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Ground Zero Mosque: The Battle Beyond Palin

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NEW YORK -- Sarah Palin has made the Ground Zero mosque famous in "red America" with her tweets to New Yorkers, asking them to stop its construction near the site where some 3,000 victims died horribly on 9/11 at the hands of Islamic terrorists. But here in the city where it happened we've been wrestling with this issue for a while.

This is a place that is sacred ground to millions of Americans, but most principally to the loved ones of the victims -- wives, parents, children, friends -- who haven't let the passage of nearly 10 years diminish the memory of that infernal day and of the cruel sight of bodies falling from the sky.

Adding to the pain, for some, are plans to place in the same neighborhood a 15-story mega-mosque and Islamic community center. Its size, its location, and its very name -- the Cordoba House, so named after Cordoba, Spain, the capital of Muslim conquerors -- conjures up Islamicists' dreams of triumphalism. To an array of critics, the very idea is offensive; its construction would be a desecration. These were the feelings that Sarah Palin attempted to tap into, and she directed her appeal to moderate American Muslims, and their supporters.

Tweeting from her BlackBerry
, Palin implored, "Ground Zero Mosque supporters: doesn't it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland? Peaceful Muslims, pls refudiate." She likely meant "repudiate."

Bloggers went crazy. We had fun with Palin's misspellings and her flip excuse that Shakespeare also coined words. And her critics pounced.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who supports the construction of the mosque, led the counter-response. "Sarah Palin has a right to her opinions, but I could not disagree more. Everything the United States stands for and New York stands for is tolerance and openness." He also said that Palin is "not racist, just for the record," a reference to a comment by one of his aides, who reportedly tweeted that "@SarahPalinUSA whose hearts? Racist hearts?"

The issue came before the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission this week, which has yet to make a decision. And a big decision it is. At its heart is a disagreement between two sincere camps that harbor different views of what makes America strong.

On the one side are those who believe the United States closed its eyes for too long to the very real threat of global Islamic radicalism and the murderous attacks that Muslim terrorists perpetrate around the world. Why should we pretend that we could ever find common ground with such people or be allies to nations that export such ideology while they prevent the construction of a single temple or church on their own lands, while they send mullahs, mosques and hate-filled textbooks to ours?

On the other hand are those who believe that America's very strength is that we welcome all faiths and creeds and peoples; that, yes, you can build a mosque -- many mosques -- in New York, even near the site of a terrorist tragedy and that this doesn't weaken our resolve or our image in the world. It strengthens them.

Whatever side you're on, it's fitting that the fight over the proposed Cordoba mosque is happening here. It goes to the root of so much that defines New York City: freedom of speech, freedom of religion, politics, assembly, beliefs, and freedom to be a jerk, insensitive, greedy, stupid, intolerant and silly.

Inevitably -- and before Sarah Palin weighed in -- it had become a line in the sand between New York Democrats and their Republican opponents: Mike Bloomberg and Andrew Cuomo, the likely next governor of the state, vs. GOP gubernatorial candidates Rick Lazio and Carl Paladino. As Bloomberg said on Thursday, neither of those guys has a prayer of winning, so they hold little sway over New Yorkers.

Aside from politics, the fight over the Ground Zero mosque and proposed mosques in Brooklyn and Staten Island (the smallest and least media-savvy of New York City boroughs) have drawn out "real people" -- ordinary folks who live in those neighborhoods -- to school auditoriums and town halls to scream and shout at one another, no one listening to anyone else, just as it happened on Monday at a raucous Landmarks Preservation Commission hearing.

For better or worse, these everyday Americans voicing ferocious opposition to the mosque are making a dent.

On Thursday, the board of trustees of a Roman Catholic church on Staten Island, whose members include Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, rejected a proposal to sell a vacant convent to a Muslim group that planned to use it as a mosque. The vote ended a vitriolic three-month fight. That other mosque construction plans across the country have faced similar opposition speaks to the fierce fears of terrorism among many Americans and its link to Islam extremists.

Why would the American Muslim leader Feisal Abdul Rauf choose a site near Ground Zero to build a 15-story community center for Muslims? New York City has dozens of mosques which apparently are getting along fine in their neighborhoods. Why go to the very place that Americans most associate with Islamic terrorism?

Supporters of the mosque argue that there are several thousand Muslims in New York City and they need a place to pray and are within their rights to seek any space that suits them. Actually, it's not at all clear that there are thousands -- or even hundreds -- of Muslims living and working in the Lower Downtown area of Manhattan, near the pit of Ground Zero. But it doesn't really matter. Freedom of worship, assembly and speech -- the First Amendment -- is not negotiable. It is not ultimately a matter for planning boards and preservation commissions. It is our right, our inalienable right, as Americans, Christian or Muslim, native-born, or immigrant, Jew or secular citizen.

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The day my family and I discovered a swastika painted on the side of our synagogue I lost faith in my fellow man to act appropriately in spite of disagreements and differences. My parents, holocaust survivors, never completely recovered from the incident. The congregation though shaken was resolved to attend services. Rather than hire someone to remove the symbol, we decided to do it ourselves. We were a community. During the 50's-60's, growing up Jewish in a Christian world gave me the experience and perspective of what it is to be a minority. Schools, clubs, hotels had policies restricting Jews. The discrimination was more subtle than overt; the expression of it snide rather than crude but all the more hurtful and intentional in its thin disguise. You ask yourself WHY? It doesn't ever make sense. You can never REALLY figure it out let alone understand what anti-Semitism is. Jews were commies and socialists; spies; they owned the media, Hollywood and controlled the entire financial system. The gist of this is that I learned empathy. And that's what I have for Muslims living in America. They're not evil. Some are and some are not religious. Some have read the Qu'ran others have not. Like all of us they hold disparate views of themselves and the world. When I heard a protester shout out his threat to "bombard" the Cordoba51 complex if it were built I felt dread. And despair. And a desire, no matter how simplistic or naive it may sound, for us to be at peace with differences in matters of faith, gender, age, national origin, sexual orientation. It's imperative that we learn the give-and-take that is a sign of a mature moral integrity, true tolerance and willingness to learn about and to accept diversity. We should not be disinclined to reject our humanity in the cause of some misguided and dangerous sense of American exceptionalism.

September 11 2010 at 4:25 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It is the first amendment to say what they want and believe in and i think its a good idea to build a mosque building next to the ground zero. they have the right to say what they want and we should respect their right. We are americans with different religions living in the united states with a whole lot of beliefs. So i believe they have a right to say where they want to put their building to worship in.

September 09 2010 at 7:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I believe where it says that America is very strong and we welcome all people, faith, and creeds. And that yes, we can build mosques near terrorist disasters. It strengthens our image of the world.

September 09 2010 at 10:07 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I don't understand why they have to build the mosque on the grave of many people. To me it seems disrespectful and insensitive. But, as many others are saying, it is the right in out first amendment that anyone had freedom of religion. I do not say that i agree with what Palin said in her comment to them, it was a little harsh. But i do understand where she is coming from. It is a disrespectful move on their part and I do not think it should be done.

September 08 2010 at 7:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

This decision to build a mosque near ground zero does seem a bit insensitive, however the fact remains that we remain a free society. Freedom of (or from) religion is one of the guaranteed rights provided in the first amendment, and just because we may not like or agree with the decision to build the mosque near ground zero, that does not give us the right to bypass the first amendment. Personally, I think they should NOT build it near ground zero, however; I respect (respect, not agree with, or support) their right to build it, because just because some people don't like it and find it insensitive, that is no reason at all (in a legal sense) to deny them the rights to build it. This is a free society, and the first amendment has no grey areas. Either you support freedom of speech/freedom of (or from)religion, or you don't. You can't have it both ways.

September 06 2010 at 8:06 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to ryanvickers2007's comment

I agree with Ryan. He has a good point saying that they should not build it on ground zero, but he respects (not agrees) with this decision. He mad a valid point.

September 08 2010 at 7:50 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

i agree they have the right for freedom of speech but they cant think they will get it. they have the right to to say what they want to say, but i think they should build it somewhere else and not by the ground zero where americans had died.

September 09 2010 at 7:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was not going to comment and then I read Mayor Bloomburgs' quote from the article " Ground Zero Mosque: The Battle Beyond Palin"
Bloomburg quote: "Every thing the U.S. and New York stand for Tolerance and openness" The above quote is exactly what Islam opposes.

August 15 2010 at 9:37 AM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

Why shouldn't they have a Mosque there? After all these years Americans still believe that Arab Muslims flew planes into the towers? Really, do you just believe everything the media tells you? Research, read and you will find the truth. All you have to do is look for it. This isn't a conspiracy theory. The facts are the facts. Many intelligent human beings have taken the time to expose the governments lies about what happenend that day. Wake the hell up. Man created GOD and since then Death lingers in the name of GOD. You know with all this technology we have it makes me wonder how us humans were able to create the things we have. On one hand you want me to believe we are capable of creating the technologies of today. Then on the other hand I see the idiotic things we kill for in the name of GOD. No wonder in the bible no one makes it to Heaven. Oh sorry, I forgot. Born Again Christians have that one way ticket...My bad

August 04 2010 at 1:43 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

This is an issue of Freedom of Religion. It is guaranteed by our Constitution. In our Nation we do not prohibit the location of houses of worship of any kind or where you can worship. You can believe in whatever you want to believe as long as you do not try to stop anybody else from doing the same.

The "controversy" is caused by intolerant people who want to stop the mosque because it is a Muslim house of worship, period. If any of the Christian religions had proposesd building a church in that location, we would not be having this discussion. It would be a non-event. The opposition is based on the fact that it is a Muslim house of worship and that the terrorists were Muslims.

The other reason is that these intolerant people are playing politics. They want another wedge issue to divide us in order to influence the coming elections for their own purposes.

We need to get over the double standard in how so many of us look at religions.
The Catholic Church (into which I was born and educated)is embroiled in a world wide scandal coverup over the actions of pedophile priests. Yet, nobody is talking about how any limits to the practice of that faith because a perceived threat to children. Fundamentalist protestant christians have blown up medical clinics which provide abortions, they have also killed doctors who performed abortions, yet nobody has been opposed to the location of their churches.

When acts of terrorism are performed in our Country by Protestant christians we blame the individuals involved, not the religions they are affiliated with. When Catholic priests committ crimes against children, we hardly ever even blame them.

The 911 terrorists were Muslims. Lets blame them, not their religion.

If you believe in our Constitution, if you beleieve in what our Nation stands for,
you will be in favor of letting the Mosque be built.

July 31 2010 at 8:44 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

I have to agree completely with Cheeesey. We aren't saying they cannot worship. We aren't saying they shouldn't have their own church. We aren't trying to take anyone's freedom away. We are just saying that they shouldn't have that church built in this particular spot. I honestly don't think anything should be put in Ground Zero except a tribute to the several lives we lost on that day. Show respect for the dead and for the families of the dead. Give them a place to rest. I am a Southern Baptist and I would have a problem if they wanted to build a Baptist church in this spot.

July 31 2010 at 2:47 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply

The Imam behind the Ground Zero Mosque represented Islam on the Barbara Walter's special 'Heaven. Is it Real?

Islam teaches, historically, that its self-proclaimed founding prophet Mohammed not only murdered/beheaded 700 Jewish men in a 12 hour period after one battle, but that Mohammed also gave their women and children to his men as slaves and sold the rest. He also married a 6 year old baby girl named Ayesha (some say 9 years old) when he was 53 to 56 years old.

A pedophile? A mass murderer? A slave trader?
This man was a 'Prophet of GOD' and we need to respect him?

One Imam, Faisal Abdul Rauf, tells Barbara Walters on her ABC special about Muslim's in Heaven:

"We will be in comfortable homes, reclining on silk couches. We will have people coming - servants, lovely servants, young youths to regale you, Barbara. Residing in gardens beyond which rivers flow." He talks about young children
who will be used for sex and personal satisfaction once a Muslim makes it to heaven. If they did not intend to use them for sex, why would their virginity be so important?

Yes - to cut to the chase - there will be virgins, too. Even for women. (Barbara's "youths.") And why not?
So says Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, who quarrels only with the widespread misconception that Islami martyrs get 72 virgins. Seventy-two, he says, is just an Arabic expression for "countless." Countless children for sexual pleasure?

We are told that this religion should be part of Western society and treated with respect and should be allowed to build a mosque as a 'TROPHY' to the 1000's of murdered American's on 9/11?

Why are these Islamic historical 'FACTS' never mentioned about this Imam and his Islamic religion?

He's on TAPE with Barbara Walter!

July 30 2010 at 8:23 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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