'Ground Zero Mosque': Islamophobic extremists are fueling the controversy
Criticism of the so-called Ground Zero Mosque -- a symbol of tolerance – is generating fear of Muslims. In reality, New York is home to 800,000 hard-working Muslims who help make it the greatest city on earth.
When the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) announced its opposition to the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” last week, Director Abraham Foxman said that “Building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right.”Skip to next paragraph
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In an interview with The New York Times, he acknowledged that such a position might seem to run counter to his group’s stated goal of combating bigotry. “Survivors of the Holocaust,” he retorted, “are entitled to feelings that are irrational.”
In its coverage of the controversy, the Times offered a bold and perhaps somewhat unsurprising prediction. “The unexpected move” by the “influential Jewish organization,” wrote Michael Barbaro, “could well be a turning point in the battle,” causing public sentiment to turn decisively against the project.
By the end of the day, however, something remarkable had happened. The venerable ADL – with its 97-year record of “defend[ing] democratic ideals and protect[ing] civil rights” – found itself under siege, attacked by progressives and establishment figures alike.
Nobel laureate Paul Krugman called the statement “shocking,” “shameful – and stupid.” By the ADL’s reasoning, he argued, Jews shouldn’t write for national publications and shouldn’t serve on the Supreme Court because this might be painful for some people.
“Scary Arabs ... want to kill you, all of you, because that is their nature,” blogged Alex Pareene at Salon sarcastically.
Contrary to Mr. Foxman’s remarks, it is not “survivors of the Holocaust” who are raving mad about the “Ground Zero mosque.” Nor, for the most part, is it the families of the Sept. 11 victims.
The entire controversy has in large part been fabricated and perpetuated by Islamophobic extremists who make money by fomenting suspicion and intolerance toward the “other.”
In popular discussions, the proposed Islamic center has usually been considered as a symbol of tolerance in a free society, as a museum of sorts to the freedom of conscience we hold so dear.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg underscored this freedom in a passionate defense of the center this week: “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.”
800,000 Muslims in New York
Seeing the center as primarily a symbol of tolerance, however, for all its merits, risks obscuring a more tangible reality. After all, New York is home to one of the nation’s largest and most vibrant Muslim-American communities, recently estimated by the New York City Police Department at over 800,000 strong.