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Monday, August 23, 2010

Ground Zero Mosque: Confessions of an Islamophobe

Time to be politically incorrect.

Yesterday in a New York Times op-ed entitled "How Fox Betrayed Petraeus" (, drama critic Frank Rich excoriated those who oppose the Ground Zero Mosque:

"The 'ground zero mosque,' as you may well know by now, is not at ground zero. It’s not a mosque but an Islamic cultural center containing a prayer room.

. . . .

So virulent is the Islamophobic hysteria of the neocon and Fox News right — abetted by the useful idiocy of the Anti-Defamation League, Harry Reid and other cowed Democrats — that it has also rendered Gen. David Petraeus’s last-ditch counterinsurgency strategy for fighting the war inoperative. How do you win Muslim hearts and minds in Kandahar when you are calling Muslims every filthy name in the book in New York?"

The Ground Zero Mosque is not a mosque? Peculiar. Rich would have us believe that within the $100 million, 13-story complex only one tiny room is intended for prayer, when in fact the "prayer space" is intended for up to 2,000 Muslims. Does Harvard educated Rich take us all for idiots? Perhaps.

Rich appears to divide those opposing the Ground Zero Mosque into two categories: the Islamophobic neocon Right and the "useful idiots", which has me asking, into which of these two categories do I personally fall?

I have consistently opposed U.S. ground involvement in Afghanistan and am pro-choice, so the totality of the first of these two possibilities appears inapplicable to me. So then, am I a "useful idiot"? Of course, I might be deemed a fool by Frank, but on the other hand, I have two university degrees, speak several languages, worked in the past for a leading M&A law firm, and my IQ exceeds that of Forrest Gump.

According to Rich, the only remaining possibility seems to be that although not a neocon, I am still an Islamophobe, but if this is indeed the case, I can't help wondering if my fear is irrational.

Charles Krauthammer, hardly a Neanderthal, but who would probably be placed by Rich in the neocon category, observed in a August 20 Washington Post op-ed entitled "Moral myopia at Ground Zero" (

"Radical Islam is not, by any means, a majority of Islam. But with its financiers, clerics, propagandists, trainers, leaders, operatives and sympathizers -- according to a conservative estimate, it commands the allegiance of 7 percent of Muslims, i.e., more than 80 million souls -- it is a very powerful strain within Islam. It has changed the course of nations and affected the lives of millions. It is the reason every airport in the West is an armed camp and every land is on constant alert."

Forgive me for asking whether that radical 7 percent of Muslims also includes those who condone "honor killings"? Throughout the entire Muslim Middle East, women are being murdered by male relatives for so-called affronts such as using a cell phone to call a man outside the family. Each year some 5,000 Muslim women fall victim to "honor killings", which are now also occurring in the U.S., Canada and Western Europe (

Do honor killings also just belong to Islam's radical fringe?

In addition, let's look at Libya, where Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi, convicted in connection with the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 above Lockerbie, is roaming free after being released from a Scottish prison on August 20 last year on compassionate grounds. Although we were told that Al-Megrahi, suffering from prostate cancer, had less than three months to live, he is still very much alive, and the U.K. recently warned Libya not to engage again in celebrations over his release (

Not frightening enough for you? Consider Qaddafi's plans for Europe, enunciated in a speech broadcast by Al Jazeera on April 10, 2006 (

"Some people believe that Muhammad is the prophet of the Arabs or the Muslims alone. This is a mistake. Muhammad is the Prophet of all people. He superseded all previous religions. If Jesus were alive when Muhammad was sent, he would have followed him. All people must be Muslims. . . . We have 50 million Muslims in Europe. There are signs that Allah will grant Islam victory in Europe - without swords, without guns, without conquests. The 50 million Muslims of Europe will turn it into a Muslim continent within a few decades. . . Allah mobilizes the Muslim nation of Turkey and adds it to the European Union. That's another 50 million Muslims. There will be 100 million Muslims in Europe. Albania, which is a Muslim country, has already entered the EU. Fifty percent of its citizens are Muslims."

No reason for concern? Qaddafi is again just Islam's fringe?

No one will forget the pictures of President Obama bowing to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia. No, this act of obeisance doesn't have me worried, but I am extremely troubled when women who are gang raped are sentenced to lashings and prison ( Moreover, this week's report that a Saudi judge, pursuant to Islamic law, is seeking a hospital willing to paralyze a person convicted of paralyzing another person, does not leave me with a warm fuzzy feeling (

Yeah, I know: only Islam's fringe.

Should the calls of Iran's Ahmadinejad to wipe Israel off the face of the map and his threats against the U.S. ( just be ignored? Are Iran's stoning of female "adulterers", its savage persecution of its Baha'is, and, together with Syria and Turkey, its abuse of the region's 35 million Kurds of little consequence? Again, I know, I'm being paranoid: it's just the fringe, having nothing to do with mainstream Islam.

Then, also, there are the interminable wars involving almost all of the Muslim Middle East countries, the vast majority not involving Israel ( In this regard, I would feel much better if occasionally I heard calls for brotherhood from the two mosques situated within earshot of my home, but it's just not the case.

Of course, I'm not saying that Christianity and Judaism didn't have their extremely violent pasts, and maybe in another century Islam will find the route to tolerance and coexistence, but that time has yet to come.

So before the Ground Zero Mosque is built, notwithstanding testimonials to Rauf's sterling character, forgive me if I ask from where the funds for the construction of this "Islamic cultural center with a prayer room" are coming.

Maybe a little honesty will do much to allay my irrational Islamophobic concerns.


  1. Yeah, Rich reached a new low, but so did Jeffrey Goldberg, who said same thing (national security!) on ABC's "This Week", after the Daisy Khan puff piece.

    New voices today include:
    "...Rabbi Leonard Schoolman, who hired Rauf in the late 1990s to teach about Islam at the Center for Religious Inquiry at St. Bartholomew's Church in Manhattan, and who is a strong supporter of the imam, called the project "amateur hour" and more of a publicity strategy than a reality, meant to promote the couple's interfaith work. Even with 50 media requests coming in per day, a part-time employee of the developer who owns the property has been the sole source of information in recent days, which he was sending out in occasionally snarky messages on Twitter.

    "I don't think either of them has the capacity or resources or anything else to pull this off," said Schoolman, who accompanied Rauf to a meeting with civic officials earlier in the 2000s to support the project at another location, farther uptown.

    "I don't think he has a constituency in the Muslim community," said Schoolman, who has been to Masjid al Farah, the TriBeCa mosque at which Rauf has led services since 1983. "I think he's pretty much of a loner."

    Schoolman still calls him an inspiring speaker and "builder of bridges." ..."

    copied from a glimmer of journalism at the WashPo: "Imam Rauf: Mosque planner has been mostly silent during noisy debate"
    By Michelle Boorstein
    Monday, August 23, 2010

    The cash, so far almost $6million, to purchase half of the site and buy lease on ConEd's half, has come through Sharif El-Gamal of SoHo Properties, whose partner is Nour Mousa, the nephew of Amr Moussa, the Secretary General of the Arab League.

    Politico covered El-Gamal's 'amateur hour' as real estate developer on Aug.19, but no echo.

    so far, most coherent coverage is at (wiki neutrality dispute just started:

    If not for the 'prayer space', this project would already be dead via the usual withering critique of almost every real estate development in NYC.


  2. I just want to add some details.
    As far as I know,
    - all armed conflicts in the world involve Muslims - at one side at least;
    - daily suicide bombings in Middle East, Asia are committed exclusively by Muslims in the name of Islam;
    - all recent terrorist attacks in US, which are inspired from abroad, are committed by Muslims in the name of Islam;
    - all state-sponsored demands for annihilation of any notion/state are coming from Muslim countries.

    All these acts are justified by Muslims themselves as fulfilling the wish of their prophet. Who am I to argue with them? They know better, so I have to believe them.

    American Muslims do not denounce this understanding of Islam, fringe or not-fringe. Rauf, in particular, has nothing against Hamas. Thus, he has nothing against the calls and acts to annihilate Israel.

    So, one can not but draw a conclusion that Islam is not just a regular religion, as any other. It threaten the very life as we know it.

    I am proud to be among the 70% of Americans, who are considered "idiots" and "hatemongerers" by such nice people as Obama and Rich.

  3. Islamaphobic? Hey, the Saudis have deemed it permissible for Israel to fly through their airspace. Are they phobic or rightfully fearful?