Opposition grows to mosque near ground zero

NY Times:

An influential Jewish organization on Friday announced its opposition to a proposed Islamic center and mosque two blocks north of ground zero in Lower Manhattan, intensifying a fierce national debate about the limits of religious freedom and the meaning of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The decision by the group, the Anti-Defamation League, touched off angry reactions from a range of religious groups, which argued that the country would show its tolerance and values by welcoming the center near the site where radical Muslims killed about 2,750 people.

But the unexpected move by the ADL, a mainstream group that has denounced what it saw as bigoted attacks on plans for the Muslim center, could well be a turning point in the battle over the project.

In New York, where ground zero has slowly blended back into the fabric of the city, government officials appear poised to approve plans for the sprawling complex, which would have as many as 15 stories and would house a prayer space, a performing arts center, a pool and a restaurant.

But around the country opposition is mounting, fueled in part by Republican leaders and conservative pundits. Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice-presidential nominee, has urged “peace-seeking Muslims” to reject the center, branding it an “unnecessary provocation.” A Republican political action committee has produced a television commercial assailing the proposal. And former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has decried it in speeches.

The complex’s rapid evolution from a local zoning dispute into a national referendum highlights the intense and unsettled emotions that still surround the World Trade Center site nine years after the attacks.

I think the opposition is based on more than emotion although there is that element. Muslims are among the most intolerant religious people in the world. They will not even allow non Muslims in Mecca and Medina, much less build a worship facility. Mayor Bloomberg has tried to cast the issue as one of religious freedom, but opponents of this mosque are not saying that they cannot build it somewhere else in New York City. It does seem like an insensitive move on the part of the proponents.

Then there are the questions about the people who are behind the mosque. Claudia Rosett has been trying to get information about how it is being financed and has run into evasions and a stone wall. She finally tracked the imam down to Kaula Lampur, Malaysia where she got him on the phone only to be told he was in an important meeting and could not talk.

The NY Times has investigative resources also and it would be interesting to see them find out who is behind the financing of this expensive mosque. We can assume no one is going to allege it is "Jewish" money or "Christian" money.


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