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 proposed Islamic community center is being advocated by the Cordoba Initiative.
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.
The mosque issue (Al-Arabiya)
Muslims and Islam: Under siege in America. Still! (Accra Mail: Ghana)
A personal note as of Wednesday, August 18:
A 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.