Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

August 16, 2010

NYC zoning becomes an international issue

Filed under: Radicalization,Terrorist Threats & Attacks — by Philip J. Palin on August 16, 2010

On Sunday afternoon (US Eastern Time) the “Most Read” story on Pakistan’s DAWN newspaper’s website was headlined: Mosque near Ground Zero becoming political football.  In the midst of  catastrophic flooding this issue is nonetheless getting significant attention. (On Monday morning US time the story is in second place on the Most Read list.)

The DAWN story focuses mostly on partisan bickering during Fox News Sunday earlier in the day.  Whatever your angle on the proposed site for the mosque, most readers will see the story as effective encouragement to anti-US attitudes, which are already strong in Pakistan. 

This is in a moderate, generally pro-Western, English language media outlet.  The story in DAWN seems to be derived mostly from an AFP report by Michael Mathes.  I can only imagine how the story is being reported elsewhere in the Muslim world. 

A related August 14 Al Jazeera headline reads, “Prayer Hall or Provocation?”  Perhaps because it was written before the Sunday morning talk show appeared, the report gives much more attention to Mayor Bloomberg’s support for the mosque and President Obama’s comments regarding religious freedom at a White House Iftar dinner.

In March terrorist recruiter Anwar al-Awlaki warned American Muslims, “Slowly but surely your situation is becoming similar to that of the embattled Muslim community of Spain after the fall of Granada. Muslims of the West, take heed and learn from the lessons of history there are and ominous clouds gathering in your horizon. Yesterday American was the land of slavery, segregation, lynching and Klu Klux Klan and tomorrow it will be a land of religious discrimination and concentration camps. Don’t be deceived by the promises of preserving your rights from a government that is right now killing your own brothers and sisters.”

In today’s (Monday) edition of DAWN, both online and print, one of the newspaper’s lead editorial’s addresses the Mosque controversy and closes with:

The 9/11 attacks were executed by Al Qaeda, not Muslims at large. That Al Qaeda espouses a distorted view of Islam has nothing to do with ordinary, law-abiding Muslims practising their religion. These are obvious facts. Unfortunately, some American politicians appear to have calculated that Islamophobia is a potent vote-getter. But that is as dangerous as it is self-defeating. Al Qaeda and militant Islamists could probably not dream of a better propaganda opportunity: see, they will say, America really is against Islam. The furore over the mosque isn’t winning hearts and minds for America, it is poisoning them.

For further consideration:

The New York Times is consolidating its coverage as a Times Topic.

The proposed Islamic community center is being advocated by the Cordoba Initiative.

The organized opposition to the community center seems to be centered around the American Freedom Defense Initiative and Stop Islamization Of America.

Tuesday Update:

The battle over the mosque at Ground Zero (Telegraph UK)

Editorial: Fathom the faith at Ground Zero (The Daily Star, Lebanon)

Top US Democrat opposes mosque plan(Al Jazeera)

Hope at Ground Zero (Al-Ahram, Egypt)

Ground Zero mosque polarizes US (Arab News)

Hamas endorses Ground Zero plan (The Post, NYC)

We can all access related stories in Arabic, Urdu, and Indonesian language media, and I’m sure others, but I cannot read or translate.  If you can — or if you see trust-worthy translations — please let me know.

Wednesday Update:

The mosque issue (Al-Arabiya)

Muslims and Islam: Under siege in America. Still! (Accra Mail: Ghana)

A personal note as of Wednesday, August 18:

CNN poll is out reporting that two-thirds of Americans are opposed to creation of an Islamic center planned for 51 Park Place in New York.  I am surprised.

I might have expected similar numbers, but of reverse opinion: 68 percent in favor, 29 percent opposed, 3 percent uncertain.  Actually I would have predicted a higher percentage of undecided.  My long-lost cousin Sarah certainly has evidence for me not “getting it.”

I am in the distinct minority that supports the Center. The more arguments I hear against the Center the more this judgment seems to be reinforced.

Based on what I read and hear the core argument against the Center is that Islam, as a faith, caused — or Muslims, as a group, conducted — the 9/11 attacks, two blocks away from the building to be developed.  It seems clear to me that neither of these perceptions is accurate.  The core arguments are a horrible fiction the terrorists themselves have attempted to foist on the world.  In adopting this fiction we give aid-and-comfort to those who have chosen to be our enemies.

Rather, a few deluded self-defined, and largely non-practicing Muslims — contrary to the tenants of Islam — murdered nearly 3000 innocents, including at least 58 Muslims.

Moreover, from everything I have heard and read, those involved in conceiving the Islamic Center are explicit in rejecting the false teaching of those involved in terrorism. These individuals, by their own testimony and those of many faiths who have known them, are motivated to “improving Muslim-West relations.”  As such, it is hard for me to imagine a better place for such a center than lower Manhattan.

I am proud to be an American.  For me this means I am proud of the values articulated in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.  These are challenging and ambitious values. As an individual I too often fail to keep faith with these values.  But it is very clear that among these values are religious freedom and significant property rights.  At 51 Park Place these two key values have intersected.  I understand I am duty-bound to protect these liberties.

Further, as a self-defined (if nothing more) homeland security professional, I perceive the stated intentions of the Cordoba Initiative  as supporting the core values of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.  From what I can discover regarding those involved in the Cordoba Initiative their motivations are inimical to those of our terrorist adversaries.  I have heard accusations otherwise, but I have not yet found any evidence otherwise.

So this is an occasion when principles and pragmatism meet.   This highlights how the vocal opposition to the Islamic Center causes me significant concern.  In the rhetoric and actions of those opposed to the conversion of 51 Park Place I perceive Osama bin-Laden, Anwar Awlaki, and their ilk are being given an enormous amount of unintentional — even paradoxical — support. 

It is also my duty to protect the free speech of those who I perceive are playing into the hands of our adversaries.  I will do so.  But I hope that along the way we can speak together and  listen together.  I am very unhappy  that I seem to oppose two-thirds of my fellow Americans on a matter of core principle and pragmatic self-interest.

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9 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 16, 2010 @ 3:34 am

Traditionally zoning has been a local matter. Tax exemption for churches has been a federally driven issue. Freedom of religion is buried in the Constitutional phrasing “Congress shall make no law respecting establishment of religion, nor the free exercise thereof; . . ”

This language was not designed to protect religion but to protect the government from religion. My question is a simple one–Is the US government adequately protected from what is styled as religion–faiths which refuse to renounce violence agaist innocents? To have to ask this questions is to answer it! We (the US) are now endangered by religious beliefs of many kinds. People that have the one “right” answer scare me to death. The desert religions seem to be the worst in spreading violence and death! Why?

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 16, 2010 @ 3:49 am

Oh and did I mention that being a member of the legal profession and a believer in one of the desert religions seems to be required for appointment to SCOTUS! How about a Buddhist Economist or maybe a GAIAN Anthropologist for real diversity, and yes probably far more intelligent than any of the current SCOTUS members. And do you find it interesting that none of current SCOTUS members can be considered outstanding Constitutional scholars. Again ignorance is bliss?

Comment by 66

August 16, 2010 @ 8:23 am

Pay no attention to popular clamours. Try not creating them either.

Comment by John Comiskey

August 16, 2010 @ 8:54 am

Phil,

I am both saddened and excited about the mosque debate.

I say first that I responded to the World Trade Center and lost many personal friends and colleagues.

I honor my NYPD brenthen and all the victims of September 11,2001 best with service and perpetuation of all the principles of the US Constitution.

Muslims and in this instance particularly Muslims at the proposed Mosque have an opportunity and an obligation to renounce terrorism.

Every political leader has an obligation to honor the legacy of the World Trade Center victims with a prouncement of tolerance.

Fidelis ad mortem

Lt.(ret)John G. Comiskey
NYPD

Comment by Philip J. Palin

August 16, 2010 @ 5:14 pm

I had decided this popular clamor was not germane to the core purposes of HLSWatch. But as Speaker Gingrich and President Obama and other national political leaders begin to stake-out positions, I am afraid it has become germane.

As the issue begins to be seen abroad as proof — or not — of our national commitment to religious freedom, it becomes even more germane. President Bush worked hard to ensure his war against terrorism would not be perceived as a war against Islam. President Obama has continued and, arguably, extended this commitment in his stuggle against violent extremism.

But there are clearly those who seem ready to embrace such a conflict. Al Qaeda no doubt welcomes each one, even those who claim to be Osama’s enemy.

Bill your desert religions — my Abrahamic faiths — share great chunks of intellectual DNA. Part of the reason these faiths are such successful engines of violence is what they share of the Greco-Roman military tradition. Several scholars point to this organizational genius as fundamental to the success of Western culture.

The other sad truth is that the three Abrahamic faiths have tended to keep each other’s swords very sharp. The overlap of ideas, history, and place has pushed each to differentiate itself from the others. A narcissism of small differences can produce the most pernicious and violent forms of self-pride and other-denial.

I share John’s sense of sadness. Perhaps I understand his sense of excitement. These are important issues. They present opportunities for us to clarify our values and recommit ourselves to living coherently with our values.

Comment by William R. Cumming

August 17, 2010 @ 6:36 am

GOD and GUNPOWDER led to the rise of the WEST and its world-wide influence. Note that it is specifically not labeled “Chrisendom” [sic] as some would wish. Interesting that no real historian has focused on the spread of these desert religions by violence or adoption as “STATE” religions. Why is that? Perhaps focusing on the various “schisms” was much more fun.

Comment by Good vs Evil

August 17, 2010 @ 10:09 am

We are at war!

Our precious youth are being killed while we struggle to find a job lost to India –

While our beloved Republic which is being torn to shreds by the Goldman Sachs folks who are another real threat to each of us and Barry Obama, his chums, Hank et al and Nancy, as well as “Mr. Barney” are also real threats to our inherent well being.

The Judeo-Christian principles of this great nation of hope to so, so many in history, a nation founded to seek harmony and the pursuit of happiness, liberty for the individual, distancing themselves from oppression, we have reached a crossroad.

With respect to Islamic “fundamentalists” of which few Muslims have any affiliation to, those of us who truly understand the ambitions of the “fundamentalist” know full well that throughout history, Islam has always marked its spot of glory over the infidel with just such action.

We here at the coffee shop, many of who are outright unemployed, younger men with young families..oh, one is so heartbroken to hear of their challenges while we see the President of the United States celebrating Ramaden and once again reaching out to the Islamic world, despite, I reiterate, despite 70% of Amewricans which include Muslim Americans aghast at the thought of a mosque at a place where the “fundamentalist” has waived his/her hands of glory in seeing the mass cold blooded murder, two buildings in the heart of America’s financial district, fall so straight to the ground. (I will not discuss the multi-millionaire Mayor of New York as he is so out of line, he is not worthy and he will be so written in the book!)

Listen America, the GS fellas sponsored this Chicago community organizer even over Hillary. The “fix” was in and if it were me, many millions should be taking buses to Washington demanding that Congressional members step down as this is a “no-confidence” government and a wet behind the ears White House and supposed leadership which is so inexperienced, they would not have been chosen as ops managers of a multi-national corporate entity!

We are in trouble – many are fearful and whatever change each had in his/her pocket, it is gone! Where are the jobs Barry et al? Your “hourly” contribution to the deficit are outragious – WE do not trust Washington….never mind the Taliban or Hamas. Thank God we have the DoD, Joints Chiefs, the dedicated folks at NSA and other agencies which includes even local intel gathering and first responders….At least we can sleep with one eye closed…the other weary eye on a GS governing which seeks to enslave and assure Americans are dependent.

To the bankers, the indiviiual creativity which built this country is contrary to their values and objectives, much like the German-led EU who will downsize the EU to ten (10) nations only all dependent on Germany and its large industrial and manufacturing economy now awekening and thirsty for oil – contrary and conflicting to Iranian objectives.

A Mosque at Ground Zero, how dare you Mr. President and while you think the deck is stacked and you can all sit around the White House lawn drinking a beer, never, never underestimate America, for we have had far less and we have overcome far more threat from within and without….

Fortunately or unfortunately, I am a gambling man and my bet is on each and every American who will go to the polls, cast their vote and in a loud uproar, alter the course of history for ankind once again steering clear of the evil ones who seek our demise from within and without.

While I don’t know Mr. President whether all we stay and sit with you over a cup of coffee – not a beer – and convey what they really believe, but I will do my best to arrange a meeting with real Americans and bring Nancy Pelosi along with her bank statements as none of us can figure out how she knows anything about how we live when she has a net worth of $65million?? Does she know what a gallon of milk costs?

Also, for identification, bring along your birth certificate as from the first day with your preacher friend and even your Wife’s college thesis, we are tired of your anti-American perspectives and the skyrocketing budget deficit numbers which can only subject us to the oppression we fled long ago!

Listen Buddy, we here on Main Street USA dide not forget the lives which were lost on 911 on the ground and the “Patriots” flying above nor have we forgotten that the next plane was headed directly to the White House….Maybe you should convert a portion of the White House to a mosque as it seems you know how to celebrate festivities and embrace Muslim, but the Jew, you say tat you have no time to find for lunch!

See you at at the polls!

pls google: christopher tingus

*Have your staff call so that I may arrange a meeting here at the donut shop as we all here have much to share w/you….

chris.tingus@gmail.com

Comment by Mark Chubb

August 18, 2010 @ 12:46 pm

An interesting perspective on the Islamic cultural center controversy in Forbes today from Ali Soufan, a retired Arabic-speaking FBI agent, who was involved in counter-terrorism investigations.

Pingback by Homeland Security Watch » Anti-Islam Protests in US Seen as Lift for Extremists

August 21, 2010 @ 6:01 pm

[...] links to international coverage of the issue are available via a prior post.  My purpose is not to endorse the opinions offered by those outside the United States.  But [...]

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