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."