Mosque controversy won't soon be forgotten
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Wednesday, August 25, 2010

If people don't understand why building a mosque near ground zero in New York is a bad idea, nothing I say will convince them. The rest of us understood the inadvisability of this plan the minute we heard it, so don't need a debate either.

I'm writing this not to convince anyone of anything, but to note the broader issues arising from the national response to the mosque proposal.

One issue is how a simple question is transformed into a humongous statement by people who don't like the question. Opponents asked, "Why can't the mosque be built somewhere in New York City farther away from the site of a deadly attack made in the name of Allah by Islam's most radical elements?" and were quickly accused of saying that all Muslims are terrorists.

Newt Gingrich used the analogy that building a mosque at ground zero "would be like putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum." He was quickly accused of saying, "Muslims are like Nazis." What-what?

Another issue is the difficulty in getting real information in the midst of a media frenzy. The first image many of us saw in our heads was a replica of Istanbul's Hagia Sophia sitting right where the twin towers used to be.

We were quickly assured that the site was not the actual hole in the ground, but an abandoned coat factory two, two-and-a-half, three blocks away, depending on the commentator. We were told that the intention is to have a mosque that will include a Muslim community center, or, a Muslim community center that will include a mosque, or, later, a community center that will have a little room in it for praying. We were told it a.) will be hardly noticeable in the densely-packed neighborhood and b.) will be 13 stories high.

When Christiane Amanpour on ABC's "This Week" asked the wife of the mosque's Iman Feisal Abdul Rauf if there would be a neighborhood call to prayer five times a day, she changed the subject; Amanpour did not pursue it. Has anyone else?

Iman Rauf is described as the Bush and Obama administrations' moderate emissary to Muslim countries; then someone shows the "60 Minutes" clip of him stating that America was "an accessory" to the 9/11 attacks. When asked about that, his wife said that he was referring to U.S. support for Osama bin Laden when he was fighting the Russians in Afghanistan.

No, Rauf wasn't. He said "the attacks were part of a larger Islamic reaction against the U.S. government politically," that "we (Americans) have been accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world" and thus "Osama bin Laden is made in the USA."

As George Will said later on the same Sunday morning show, "All adherents of Islam are not terrorists. But all the terrorists trying to kill us are Muslims." The iman's wife wouldn't respond to Amanpour's (and others') suggestion about creating good will by accepting New York Gov. Patterson's offer to find a nearby but farther site, so Muslims could show consideration for 9/11 families' pained opposition. She said she had to consult with "the center's stakeholders."

This reluctance to be considerate, and the refusal to release information about the financing of the building, feeds into the dramatic accusations that the mosque is intended to be a symbol of Muslim victory over the United States. This rumor was encouraged by the name "Cordoba project," chosen by the "stakeholders," whoever they are.

It seems that historically, to humiliate its enemies, Islam built a mosque on the site of its great military victories; in Cordoba, Spain, it replaced a little Catholic church. Why not just drop the name "Cordoba" and call it the Peace Mosque or something? Why continue to insist on the ground zero area and the name?

Some commentators respond that since resistance to the near-Ground Zero mosque is an example of Muslim-hating bigotry, it's the responsibility of the Muslim community to resist the resistance. Some non-Muslims jump on the bandwagon with reminders that all Americans have freedom of religion and property rights, as if a.) anyone is denying Muslims the right to worship anywhere else and b.) we actually have property rights in the United States.

I need government permission to build a bedroom on my house. I couldn't build either a mosque or a Unitarian chapel in my backyard without approval of the Marblehead zoning board. Chip Ford's first response to this controversy was to suggest that New York cite the Kelo decision, noting that religious property doesn't pay property taxes, and take the coat factory by eminent domain, finding another commercial enterprise that would bring in higher tax revenues for the city. The Supreme Court would be delighted to have its most un-American decision validated.

George Will also said this is a minor issue that will be forgotten long before the November election. I disagree. It may not be part of anyone's talking points, but I predict it's now embedded as part of the American psyche where the "something is very wrong with our country and needs to be fixed" files are stored.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.

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