. Yes, I feel the love. But I don't want to get on the Auschwitz train which most Jews likely think is the destination that you have in mind for them.

Let's cut this crap about 19th century vs 21st century, claiming that in the 19th certain things were OK that are not OK now. And you or your forebears just happened to do their thing in the right century. You're living in the country of the American Indians or Native Americans, as they sometimes call themselves. So, you can still redeem yourself by leaving. If you don't think that it is your moral duty to leave America, then please don't speak in such terms to Mr Brodie.

Further, Jews are indigenous to the Middle East in general and the Land of Israel in particular. Throughout history, Jews in the Dispersion have believed that they had the right to return to the Land of Israel, which theme appears in the daily prayers [whether you like it or not]. One of your problems is that you believe all sorts of smears of Israel put out by interested parties, including Arab groups funded by the Ford Foundation. Some of these smears, misrepresentations, half-truths and plain lies appear in the media, both privately owned and state-owned, in the West and the Arab and Muslim countries. For instance, the claims about Arab olive groves cut down out of sheer malice by those malicious Jews. Or the claims often made today that the Turkish jihadist thugs on the Mavi Marmara, of the so-called Gaza "freedom flotilla," were "peace activists," or "human rights" activists. These same thugs were sent by the IHH, a Turkish jihadist organization linked to the failed plot to bomb LA airport at the millenium. The IHH is also linked to the present Turkish govt of Erdogan, according to a NYTimes report. They were not "peace activists." That does not stop important international "news" broadcasters from continuing that big lie. You, jjb, have accepted too many of these lies meant to smear Israel.

james joseph butler - 8/15/2010

Elliott, you compare Israel to America and while there are similarities regarding the treatment of indigenous peoples; you're not fully human and you're obstructing progress and profit, the differences are salient. Most of the Indians in North America were killed by white peoples' germs. When Squanto returned to his community in Massachusetts after his capture and eventual release his people were largely gone. Germ warfare is the colonialists' best friend. Large parts of the Indian population were decimated by white germs before white people appeared. The remaining Indians were the victims of hundreds of broken treaties, theft, and genocide. Kit Carson cut down Navaho peach trees for the same reason Israelis cut down Palestinian olive trees. Indians didn't become US citizens until 1924 and Utah didn't grant full rights until 1957.

Most of this happened at least a 100 years ago. Alas, Elliott, history and human rights are manmade constructs, Israel was born in the wrong century. Point being, using the 2010 sliding scale of what constitutes the humane treatment of indigenous people, Israel, as that bastion of freedom and democracy, and as the largest recipient of US foreign aid, ought to be a moral exemplar instead it's America circa the 19th century. The Indians are down and out but that's not good enough, we want it all. That's what I object to.

Israel isn't going away anymore than Northern Ireland is but why does Israel feel compelled to steal land, bulldoze homes, and use retribution ratios of 100 to 1 to ensure a suburban American lifestyle for its citizens?

Elliott I'm an ordinary American, I've moved at least a half dozen times as an adult. Trust me, I'd move again if I knew that somebody's grandmother had to live in squalor so I could fulfill some old world text's vision of what's right. Elliott it's a big world and small minds and thirteen tribes are so yesterday. Come on aboard the love train Elliott, it feels good and it means that you treat all of God's children, whatever flag they may fly, as Mr. Big, or Ms. Big, would. It's logical too.

Elliott Aron Green - 8/14/2010

I'm glad, jjb, that you recognize that you too are alien in America, after all, if Mr Brodie is an alien then so are you. Now, jjb, the Jews are returning to the Land of Israel. We are not utter newcomers there, that is, here. We were forced out by various historical circumstances and have returned. Feeling as you do about us, jjb, maybe you ought to put your feet where your mouth is and go back to County Donegal --I understand that it's a lovely place-- or wherever. I'm sure Mr Brodie won't miss you.

John M Shaw - 8/14/2010

I'm shocked by Richard Brodie's rants.
He is an example of the danger of uninformed passions. The rule of law (Constitution and Bill of Rights) protects us from any attempte to impose public policy based on such ignorance and intolerance from him and others.

As for Islam here's what Vaclav Smil has written recently in his book, Global Trend: the Next Fifty Years:

"The biggest risk to global destabilization is not Islam but huge populations of unemployed or underemployed young men in Muslim countries. Islam itself
is too fragmented theologically and socially to become any kind of cohesive influence in global affairs."

So spare us the Newt Gingrich dystopian delusions and live up to the founding values of this country regarding the free exercise of speech (thought) and religion.

james joseph butler - 8/13/2010

Unless you're a Crow or Navaho or Lakota, Richard, you're an alien. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Ms. Dalton comes in peace and Mr. Brodie likes a good fight, cuz he's right. Who does America look like?

Richard Brodie - 8/11/2010

The Koran is a military manual:

9:29 Fight those who believe not in Allah.

8:39 And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah ALTOGETHER and EVERYWHERE;

5:54 O ye who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends and protectors: They are but friends and protectors to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them (for friendship) is of them.

Those "moderates" who have "turned to us" are apostates from their own "religion" who knowingly or unknowingly serve the function of a Trojan Horse. They lull us into letting down our guard: "Gee look, all Moslems are not bad!" And so we fling open our gates so those who really do get Mohamed's message of worldwide submission to Allah can sneak in amongst us and work for our destruction - by, among other things, recruiting terrorists from among our own disaffected inner city slum dwellers, behind the impenetrable walls of those secret outposts known as "mosques".

I reject all "politically correct" language corruptions. Xenophobia is good. It just means "fear of that which is strange". This kind of fear is necessary for survival. Fear is to the mind as pain is to the body. It is a healthy signal of potential danger. Those who would try and make "xenophobia" into a pejorative, themselves have an agenda to disarm those who would preserve Western Civilization, thereby leaving us defenseless against the conquering hordes we now see swarming in all around us.

The Crusades were a war, fortunately a successful one, to frustrate perennial Islamic aspirations of turning Europe into a Sharia Continent (like they are once again trying to do), as a step towards achieving their ultimate goal of a Sharia World.

And now their sights are set on America. Leaders of CAIR have declared that they desire to see the Koran supplant our Constitution as the Supreme Law governing the United States.

Wake up and smell the coffee, Miss
Dalton. I don't care now many billions of adherents it has, Islam is a murderous political ideology masquerading as a "religion", and mosques have no place ANYWHERE in this country, not just Ground Zero.

Vermont poet Ellin Anderson challenges us to rethink the meaning of the Statue of Liberty, with her new Petrarchan sonnet penned in answer to the one by Emma Lazarus currently hanging on its pedestal:

The French originally called this gift to America "Liberty Enlightening the People". It had nothing whatsoever to do with immigration, but was rather a celebration of the embodiment of Freedom in the United States Constitution.

Miss Anderson's poem reminds us of the grief we have brought upon ourselves by a too generous welcoming of immigrants from alien cultures and alien religions, who bring with them values that are inimical to those upon which our nation was founded.

Anne Marie Dalton - 8/11/2010

Mosques do indeed have a place in America and at Ground Zero.

The entire debate and drama surrounding the building of the community center and mosque has brought to the fore many views and fervent convictions that are extremely distressing and destructive; yet, it also offers forth an opportunity for a constructive dialogue and positive discourse that can be of benefit locally in New York, nationally (for all Americans, both Muslim and non-Muslim alike) and internationally. Locally, it provides an opportunity for all of the New Yorkers who carry the collective pain of 9/11 to heal through connecting to a positive manifestation of the religion that has became the target of the anger and even outright hatred generated by the attacks. The community center and mosque will stand in symbolic opposition to the hole at Ground Zero and the memory it evokes of the destruction of what once stood there and the thousands of lives tragically taken. Rather than viewing the construction of the community center and mosque as a victory for the terrorists it should be viewed as a collective victory for all Americans. Nationally, it is a positive symbol - to those who allow themselves to see it as such, as it truly is - of the triumph of our countries rights and freedoms: a triumph over not only the internal threats to those who would see those rights to denied, but also a triumph over the terrorists. If we were to respond to the actions of terrorists by denying American Muslims, American citizens, their constitutional first amendment right then the terrorists would have succeeded not only in destroying our buildings but in destroying that which is at the very core of our country and its founding ideals; that which, in essence, makes the United States of America the United States of America. Internationally, it will not only stand as a testament to that triumph but also to the power of American Muslims to reject terrorism carried out in the name of their religion by those who would attempt to hijack Islam in service of their own destructive goals.

The building of the community center and mosque is indeed an effort at "community building and an attempt to represent Islam in lower Manhattan as American Muslims have understood and experienced it rather than through the actions of terrorists" as Ghanea Bassiri declares. It is a potent antidote to to the view held, unfortunately, by many that to be a Muslim is to be a terrorist. It is of vital importance for American Muslims to be able to demonstrate that they are truly American Muslims and not just Muslims who happen to be American and, by virtue of their faith, not "true Americans." The community center and mosque will provide a place from which the American Muslim community in Manhattan can engage the broader non-Muslim community and express what it means to them to be an American Muslim.

I had the opportunity to work on the Portland Muslim History Project for the Harvard Pluralism Project, directed by Dr. Ghanea Bassiri. In 2004 I spent four months immersed in the community, interviewing its leaders and members, attending social gatherings and interfaith dialogue groups, visiting their schools and summer camps, and attending the congregational Friday prayers as a guest at the various Portland mosques. I, a non-Muslim, was warmly received by a community eager to share their stories, experiences and views. One principle component of the project was to explore the ways in which Muslims in the community viewed and expressed their identity as Muslims within an American context. When asked what it means to be an American Muslim the typical response could be described as such: they believe that the highest imperative of both their faith and their citizenship is to create a just, equitable world for all and to serve their community as a whole - not just the Muslim community. These are not mere ideals or a touted phrase aimed to make a good impression on non-Muslims; they are primary guiding beliefs which necessitate and manifest in action. As a result, many members of the Portland Muslim community engage in community service endeavors such as; to give a few examples, building homes for Habitat for Humanity, cooking meals at a woman's shelter on a regular basis, and seeking environmental protection for important habitat within the Urban Growth Boundary.

These community service activities were taking place prior to 9/11 and have continued - and expanded - since. In other words, they were not and are not undertaken for the sake of public relations or image; they are an accurate and tangible depiction of what it means to an American Muslim to be an American Muslim. When describing further what the American component of an American Muslim identity meant and how the American context shaped and informed that identity, many stated that a large aspect of being an American was the rights and freedoms such citizenship provided; including, and particularly, the right of religious freedom. It was also made mention that the breadth of these rights and freedoms was in stark contrast in their view to their countries of origin. Additionally, and profoundly, they described that their utilization of their right to religious freedom made them acutely aware of their concurrent responsibility to uphold that right for others.

Just as I learned greatly from my interactions with the Portland Muslim community, I hope that such learning can take place between the New York Muslim community and the broader New York community as they engage in, around, and about the community center and mosque.

james joseph butler - 8/9/2010

When will Americans recognize the genius/logic of our founding fathers? America is fighting two religious wars in the 21st century (HNN discussion topic: Has there ever been a "religious war"?) for the same reasons they were fought in the 12th and 20th centuries, land and ignorance.

The choice of "that very special location" is no accident, it's an attempt to start a dialogue with the Richards and Eliotts of this world, men who want to feed the fire of persecution and hate because it feels good.

Richard knows the Crusades,(like W knew the Crusades) were a stout hearted defense of christendom, darn why can't they believe in freedom and democracy? Eliott points to Islam's less than subtle effort at community outreach. Using the sins of the other to fan the flames, a campfire we've all enjoyed.

Ms. Bassiri's truth is that for foreigners to prosper in America they need to find themselves first. Being strong now, I think that's a Rocky line, scares Eliot and Richard because then the truth becomes apparent, they're just like me.

Any half way competent analyst/shrink could deconstruct the similarities/needs that the Muslim, Jewish, and Catholic communities share in America. This lower Manhattan "community center" or mosque, or in your face insult, is designed to let Americans know that Islam is ordinary and happy here in America.

Is it too much to ask of Americans that they actually read why 9/11 was justified in the minds of its creators? Israel, America's blind support of, Iraq, America's self-acknowleged responsibilty for the deaths of half a million Iraqi children, Saudi Arabia, that Gulf War and its quartering of infidel troops in their holy lands, those are the reasons not our lack of understanding of Allah. All the same old prosaic temporal gibberish, strategically significant then, and now fodder for this century's war of ignorance and testosterone.

Bill Hartko - 8/9/2010

There are two things to remember that are essential in any discussion of islam. First, islam is more than a religion (by which I mean a human's attempt to relate to God), it is a political system, and a culture as well. There can be no separation of "church and state". The church is the state, and the state is the church. And this state recognizes no geographical boundaries: "all the world is for allah".
Second, muslims lie! The sira (life story) of Mohammed tells us that he gave permission to his followers to lie in order to advance the cause of islam. In one case the lie was to deny allegiance to himself and islam in order to gain entry to the home of an opponent and assinate the opponent. This was simply a cold blooded murder of a man who received a stranger into his home under the arab tradition of hospitality to a traveller. Later schools of islamic jurisprudence have enlarged on the doctrine to mandate that a muslim lie to the unbelievers, if the muslim is in a less powerful position than the unbeliever, and if it will benifit islam.
Any discussion of the mosque must begin with the acknowledgement of the dream of islamic imperialism, and muslim duplicity.

omar ibrahim baker - 8/9/2010

New York without the Islamic center will be the poorer and the USA the less deserving to house international institutions such as the UN.

Denying Moslems the, presumed, right to build an Islamic Center where ever they choose will NOT affect Islam one iota but will be another valuable , always relevant , proof of American hypocrisy.

It will also have a real revelatory power than unveils long dormant inner values and beliefs and long concealed basic natures.

I find the Jewish Anti Defamation League opposition to be a valuable byproduct of the whole affair ; so is the vocal opposition of Newt Gingrich, a pillar of the Republican party.
Both, among many others of course , were faced with the choice between maintaining their earlier fallacious and hypocritical public utterances/stands and pandering to the instincts of the large bigoted neocon/Zionist masses who form their basic support!
Both chose the pandering option thus rendering everybody concerned, not least the American general public, a valuable service: unveiling their real selves.

Since both are far from being insignificant and are very frequently engaged in all sorts of public concern issues the value of their unveiling should not be under estimated.
Actually it is a Salutary byproduct of the whole brouhaha!

Elliott Aron Green - 8/9/2010

but didn't the 19 airplane highjackers of 9-11-2001 act in the name of Islam??
Weren't they all believing Muslims? If so, Is it unreasonable for average Americans to associate 9-11 with Islam? And then we hear Ms Ghanea Bassiri speak in the name of religious freedom? Would it be an infringement of that freedom if a mosque could not be built at that very special location in Manhattan, so tied up with grief and shame and anger and wonderment over how Islam --a religion of peace, according to President Bush-- could have produced those mass murderers and how so many Muslims worldwide rejoiced in the slaughter? After all, there are many mosques in New York city, including Manhattan. Is there a Muslim population in the neighborhood in Lower Manhattan, near Ground Zero, that needs the services of such a grand edifice as a mosque?

And then we have the issue of the persecution of Jews and Christians and Hindus in Muslim lands. And that Saudi Arabia forbids the building of any non-Muslim houses of worship on its territory, and that such has been forbidden there for more than a 1000 years, whereas there is a strong suspicion that much or most of the funding for this "community center" is coming from that same Saudi kingdom. Are Americans forbidden to call for reciprocity? For the rights of non-Muslim religions in Arabia? Can Ms Ghanea Bassiri rightly ask for religious freedom for a Saudi funded mosque against the background described?

Then we are blithely told of CAIR, a Muslim body tied to the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. Then she objects to "stigmatizing discourses.... related to both Islam in the United States and America in the Muslim-majority world." But she does not mention another kind of "stigmatizing discourse" commonplace in many Muslim lands. Perhaps she could favor us with an account of the "stigmatizing discourses" against Jews and Judaism in Arab-Muslim lands.
Perhaps "religious freedom" is not quite the issue here.

Richard Brodie - 8/9/2010

The Crusades were a war, fortunately a successful one, to frustrate perennial Islamic aspirations of turning Europe into a Sharia Continent (as Moslems are once again trying to do), as a step towards achieving their ultimate goal of a Sharia World.

And now their sights are set on America. Leaders of CAIR have declared that they desire to see the Koran supplant our Constitution as the Supreme Law governing the United States.

Wake up and smell the coffee. I don't care how many billions of adherents it has, Mohammedanism is a murderous political ideology masquerading as a "religion" (a religion of PEACE, of all things) and mosques have no place ANYWHERE in this country, not just Ground Zero.

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