Despite the passions stirred by the Islamic center near ground zero and a plan to burn Korans on Sept. 11, cable news outlets showed limited interest Tuesday afternoon in a press conference where church leaders from a variety of faiths called for a united religious front against perceived examples of Islamophobia.
The Islamic Society of North America organized a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington where leaders from the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths argued against what organizers called “an atmosphere of fear and intolerance” toward Islam.
C-SPAN and CNN carried the interfaith press conference live. Fox News Channel had no live coverage, but instead had commentator Lou Dobbs holding forth on President Obama and the “sad isolated state this president has put himself in.” Meanwhile, rather than live coverage, MSNBC offered talking heads discussing Mr. Obama’s latest plans to spur the economy.
[Editor's note: An earlier version of the story was not clear about how Fox News and MSNBC covered the event.]
At the interfaith press conference, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former Archibishop of Washington, said the growth of anti-Islamic sentiment was a “powerful moment that calls for a powerful response.” Cardinal McCarrick added, “our message is a message of working together.”
The Rev. Richard Cizik, representing the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, said “shame on you” to those who would burn another religion’s sacred texts. He was referencing plans by the Christian minister of a church in Gainesville, Fla., to burn copies of the Koran. He added, “you bring dishonor to the name of Jesus Christ.”
Opposition to the New York Islamic center is widespread in the US, even among those who would support a mosque in their own neighborhood, according to a poll released Aug. 26 by the Public Religion Research Institute and Religion News Service. Nearly 60 percent of Americans surveyed opposed building an Islamic center or mosque two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11 attacks, but 76 percent of those polled would support a mosque in their own community.
The strongest opposition to the New York project came from Republicans (85 percent opposed) and white evangelicals (75 percent opposed). The poll was based on telephone interviews of 1,005 US adults between Aug. 20 and 22 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Pastor Terry Jones of the Dove World Outreach Center, which has an anti-Islamic philosophy, told the Associated Press he would go ahead with plans to burn the Koran this weekend to protest the 9/11 terrorist attacks. General David Petraeus, the top US general in Afghanistan, has said the Koran burnings could endanger American troops.
“Images of the burning of a Koran would undoubtedly be used by extremists in Afghanistan – and around the world – to inflame public opinion and incite violence,” Petraeus said in an email to the AP.