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Religious Tolerance logo

Proposed Muslim community center near 9/11's "ground zero"

2010-AUG: Poll. Christa's blog.
Comment by interfaith group. Hate crime?

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2010-AUG-13: Results of a Fox News poll:

Poll data collected over two days starting on 2010-AUG-10. Unfortunately, this poll was somewhat biased because it described the proposed building as a "mosque and Islamic cultural center." In reality, it is to be an Islamic cultural center with a mosque on part of one of its 13 floors. Results were:

  • 64% felt that it would be wrong to build the "mosque and Islamic center;" 30% felt that it is "Appropriate."

  • 61% felt that the owners had the legal right to build the structure; 43% said that the group did not have that right. 1
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2010-AUG-20: Christa wrote in her blog "The Rambles of a Silent Lamb:"

"Who is the enemy? If on 9/11 Al Qaeda sought to bring us down, does it not serve them alone to fight against a religion they themselves distort to serve their purpose? By fighting against the opening of a community center, two and a half blocks from Ground Zero, we don’t serve the memory of those who died that fateful morning; we only serve the ones who flew the planes into the twin towers. We serve to bleed ourselves with a sense of blind pride in order to fight a new enemy within our own minds. The man with a vision to heal our collective wounds is falsely being labeled an enemy. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has been an activist for the cause of bringing us all together. He’s written 3 books. One of those books being titled, 'What’s Right with Islam is What’s Right with America.' He has and founded two non-profit organizations with the intention to open the dialog for all. He is a moderate Muslim, not an extremist. And let’s not forget, he is an American. Also, it is important to point out that he has openly condemned the attacks of 9/11. ..."

"Here is a real vision from Tuesday, Sept 11th, 2001: a woman is wrapping her arms around her stomach, feeling the kick in her belly from her unborn child. Tears run down her face, as she reflects on her future dreams. The dreams she will not have of her child who is full of life, but who will never make it into the world. She knows nothing else to do, but to pray to Allah. She will never get to say goodbye to her husband. She will never get to know what it is like to hold her child and say his name in love. She is Rahma Salie, wife of Michael Theodoridis, and when we watched the plane burning in flames in the north tower she was burning with it. She was a victim of the terrorist attacks and she was a Muslim."

"When we speak with such arrogance about a Mosque being built on sacred ground, let us not forget that it is a graveyard and honest God fearing Muslims, who believed in this country are buried there as well. They are American. A good majority of Muslims come here because of what America stood for: freedom for all. If you obey the law, you are free to pursue your beliefs regardless of how I or anyone feels about them.  Are we going to throw that away? Are we really going to let the terrorist win by destroying not only the heart of our country, but the soul of our freedom? I hope not." 2

Her entire essay is well worth reading.

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California Interfaith leaders support Park51:

A group of 60 interfaith leaders in Los Angeles, including Roman Catholics, Jews, Seventh Day Adventists, Muslims, and others, challenged Americans "... to rise above the rancorous shouting match." They called for religious understanding and tolerance. The Rev. Anne Felton Hines, a Unitarian Universalist minister said:

"Such intolerance, in this country of all places, breaks my heart and I believe it breaks the heart of God."

Maher Hathout, chairperson of the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California said:

"I'd like to emphasize this is not an issue for the Muslims. It is an issue for Americans who want America to be the way it was dreamed by its founders."

A statement by the interfaith coalition said:

"The rhetoric against Muslim Americans -- namely, that they are a suspect community, or worse, enemies of the state; their religion is uncivilized and anti-American; they are deceitful; and they aim to destroy our culture and our constitution -- are replicas of attacks against other religious minorities in the past as well as current attacks against ethnic and racial minorities."

"We Americans, whether Muslim or Christian, whether Jew or Hindu, whether of faith or no faith, were all attacked on 9/11 by terrorists who can only be described as criminals."

"We oppose the exploitation of the pain and suffering of 9/11 by political opportunists. They only divide our country and undermine the principles of pluralism, religious freedom, and security by fostering hate based on fear." 3

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2010-AUG-24: First hate crime linked to the community center?

According to a criminal complaint, Michael Enright, 21, a college student in New York City, was in the taxi of Ahmed H. Sharif, a Muslim, on the evening of AUG-24. They were talking about Ramadan -- a lunar-month-long Islamic religious observance -- when things turned violent. Enright said "Consider this a ... checkpoint" and attacked Sharif with a knife. The cabbie suffered serious wounds to his neck, forearms, face and one hand.

Enright was an honors student in the School of Visual Arts. He is being held on charges of attempted murder and assault as hate crimes, as well as possession of a weapon.

One very curious aspect of this case is that Enright had recently volunteered for Intersections International, (II) a church group that promotes interfaith dialogue. He was imbedded with American troops in Afghanistan where he made a documentary movie.

Intersections International's website states that the group is:

"... involved in a myriad of programs dedicated to promoting peace and understanding. From the Veteran-Civilian Dialogue Project and new partnerships with the Lenape Peoples, to performance arts programs and websites that teach about and provide resources for dialogue between Muslim and non-Muslim groups, to programs that help initiate dialogue with religious groups regarding LGBT inclusion, Intersections brings individuals together in conversation, often with startling and profound results."

Earlier in the month, II issued a statement supporting the Muslim community center near ground zero. 4,5

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Fox News Poll, 2010-AUG-13, at: http://www.foxnews.com/ This is a PDF file.
  2. Christa, "When Hearts divide, our Souls Collide," 2010-AUG-20, at: http://christalamb.wordpress.com/
  3. "California interfaith leaders back 'ground zero' Islamic center," CNN, 2010-AUG-20, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  4. Tom Hays, "Michael Enright Charged With Hate Crime: Ahmed Sharif, Muslim Cab Driver, Attacked For Religion," Huffington Post,2010-AUG-25, at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
  5. "History and logo," Intersections International, at: http://www.intersectionsinternational.org
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Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2010-AUG-14
Latest update: 2010-SEP-05
Author: B.A. Robinson

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