Mike is committed to building a cohesive America, where no American has to feel apprehension, discomfort or fear fellow Americans

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Shame on America, Jews & the ADL

Shame on America, Jews & the ADL
By Rabbi Bruce Warshal*

To begin, the mosque controversy does not involve a mosque. It is planned as a 13-story community center encompassing a swimming pool, 500-seat performing arts center, gym, culinary school, restaurant and, yes, a prayer space for Muslims, which already exists in the current building. A formal mosque would forbid eating or the playing of music on the premises. I guess that we are now at the point in America where Jews can have our JCC’s and Christians their YMCA’s, but Muslims are not wanted.

There is also the controversy over the proposed name, Cordoba House. The hate-mongers have described this as a reference to Muslim designs to attack western culture, hearkening back to the Muslim-Christian wars of domination in medieval Spain. The name was chosen for precisely the opposite reason. In the tenth century Cordoba was the center of the most liberal and sophisticated Caliphate in the Islamic world. All religions were not merely tolerated but respected.

The caliph, Abd al-Rahman III, had a Jew as his foreign minister and a Greek bishop in his diplomatic corps. He also had a library of 400,000 volumes at a time when the largest library in Christian Europe numbered merely 400 manuscripts. There were also 70 other smaller libraries in Cordoba. The very reference to Cordoba reflects the sophistication and liberality of the Muslims behind this project. They have changed the name of the center to the address of the building, Park 51, to deflect criticism. This was unfortunate, since nothing will quiet a hate-monger.

Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam behind the proposed community center, has been attacked as an Islamic terrorist, even though he is a practitioner of Sufi Islam, which reaches out to all other religions as manifestations of the Divine. My God, the conservative Bush administration utilized Rauf as part of an outreach to the Muslim world. You can bet your life that he was thoroughly vetted by our government. He is currently being used by the Clinton State Department as well in the same capacity. Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek and CNN succinctly put it, “His vision of Islam is bin Laden’s nightmare.”

And what is Rauf’s sin? He will build a Muslim community center two blocks away from Ground Zero, variously described as a “hallowed battlefield,” “holy ground,” and a “war memorial.” Even President Obama in his defense of religious freedom commented that, “Ground zero is, indeed, hallowed ground.” I beg to differ.

If Ground Zero is holy ground, then the railroad station in Madrid, the Underground in London, the federal building in Oklahoma City, the Pentagon (where there is presently a prayer space for Muslims – yes, patriotic, religious Muslim Americans work at the Pentagon) and every other physical location that has been the object of terrorism is holy ground. If Ground Zero is holy space why plan for it to be developed with office buildings (in which the object will be to amass money – obviously a holy pursuit), a shopping center (in which consumer goods will be peddled to continue to gorge the American appetite for material possessions), and with a theater for modern dance (a project to which I personally look forward as a devotee of the Joyce, the modern dance Mecca of New York)? I’m sorry, but someone has to tell America that this designation of holy space is merely part of a mass hysteria that really scares me.

The question which must be asked is why this hysteria? The impetus comes from a triumvirate of right-wing Christians, Jews and politicians. Fundamentalist Christians are still fighting the crusades, still vying to convert the world to their truths. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, to the distress of these Christian proselytizers. What better way to win this battle than to brand all Muslims as terrorists?

Right-wing Jews think that they are doing Israel a favor by painting Islam as a terrorist religion thereby proving that Israel need not negotiate with the Palestinians. The idea is to project the concept that we are civilized and they are not. This theme is picked up in the right-wing press of Israel. Commenting on the New York proposed “mosque,” a columnist in the Jerusalem Post declares that “Islamism is a modern political tendency which arose in a spirit of fraternal harmony with the fascists of Europe in the 1930’s and ‘40’s.” Ground Zero isn’t Israel’s “holy ground.” Why would he be involved with this discussion? Simply because right-wing Jews in Israel as well as the United States believe that demonizing the religion of 1.3 billion people is good for Israel. God help us.

Right-wing politicians join the fray. On Fox News Newt Gingrich compares a mosque at Ground Zero to Nazis protesting at the United States Holocaust Memorial. The Democrats are cowed by the American outpouring of hate and even Harry Reid voices disapproval of the Park 51 site. It’s a perfect storm of hate.

Periodically we go through this in America. The anti-Catholic No-Nothing party ran ex-President Millard Fillmore in the presidential election of 1856 and garnered 27 percent of the votes. We deported over 10,000 people during the First World War because they opposed our entry into that war and we incarcerated loyal Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Now during this “war on terror” I shudder to think where we are headed.

The tool used in this hate campaign is the concept of collective guilt. Based on that, all Jews are traitors since Ethel and Julius Rosenberg sold out this country. All Christians are terrorists since Timothy McVeigh attacked the federal building in Oklahoma City. Neither are all Muslims traitors nor terrorists. Islam is not monolithic. Its forms are as varied as Judaism or Christianity. I do not practice Judaism the same as a Satmar Hasidic Jew. A Catholic does not practice Christianity the same as a Jehovah Witness. Imam Rauf does not share the same Islamic beliefs as bin Laden.

Of all people Jews should beware of collective guilt since we have suffered from it for millennia. Yet the organization that started this hysteria is headed by a right-wing Jewish supporter of Israel by the name of Pam Geller. She is quoted in the mainstream media (including the Jewish Journal) as if she is a legitimate political voice. Yet on her blog, Atlas Shrugs, she has declared that “Obama is the illegitimate son of Malcom X.” She has written that we have “an American-hater for president.” She has proposed that devout Muslims should be prohibited from military service. She asks, “Would Patton have recruited Nazis into his army?” To all of the rabbis quoted in the Jewish Journal urging that the “mosque” be moved, know who is pulling your strings.

Finally, to the role of the Anti-Defamation League and its director, Abe Foxman. The world was literally “shocked,” that’s the word used by the Associated Press, by ADL’s call for the mosque to be moved. Fareed Zakaria called it a “bizarre decision.” Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, said, “Survivors of the Holocaust are entitled to feelings that are irrational.” Referring to loved ones of the September 11 victims, he continued: “Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted.”

How dare Foxman use the Holocaust to justify prejudice. He does blasphemy to the memory of Jews and other oppressed minorities whose lives were sacrificed on the altar of bigotry. Zakaria responds: “Does Foxman believe that bigotry is OK if people think they’re victims? Does the anguish of Palestinians, then, entitle them to be anti-Semitic?”

Five years ago the ADL honored Zakaria with the Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize. Incensed over ADL’s succumbing to bigotry, he has returned the award with the $10,000 honorarium that came with it.

The last word was recently written by Daniel Luban, a doctoral student at the University of Chicago, in Tablet Magazine: “While activists like Pam Geller have led the anti-mosque campaign and the broader demonization of Muslims that has accompanied it, leaders like Abe Foxman have acquiesced in it. In doing so they risk providing an ugly and ironic illustration of the extent of Jewish assimilation in 21st-century America. We know that Jews can grow up to be senators and Supreme Court justices. Let’s not also discover that they can grow up to incite a pogrom.”

· Rabbi Bruce Warshal:


** The article originally appeared in the “Florida Jewish Journal”

Ground Zero's Slave Graves

Ground Zero's Slave Graves


By Jen Phillips Wed Aug. 25, 2010 4:32 PM PDT— Slave register from Flickr user Wofford College via Creative Commons.The outrage about the "ground zero mosque" has turned very ugly, as this video of this recent protest shows.

People are calling Mohammed a pig. A New York City cab driver was stabbed today after his passenger asked him if he was Muslim. But I find the righteous outrage of those contending the former World Trade Center site is "hallowed ground" amusing, because they have no idea just how right they are.

Before the World Trade Center was even designed (with Islamic architectural elements, incidentally), the ground was indeed sacrosanct: The bones of some 20,000 African slaves are buried 25 feet below Lower Manhattan. As at least 10 percent of West African slaves in America were Muslims, it's not out of bounds to extrapolate that ground zero itself was built on the bones of at least a few Muslim slaves. That is to say, hallowed Muslim ground. For some time, activists, historians, and city officials have been working together to excavate and preserve the bones of the slaves buried under present-day lower Manhattan.

A recent excavation of a 14,000 square foot section of the six-acre burial ground found that 92 percent of the 419 skeletons were of African descent, and 40 percent were children under 12. The bones of the 419 slaves were eventually reinterred.African slaves couldn't be buried in New York City itself, so they were put to rest along the city's then-northern border, near present-day Chambers Street. The exact borders of the burial ground are fuzzy, and experts say that without test digs, they won't be able to tell how far it extends.

The area they've excavated so far ends just a block or two from ground zero, but with the huge number of African slaves that lived and died in New Amsterdam, I find it hard to believe the burial grounds didn't extend further.At any rate, some of the slaves' belongings were definitely at ground zero: About 100 boxes of artifacts from the African graves were stored at 6 WTC, which was crushed by the North Tower on 9/11, but thankfully archivists were able to recover them.

A few of the items were strings of blue beads found buried with the slaves...which some think could be Islamic prayer beads.Park51 won't even be at ground zero proper (across from Brooks Brothers or the Century 21 department store). But if it were, it would still be perfectly defensible.

In fact, since WTC was likely built over the centuries-old bones of Muslim slaves, it would be a downright blessing. http://motherjones.com/mojo/2010/08/ground-zero-was-built-graves-slaves At any rate, some of the slaves' belongings were definitely at ground zero: About 100 boxes of artifacts from the African graves were stored at 6 WTC, which was crushed by the North Tower on 9/11, but thankfully archivists were able to recover them.

The pics of Slave Register - http://www.flickr.com/photos/littlejohncollection/4326139964/

A few of the items were strings of blue beads found buried with the slaves...which some think could be Islamic prayer beads.

more: http://motherjones.com/mojo/2010/08/ground-zero-was-built-graves-slaves

http://www.heritagepreservation.org/news/WTC6.htm http://www.africanburialground.gov/ABG_Main.htm http://www.africanburialground.gov/ABG_History.htm

This is a link to a larger view of the slave registerhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/littlejohncollection/4326139964/sizes/o/in/photostream

Mike Ghouse commentary

This is a log of comments I have made and will continue to make
on different forums and I shall date each one of them from hereforward

I have not written the questions out,as I do need the permission to quote some one
who is not a public figure or is not published in public media. It is on the face book and my discussion forums. Some of it is repeat, but mostly original.

August 31, 2010 at Facebook

Olberman, Stewart, Maddow do not speak for Muslims, I did not say that any where in my million + words I have writtin on the topic, they speak for the American Values, speak for America and speak for saving our nation from division cause...d by the few right wingers for their own poltical gain.

- A serious dialogue and conversation is the right thing to do and it should not be based on facts. Americans are misled by right wing gingrich, palin and their likes with their lies, once they all get the truth, Americans will stand for what is right;

The lies

1) it is not on ground zero
2) it is not a mosque
3) fox funded by same man
4) it is a political ploy
5) it's a memorial to 9/11
6) it is an interfaith chapel
7) Co-existence will be taught
8) It is open to every one to
9) It is not a seceretive place

These men and women Olberman and their likes are standing up for the truth and I hope you see that is the right thing to do.

Fox made a big deal about funding source, and turns out the same source funds them... as always Fox thrives on gossip, hate and falsities. Check this out: http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/mon-august-23-2010/the-parent-company-trap

Do your own Fact Check..

We will advise the group hold off the project until elections are over, then the right wingers will not see any sense.

I understand your frustration and the honesty with which you have penned your thoughts.

The furor over Ground zero mosque is based on falsities propagated by my fellow Republicans and Fox News where I share my point of view. Those Ameri...cans who are against Ground Zero were duped, as they have been duped before. When they see all the facts, the emotions will subside and they will restore themselves to the American Values of liberty, justice and freedom. Already the 9/11 families are standing in support of this institution, a catalyst for change.

Peace does not mean compromising on truth, there is compromising with emotions and facts. To the Palins, Gingrichs, McCains and the others, it is not patriotism or emotions, it is all politics and they go to any extent. they lack morality to guide them.

However, as an American, I would like to see Republican majority in either senate or the house. When it was all republican in the governance we committed massive crimes of ruining our economy and causing unemployment and foreclosures. Had we had democrats in the house or senate then - there would have been discussions and perhaps, we would not have gone to war and killed 4000 of our men and women and murdered (due to war) nearly half a million Iraqis and Afghans – the criminal Bin Laden is still at large and we have killed and destroyed everything else. How goofy can we be? It is time to be self-critical.

Ground Zero is election politics, once the public rejects the right wingers again, and the public should, for the tension they have created over this building, I would hope they would learn that people are smarter than them and cannot continue to fool the Americans.

The following site is dedicated to Ground Zero

Mike Ghouse

Please share the thought in my analysis that concerns you, so may address it.

Freedom is most certainly is the key for a better world and acceptance of that freedom and regard to that freedom makes it valuable.

...Indeed several nations practice intolerance towards people of other faiths and minorities and most of them happen to be in the Islamic world. Of course it is not religion that drives the loonies but their situations drive them to do wrong things and hide under the label of religion - as people of consicence we should not let them hide under such labels, as no religion teaches one to be a bad guy. Not one! Yes not one religion teaches one to be a bad guy.

The only ones that misunderstand the religion are the ones who committ wrongs and hide under the name of their religion, and the others who legitimize such cover.

It is time for the US to lead the world and create a model of co-existence and then we will have the nerve and morality to tell others. right now we do not have the morality to tell others to treat their minorities well or build a church in Bahrain when we are violating those ground rules ourselves.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Political Rift Grows on Islam Center

N.Y. Political Leaders’ Rift Grows on Islam Center
Published: August 24, 2010

Even as Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg firmly rejected calls for the relocation of a planned Muslim community center and mosque near ground zero, signs of growing division emerged on Tuesday within the political establishment in Manhattan, as the powerful speaker of the State Assembly expressed forceful opposition to the plan.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg's Remarks (pdf)
When an Arab Enclave Thrived Downtown (August 25, 2010) Breaking his silence on the issue, the speaker, Sheldon Silver, a Democrat whose district includes ground zero, said the organizers’ honorable goal of healing post-Sept. 11 wounds and building bridges among faiths had instead provoked bitter fighting and raw emotions that could not be ignored.

“I think the sponsors,” Mr. Silver said at City Hall, “should take into very serious consideration the kind of turmoil that’s been created and look to compromise.”

Such a compromise, he added, would mean finding “a suitable place that doesn’t create the kind of controversy” engendered by the Park51 plan.

The opposition from Mr. Silver, a religious Jew who commands considerable influence in the city’s Democratic political world, is largely symbolic, because the city has already given its approval. But it fueled creeping doubts about the viability of the center, which faces a raft of obstacles, like paltry fund-raising, on top of the public outcry.

Mr. Silver’s remarks came on the same day that Mr. Bloomberg, the center’s most visible supporter, delivered a carefully prepared answer to the emerging voices calling for a compromise.

Speaking at a traditional dinner at Gracie Mansion as part of Ramadan, the mayor sought to tamp down the opposition and regain control over a national debate that has escalated by the day, starting as a local zoning dispute and becoming a referendum on the limits of religious tolerance in an age of terrorism.

Mr. Bloomberg, flanked by the center’s developer and the wife of its imam, said he understood the impulse to find a different location, in the hope of ending the controversy.

“But it won’t,” the mayor said. “The question will then become, ‘How big should the ‘no-mosque zone’ around the World Trade Center be?’ ”

He added: “There is already a mosque four blocks away. Should it, too, be moved? This is a test of our commitment to American values. We must have the courage of our convictions. We must do what is right, not what is easy.”

It was Mr. Bloomberg’s second major speech in three weeks supporting the plan, and its soaring tone and forceful arguments suggested that he had firmly embraced his role as a national defender of the plan for the center, even as high-profile voices have called for a re-examination of the wisdom of the current site.

Mr. Bloomberg rejected those calls, arguing that to move the center would slight American Muslims and damage the country’s standing.

“We would send a signal around the world,” he said, “that Muslim Americans may be equal in the eyes of the law, but separate in the eyes of their countrymen. And we would hand a valuable propaganda tool to terrorist recruiters, who spread the fallacy that America is at war with Islam.”

As the controversy has snowballed, the families of some Sept. 11 victims have lashed out at Mr. Bloomberg for supporting the project, saying he has lacked sensitivity to their pain.

The mayor seemed to directly address that criticism on Tuesday night. “There will always be a hole in our hearts for the men and women who perished that day,” he said, at one point acknowledging a woman in the room named Talat Hamdani, a Muslim whose son, Salman, was killed on Sept. 11.

But as he has in the past, with a mixture of compassion and impatience, Mr. Bloomberg encouraged the families of those who died to move on emotionally. New Yorkers, he said, had collectively rejected calls to make the entire World Trade Center grounds a memorial.

“We wanted the site,” he said, “to be an inspiring reminder to the world that this city will never forget our dead and never stop living.”

But even as Mr. Bloomberg sought to end the debate, prominent New York leaders urged the center’s organizers to consider an alternative site. Earlier in the day, two of those who have suggested such a compromise, Gov. David A. Paterson and Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, met to discuss the controversy.

At City Hall, Mr. Silver said, “I, along with the governor, believe very firmly that our Constitution guarantees us the right to freedom of religion and that includes the, obviously, the right to build houses of worship.”

But in a nod to Sept. 11 families, Mr. Silver added, “The sponsors ought to consider those circumstances and ought to say, ‘Let’s see if we can find something suitable that is sensitive to the issues that are being raised by some of the dissidents and see if we can place this in a different place.’ ”

As Mr. Bloomberg spoke, about 100 guests, dined on a traditional Middle Eastern menu of tomato and cucumber salad, hummus and pita, and fried feta.

At times, the mayor seemed emotional, especially as he recited words spoken by the center’s imam, Feisal Abdul Rauf, at the funeral of a slain Jewish reporter, Daniel Pearl, in which Mr. Abdul Rauf identified with Jews and Christians. As he recited a Hebrew prayer, Mr. Bloomberg’s voice began to crack.

In a brief interview, Sharif el-Gamal, the Muslim center’s developer, seemed to capture the gratitude of those in the room toward Mr. Bloomberg. “He touches my heart,” Mr. Gamal said, “every time I hear him talk about our rights as Americans and his brave and unwavering statements.”

Colin Moynihan contributed reporting.

Rev. Bill Lesher Weighs In on Park51

The Parliament Blog
CPWR Chair Emeritus Rev. Bill Lesher Weighs In on Park51 Debate

Interreligious Reflections on the New York Center and Mosque Project

William Lesher, Chair Emeritus, Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions

What some in the media have referred to as “a fire storm” over the mosque debate in lower Manhattan is turning out to be a catalyst to launch a much needed national discussion (and tutorial) on Muslims in America.

Since this discussion was intensified by the exaggerated rhetoric and distorted claims of Pamela Geller, a conservative blogger in her post on May 6, a consensus seems to be forming among constitutionally committed citizens across the political spectrum. Fair-minded people are agreeing that the Imam and his wife in charge of the mosque project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, Daisy Khan and their supporters, have every right to expand their center and include a new worship space on the site. They have worked from and worshipped in this place for many years, two blocks from the World Trade Center disaster. Even though current polls claim that 7 out of 10 Americans oppose the project, opponents can hardly argue that the project planners do not have a constitutional right to carry out their vision. As one letter to the NY Times editor put it, “As a legal matter, there is nothing to debate. If a church or synagogue could be constructed on this site, so may a mosque. Period. The first amendment means at least that.”

The location of the proposed Islamic Center touches the raw nerve that has elicited often shrill claims ranging from insensitivity to the families of the 9/11 victims and desecration of hallowed ground to an international Islamic conspiracy to subvert the nation. Given the fact that the vast majority of Americans know little of Islam and know almost nothing of the history and intentions of the center planners in lower Manhattan, it is not surprising that the barrage of misinformation that initiated and continues to stoke the current national discussion has filled this vacuum and created the sharp negative and often heated responses.

But now, as the national discussion continues, one might cautiously hope, even anticipate, that the time is right for a nation-wide learning process to unfold. This could become a time for Americans of fairness and goodwill to take the time to listen and to learn from people in the interreligious community and from Muslims themselves about the importance, the variety, and the beauty of this second largest religion in the world. And to hear as well, about the healing potential for having a thoroughly American expression of Islam close to the site of Ground Zero.

The Interreligious Movement in the US and around the world has been building bridges of understanding among religious communities, including Islam, for the last few decades. Many religious people in the US are affiliated with local interreligious councils or with national and international organizations like United Religions Initiative (URI) or Religions for Peace (RFP) or have participated in one of the four modern Parliaments of the World’s Religions (PWR) with which I am affiliated. These people have led the way in this historic movement to develop knowledge, understanding, and respect for religious and spiritual communities of the world, many of whom have growing numbers of adherents in our towns and cities, states and nation.

People affiliated with the growing interreligious movement know about the great diversity that exists within Islam, not unlike the wide spectrum of beliefs, traditions and behaviors among different sectors in the Christian and Jewish communities. They know what William Dalrymple wrote about in an illuminating Op-Ed piece in the New York Times entitled, “The Muslims in the Middle,” that Islam is not a monolithic religion. Rather it is as complex as Christianity and Judaism, with as many, perhaps more divisions, sects and traditions, some in opposition to others, as is true of every major religious group. Dalrymple helpfully teaches in his article how “Feisal Abdul Rauf…is one of America’s leading thinkers of Sufism, the mystical form of Islam which in terms of goals and outlook couldn’t be farther from the violent Wahabism of the jihadists. His videos and sermons preach love, the remembrance of God and reconciliation…..But in the eyes of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, he is an infidel-loving, grave-worshipping apostate…”

Members of the interfaith movement are also leading the resistance to the resisters and need to do so more and more. In another New York Times article describing protests against mosques in several communities around the country, Laurie Goodstein focuses on Temecula, Ca. There she writes: “In late June …members of a local Tea Party group took dogs and picket signs to Friday prayers at a mosque that is seeking to build a new worship center on a vacant lot nearby.” She goes on to say that an estimated 20 – 30 people turned out to protest the mosque. But then Ms. Goodstein states what many of us think is the real story in Temecula, “that the protesters were outnumbered by at least 75 supporters” who affirm the right of the Muslim congregation in Temecula to expand their mosque. Something good is happening in Temecula when, less then a decade after 9/11, local citizens know and act on the difference between their mainstream Muslim neighbors and the terrorists whose actions violated the most basic tenants of Islam. It’s too bad that the NY Times headlined the Goodstein article, “Across Nation, Mosque Projects Meet Resistance” and missed the positive thrust of the Temecula story.

Speaking from the experience of the Parliament of the World’s Religions, the 2004 Parliament in Barcelona, Spain focused major attention on the issue of Religiously Motivated and Experienced Violence. After several days of intense workshop discussions, participants from across the interreligious spectrum, agreed that the minimum responsibility of religious communities is to come to the aid of any religious community whose house of worship is the target of an attack, vandalism, threat or destruction.

The recent Parliament in Melbourne, Australia in 2009 featured a strong focus on Islam. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf himself was a major presenter leading or participating in six interreligious programs with the following titles: “Applying Islamic Principles for a Just and Sustainable World”; “Sacred Envy Panel: Exploring What We Love about Our Own Faith, What We Admire in Others and What Challenges Us in Both”; “Purifying the Heart and Soul through Remembrance of Allah”; “Dhikr As An Islamic Devotional Act for Inner Peace”; “How Islam Deals with Social Justice, Gender Justice and Religious Diversity”; and “Islam and the West: Creating an Accord of Civilizations.” How much could such a teacher of Islam help to bridge the gulf of misunderstanding about this great faith tradition by continuing his long and much admired ministry in lower Manhattan where he has built an international reputation for promulgating a modern version of Islam?

So, while some call it a “fire storm” and do their best to make it so, there are other voices that seem to be gaining strength. Among the shouting and the uninformed outrage that sometimes seems ubiquitous, I sense that responsible media outlets and people in the interreligious movement are grasping the significance of this moment and are helping to seed the discussion with historical facts, accurate information and a commitment to understanding and respect. If this trend continues we will all learn important things about ourselves and about the most recent global religious tradition to enter the mainstream of American life.

New York imam says elections linked to Mosque protests

I feel pretty good about my originail article written on 7/25th, and the summary later on. Everything I have written is reflected weeks later by Keith Olberman, Jon Stewart, Obama and a host of others including the Imam now, which article I wrote yesterday. It feels good to have a pretty good handle on the issue. My comments and articles are on this blog http://groundzeromosque.blogspot.com

Mike Ghouse

New York imam says upcoming US elections linked to mosque protests
Associated Press


08/29/10 11:10 PM EDT DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES — The imam spearheading a proposed Islamic center near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks in New York believes the fierce opposition is closely linked to the U.S. elections in November, according to comments published Monday.

"There is no doubt that the election season has had a major impact upon the nature of the discourse," Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf was quoted by the Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National in an interview as part of his State Department-funded trip in the Gulf.

Rauf did not cite any particular political race possibly tied to the protests, but many conservative candidates and political figures have aligned themselves with the opposition to the $100 million project that includes a mosque and Islamic cultural center.

Some Republicans running for midterm elections around the United States have used the project as a campaign issue after national conservatives Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin announced their opposition. Kevin Calvey, a Republican running for Congress in Oklahoma, said the Muslim leaders associated with the mosque "are clearly terrorist sympathizers."

Even Democrats are feeling the pressure to respond to the debate.

The highest-ranking Democrat in the Senate, Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is facing a tough re-election in Nevada, has said the mosque should be built farther away from Ground Zero.

President Barack Obama has said Muslims had the right to practice their religion and build the Islamic center in lower Manhattan. Obama later said he wasn't endorsing the specifics of the plan.

Rauf compared the current struggles facing American Muslims to past religious-based prejudices and attacks against other groups, including Jews and Roman Catholic immigrants.

"And this is why it is important, the issue of radicalism is a threat to all of us," he was quoted as saying. "We have radicals in the Muslim world and we have radicals in the other faith traditions as well."

He said extremists from all faiths "feed off each other and need each other to sustain themselves."

"So we need right now to combat the radical voices. That's the only way we can win this struggle, and establish a peaceful world order, which is what everybody wants and everybody needs," he told the newspaper.

Rauf has made only selected public comments since beginning a three-nation tour earlier this month — concentrating almost exclusively on his views about moderate Islamic values and interfaith dialogue. He has so far avoided any extensive statements addressing the opposition to the project or recent anti-Muslim violence, including the slashing of a New York taxi driver last week.

The imam said Muslims in the United States are part of an "evolving American Islamic identity."

"But as time goes on and as the second generation establishes itself and is rooted in the United States they articulate an expression of who we are as Americans and to be seen decreasingly as alien and being local ... In perceptions between the Muslim world or the Arab Muslim world and the United States in particular, it is an ongoing picture, it is dynamic," he said.

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/world/new-york-imam-says-upcoming-us-elections-linked-to-mosque-protests-101770428.html#ixzz0y69xlmmt

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fact check on Ground Zero Mosque


Questions About the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’
August 26, 2010

Q: What are the facts about the proposed cultural center and mosque near New York’s former World Trade Center? A: We answer questions we’ve been asked most often by readers about the controversial project.

Fact Check


A clearly divisive issue has been brewing in America as well as the headlines, concerning the creation of a mosque/community center (relatively) near the site of the September 11 tragedy, ground zero. The facts have been obscured by all sides and replaced by emotional scare tactics and slippery-sloping, in argument for and against. I was hoping FactCheck.org would be able to shed light on the issue in an article with particulars, such as the individuals and organizations involved, the actual location, and the truths and lies presented by public figures concerning the case.


With so much being said and written about the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque to be built in New York’s Lower Manhattan, our inbox is full of questions from readers. They’ve asked us to sort fact from fiction as it relates to what the center’s sponsors call the Park51 project, and what detractors refer to somewhat inaccurately as the "Ground Zero Mosque." So, here we’ll answer some of the main questions we’ve been asked about the controversial center.

We take no position as to whether or not the Park51 project should go forward. One key consideration in particular — whether the project offends the sensitivities of families of those who died at the World Trade Center site — is a matter of emotion on which opinions differ, and on which facts have little bearing. But to the extent that facts matter, they shouldn’t be twisted or misrepresented.

Is it a mosque, or a cultural center?

It would be a cultural center with a mosque inside. The "Ground Zero Mosque" label is not entirely accurate, although it has been commonly used to describe the planned $100 million project. First, the proposed location is not immediately adjacent to ground zero (which we’ll get to in a minute). And while the facility would include a mosque, or a space for Muslim prayer services, the project’s organizers say that the mosque will only be part of a much larger "world-class community center" that will offer a variety of activities and resources, and will welcome all, without regard to religion:

Park51 website: While a mosque will be located in the planned final structure of Park51, it will be a distinct non-profit. Neither Park51 nor the mosque, which hasn’t been named yet, will tolerate any kind of illegal or un-American activity or rhetoric. The final size and location of the mosque have yet to be determined, but it will only represent a small portion of the final structure.

The mosque portion of the project certainly fits the general definition of a mosque, which the Oxford English Dictionary defines as "a Muslim place of worship" with "an area reserved for communal prayers." For anyone worried about a mosque edifice looming over New York, it won’t look like the typical image of a mosque. The concept drawing released by the organizers lacks any domes or minarets.

Politico reported that the project currently doesn’t have a blueprint, an architect or an engineer. But plans do call for the proposed structure to include fitness facilities, a 500-seat auditorium, a restaurant and culinary school, a library, and art studios, as well as a Sept. 11 memorial. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, one of the leaders of the Park51 project, said that the center would be modeled after the 92nd Street Y and the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, and would be open to all New Yorkers.

How far away from ground zero will the proposed center be?

About one-tenth of a mile. The current plan is to build the center at 45-51 Park Place, between West Broadway and Church Street. It would be constructed in the same spot now occupied by a vacant Burlington Coat Factory and former substation of Consolidated Edison, a New York utility company. (Below is a map outlining the shortest distance between the two locations. "A" is the northern side of the former World Trade Center site at the intersection of West Broadway and Vesey Street, and "B" is 45-51 Park Place.)

It’s approximately one-tenth of a mile, or about a two-minute walk, from Park51 to the northern side of the World Trade Center site. Matt Sledge of the Huffington Post has posted a video demonstration of the walk between the two spots. (Skip to about the 0:30 mark to view in real time.)

Are there other mosques near ground zero?

Yes. The New York Times profiled two mosques that have been in existence for years not far from ground zero. Masjid Manhattan, founded in 1970, is four blocks away from the World Trade Center site, on Warren Street, and Masjid al-Farah, which used to be on Mercer Street, is 12 blocks away on West Broadway. Prayer services have actually been held at the 45 Park Place location since the latter part of 2009. According to the Park51 website, one of the main reasons for including a mosque in the new center is that the previously existing ones aren’t large enough:

Park51 website: Prior to purchasing our current facility at 45 Park Place, there were two mosques in lower Manhattan, although Park51 is not affiliated with either of these mosques. One was Masjid al-Farah, which could fit a maximum of approximately 65 people, and had to hold three or four separate prayer services on Fridays just to fit the crowds. The second mosque, at Warren Street, accommodated about 1,500 worshippers during Friday prayers - people had been praying on sidewalks because they had no room. They lost their space around May 2009. We made the move to buy 45 Park Place in July 2009 in part to offset the loss of this space. Currently, our space at 45 Park Place accommodates around 450 people every Friday.

Is the center scheduled to open on Sept. 11, 2011?

Organizers say no. As best we can determine, the idea that the cultural center and mosque would open that day is unfounded speculation. Project organizers say that no official date has been set for the opening of the proposed center. Imam Rauf told Newsday back in May that it could take anywhere from 18 months to three years to raise the money to complete the project, and added that the center wouldn’t open on the anniversary of Sept. 11. Project organizers took to the social networking site Twitter as recently as Aug. 20 to knock down the claim, saying: "Reports that we will open on 9/11 or begin construction on 9/11 are false and inflammatory. Our timeline to build is 18 - 38 months."

The idea that the center and mosque would open on Sept. 11, 2011 — the 10-year anniversary of the terrorist attacks in 2001 — has been bandied about on blogs and discussion boards. The American Freedom Defense Initiative sponsored advertisements that may have also contributed to that thought. The initiative’s ads appeared on New York City buses and asked, "Why There?," with an image of a plane flying into a burning World Trade Center, next to a rendering of the proposed building with the words "September 11, 2011, WTC Mega Mosque."

Is Imam Rauf an anti-American radical?

We see no evidence of that. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has a long history of cooperation with the U.S. government, beginning during the Bush administration. In February and March 2003, he led cultural awareness training for FBI employees in the bureau’s New York field office, New York division officials told us. In 2007 and twice in 2010, he traveled to the Middle East to talk about religious tolerance and Islam in America as part of a speaker program organized by the State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs.

Philip Crowley, assistant secretary of state for public affairs, said of the imam: "His work on tolerance and religious diversity is well-known and he brings a moderate perspective to foreign audiences on what it’s like to be a practicing Muslim in the United States." Rauf’s most recent trip, which is in progress as we publish, garnered objections from people who feared he would try to raise money for the Park51 project during his trip, but the State Department said those concerns were unfounded.

Rauf is an adherent of Sufism, a mystical form of Islam that has itself been targeted by extremists. A 2007 report by the nonpartisan RAND Corporation suggested that Sufis could be potential partners against radical Islamism. "Because of their victimization by [extremist sects] Salafis and Wahhabis, traditionalists and Sufis are natural allies of the West to the extent that common ground can be found with them," the RAND study concluded. Indeed, Rauf has often spoken out against extremism, including recently as part of a Washington Post discussion about the Park51 project, then called the Cordoba Institute:

Rauf, July 21: We are not the extremists. We are that vast majority of Muslims who stand up against extremism and provide a voice in response to the radical rhetoric. Our mission is to interweave America’s Muslim population into mainstream society. We are a Muslim-American force for promoting the universal values of justice and peaceful coexistence in which all good people believe.

Controversial Comments

Critics point to some of Rauf’s comments that they say show him to be neither a moderate nor a bridge-builder, as he has been called. Appearing on NBC’s "Meet the Press" on Aug. 22, former New York Rep. Rick Lazio, a Republican, said the imam is not a "good" Muslim:

Lazio, Aug. 22: Well, first of all I would say, David, there are millions of peace-loving, good Muslims in America. This Imam Rauf is not one of them. He’s not a bridge builder. This is a man, the very same month that people were burying their loved ones that were lost in 9/11, he said that America was an accessory to the crime of 9/11. He said that Osama bin Laden was created in the USA. He refuses, only months ago, to, to distance himself from Hamas, in fact, protecting him — protecting them, and only recently one of the developers said that they would consider taking money from Iran.

It’s true that in the past Rauf has said that U.S. policy was an "accessory" to the 9/11 attacks, and that he recently declined to express an opinion about whether or not Hamas is a "terrorist" organization.

The "accessory" remark is from a 2001 interview on CBS’ "60 Minutes," in which Rauf said:

Rauf, Sept. 30, 2001: I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.

Correspondent Ed Bradley: OK. You say that we’re an accessory?

Rauf: Yes.

Bradley: How?

Rauf: Because we have been an accessory to a lot of — of innocent lives dying in the world. In fact, it — in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA.

That was a reference to U.S. support for bin Laden when he was fighting Soviet occupiers in Afghanistan, as CBS’ Bradley made clear in the sequence that immediately followed Rauf’s remark:

CBS’ Ed Bradley, Sept. 30, 2001: Bin Laden and his supporters were, in fact, recruited and paid nearly $4 billion by the CIA and the government of Saudi Arabia in the 1980s to fight with the Mujahedeen rebels against the former Soviet Union, which had invaded Afghanistan. After the Soviets pulled out, the Saudis, our best friends in the Arab world, our staunchest ally during the Gulf War, poured hundreds of millions of dollars into the newly formed Taliban regime until 1999.

Also, on ABC’s "This Week" with Christiane Amanpour, Rauf’s wife Daisy Khan recently stated:

Khan, Aug. 22, 2010: [H]e talked about the CIA support specifically to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. And…
Amanpour: You mean that…
Khan: Yes, in the ’80s.
Amanpour: … against the Soviet Union.
Khan: The Soviet Union. And how this was, you know, in CIA terms, a blowback of that. That’s what he meant.

In the "60 Minutes" interview, Rauf also said that "fanaticism and terrorism have no place in Islam," and that "there is no justification" for the attacks from an Islamic perspective.

Lazio also said that Rauf "refused to distance himself" from Hamas. That refers to a June New York Post report, in which Rauf ducked a question about whether he agreed with the State Department’s assessment of Hamas as a terrorist organization:

New York Post, June 19: "The issue of terrorism is a very complex question," [Rauf] told interviewer Aaron Klein. "There was an attempt in the ’90s to have the UN define what terrorism is and say who was a terrorist. There was no ability to get agreement on that." Asked again for his opinion on Hamas, an exasperated Rauf wouldn’t budge. "I am a peace builder. I will not allow anybody to put me in a position where I am seen by any party in the world as an adversary or as an enemy," Rauf said, insisting that he wants to see peace in Israel between Jews and Arabs.

Blaming America?

Rauf’s detractors continue to mine elements of his statements for evidence that he is insufficiently pro-American or overly sympathetic to fellow Muslims overseas. Most recently, the Investigative Project on Terrorism took issue with statements from Rauf’s 2005 lecture and discussion at the Bob Hawke Prime Ministerial Center in South Australia. IPT was founded by controversial journalist Steven Emerson, who once suggested that contemporary Islam "sanctions genocide, planned genocide, as part of its religious doctrine."

We find that IPT (and others who echoed its criticism) take Rauf’s words out of context.

IPT claimed that Rauf’s statements "reveal radicalism" and "would make anyone who is not concerned about the mosque at the Ground Zero site rethink their support for the man." Its prime example is Rauf’s comment that "the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaida has on its hands of innocent non Muslims," which he backed up by saying that "US-led sanctions against Iraq led to the death of over half a million Iraqi children."

It’s true that the 500,000 deaths figure is highly controversial, and probably inflated. But it came from the United Nations, which Rauf correctly cited as the source. And rightly or wrongly, it has been repeated and accepted by plenty of people who aren’t radical Islamists — including reporter Lesley Stahl of CBS’ "60 Minutes."

In context, here’s what Rauf said in his 2005 remarks:

Rauf, 2005: You may remember that the US led sanction against Iraq led to the death of over half a million Iraqi children. This has been documented by the United Nations. And when Madeleine Albright, who has become a friend of mine over the last couple of years, when she was secretary of state and was asked whether this was worth it, said it was worth it.

Rauf’s reference to Albright comes from a "60 Minutes" program that aired May 12, 1996. Albright actually was U.S. ambassador to the UN at the time, and only later became secretary of state.

CBS’ Stahl, May 12, 1996: We have heard that a half a million children have died. I mean, that’s more children than died when–wh–in–in Hiroshima. And–and, you know, is the price worth it?

Albright: I think this is a very hard choice, but the price–we think the price is worth it.

Albright later wrote in her memoir that she "must have been crazy" to answer Stahl’s "loaded question" that way. But her answer was widely interpreted at the time as giving support to the 500,000 figure.

IPT claimed that a "report by the British government" put the number of deaths at no more than 50,000, but IPT didn’t provide a citation. Rauf was citing a 1996 World Health Organization study that found that child mortality in Iraq had doubled in the five years after sanctions were imposed, and a later United Nations Children’s Fund report from 1999. Both have been disputed. In 1999 Columbia University Professor Richard Garfield estimated the total of excess deaths in children under 5 at between a "conservative" 106,106 and a "most likely" figure of 227,713. Furthermore, according to Canada’s National Post, Garfield laid most of the blame on Saddam Hussein’s government and not directly on the sanctions.

IPT also claimed that Rauf was "justifying acts of terrorism by blaming the United States for the oppression of Islamic regimes." It quotes Rauf — accurately — as saying that “after 50 years of, in many cases, oppression, of US support of authoritarian regimes that have violated human rights in the most heinous of ways, how else do people get attention?” But IPT omitted what Rauf said next: ”I’m just providing you with the arguments that are happening intra-Islamically by those who feel the emotional pain.”

The full transcript and audio are available to anyone who wants to evaluate the imam’s remarks in context.

Where is the money to build the center and mosque coming from?

That has yet to be determined. Little is currently known of how the estimated $100 million project will be funded. Project organizers say that they have not actually begun their fundraising drive, and are still in the initial planning process. According to the project’s website, "Park51 will incorporate as a non-profit and seek federal tax-exempt status" as a 501 (c)(3) organization. And while those behind the project say they intend to raise the necessary funds for the project domestically, ABC News reported that Oz Sultan, spokesman for the Park51 project, declined to rule out accepting donations from foreign nations such as Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Project representatives explained via Twitter on Aug. 17 that once fundraising begins, "[w]e will disclose funding of the project in compliance with State and Federal law as well as vet investors with the [Department of ] Treasury." That point was echoed by Daisy Khan, Rauf’s wife and one of the leaders of the Park51 project, during her recent interview on ABC’s "This Week" with Christiane Amanpour:

Amanpour, Aug. 22, 2010: How much money has been raised and are you prepared to discuss the issue of foreign funding? Let’s say there was foreign funding. How would you be able to know exactly where that money was coming from, what other projects elsewhere that they may have given money to?

Khan: Well, this is where my counselor on my right is helping us, because our funding is going to be pretty much follow the same way that [Jewish Community Center] got its fund-raising. First, we have to develop a board. Then the board is going to have a financial committee, fund-raising committee that will be in charge of the fund-raising. And we have promised that we will work with the Charities Bureau, that we will adhere to the highest and the strictest guidelines set forth by the Treasury Department, because there is so much angst about this. But we will follow the lead from Rabbi Joy Levitt.

As we said at the outset, none of what we have written here should be taken as an endorsement of the Park51 project. We are neutral on the highly politicized and emotional question of whether or not it should be built at the site proposed. Our purpose here is to set the record straight where facts have been misrepresented or presented out of context.

–D’Angelo Gore and Jess Henig

The Community Center at Park51 Website. Accessed 19 Aug 2010.

Cordoba Initiative. The Proposed Community Center Project in Lower Manhattan FAQs. Accessed 19 Aug 2010.

El-Gamal, Sharif. "‘Ground Zero mosque’ will serve all N.Y.: Developer of site says Sarah Palin is welcome, too." New York Daily News. 4 Aug 2010.

Barnard, Anne. "In Lower Manhattan, 2 Mosques Have Firm Roots." New York Times. 13 Aug 2010.

Poonawalla, Aziz and Shahed Amanulla. "We want to build Park51 so it has something for everyone.” Altmuslim.com. 24 Jul 2010.

Alvarez, Maria. "Imam defends mosque near ground zero before board." Newsday.com. 25 May 2010.

Rauf, Feisal Abdul. "The truth about the ‘mosque’: The leader of proposed Muslim center near Ground Zero defends his plan." New York Daily News. 26 May 2010.

Washington Post. "Mosque near Ground Zero: Frequently asked questions." Accessed 20 Aug 2010.

Washington Post. "The View from Ground Zero." Accessed 20 Aug 2010. U.S. State

Department Bureau of Public Affairs. "Daily Press Briefing." 10 Aug. 2010.

CBS News. 60 minutes. 30 Sep. 2001. Transcript.

Rabasa, Angel et al. "Building Moderate Muslim Networks." Center for Middle East and Public Policy, RAND Corporation. 2007.

Rauf, Feisal Abdul. "Center an attempt to prevent the next 9/11." Washington Post On Faith blog. 21 Jul. 2010.

Topousis, Tom. "Imam Terror Error." The New York Post. 19 Jun. 2010.

Investigative Project on Terrorism. "Rauf Lecture Reveals Radicalism." 23 Aug. 2010.

Rauf, Feisal Abdul. "What does it take to change the relationship between the West and the Muslim World?" Transcript. 12 July 2005.

UNICEF Newsline. "Iraq surveys show ‘humanitarian emergency.’" Press release. 12 Aug. 1999.

Habberman, Maggie and Ben Smith. "Mosque a long shot to be built." Politico. 18 Aug 2010.

Goldman, Russel. "Islamic Center Backers Won’t Rule Out Taking Funds from Saudi Arabia, Iran." ABC News. 18 Aug 2010.

Emerson, Steven. "Jihad in America." The Jewish Monthly. Mar 1995.

Posted by DAngelo Gore and Jess Henig on Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 5:42 pm
Filed under Ask FactCheck · Tagged with Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, islamic cultural center, mosque, Park51, September 11

Ground Zero; nothing but politics for Republican Radicals


Ground Zero is about politics for Republican Right Wingers
Mike Ghouse

Peace will come to our communities; the Ground Zero issue will fade away when we become aware of the facts and the public rejects the plea from the Republican Right Wingers.

Things have got to get better and the conversation must be carried forward. The silent majority of Americans will wake up and do the right thing; live and let live. Right now, they are worked up with the misinformation coming from the opportunists; first it was a mosque, then it was on ground zero, then it was the historic building and now they have slipped to the finances of Imam. The guys who are making a lot of noise are from Fox, and their 2nd largest stock holder is a Saudi businessman. They will slip again on the Imam and claim that the money is coming from Hamas (as if they have the money). There is no end to their lies. Remember the WMD pattern? The reason was slipping from a lie to lie.

Who are the folks opposing the Mosque near Ground Zero? The revelations are as clear as the day light, while the religious leaders are speaking boldly for freedom and co-existence, the right wing politicians have gone berserk and hanging on to tiny branches to save their political careers, and it is an abuse of Patriotism to have political gains.If you have surfed through the internet, you might reasonably conclude that the ones opposing are the right wing Republicans like Palin, Gingrich, Paladino, Corker, Tancredo, Rowe, McCain and others. They continue to fall in the abyss of ignorance and are out of touch with the American public. The pied piper Limbaugh had led them once and his cooked up support will blind them again.Until they come up with concrete alternative solutions for the difficulties our nation is facing, they will continue to hang on to anything they "perceive" will save them. The American public does not like divisive politics and I hope they understand and honor it, and become conflict mitigaters and goodwill nurturers.

Our culture is peace and we are justice seekers, as we have gotten up and thrown the rascals out we will reject these chaotic bunch again; it is all for those seats in the senate or congress. It is not about the Mosque, not about Patriotism but simply about greed. We Americans have witnessed that time and again. The 9/11 families are seeing through it and standing up for building that center, a catalyst for a positive change.

Peace will come to our communities; this issue will fade away when we become aware of the facts.

The leader of the Gang is Mr. Gingrich, the man gunning for Bill Clinton about Monica – at that very same time he was cheating on his wife, she was on cancer and he was proposing another woman and he has repeated that performance again. He has the gall to speak about Patriotism and loyalty? I don’t now why Keith Olberman is not nailing this beast or Jon Stewart cannot see their game.

We have to consciously create institutions and systems that will become a catalyst to a positive change and bring about cohesive functioning of the society. The Cordoba house will be the one.
We have a monumental task to repair the World, and we will do our part in working towards a World of co-existence, one person at a time. We are committed, and now help us God. Amen.

Mike Ghouse is speaker and thinker on Pluralism and Islam offering pluralistic solutions to the media and the public on issues of the day. His work is captured in 22 blogs and 3 websites listed at http://www.mikeghouse.net/


Feisal Rauf: Ground Zero's lightning rod

Feisal Rauf: Ground Zero's lightning rod

US State Department favourite he might be, but his plans to open a cultural centre for Muslims close to the site of the Twin Towers have seen him reviled

Paul Harris
The Observer, Sunday 29 August 2010

For the first time in a long while, Feisal Rauf is avoiding the press. The imam behind the planned "Ground Zero mosque" is on a trip to the Gulf states, after the US State Department shelled out $16,000 to fund a bridge-building series of meetings between Rauf and various local figures. Normally, that is the sort of low-level diplomacy that would fly under the radar. Indeed, Rauf might have been expected to try to publicise the trip, which is his fourth to the region on behalf of a US government which uses him as an ambassador to the Islamic world. But not this time.

Rauf's first stop was a dinner in Bahrain at the US ambassador's residence at which he chatted with carefully selected guests. Reporters, who might usually have ignored such a banal event, were kept at arm's length. Attempts to talk to Rauf's dining companions were stymied. That is what happens when you become the centre of a political storm such as that which has engulfed the Ground Zero mosque project which, for the record, is neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero. Instead, it is a planned Islamic cultural centre – with a restaurant and swimming pool as well as a place of worship – a few blocks from the giant building site that once housed the Twin Towers. The planned centre, now known as Park51, after its street address, is a large project. But it is not the "super-mosque" its detractors claim.

Yet Rauf, as the driving force behind Park51, is one of the most divisive figures in the American political landscape. To critics, he is an anti-American supporter of terrorists who refuses to condemn Hamas and who believes America was responsible for its own tragedy on 9/11. Park51 is nothing less than a deliberate slap in the face of America and another indication of the creeping Islamisation of the US.

The vitriol is staggering. Rightwing blogger Pamela Geller has dubbed Rauf a "stealth radical" and the Republican party has piled in behind her. But it is not just the extremists. Jewish groups, influential Democrats and even the current Miss USA (a Muslim) have spoken out against Park51. It is a startling alliance against a self-styled moderate, who has led countless inter-faith meetings and is so trusted by the US government that he counsels the FBI.

But these are the signs of the times. After all, one in five Americans believes their president is a Muslim. It is a nation dominated by media that feed on rage. It is a place where a handful of rightwing bloggers can drag the debate over Park51 so far from reality that a man such as Rauf is seen as a threat to national security. To nearly everyone now engaged in the argument over Park51, the truth seems irrelevant. That is a huge misfortune for a man who, like millions of other immigrants, has actually so fully embraced America.

Feisal Abdul Rauf was born in Kuwait in 1948. His father, a respected Egyptian cleric called Muhammad Abdul Rauf, had been part of a wave of Islamic scholars sent out by the Egyptian government to posts around the world. That led to a wandering childhood as Rauf's father took up positions in Britain, Malaysia and the Gulf. His accent still retains clipped tones from the time he spent in Cambridge with his father. But it also led to a certain sense of rootlessness that only ended when the Raufs went to the US. It was 1965 and Rauf was 17. "I did not know if I was Egyptian, Malay or English," he has said. He soon found he was, in fact, destined to be American.

Landing in New York, the family moved into a small apartment above Rauf senior's mosque on West 72nd Street, tending to a small congregation of immigrant Muslims and black American converts. He studied physics at university before taking on postgraduate work in New Jersey. Though the Rauf family was a conservative one (Rauf's mother was not allowed to drive), Rauf was a typical student, with a wide circle of friends and a fondness for cars and girls. He had Jewish friends who, during the Six Day war, remember Rauf striving to understand the conflict's meaning for American Jews.

"There was a genuine openness," a classmate, Alan Silberstein, told the New York Times. Rauf has always welcomed others. He still talks of the profound influence of his childhood in Malaysia.

That disparate nation has many ethnic groupings and practises a gentle form of Islam. But it was America that Rauf truly embraced. In all his speeches, Rauf, like any other American, says "we" and "our country". He became a citizen in 1980. In his writings on Islam, Rauf has emphasised common links between Judaism, Christianity and Islam (which, he says, share Abrahamic ideals). He sees their quarrels as a family dispute.

Yet it was not always certain that Rauf was destined to be an imam. He first taught remedial English in a school in Harlem; then he was a salesman, though he was always on a spiritual journey. He travelled and met Islamic scholars and eventually became a Sufi, a form of Islam that emphasises the mystic.

A Sufi scholar in Turkey asked him to create a Sufi mosque in New York and in 1983 Rauf left the working world to found the Masjid al-Farah in Manhattan. From the start, it was a moderate place, friendly to women and attracting a diverse crowd. Among that crowd was interior designer Daisy Khan, who had been born in Kashmir, but, like Rauf, arrived in America as an immigrant teenager.

Khan had been searching for a moderate form of Islam and found it at al-Farah. She also found her future husband. The pair married in 1997. But Rauf and Khan became far more than just a couple. They became a working team, especially after 9/11. Suddenly, all America was trying to understand Islam. Journalists and politicians were desperate for a moderate voice to explain it. Rauf and Khan filled that void. Rauf had set up the American Society for Muslim Advancement in 1997. Khan, who, in her 25 year interior design career had worked for various Fortune 500 companies, spoke in favour of women's rights.

Suddenly, the Raufs were big news. They went on TV and advised politicians. They became the face of moderate American Islam. When a memorial service was held for murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, Rauf declared: "I am a Jew." When the scandal of Abu Ghraib broke, Rauf was among those asked to appear in an apology advert that was broadcast on Arabic television. The Raufs were an industry of moderate Islam: writing books, giving speeches, travelling to the World Economic Forum.

The Raufs were the epitome of those most American of traditions: the salesman and the motivational speaker. But these are now dangerous waters to swim in if you're a Muslim. It matters little what are the Raufs' intentions. What matters is the views others project onto them. Park51 was originally called Cordoba House, after Rauf's inter-faith Cordoba Initiative. The name Cordoba is a nod to the Moorish emirate known its for religious tolerance. But rightwingers believe it is a reference to the Muslim conquest of Spain (some radical Islamists also take it that way).

The same goes for any number of Rauf's statements. When he says American foreign policy has angered many Muslims, he is stating a belief shared by liberals and voiced by some conservatives, such as Glenn Beck. But critics say Rauf thinks America deserved to be attacked on 9/11. When he speaks of wanting to see Islam spread in America, it is seen as a sign of Islamisation. But any religious person wants to see their faith grow.

In this atmosphere, the Raufs cannot win. Yet far from being a radical plot, planning Park51 was a rather amateurish exercise. Rauf had no media campaign, no PR. To critics, that just shows how secretive the Raufs are. Yet all the evidence seems to suggest two moderates, happy to brand themselves as such, who wandered naively into a hornets' nest. "I don't really think they knew what would happen. Which is worrying in itself but not in the way most people worry about it," said one New York religious notable who supports Park51.

No wonder Rauf's minders in the State Department were keeping him under wraps. In one of the few moments in Bahrain when he did directly address the Park51 issue, Rauf kept things simple. He read out a statement that included this plea: "With God's help, inshallah, we shall pass through this stormy season." Delivered in Rauf's cool voice tinged with a British accent, it sounded heartfelt. But calming this particular storm might be beyond even the powers of the Almighty (whichever one you believe in).


Born Feisal Abdul Rauf, in Kuwait in 1948. His father was Muhammad Abdul Rauf, an Egyptian scholar, and his mother was an Egyptian called Buthnaya. His wife is Daisy Khan, a Kashmir-born interior designer.

Best of times In 2003 at a memorial for murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, Rauf took a courageous stand by saying: "Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one, not only today I am a Jew, I have always been one."

Worst of times Now. The furore over Park51 has seen Rauf become one of the most vilified people in America, destroying years of careful image-building.
What he says "My colleagues and I are the antiterrorists. We are the people who want to embolden the vast majority of Muslims who hate terrorism to stand up to the radical rhetoric. Our purpose is to interweave America's Muslim population into the mainstream society."

What others say That depends. Right-wing blogger Pamela Geller says: "While imam Feisal speaks of tolerance, he praises the worst extremists and inciters to genocide."

Meanwhile, Atlantic Monthly journalist Jeffrey Goldberg says: "He represents what bin Laden fears most: a Muslim who believes that it is possible to remain true to the values of Islam and, at the same time, to be a loyal citizen of a western, non-Muslim country."

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ground Zero Questions

We have to respect and honor the sentiments of every one who was a victim of terrorism and their friends and relatives who have suffered through 9/11. In behalf of the men and women who have lost their loved ones, a few are genuinely opposing the building of the community Center, a few are Altruistic and want the center to stand out as a beacon of hope and peace and yet a few are falling prey to the political opportunists. At the end, if we envision an America that is good for all, we have to consider dropping the “me, me, and me” and yield to what is good for America, in the long haul. Everything you want to know about Ground zero is at: http://groundzeromosque.blogspot.com/

# ##

Critical Questions about Ground Zero
A conversation between Greg Stone and Mike Ghouse

Greg, thanks for your questions and I am pleased to respond to each one of your concern or question in the dialogue format.

Greg: and it is hardly heinous behavior to ask for respect for the feelings of those who suffered.

Mike: We have to respect and honor the sentiments of every one who was a victim of terrorism and their friends and relatives who have suffered through 9/11. In behalf of the men and women who have lost their loved ones, a few are genuinely opposing the building of the community Center, a few are Altruistic and want the center to stand out as a beacon of hope and peace and yet a few are falling prey to the political opportunists. At the end, if we envision an America that is good for all, we have to consider dropping the “me, me, and me” and yield to what is good for America, in the long haul.

By the way there is a new coalition in the making supported by 9/11 Families who do not want mis-application of Patriotism in this issue. http://groundzeromosque.blogspot.com/2010/08/coalition-in-support-of-park51.html

Greg: If Truth is the path to peace then there can be no harm in the opponents of the project asking difficult questions and receiving honest answers.

Mike: That is my stand as well. Indeed, we have to check the motivation of those who are opposed, which is political. If you have surfed the net, you might reasonably conclude that the ones opposing are the right wing Republicans like Palin, Gingrich, Paladino, Corker, Tancredo, Rowe, McCain and others. They are the losers in 2008 elections and shamefully the right wing extremist voices in the Republican Party prevail, the moderate republicans are shamelessly silent on the issue. It is the ploy of the right wing republicans to gain a few seats at the cost of messing with the social fabric of the nation.

Greg: I found it to be snarky, dishonest, lacking in respect, and basically politically motivated garbage.

Mike: That is another point of view we have to factor in.

Greg: If the site of the mosque is not Ground Zero then why did the planners cite the location as being significant to their plans?

Mike: First of all the initiative to build the center was in the works much before 9/11, and like you, me or any American that buys properties on the market for sale; they bought this piece of land.

Greg: Why did they choose the site as a place to address and heal 9/11? And did not a piece of the plane that smashed into the towers land on that building? If a piece of the attack plane landed there.

Mike: A piece of plane fell on every building there, should we shut down all the buildings in the area? There is McDonalds, Burger King and hundreds of stores around Ground Zero. Why pick on this building? Is it because it yields political opportunity? Is it because it lends prejudices can surface in disguise of mis-applied patriotism? As Americans should we let bigotry prevail?

Greg: I believe it qualifies as Ground Zero.

Mike: I honor your sentiments, however the commissioners have voted 28:1 (have to verify this number – I have the article) and have granted the permit and have categorically said it does not qualify to be ground zero. If this were Ground Zero, all businesses within the same circle as this center around Ground Zero have to be shut down, then I am for it, but to single out this building goes against the values of America.

Greg: So to mock those who oppose it on that basis and to carry on with snide ridicule is dishonest and disrespectful. You surely do not support that, do you?

Mike: I do not devalue those who oppose (my statement above) and I can bet anything on it that it is politically motivated by the opportunist and that I do not value. As Americans we should not let these men and women abuse “Patriotism and Religion” to their advantage. Had Lincoln yielded to the pressures, we would not have had the civil rights, although the constitution offered equal rights to all, we still abused it by denying the rights to the women and African Americans. A lot of negative popular movements have been rectified by the courts, as they were fraught with mis-applied motivation of religion or politics (Google).

Greg: The fact that it is a cultural center plus a mosque does not mean it is not a mosque

Mike: It is a cultural center with a space for worship. Read below this Para.

What if it is a Mosque? Is any one dare enough to tell me that the American Muslims are on that SOB Bin Laden’s team? So they cannot have the Mosque? How dumb could it be to equate a foreign criminal with Americans? Can any one say a bold faced lie like that? That SOB Bin Laden pulled two of our symbolic buildings down and murdered nearly 3000 Americans; He is still at large. We need to find this criminal and punish him instead of ruining the fabric of our society. Muslims do not like this evil man, he not only maligned Islam by wearing the label of Islam, but he also fanned the prejudices against Muslims. He is the Villain and not anyone else and we need to get him.

It is not a mosque and it is not on Ground Zero. It is a Community Center, an interfaith chapel, a memorial for the 9/11, a pool for the community, an auditorium to hold conferences, a place to teach pluralism and co-existence and also place for Muslim prayers - above all it is open to the public.

It is a shrine and it is a catalyst to create a society we desire to live in with respect for every one of the 301 Million Americans.

Greg: I have heard Muslims, in increasing numbers, say that they, too, suspect the project is supported by Islamists, Jihadists, and others who have political, not religious, intentions.

Mike: We are Americans, each one of us has a right to oppose and support. Even if all Muslims in America oppose it, we still have to think what America is all about– was slavery the right thing? Was bigotry the right thing? Wasn’t women’s emancipation the right thing?

Greg: Why do you think it is not appropriate for opponents to have their questions answered in this regard?

Mike: It is very appropriate to have debates and every one has the right to oppose and the right to support. I have never said it is not appropriate to oppose.

Greg: Unless, of course, you do not care to bring peace. In that case, this is a great article as you say. It ups the divisions, it ups the disrespect, and it ups the hostility. Not such a great article.

Mike: I care to work for long term peace and we do not have to pander to the pettiness of the opportunists. There was tremendous hostility towards JFK for doing the right thing; it was the same towards Lincoln, it was against Gandhi and there was hostility towards that terrorist “MLK” (as they had called him) for fighting for the civil rights for all Americans. Over the time, people realize and appreciate what America Stands for; equal treatment of all citizens and liberty and Justice to every American. That is who we are, a nation founded on the righteous principles and we should stand by it and not pander to the inner devil of bias within us.

Mike Ghouse

Coalition in Support of Park51

This issue is engaging the American Public, both for and against, and as a Pluralist who believes in co-existence as the way for sustaining harmony, I will save the links of articles that come across my knowledge as a reference for the researchers. There are nearly 75 pieces in this blog.

Mike Ghouse

NY Groups to Announce Coalition in Support of Park51, Religious Freedom

September Eleventh Families, Religious Leaders, Civic Groups, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Groups Announce Coalition to Support Religious Freedom
New York Neighbors for American Values Speaks Out in Support of Park51

(NEW YORK, NY, 8/24/10) -- On Wednesday, Aug. 25, more than 40 prominent organizations, civic groups, leaders and religious and interfaith groups will join together to announce the creation of a coalition in support of religious freedom and diversity and to rebuff the increasingly strident opposition to a proposed Islamic center near Ground Zero.

New York Neighbors for American Values embraces the American constitutional values of religious freedom, diversity and equality. We stand together today to reject the crude stereotypes meant to frighten and divide us.

WHAT: Press Conference to Announce New Coalition Supporting Religious Freedom
WHERE: Municipal Building (One Centre Street)
WHEN: 12 p.m. (Noon)


* Faiza Ali, Council on American-Islamic Relations-NY, 212.870.2002, (C) 718.724.3041
* Deanna Bitetti, Common Cause/NY, (C) 917.751.2342
* Jennifer Carnig, New York Civil Liberties Union, 212.607.3363, (C) 845.553.0349
* Shonna Carter, Riptide, 212.260.5000, (C) 917.453.8286


* September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
* Faiza Ali, Community Affairs Director Council on American-Islamic Relations –NY
* Ro Scheffe, Community Board 1
* Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, President, New Sanctuary Movement and Judson Memorial Church
* Donna Lieberman, Executive Director, New York Civil Liberties Union
* Susan Lerner, Executive Director, Common Cause/NY

WHO: The Coalition of NY Neighbors for American Values: Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), Auburn Theological Seminary, Brooklyn for Peace, Citizen Action of New York, Common Cause/New York, Community Voices Heard, Convergence of Cultures/NY, Council on American-Islamic Relations-NY, Demos, Downtown Independent Democrats, Good Jobs New York, Greater NYC for Change, Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition, Interfaith Center of New York, Islamic Mission of America inc., Jews for Racial and Economic Justice [JFREJ], Judson Memorial Church, Lower Manhattan Democrats (LMD), Manhattan Young Democrats, Middle East Crisis Response (MECR), Muslim Consultative Network, Muslim Public Affairs Council -NYC, New York Civil Liberties Union, New York Theological Seminary, New York City New Sanctuary Movement, Pax Christi Metro New York, The Dialogue Project, The New York City Chapter of Humanist Party, The Shalom Center, Woodstock International and Talat Hamdani, Mother of Mohammad Salman Hamdani NYPD Cadet, EMT< WTC II, Hester Eisenstein, Sociology, Queens College and the Graduate Center *, Jennifer Baumgardner, Co-Owner, Soapbox Inc.*, Serene Jones, President, Union Theological Seminary* , Rev. Charles H. Straut, Jr., DMin, Consultant in Ministry, New York Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church*, Dr. Diane Steinman, Co-Chair, New York State Interfaith Network for Immigration Reform*, Luis Barrios, Ph.D., BCFE, St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, Professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice- Department of Latin American & Latina/o Studies*, Peter Marcuse, Professor emeritus of Urban Planning, Columbia University*, Rev. Freeman Palmer, Metro Association Minister, United Church of Christ, New York Conference*, Rev Dr Rita M Root, Interim Conference Minister, New York Conference, United Church of Christ*, Rev. Dr. Robert L. Brashear, Pastor, West-Park Presbyterian Church*, Tarak Kauff , Veterans For Peace, MECR, Editor Woodstock International newspaper*

*Organization listed for identification purposes only

Friday, August 27, 2010

Healing Wounds at Ground Zero

Healing Wounds at Ground Zero
Greg Stone

It does not surprise me that conflict has escalated in response to plans for building a mosque near Ground Zero. From the perspective of faith-based diplomacy, unhealed historical wounds can be expected to give rise to conflict: this is the norm, not something unexpected.

Imam Abdul Feisal Rauf expressed hopes the cultural center and mosque would be a force for peace, an effort that would bring about interfaith cooperation and reconciliation. His peace mission may be very much alive, though building may be put on hold.

It may turn out that making peace does not require a cultural center, only the announcement that one plans to build—as the announcement has created an opportunity for Imam Rauf to engage in peacemaking by reaching out with compassion to those who fear his religion.

Unfortunately, the reconciliation effort has gotten off to a rocky start as the Imam overlooked a vital step—healing historical wounds that generate opposition.

My mentor in the emerging discipline of faith-based diplomacy, the Rev. Brian Cox, executive vice president of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy and an Episcopal minister, has written about the importance of healing historical wounds. In his ground-breaking work titled Faith-Based Reconciliation, Rev. Cox advises mediators:

Those who would seek to serve as third party intermediaries in some of the world’s most intractable conflicts would be wise to integrate the healing of historical wounds into their strategic thinking.”
He continues,

Healing wounded nations in the twenty-first century is not an esoteric luxury but rather absolutely essential for peace in the world.”
What does he have in mind?

Facing the truth about history is a complex process of having an honest conversation about the past, where informed and morally courageous people determine the past hurts and injustices that must be healed.”

In the dispute regarding the mosque in Manhattan, the primary historical wound driving opposition is the 911 attack at Ground Zero. In hindsight, it is clear that those opposed to the mosque are responding as should have been anticipated: “Collective trauma in communities can induce panic, depression, exhaustion, guilt, rage, shame, protest, anxiety, denial, numbness, fear, confusion, impaired functioning, and flashbacks in the victims.” It should have been expected that emotions related to the horrific events that took place nearby would cause protest and opposition.

Should the Imam wish to follow the premises of faith-based diplomacy, he will want to consider assembling a small group of conciliators familiar with faith-based mediation, to convene an in-depth process that explores the hurts and injustices fueling opposition. The Rev. Brian Cox has designed reconciliation seminars and reconciliation services for just this purpose.

However, the media, not known for its skill in peace and reconciliation, might argue Imam Rauf should not be considered in the same sentence with the terrorists that launched the attack. This goes without saying. However, as a representative of the Muslim community, he carries the burden of acts committed in the name of Islam—no matter how unfair this burden may seem.

Brian Cox writes, “… as a member of a community or nation, I must share in the collective responsibility for actions taken on my behalf.” When I first read this passage, my sense of fairness was offended: there was no way I was going to accept responsibility for acts committed over which I had no power or authority.

It was only with extensive soul-searching that I realized even though I was not personally responsible for harm suffered, if I wanted peace I would have to accept corporate responsibility. That was the only way to begin the healing. I realized that though my sin might have been minor, a sin of omission—I may not have exercised what little power I possessed to prevent harmful actions—it was enough to begin a discussion.

It is true that an apology is weaker when the one who apologizes is causally distant from the harm delivered, nonetheless, any act of assuming corporate responsibility begins to heal wounds and initiate reconciliation. An apology from Imam Rauf does not possess the power of an apology from the terrorists, but it can spark a healing conversation with those opposed to his plans.

If this approach is taken, opposition to the mosque, rather than being perceived in a negative light, could be transformed into an opportunity for Imam Rauf to draw closer to those who carry the wounds of 911. While we can always view conflict through a negative lens, it is often more productive to see the opportunity it presents, and this dispute offers considerable opportunity. Perhaps Imam Rauf thought his work would begin when the cultural center was built, but Divine Providence has its own time schedule.

Ironically, those opposed to the mosque have culled through the files and found recordings of Imam Rauf speaking in unflattering terms about the role America played in bringing about 911. His words, taken at face value, seem to “blame the victim.” Taken out of context, his statements are being used to support the argument that he is not a spiritual Imam who values freedom but rather someone who traffics in anti-American rhetoric that incites attacks against America.

There is another way to understand the same words—they represent unhealed historical wounds. Like his opposition, he is giving voice to the pain of wounds that have not been addressed and healed.

One could argue that, in those statements, he failed to clearly articulate his message and failed to suggest a healing process to overcome the burden. He did not have had the concepts of faith-based diplomacy at hand. If we now see that his opposition is justified in the upset they express, based on unhealed wounds, we also see historical wounds that should be addressed to relieve the Imam’s concerns. In other words, healing gives rise to reciprocity.

The late Lewis Smedes noted in his classic Forgive and Forget: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve:

There is redemptive remembering. There is a healing way to remember the wrongs of our irreversible past; a way that can bring hope for the future along with our sorrow for the past.”
It is just such a process that peacemakers can and should design and manage. Archbishop Dolan has offered to mediate. A tested design for a reconciliation service exists. Let us hope this is the direction taken.

The following excerpt from Taming the Wolf sums up the healing work in which we must engage:
The narrative myths we use to position and maintain ‘the other’ as our enemy must be dismantled; the characters in our narrative must be rewritten to fit the future we dream. Ancient heroes who destroy opponents with swift swords must give way to heroes who destroy evil with compassion. The heroic Francis who suited up to go to war is replaced by Francis the peacemaker dressed in a simple habit. Just as Francis rewrote the narrative of his life, we must rewrite the collective narratives of cultures in conflict.”


Greg Stone

Ground Zero mosque? The reality is less provocative

Funny as it can be, a must read

Charlie Brooker
The Guardian, Monday 23 August 2010
Article history
Things seem awfully heated in America right now; so heated you could probably toast a marshmallow by jabbing it on a stick and holding it toward the Atlantic. Millions are hopping mad over the news that a bunch of triumphalist Muslim extremists are about to build a "victory mosque" slap bang in the middle of Ground Zero.

The planned "ultra-mosque" will be a staggering 5,600ft tall – more than five times higher than the tallest building on Earth – and will be capped with an immense dome of highly-polished solid gold, carefully positioned to bounce sunlight directly toward the pavement, where it will blind pedestrians and fry small dogs. The main structure will be delimited by 600 minarets, each shaped like an upraised middle finger, and housing a powerful amplifier: when synchronised, their combined sonic might will be capable of relaying the muezzin's call to prayer at such deafening volume, it will be clearly audible in the Afghan mountains, where thousands of terrorists are poised to celebrate by running around with scarves over their faces, firing AK-47s into the sky and yelling whatever the foreign word for "victory" is.

I'm exaggerating. But I'm only exaggerating a tad more than some of the professional exaggerators who initially raised objections to the "Ground Zero mosque". They keep calling it the "Ground Zero mosque", incidentally, because it's a catchy title that paints a powerful image – specifically, the image of a mosque at Ground Zero.

When I heard about it – in passing, in a soundbite – I figured it was a US example of the sort of inanely confrontational fantasy scheme Anjem Choudary might issue a press release about if he fancied winding up the tabloids for the 900th time this year. I was wrong. The "Ground Zero mosque" is a genuine proposal, but it's slightly less provocative than its critics' nickname makes it sound. For one thing, it's not at Ground Zero. Also, it isn't a mosque.

Wait, it gets duller. It's not being built by extremists either. Cordoba House, as it's known, is a proposed Islamic cultural centre, which, in addition to a prayer room, will include a basketball court, restaurant, and swimming pool. Its aim is to improve inter-faith relations. It'll probably also have comfy chairs and people who smile at you when you walk in, the monsters.

To get to the Cordoba Centre from Ground Zero, you'd have to walk in the opposite direction for two blocks, before turning a corner and walking a bit more. The journey should take roughly two minutes, or possibly slightly longer if you're heading an angry mob who can't hear your directions over the sound of their own enraged bellowing.

Perhaps spatial reality functions differently on the other side of the Atlantic, but here in London, something that is "two minutes' walk and round a corner" from something else isn't actually "in" the same place at all. I once had a poo in a pub about two minutes' walk from Buckingham Palace. I was not subsequently arrested and charged with crapping directly onto the Queen's pillow. That's how "distance" works in Britain. It's also how distance works in America, of course, but some people are currently pretending it doesn't, for daft political ends.

New York being a densely populated city, there are lots of other buildings and businesses within two blocks of Ground Zero, including a McDonald's and a Burger King, neither of which has yet been accused of serving milkshakes and fries on hallowed ground. Regardless, for the opponents of Cordoba House, two blocks is too close, period. Frustratingly, they haven't produced a map pinpointing precisely how close is OK.

That's literally all I'd ask them in an interview. I'd stand there pointing at a map of the city. Would it be offensive here? What about here? Or how about way over there? And when they finally picked a suitable spot, I'd ask them to draw it on the map, sketching out roughly how big it should be, and how many windows it's allowed to have. Then I'd hand them a colour swatch and ask them to decide on a colour for the lobby carpet. And the conversation would continue in this vein until everyone in the room was in tears. Myself included.

That hasn't happened. Instead, 70% of Americans are opposed to the "Ground Zero mosque", doubtless in many cases because they've been led to believe it literally is a mosque at Ground Zero. And if not . . . well, it must be something significant. Otherwise why would all these pundits be so angry about it? And why would anyone in the media listen to them with a straight face?

According to a recent poll, one in five Americans believes Barack Obama is a Muslim, even though he isn't. A quarter of those who believe he's a Muslim also claimed he talks about his faith too much. Americans aren't dumb. Clearly these particular Americans have either gone insane or been seriously misled. Where are they getting their information?

Sixty per cent said they learned it from the media. Which means it's time for the media to give up.

Seriously, broadcasters, journalists: just give up now. Because either you're making things worse, or no one's paying attention anyway. May as well knock back a few Jagermeisters, unplug the autocue, and just sit there dumbly repeating whichever reality-warping meme the far right wants to go viral this week. What's that? Obama is Gargamel and he's killing all the Smurfs? Sod it. Whatever. Roll titles.