The Hidden Battles of the Ground Zero Mosque

Category: World Affairs Topics: Barack Obama, Feisal Abdul Rauf Channel: Opinion Views: 4571
4571

 With all the controversy swirling around the construction of what has been labeled as the "Ground Zero Mosque," it is no surprise that the right wing has now jumped on President Obama's most recent statements. While his words have been eloquent and well thought out, given the complexity of the issue, the opponents of the proposed Cordoba House are now painting the President as "waffling." This is yet another example of how the tea-party and ultra-right wing are unable to process any kind of nuanced argument and participate constructively in the public discourse. While there are definitely valid concerns - even those voiced by American Muslims, the loudest protest originates from those who aim to create racial division in the U.S.

From a constitutional perspective, what the President said is absolutely correct. It is against American law to discriminate against a group on the basis of religion, nor deny their rights to private property. There is nothing wrong with the fact that Obama will not "comment on the wisdom" of building the Islamic Center. The right wing media has once again pounced prematurely on this phrase, and portrays this as going back and forth on the issue. Although the right would like every issue to be spelled out in black and white, the President's words underscore the sensitivity that he is projecting on a multi-layered issue. It also highlights the fact that it is not his place to interject his personal feelings, on whether the project is right or wrong. While it is clear that the majority of the country have reservations about the center, it is also true that many American Muslims are struggling with many of the same hurdles.

When I first heard about the center's construction - my first thoughts were "why does anyone need to spend $100 Million on an Islamic Center?" We are currently in a prolonged recession, both in the U.S. economy and in the Muslim communities in America as well. In a time when many mosques are unable to pay their rent and many Islamic schools are paying their teachers in IOU's - it seems counter-intuitive to spend this much money on a house of worship. The first mosque in history - Masjid al Quba started out as little more than a clay hut, therefore it would be incumbent upon Muslims to question the wisdom of spending this much money. Coupled with the fact that it is only two blocks away from Ground Zero - the building's location also has raised eyebrows among America's Muslims.

The turning point for me in all of this hinged upon the perpetrators of the protest movement - the most politically divisive and possibly racist factions of our society. Being a Muslim from Arizona, I have had the distinct honor of living right in the middle of the two most racially-charged stories of the past decade. As the SB 1070 issue became a national debate, there were compelling arguments from both sides. Illegal immigration is truly an issue that needs to be addressed in this country - and my state has become the epicenter for the fight. Although as an American, it was easy to see the merits of harsher enforcement of our borders - I had to look deeper to see the political theater that was taking place. It is no secret that at the very heart of this legislation lay the infamous Tea Party. Although the issue was of utmost importance, how could I support anything that this notoriously racist fringe group brought to the table? As the debate reached national prominence and started picking up more mainstream GOP political figures like Rush and Newt, the focus crept away from the originators of the law. However, it became clear that a victory for SB 1070 would be a victory for the Tea Party, thereby setting a dangerous precedent for our country's future. The same can be said about the mosque issue.

The tell-tale sign that the right-wing is fighting an unholy war is based upon who sits on the front lines. The loudest and most vociferous in the debate is blogger and frequent Fox News contributor Pamela Geller. She represents Islamophobia 2.0 - in the past we have had the Ann Coulter's and Daniel Pipes' of the world who at the very least hailed from within the realm of the academic and political world. Geller on the other hand, has risen to fame solely by staying on one intolerant message: Stop the Islamization of America - incidentally the name of the group she heads. If you were to seek out an anti-Islam event in the U.S. nowadays, there is a 99% chance that Geller has some type of fingerprint on it. She has taken out bus ads saying "Stop Islam," and has made the outrageous claims that Hitler and the Nazis were inspired by Islam. These examples are sadly, just the tip of the iceberg.

Unfortunately, it is not the factual content of the message that is being sent by these political operatives - rather it is just frequency. By continuing to stay on message, and continue to hammer away at public opinion, their message of hate is now being accepted as fact. Geller is a "birther," believing that President Obama is a crypto-Muslim, born in Kenya. Any positive dialog that includes Islam and Obama only continues to further that movement. Maybe Pamela should check out the latest pictures from Obama's trip to the Gulf, where he was openly eating during daylight hours with his family - while the rest of the Muslim world was fasting. His affinity for beer, his regular attendance at church and the actual Hawaiian birth certificate with his name on it do not allay zealots like Geller from changing their course.

Just as in the case of SB 1070, the Ground Zero Mosque debate has now matured onto the national stage - bringing with it the GOP's all-star team. Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin have now become the most vociferous opponents or "refudiators" of the Islamic Center - which in many Republican circles, gives mainstream legitimacy to the opposition cause. We are now seeing the next stage of acceptance, with Republican leadership feeling a comfort zone in condemning the proposed center.

The debate has now reached a boiling point - with Fox News serving as the mouthpiece of the opposition. We have seen an all-out propaganda assault being delivered to the public by the "fair and balanced" network. Unsurprisingly, they have upheld their fine tradition of misrepresenting the facts and taking the quotes of Cordoba Institute's leadership out of context as well. Recent examples have anchors such as Hannity and O'Reilly saying that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf wants to "implement sharia law" and "rip up our constitution." If it hasn't become clear who lacks legitimacy in this argument, it would be the ones who have clearly and openly distorted the facts for political gain. Just as the same right wing media clipped and distorted the tapes of Shirley Sherrod, they are misrepresenting the words of the American Muslims. What has ensued thereafter is truly scary.

Along with the Cordoba House debate has come an unprecedented number of mosque protests nationwide. From Staten Island, to Tennessee, to Temecula, California, we have seen the protests and shout-downs reach an all-time high. The Council on American Islamic Relations (another civil rights group who Fox News has attempted to demonize) has reported a sharp increase in the number of mosque related hate crimes in the U.S, since the Ground Zero mosque issue began. The situation is being enflamed even further by a racist pastor in Gainesville, Florida who is planning a Burn the Quran day on 9/11. What do all these events have in common? They are a product of the fear that has been projected upon the American people by hate mongers such as Geller and precipitated through right-wing media outlets, namely Fox News and Drudge Report.

There does exist a place for debate in the Cordoba House project - however the right wing has earned no place at that table. The same groups that are supporting the constitutional right for idiocy such as "Burn the Quran Day" show their hypocrisy by shunning freedom of religion and private property for all. While American Muslims understand the concerns with the project - this now represents something bigger. The Cordoba House will not be a terrorist breeding ground, or a Wahabbi Wall Street - rather will be a beacon of tolerance and religious pluralism. Coupled with the fact that Muslims have been worshipping peacefully two blocks away for 40 years, there should be no concern for this project. The concern should be placed upon the divisive groups who are framing the narrative of racial unrest in America. Fear is what causes the tea-party and ultra-right wing to thrive. Whether it is fear of militant Muslims infiltrating America, whether it is fear of a black militant movement or whether it is fear of immigrants as a whole - these contentious forces will continue to stay on message. It is the duty of Americans to reject this hateful message and support the true spirit of our constitution.

*****

Imraan Siddiqi is an entrepreneur, freelance writer and MBA from Arizona State University. He writes on the topics of comparative religion, the Middle East conflict and issues concerning Muslims in the U.S. He can be reached at upbhavan [at] aol.com


  Category: World Affairs
  Topics: Barack Obama, Feisal Abdul Rauf  Channel: Opinion
Views: 4571

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Older Comments:
A RAHMAN FROM USA said:
Mosque must build and Mr. Halim do not afraid to speak the truth.
2010-08-21

ROMESH CHANDER FROM USA said:
FROM AL-AZHAR'S ULEMA (CAIRO):

A number of Al Azhar ulema expressed their opposition to building a mosque near [where] the events of September 11 [occurred], convinced that it is "a conspiracy to confirm a clear connection between the strikes of September [11] and Islam." Dr. 'Abd al-Mu'ti Bayumi, a member of the Islamic Research Academy [of Al Azhar] told Al Masry Al Youm that he rejects the building of any mosque in this area [Ground Zero], because the "devious mentality" desires to connect these events [of 9/11] with Islam, though he maintains that Islam is innocent of this accusation. Instead, it is a "Zionist conspiracy," which many are making use of to harm the religion. Likewise, Dr. Amna Nazir, professor of doctrine and philosophy at Al Azhar, expressed her rejection that a mosque be built near the World Trade Center, saying: "Building a mosque on this rubble indicates bad intention -- even if we wished to shut our eyes, close our minds, and insist on good will. I hope it is a sincere step, and not a new conspiracy against Islam and Muslims."

2010-08-21

HALIM AZIZ FROM MALAYSIA said:
It was clearly stated that they are not going to build a mosque at ground zero but a surau (a prayer hall). A hall, a community hall, gymnesium and others. But the American is offering some other places for the so called ground zero mosque. Why not take what the American offer and build a grand mosque with onion shape dome instead.
2010-08-21

MAYA V FROM AK said:
I believe mosque must be built. They suvery results are skwed. It is run by hate channels. They did not ask "Do you believe Muslims have right to build Masjid on their private property two blocks aways from ground zero". Instead they instigated insecurity.
It is the same question they asked on war - "Do you support the troops?!" Instead of asking "Do you support war?". It is nothing but mind control of innocent American public by a few extremist people with hidden agenda.
Another point to note it why is that Muslims can't have any influence in the media? Why there is no compaign against Hate News - I mean Fox News? Why don't Muslim leaders think that, some times, hitting hard againt evil is the way to expel it.
Another set of question asked is Arabia will give tough time in building a church. America is not Arabia. If Arabia has tax free salary that is not applicable in USA. Whom are these people trying to fool.
Building of this Mosque will be a blow against the extremists. These people have hatelful mind - not only to Muslims, even to other Christian fractions and even to US constitution itself - when it doesn't yield to them. Muslims have moral obligation to convince the US general public - but not these extremists elements.
2010-08-20

SHUJA FROM CANADA said:
The Ground Zero is not even a Zero at all. Watch this.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QZpT2Muxoo0&sns=fb
2010-08-19

ABDULLAH FROM USA said:
Awesome insight
2010-08-19

ERIAN FROM SLOVAKIA said:
If this mosque will be built, it will cost a lot. and I do not think on money - I think the total lost of credibility for U.S. muslims and the split in the community of muslims will finally weaken them enough to be assimilated or to be expulsed.
but yeah, go on with mosque. nobody can do so much harm to islam or muslims as the muslims themselves.
2010-08-19

SAMIN FROM USA said:
Burning other faith holly books, prohibiting other faith house of worship. It's very unfortunate its happen in a country that has so many nice title:

- most civilized country
- most educated population
- the guard of freedom, democracy and justice
- the most developed country
- the largest economy
- industrialized country
- police of the world
2010-08-19