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The Difference Between Opposing Mosques and Burning Korans

3:12 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

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Dove Outreach World Center Pastor Terry Jones’ and his followers’ decision to burn Korans on September 11th has proven there are those in this country who will stoop to such a level and burn sacred texts to express their beliefs. It also indicates there is a line, for now, that those who subscribe to anti-Islam industry propaganda will not cross. Few who oppose the construction of the Park51 project (the "Ground Zero Mosque," as they affectionately term the proposed center) are flocking to support this crackpot pastor’s eagerness to burn Korans.

The Coalition to Honor Ground Zero [and Stop the 9/11 Mosque] put out a statement that the coalition finds the idea to be "irresponsible and wrong." The coalition upholds the "Minister’s freedom of speech and assembly" but contend, "with rights come responsibilities" and urge him not to go ahead with the burning. This is the same coalition that endorses and supports a major rally against the Park51 Project that will be held on 9/11.

What is the difference between obstructing and seeking to prevent the construction of a place of worship and the burning of a sacred text that those who are found to be dangerous derive much of their religious beliefs from?

Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin, who opposes the construction of the Park51 Project, said, "We don’t burn books. The Left does that." Continuing on without citing examples or even bothering to explain how burning Harry Potter books was the work of leftists in America, he said, "And, we certainly don’t do it if it’s going to put our armed forces in danger."

Levin asserted, "It is clear that there are individuals all over the world who will use this as an additional excuse to harm people. There is a fundamentalism-Islamic fundamentalism-that is out to destroy parts of the world and which has frankly murdered more of their fellow Muslims than the Western world or other religions could ever even try to destroy. So, why give a propaganda opportunity to people who are looking for all the propaganda opportunities they can get?"

To those who have been following the hullabaloo around the Park51 Project, this argument is one that supporters have used to undercut opposition to the "Ground Zero mosque." Supporters have argued opposition to the project could help write the recruiting script for Islamic extremists and even justify future acts of terror.

Yet, it does not appear that the opposition to the Park51 Project has had that effect. Director of Arab language television station Al-Arabiya Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashid, wrote recently that he does not think opposition has "provoked" Muslims in the way that a "2006 publication of a cartoon ‘mocking the Islamic prophet in a Danish newspaper,’" which set off violent protests in the Muslim world, did. He added there have been no "demonstrations related to the mosque in Arab countries, that imams have not addressed the controversy during their sermons and that the issue has not been taken up by Islamic religious and intellectual institutions."

The director argued this is because the center could be turned into a "symbol of hatred for Muslims." Such a notion speaks to the power opposition has had in influencing conversation on the project in the media. Certainly, it makes sense that Muslims would not want to erect "an arena for the promoters of hatred, and a monument to those who committed the crime," as Al-Rashid contended.

Muqteder Khan, director of Islamic Studies at the University of Delaware, in a column published by the Washington Post, offers a bit more insight on why desecrating the Koran may provoke more demonstrations and violence in the Muslim World than opposition to the Park51 Project has:

…On September 11, 2010, some misguided Americans plan to burn the Holy Quran, the only book in the entire heritage of humanity that claims to be solely the word of God. This dastardly act is the brainchild of Terry Jones, a Christian Pastor from Florida. This act is not just some symbolic gesture of defiance. It is an act of egregious violence against the beliefs and the sacred symbols of one fourth of humanity. The act will scorch Muslim hearts everywhere. The searing pain will never be forgotten.

Along with the idea of God and prophets, the Quran is the thing that Muslims hold the dearest. My children have been listening to it since even before they were born. I use to recite it to them while they were still in the womb. Their children will be reciting it to them when they will be lowered in to their tomb. Believe me, there is nothing more precious to Muslims than the Quran, and watching people toss it into fire, will be horrifying. I would rather burn in fire myself, than watch a Quran burn…

Let’s be clear about Levin’s remarks–he did not condemn the content of Jones’ opposition to Islam but rather opposed the tactic Jones would be using to voice his discontent. For the purposes of further understanding how conservatives might be grappling with the planned burning of Korans:

"When our government funds so-called art–art that uses urine and feces and this so-called artist stuck a cross into the urine and feces, we were told that this is free speech and any effort to cut the funding for that department or to control what kind of grants are issued is an abomination, would be anti-American.

So, if we the taxpayers against our will fund the desecration of a cross with Jesus on it, there’s something wrong with us. If we object to a provocateur, a radical Imam, trying to locate a mosque at Ground Zero, there’s something wrong with us. But, if this Pastor Jones burns some Korans–which again I object and think is dangerous particularly to our soldiers–then what? Do you hear the liberals saying he has a constitutional right to do this? No."

Actually, a man who Levin and his listeners consider to be a "bleeding-heart liberal" has stated Jones has a constitutional right to burn the Korans. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has been a stalwart defender of the Park51 Project developers right to build, said yesterday:

"In a strange way, I’m here to defend his right to do that. I happen to think that it is distasteful"The First Amendment protects everybody, and you can’t say that we’re going to apply the First Amendment to only those cases where we are in agreement"If you want to be able to say what you want to say when the time comes that you want to say it, you have to defend others, no matter how, how much you disagree with them."

Jones appears to have underestimated how anti-Islam proponents’ dedication to supporting the troops would deter them from supporting his action. General David Petraeus’, the State Department’s and others’ contention that this would put America’s troops in harm’s way has resonated with Americans who likely agree with part if not all of Jones’ arguments on how Islam is "of the Devil."

What those who have spent time organizing against the so-called march of Islam toward instituting Sharia in the United States should understand is that it is they who lay the foundation for whackjobs like Jones to carry out such book burnings. Arguments based solely on a fear of a Third World religion dominating this country’s society at some point in the future give Jones the climate he needs to make his book-burning seem like something indicative of attitudes toward Islam in America. Without their activism, this could be disregarded in the same manner cross burnings by white supremacists are now routinely disregarded.

Anti-Islam activism, which has been warning of "Islamo-fascism" through work by David Horowitz and others since 9/11, has created a climate for hate crimes and vandalism of mosques. The number of protests against mosques has escalated, rallies have harassed people who support their cause but look like Muslims, and have promoted the idea that mosques are "clubhouses for terrorists." In Temecula, California, dogs were deployed to intimidate those attending prayer services and, in Florida, a man attempted to firebomb an Islamic center.

What difference is there between people like Mike Gallagher, Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, or North Carolina congressional candidate Ilario Pantano and Pastor Terry Jones other than the fact that they disagree on the tactics that should be used to oppose Islam? How many think it likely that individuals like Franklin Graham, John Hagee, or Pat Robertson sympathize with the action Terry Jones intends to take? And, how sure can one be that Jones’ ideology isn’t part of what fueled foreign policy thinkers like the now deceased Samuel Huntington, who proposed the "Clash of Civilizations" thesis, or isn’t what fuel people like Frank Gaffney or Charles Krauthammer?

The city of Gainesville, Florida denied the Dove World Outreach Center a burn permit. (Do cities ever give out burn permits for the burning of books?) RBC Bank has called in the mortgage on Pastor Jones’ center and Cottons All-Lines has apparently canceled the center’s insurance. This and the calls from U.S. military men will not dissuade Jones and his few followers who are dedicated to making a statement.

Gen. Petraeus has said these words about troops being put in harm’s way before. This was the justification for not being transparent and preventing the release of photos that likely showed Americans torturing and abusing Muslim detainees. The ACLU almost succeeded in getting the photos released but President Obama and Congress took measures to prevent the photos from being released.

Will the world see the Obama Administration and Congress take this kind of action to protect America’s troops? Will there be state intervention? More importantly, can this be considered an act in furtherance of terrorism? Could the FBI and local police show up and handcuff Jones and others for proceeding with this act even if there is an argument to be made the act is protected by the Constitution? Will homeland security trump the First Amendment Rights of these loons who are people who not only find Islam to be "of the Devil" but also people who likely consider Obama to be the Antichrist?

Perhaps, it doesn’t matter. Jones can burn the Korans or the government can arrest him and his followers. Either way, the anti-Islamic fervor will continue because Americans harbor strong beliefs about Islam and, for many, the last thing they want is some Third World religion becoming dominant in America and transforming America’s national identity to one that, in their mind, runs counter to Judeo-Christian or Protestant values.

Why Opponents of Mosque Are So Fierce in Their Opposition

8:57 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Video on Franklin Graham shows just why there is so much vitriol and hatred toward the Park51 project or the "Ground Zero Mosque"

Opponents follow leaders like Franklin Graham, who allegedly asked Obama about Obama’s Christian beliefs and the senator’s family connections to Islam at a meeting of Christian leaders in June 2008.

Much of the anger is a direct result of Pat Robertson’s and other religious right leaders to make one feel like there is a level of religious intolerance here because Franklin Graham was disinvited from Pentagon’s National Day of Prayer but "taxpayer money" is going to fund a "Ground Zero Mosque."

Hamas Supports the “Ground Zero Mosque” & Other Messages Damning Religious Freedom to Hell

10:28 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola


Flickr Photo by

The hysteria surrounding the "Ground Zero Mosque" that really cannot be seen from Ground Zero has nothing to do with some impending Islamic fundamentalist quest to impose Sharia Law in America. It has everything to do with a toxic patriotism fueled by evangelical political activism in this country.

Few know how this "controversy" was manufactured, how the Islamic cultural center became a political football or tool for exploiting fear of Muslims among Americans. And, at this point, one might think it doesn’t really matter: the right wing assault on Muslims’ private property rights continues unabashedly even though there should be no discussion at all and those behind the project should just take their project somewhere else.

The latest developments in sheer paranoia and outright xenophobia include anti-Obama author and Jerusalem bureau chief of the right-wing website WorldNetDaily.com Aaron Klein’s interview with Hamas leader Mahmoud Al-Zahar on his WABC radio show on Sunday. Klein was able to get Al-Zahar to say Muslims "have to build the mosque, as you are allowed to build the church and Israelis are building their holy places"we have to build everywhere." And, this touched off an eruption of echoes among conservative media as the leader’s position was immediately connected to Obama through headlines suggesting Hamas backs Obama–the impetus being if Hamas supports Obama we should all fear his support for the mosque in the same way we feared Obama’s association to Bill Ayers during the election.

Newt Gingrich appeared on "Fox & Friends" to say, "The folks who want to build this mosque — who are really radical Islamists who want to triumphally prove that they can build a mosque right next to a place where 3,000 Americans were killed by radical Islamists — those folks don’t have any interest in reaching out to the community. They’re trying to make a case about supremacy. That’s why they won’t go anywhere else, that’s why they won’t accept any other offer."

Gingrich went a step further comparing Muslims to Nazis:

"And I think we ought to be honest about the fact that we have a right — and this happens all the time in America. You know, Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor. There’s no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid publicly stated "build the mosque somewhere else" seemingly adopting his Republican opponent Sharron Angle’s position that one must "say no to the mosque at Ground Zero" or "side with President Obama" and be "against the families of 9/11 victims."

Finally, there was Don Lemon on CNN expressing, as Glenn Greenwald writes, "the crux of the "mosque’ opposition":

Lemon: Don’t you think it’s a bit different considering what happened on 9/11? And the people have said there’s a need for it in Lower Manhattan, so that’s why it’s being built there. What about 10, 20 blocks . . . Midtown Manhattan, considering the circumstances behind this? That’s not understandable?

Patel: In America, we don’t tell people based on their race or religion or ethnicity that they are free in this place, but not in that place –

Lemon: [interrupting] I understand that, but there’s always context, Mr. Patel . . . this is an extraordinary circumstance. You understand that this is very heated. Many people lost their loved ones on 9/11 –

Patel: Including Muslim Americans who lost their loved ones. . . .

Lemon: Consider the context here. That’s what I’m talking about.

Patel:I have to tell you that this seems a little like telling black people 50 years ago:you can sit anywhere on the bus you like – just not in the front.

Lemon:I think that’s apples and oranges -I don’t think that black people were behind a Terrorist plot to kill people and drive planes into a building.That’s a completely different circumstance.

Patel: And American Muslims were not behind the terrorist plot either. [emphasis not added]

More patently absurd was Tim Brown, a retired NYC firefighter who survived 9/11 who recounted a story at the tail end of the segment featuring Lemon and Patel involving a woman who "spoke at the Landmark Preservation Commission here and very passionately against the mosque and when she walked out and went to her car she had a heart attack." Brown added, "This is what is being done to the families of 9/11."

The bizarre notion that not only all of the Muslim world should pay for the few extremists that targeted the World Trade Center but they should also pay for people who are suffering physical hardships because they have to defend against the so-called insensitivity of Islam toward 9/11 victims provides one of the best examples of how this controversy is born out of Islamophobia. Brown’s comment suggests there is no thing those against the "mosque" that opponents will not blame Muslims for.

So, how did we get to here? How did Americans get dragged into some argument against Islam that solely consists of sentences comprised of a noun, a verb and 9/11? Didn’t Rudolph Giuliani lose big in the 2008 Election?

Justin Elliott over at Salon.com constructed a timeline that demonstrates the story first was discussed when Laura Ingraham interviewed Abdul Rauf’s wife, Daisy Khan, while guest-hosting "The O’Reilly Factor." Ingraham surprisingly said, "I can’t find many people who really have a problem" with the "mosque." She said she liked what the people behind the project were trying to do. Then, five and a half months later, on May 6, 2010, a New York community board approved the "WTC Mosque." The AP quoted 9/11 families. The New York Post, which a lot of right wing opinion makers read.

From this point on groups like Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) began to hold protests and campaign against the "mosque." It is then that "professionals of the anti-Islam industry" began to propagandize the project eventually earning a victory when New York Post columnist first used the phrase "ground zero mosque" (and also falsely reported the Cordoba House [Park51] would open on September 11, 2011.

The manufacturing of this controversy proves this is about much more than religious freedom and 9/11 families. What those against the "mosque" really want is for Americans to constantly relive the horror of 9/11 on a daily basis, live in a state of post-trauma for eternity, and never forget how extremists with a religion that has often been at odds with prominent Western religions attacked America.

The most outspoken opponents of this mosque seek to maintain a shared purpose, a national identity that became the context for domestic and foreign politics after 9/11. They seek to further entrench America in a war against Islam.

Opponents tremble in fear because their triumphalism–largely derived from their evangelical Christianity and other Christian denominations–is threatened by the interfaith goals of dialogue that this Islamic cultural center has adopted. They do not want dialogue. They want only to maintain their religion and further institute Biblical law in American society.

Zealous businessmen and snake politicians have charted a course for power, opted to exploit not only the families who lost loved ones in 9/11 but also exploit the energy produced by evangelical religion’s activism in politics and channel it into this manufactured controversy they hope will help them win elections in November.

These religious archaists market beliefs and aim to attract customers they can convert into consumers that will follow their precepts. They hope their consumers will join them in the further construction of American mythology to serve their agenda for reorienting this nation and realigning this country with their beliefs.

The vanguard of opposition to the mosque follows the ideology of Samuel Huntington, a foreign policy thinker who had great influence over the past twenty years of American foreign policy. They like Huntington believe "America is different and that difference is defined in large part by its religious commitment and Anglo-Protestant culture." They like Huntington think "at the heart of that culture has been Protestantism and the political and social restitutions and practices inherited from England, including most notably the English language." And, they believe "Americans are also overwhelmingly Christian, which distinguishes them from many non-Western peoples" and "their religiosity leads Americans to see the world in terms of good and evil to a much greater extent than most other peoples."

The propagandistic idea that the mosque should not be built because all Muslims should continue to pay for 9/11 stems from the toxic patriotism or right-wing nationalism of a section of society who has put its political energy behind American military might, preemptive war, promotion of ignorance toward the way America radicalizes societies who adopt Islamic fundamentalism as a tool of resistance, and xenophobia.

Demagoguery and ideology neurotically controls a sect of American society and culture. Our opposition to the construction of the mosque, whether we adopt the position to win elections in November or because we have been grieving for 9/11 families and constantly terrified by our leaders exploitation of the attacks so they can achieve power, gives the upperhand to religious demagogues and ideologues. It violates core principles of our nation’s Constitution, principles President Obama and Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg have called upon citizens to support and uphold.

Religious freedom did not become part of our nation’s core principles because people thought Americans would be comfortable with all religions. It became part of our principles because people understood all Americans should have the right to practice religion openly and freely.

Since 9/11, Muslims have been attacked and demonized in many sections of the country. This should not be allowed, we as a nation should not be complicit and silent, and we who care deeply about this nation should speak out in support of the mosque not because we are religious or support Islamic beliefs but because attacks and demonization should cease in this country now.

 

Now from last night’s Countdown w/ Keith Olbermann, a "Special Comment" — "There is No Ground Zero Mosque."