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Religious Tolerance logo

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

2010-AUG to OCT:
Center for Inquiry statement. Fear-
based Campaign ad. This Week debate

Sponsored link.

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2010-AUG-29: The Center for Inquiry issues statement:

The Center for Inquiry is a humanist/secularist organization whose mission "... is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values." 1 They issued a statement concerning the NYC community center:

"CFI fully supports the free exercise of religion; protecting the rights of believers and nonbelievers is central to CFI’s mission. Accordingly, CFI endorses President Obama’s recent statement reminding the country that Muslim Americans enjoy the same rights as other Americans and should not be treated as second-class citizens. There should be no legal impediment to the placement of an Islamic community center near Ground Zero, just as there should be no legal impediment to the placement of a church, temple, or synagogue near Ground Zero.

Further, CFI laments the effort by some to turn the proposed Islamic center into a political issue. Government officials and candidates for office should not intervene in disputes over the alleged offensiveness of a place of worship. Such conduct violates the spirit, if not the letter, of the Establishment Clause [of the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution]. Government officials should not be deciding who is a 'moderate' Muslim any more than they should be deciding who is a 'moderate' Christian or Jew.

A number of private individuals have protested the proposed Islamic center. The tone and substance of these protests covers a wide range. Some protesting the Islamic center have raised legitimate questions, but to the extent the objections to the Islamic center mistakenly equate all Muslims with Muslim extremists, CFI condemns them.

CFI maintains that an Islamic center, including a mosque, near Ground Zero, in and of itself, is no different than a church, temple, or synagogue. It is undeniable that the 9/11 terrorists were inspired by their understanding of Islam, and that currently there are far more Islamic terrorists in the world than terrorists of other faiths, but those facts are not relevant to the location of the Islamic center, absent evidence that terrorists are involved in this endeavor, and there is no such evidence.

CFI’s unequivocal support for the legal right of Muslims to place a community center near Ground Zero does not imply that CFI views the new center as an event to be celebrated.  To the contrary, CFI is committed to the position that reason and science, not faith, are needed to address and resolve humanity’s problems. All religions share a fundamental flaw: they reflect a mistaken understanding of reality. On balance, CFI does not consider houses of worship to be beneficial to humanity, whether they are built at Ground Zero or elsewhere." 2

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2010-SEP-24: Fear based Islamophobic campaign ad discussed on CNN:

Anderson Cooper interviewed Renee Ellmers, a Republican candidate for Congress from North Carolina's second district. Her attack ad was directed against her opposing Democratic candidate. The ad the terms "Muslim" and "Terrorist" interchangeably; it equated Muslim armies in the Middle Ages with the peaceful Sufi group who wants to erect a community center in New York City today.

The ad begins with a male announcer saying that:

"After the Muslims conquered Jerusalem, Cordoba,and Constantinople, they built victory mosques and now they want to build a mosque by Ground Zero. Where does [Rep.] Bob Ethridge [D, NC] stand? He won't say. Won't speak out. Won't take a stand."

Ms. Ellmers then says:

"The terrorists haven't won and we should tell them in plain English: 'No, there will never be a mosque at ground zero."

Mike Davis, a spokesperson for Rep. Bob Ethridge, said that Ethridge:

"... never thought that building a mosque close to ground zero is a good idea. ... Ms. Ellmers is desecrating this hallowed ground with her obvious and offensive attempts to raise her profile. No further proof is needed that she will say anything to get elected."

Anderson Cooper interviewed Bruce Feiler, author of "America's Prophet: Moses and the American Story." Feiler indicated that the term "victory mosque" is a very recent creation. Cooper indicated that there are many cases in history where the winning side in a war or conflict erected a religious structure. For example, when Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire, they converted many Pagan temples into Christian churches and either exiled or exterminated the Pagan priests. When the conquistadors and settlers from Europe came to the New World, they built Christian churches. Implied in their words was the implication that the structures were for worship and not to humiliate the group that lost the war.

One topic not discussed on the CNN program was why the personal beliefs of Congressional representatives and candidates in North Carolina should matter about a local municipal concern in New York City.

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2010-OCT-03: Discussion about the community center and whether the U.S. should fear Islam on ABC's This Week:

During the 2010-OCT-03 episode of This Week, Christiane Anampour discussed this topic with a diverse group. 3

Daisy Khan of the American Society for Muslim Advancement said:

"Well, let me assure all Americans that the vast majority of Muslims around the world and in the United States -- are living a peaceful life. We are law-abiding citizens. We have people in the armed forces. My own niece, who's in her early 20s, went to Iraq for two years and just came back from there -- young, Arab-American, born in this country, served the nation to keep it secure. We have 1,000 police officers just in the New York Police Department keeping the city secure. ..."

"... the moderates are speaking out. I happen to be one of them. I was devastated by the event of 9/11 and I had to quit my corporate career -- a lucrative corporate career -- to ensure that we would create a counter-momentum against extremism so that another 9/11 does not ever happen again.

Well, ... this particular center will create a counter-momentum against extremism, because it will amplify the voices of moderate Muslims, which have gotten drowned out over the years by the extremists, because the extremists did not only hijack the planes, they hijacked an entire religion."

Later in the discussion, participants returned to the question of the proposed Islamic community center in New York City:

Bary Bauer was a former presidential candidate for the Republican party, and keynote speaker at the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit during mid 2010-SEP. He is president of American Values, an organization that is pro-life, anti-abortion, anti-same-sex marriage, and anti-liberal. 4 He said:

Amanpour: "My question about the Islamic center that Daisy and her husband wanted to build is the opposition to it. Are you basically saying its al Qaeda and al Qaeda-like sympathizers who are building this mosque?"

Bauer: "No, I'm saying that it is incredibly insensitive for her or anyone else to suggest building a mosque near a place where 3,000 people died, killed by men operating in the name of Islam."

Amanpour: But why -- why should it be insensitive? And then I will ask Donna. Why should it be insensitive if you're not blurring the lines between those who killed and the rest of the religion? Why are you deliberately blurring the lines?

Bauer: "Because that is ground that was the first chapter in a war with radical Islam. At this very moment, Christiane, the reality that we all face is that there are evil men that worship death that want to bring us a day much worse than the morning of 9/11."

Amanpour: "But where should this center be built?"

Bauer: Well, it can be built anywhere in New York. There's ... mosques being built every month in New York. There are [now] many more mosques in New York today than there were in the morning of 9/11.

One point ignored by the participants is that the proposed community center is being promoted by a Sufi group in New York City. Sufis are are horrendously oppressed by other Muslims in the Middle East. So those killed during 911 and their friends and families have a major factor in common with the promoters of the community center: both are the victims of fundamentalist Muslims.

Discussion then switched to the situation in Murfreesboro, TN where a construction site for a mosque was vandallized and attacked by arsonist(s):

Amanpour: Here we turned to the story of Imam Osama Bahloul – 900 miles away from Manhattan in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. His plans for an Islamic center have come under attack. ...

Imam Bahloul: "Living here in the city for more than 30 years, there is no single act of violence. Never. Zero. We spoke against any kind of radical view of any kind. we support any of this activity. Why are people opposing the mosque? And do you know we have two vandalism and one arson? We did not do anything bad towards anyone."

Bauer: "... That's terrible. That's terrible. It shouldn't happen."

Amanpour: "Do you think politics played into it? Do you think political rhetoric played in to it?"

Imam Bahloul: "We are not politicians. I don't know politics. But maybe it's the midterm elections, maybe it's something else, maybe someone specific party trying to strengthen its base, maybe anything. But I'm saying about -- I'm talking about very peaceful people did not do anything bad."

Amanpour: "So, Gary Bauer, as you know, a series of politicians have used the Islamic center, have used sort of Islamophobia and scare tactic in their campaigns.

Bauer: Now, Christiane, that's a loaded question, really. People are using a fear of Muslims for their political purpose?

Iman Bahloul: "Yes. ..."

Bauer: "... I would suggest to you that Muslims are using this sorts of victimhood cards for their political purpose."

Imam Bahloul: "We are not."

Amanpour: "But my question is, do you think ... after some of the loaded things that happened -- and we can play you any number of tapes Mr. Bauer -- Do you take any responsibility at all for, for instance, what happen in Murfreesboro?"

Bauer: "Are you serious? Absolutely not. I have never encouraged violence, I condemned violence."

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Related topic:

References used:

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

  1. The home page of the Center for Inquiry's web site is at:
  2. "CFI Releases Statement on Ground Zero Controversy," Center for Inquiry, 2010-AUG-29, at:
  3. " ' This Week' Transcript: Holy War: Should Americans Fear Islam?," ABC, 2010-OCT-03, at:
  4. The home page of American Values is at:
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Copyright © 2010 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2010-AUG-14
Latest update: 2010-AUG-29
Author: B.A. Robinson

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