People participate in a rally against a proposed mosque and Islamic community center near Ground Zero in New York, Aug. 22. Photo: AP Wide World Photo/Seth Wenig

(FinalCall.com) – What started off as a project with very little fanfare and noble goals of giving Muslims a place to pray and Americans a place to learn about one another to keep them from despising one another has turned into another shameful episode in American history.

The plans for Cordoba House, an Islamic center in downtown Manhattan, has become a political football and an issue used for pandering. Politicians on both sides of the aisle are scrambling to justify denying Muslims in America basic rights and have opened the door to hatemongering and incitement of fears that show the gap between American ideals and the reality of the American psyche.

Opponents of what has become largely known as the New York mosque project have declared having a Muslim institution close to Ground Zero, where Muslims were blamed for flying planes into the World Trade Center buildings on Sept. 11, 2001, is a sacrilege and an insult.


In protests Aug. 22 several hundred people came out to show their disapproval of the project, with many bearing signs that insulted the faith of billions of people worldwide and the religion of their fellow countrymen. A smaller group stood up for the right to free speech, freedom of assembly and stood against bigotry.

When President Obama waded into the discussion and said the right of Muslims to build where they own land and the right to freedom of religion must be respected, he was attacked and called a “secret” Muslim. A recent poll found that 1 in 5 people surveyed, or almost 20 percent of respondents, think the president is a Muslim, though he has clearly exercised his faith as a Christian. Andrew Kohut, the Pew Research Center director, attributed belief the president is a Muslim to “intensification of negative views about Obama among his critics.” More simply stated: The president’s opponents have tried to paint him as an enemy–the enemy of freedom, the enemy of progress, the enemy of cherished ideals of limited government. They have also identified Muslims as the enemy and connect the president to that wicked and wrong belief.

And though the president declined to comment on whether the mosque project was a wise decision, his caution that constitutionally guaranteed protections must be respected drew criticism, attacks and outright condemnation.

The empty former coat factory owned by Muslims symbolizes this country’s wariness and even hatred, unjustified hatred, when it comes to Islam.

Muslims, Islamic organizations and imams and leaders roundly condemned the events on September 11. There was clamor from some individuals who have suffered mightily at the hands of–or because of–the United States and her foreign policy and saw pain inflicted on what was to them an oppressive and immovable object. But there was no collective joy at the slaughter of innocents blamed on Al Qaeda and 19 hijackers of three airplanes that fateful day.

From Muslims overseas to Muslims in America came heartfelt sympathetic responses to the United States as a country for the deaths. The Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, of the Nation of Islam, offered condolences for the innocent lives lost and condemned the taking of innocent life for political purposes. Later in a major address at Mosque Maryam, the Minister spoke against terrorism and said the Nation of Islam would move to stop any such act if it learned of such plots.

His words and the words of other Muslims were clear, strong, truthful, and spoke volumes about the faith and bore witness to Islam as a religion of peace.

In addition to the words spoken about the tragic event, Muslims died inside the World Trade Center. Muslim families mourned the loss of their loved ones just as non-Muslims mourned.

“According to one count over 60 Muslims died as a result of the 09/11 attack. But, evidently, in the RW (right wing) mind those deaths do not count. Their death does not make Ground Zero hallowed ground, because, if they did, what would be the grounds for the uproar over the Islamic Center? Would anyone give it a second thought if a Jewish or Catholic community center was built where the Islamic center is planned?

“So…I am led to the conviction that this issue has nothing to do with real estate–who builds what where–but with the value of a human life and it seems that the right wing, the former party of family values, has decided that the life of an AMERICAN MUSLIMS and, by extension Muslim families, have no value.

“If that is not sedition, will someone please explain it to me,” observed writer Steve Love, in a piece posted on DailyKos.com.

Dr. Marc Lemont Hill, of Columbia University in New York, said opponents want to hold all Muslims accountable for what happened at the World Trade Center. Dr. Hill noted that Oklahoma City federal building bomber Timothy McVeigh, the Branch Dravidians, and the Ku Klux Klan were Christians and were involved in acts of violence. The actual name of the Klan, a group that terrorized and murdered Blacks, was the Christian Knights of the Ku Klux Klan and a burning cross is their symbol.

Dr. Hill said “concern” that project leader Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who was on a U.S. State Department sponsored trip at Final Call press time to strengthen U.S. ties with Islamic nations, and Cordoba House developers are not showing enough sensitivity to the families of lost loved ones are a cover for “Muslimofobia,” an irrational fear of Muslims and Islam. Questions about funding of the project are also scare tactics to insinuate some secret organization is behind plans for the center, he added.

Speaker after speaker, some from as far away as Tennessee, mounted the platform Aug. 22 to denounce New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Obama for their support of the Constitution. Some local unions representing trades and construction workers have taken a vow not to take a paycheck from this site.

It is tragic that a beautiful faith and its adherents have been so thoroughly misrepresented. Muslims are active and productive members of this society and contribute to its well-being while trying to live out their faith. For some 80 years, the Nation of Islam has been engaged in a work of resurrection and redemption, restoring those this so-called Christian society has destroyed, written off and thrown away. That magnificent work is ongoing and we urge this country to examine that work and what it has produced to come to a decision about the value and nature of Islam. Islam comes to uplift, restore and revive and its rich history in America, in particular with the Nation of Islam, is proof a pure word can heal the sin sick soul.