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September 13, 2010
Posted: 1813 GMT

If this summer’s surge in anti-Muslim rhetoric in America has highlighted one thing, it’s that nine years after the horrific events of 9/11, the clear and unequivocal distinction between Islam and Al Qaeda has not been made in this country.

This summer, a vast majority of Americans (more than 70%) said they oppose the building of an Islamic center in lower Manhattan, two blocks from Ground Zero.

And like dominos falling across the country, the New York Islamic center controversy has stirred frenzied anti-Islam: from the opposition of a Mosque expansion in Tennessee to the Islamophobic rants of a Florida preacher who captured the attention of the world by calling for a Koran-burning event on the anniversary of 9/11.

The New York Islamic Center project, Park 51, has become a political hot topic as the country approaches important midterm elections. The U.S. president and the New York mayor have been among those who support the building of the center because, they say, it is within the organizers’ constitutional rights to do so.

But others, including former presidential candidate Senator John McCain, have opposed the project. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said that the Islamic Center was “not about religion, and is clearly an aggressive act that is offensive."

Building the center is legal, they say, but that doesn’t make it right.

And that nuance has been at the crux of the opposition to the project: this isn’t about what is legal, critics say, but what is “right,” what is “sensitive” and what honors the memories of the victims of the 9/11.

In other words, some Muslims in America say that even though they had nothing to do with the attacks, they are somehow complicit with the terrorists simply by virtue of their faith. And they should know better than to practice that faith so close to where thousands of innocents were murdered by a band of lunatics, because that band of lunatics did it all in the name of Islam.

And they say that if almost three quarter of Americans say they don’t want a Mosque a couple of blocks from Ground Zero, it’s that the majority, on some level, equates Islam with terrorism. Perhaps it even means that the majority feels American Muslims’ allegiance is to Islam first and to America second.

This has led to vivid and fascinating debate in America. And some of the most vocal and passionate advocates of warning Americans against the dangers of anti-Muslim bigotry have been non-Muslims.

In his column on Saturday, the New York Times’ Nick Kristof wrote: “This is one of those times that test our values, a bit like the shameful interning of Japanese-Americans during World War II, or the disgraceful refusal to accept Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe.”

But here’s what’s interesting (and rarely discussed): there is debate even among Muslims themselves. Ibrahim Hooper, of the Council on American-Islamic relations told me that the Park 51 controversy was “manufactured” for political gain. CNN host and Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria famously returned an Anti-Defamation League award because of the organization’s opposition to the location of the Islamic Center.

Others, however, including Akbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic studies at American University, said of the center near Ground Zero, “When wounds are raw, an episode like constructing a house of worship—even one protected by the Constitution, protected by law—becomes like salt in the wounds.”

As for Feisal Abdul Rauf, the Imam behind the Park 51 project, he said last week on CNN that he never would have chosen that location had he known it would provoke controversy.

His major concern now? Not that Muslims (like anyone else) should be allowed to worship freely in America on private land, as is guaranteed by the Constitution, but that moving it will mean that “the headline in the Muslim world will be Islam is under attack in America, this will strengthen the radicals in the Muslim world.”

So there are multiple voices in American Islam (pluralism is good) but not a single message. The end result is that American Muslims themselves come off as ambiguous when asked about their rights in the United States, so perhaps they shouldn’t be surprised that the country is too.

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Marta Torres   September 13th, 2010 6:50 pm ET

I think to be objective with no prejudice, an Islamic Centre should not be build. However as a world peace a religious building should be built to represent the major religions of the world to bring peace,understanding and respect to those who care and practice their faith.

jodie reeves   September 13th, 2010 11:41 pm ET

I agree with Marta. Why not have a building that reflects the major religions of the world? Or, how about turning that land into a "meditation park" Where everyone was welcome to go and pray, or not pray, to God as they see God.

Worldcitizen   September 14th, 2010 12:30 am ET

@Marta Torres

I think that this is a wonderful idea, this way people can learn about the similarities and differences of various religions. Furthermore, It will show one of the main liberties in the United States, which is the freedom of religion, it will also send out a larger message of tolerance toward all religions.

Muthyavan.   September 14th, 2010 2:28 am ET

All the religions of the world preaches peace an nothing else without exception. But every religions almost in the world has been accused some time in the history of involment in violence against the communities in almost every countries. Recently in regognition of bad treatment to native Indian children Canadian government rendered a public appology . Cast systems in India and in many Asian countries still in practice dividing the communities against the human rights. Which was created by mostly Hindu religious fanatics. Like wise every religious fanatics in every religions are time to time declaring war against the communities. It is the duty of all right thinking religious people and leadership should raise against these religious based terror before building shrines and holy places for worship.

Ariely   September 14th, 2010 6:21 am ET

Excellent idea!!!
Yes-Create a platform where the voices of moderate Muslims will be amplified!!!
------–
Pls consider to build this platform in Saud Arabia or Egypt.
Do it the Arab language.
This is the effective way to amplify the moderate Muslims ideas to the 1.3billion Muslims

It will not be effective in English in an infidel country.

Pls define as well the values that will be promoted.
Will you deal with the main issues difference separating all world 21 century cultures and Muslims?
Leading to the worldwide arm conflicts between Muslims and all the other cultures?
--
!!! 21 century cultures narrative is based on:
All culture can coexist peacefully.
No one demands world supremacy.
Human rights and opportunity for all.

!!!! Muslim narrative:
Islam worldwide supremacy by sward.
No human rights, freedom of speech/
No equality to non Islam religions.
-----

From:– India to Russia–Philippines to England–Thailand to New York–Uganda to Nepal–Argentina to China–France to Kenya-all 58 Muslim countries
Islamist worldwide kill attacks summary
15.981 Islamist attacks since 9/11
811-Aug
1060-Jul
556-Jun
742-May
Have you seen any Muslim demonstrating against this ideology?
------
Thank you for reading.
Could you reply to the above simple questions?

Habib   September 14th, 2010 1:13 pm ET

Sufism is the mystical dimension of Islam and always presents its ideas in tolerant non-controversial manner. Building a mosque that close to Ground-Zero is creating sedition (Fitna). I wonder what sector of Sufism Imam abdulraof follows! Did someone follow the trail of money?

peterg   September 14th, 2010 4:45 pm ET

When Imam Rauf says he would have never picked the sight if he thought it was going to be controversial, why do people automatically believe him? It doesn't seem possible that someone wouldn't have considered that in light of what happened on 9/11 and the impact it has had on this country since. Who honestly believes that at no point in time did he think that building a mosque as close to ground zero as possible wouldn't be controversial to anybody? How could that have never come up? I really find it one of the most ridiculous statements but I keep seeing it being reported as though it were indisputable.

Thomas   September 15th, 2010 5:57 am ET

Well who is going to come out and say what they know to be true - that modern Muslims are more interested in the expansion of their culture and influence than they are of America, American values, American life. We are convenient for them, as Europe was convenient for them. Not only do we offer them the rope to hang ourselves, we ask them politely if they would like more effective ways to get the job done.
Yeah, it's nine years since WTC and name just one prominent Muslim who has stood up for America, American values and American life and condemned that bloody atrocity? Drawing a blank? No shit!

Okechukwu Edward Okeke   September 15th, 2010 12:38 pm ET

America is liberal enough. It should not be led into temptation, as it were.

The US and the EU should wait for the rest of the world to catch up on religious tolerance, before making any further concessions on the issue. If not, peoples that are not liberal will exploit US liberalism to acquire power which would be used against exponents of liberalism.

Every principle has a countervailing principle.

radni tilanduca   September 18th, 2010 5:33 pm ET

to keep the remembrance of the place be honored for the martirs that die on 9/11 the center should not be constructed near it

Smith in Oregon   September 22nd, 2010 2:09 am ET

CNN's Rick Sanchez blog moderators.

For the past several weeks I have repeatedly pointed out the Vatican Bank is in the center of a huge drug money laundering operation. And the moderators deleted those posts.

Now world's news agency's around the world are reporting a criminal probe into the Vatican Bank fingering the Vatican Bankers as being heavily involved in Money Laundering!

Smith in Oregon   September 22nd, 2010 2:15 am ET

radni tilanduca, perhaps you are just misinformed and not swilling that Glenn Beck kool aid.

SIXTY Muslims were employed and inside of in the twin towers at the time they were destroyed. Some of the Muslims body's are among those unrecoverable. There were TWO Muslim Mosques (places where Islamic prayer sessions were routinely given) inside of the twin towers at the time they were destroyed.

There were NO Jewish synagogue in either of the twin towers.
There were NO Christian Churches in either of the twin towers.

There was a tiny Episcopal Church on the Trade Center grounds.

Islamophobia and uninformed bigotry does not bring Honor, it brings Shame upon those that practice and apply it.

Tariq   September 22nd, 2010 3:42 am ET

Thomas,
Name one prominent American Muslim who hasn't denounced 9/11. Drawing a blank?

Do you even know any Muslims? Bigotry and Ignorance go hand in hand.

JF   September 29th, 2010 8:30 pm ET

What does it matter, it is just a building. Like all the other religious
buildings in the world. They do not change people into loving people,
they just change people into people who like going to buildings to look
like they have love in them. The problems in this world, have nothing
to do with religion. " All the problems in this world comes from the games that the RICH are playing on everyone." Trying to keep very
much more then they can ever use.

God have to do what he have to do," TO GET TO THE RICH "

Larry Robinson   October 5th, 2010 2:40 pm ET

I greatly enjoyed the discussion between Christian and Muslum leaders Christian Amanpour had this weekend. The discussion highlighted the prejudice which pervades the dialog. I was very alarmed to hear Franklin Gruam refer a whole segment of the world (Muslum's) as 'THEY'. No group of people should ever be refered to as they. The root of the problem has nothing to do with what religion the people are. The terrorists could just as easily have been Christian, Buddist, Shinto, Hindu or any other religion. The religion is not the cause of the violence rather it is the tool these terrorists are using to promote their agenda of hate. We will never overcome such haters by following in their steps and responding in like kind. We must continue to uphold the dignity of all human beings and their right to practice any religion. Yes, even one we disagree with violently. Everytime we refer to any group of people as 'THEY' we promote hate and become a roadblock to the understanding which will eventually bring peace. We must learn to love all people and bring hope to those tempted to suiside bomings. Only a person without hope would do such a thing and a lack of hope will cause people to do many irrational things in the name of -Love, Religion, Family and many others.

Ralph Laughlin   October 17th, 2010 9:27 am ET

For the last two weeks you have pre-empted Political Mann. We are Americans living in Europe and watch Political Mann because it's the only program that provides some information on what is going on in the US. Rest of your programming seems to be Africa, Africa, Africa. And then today the pre empting was for the cannonization of an Austrailian nun. GEE GOLLY WALL, that's really breaking news that has a major impact across the world. You might do yourselves better by putting on more news on politics in America, because it's still true to when America catches a cold, (and they have a pretty big one now) the world sneezes.
Your programming gets more and more removed from the real world and what is really going on.
And, in closing, what ever happened to the International version of the Daily Report? Did your big bosses decide they couldn't take any constructive criticism? Or were they embarrased by someone telling more truths and being more on top of the news than they were.

Enough said. GET REAL.

shrawan   October 30th, 2010 12:22 am ET

ishlam may be nt against america but whol muslim against america i m in ksa.and i clearly recognized muslim comunity what they want in usa.

Siya   December 23rd, 2010 12:01 pm ET

All things considered – both sided of this coin are not quite kosher. The Islamic movement for being so stubborn about building a Mosque close to a place that many US citizens still see as a place of Muslim (keyword) terrorist attacks and the US citizens for associating every Muslim with Al-Qaeda.

The Solution (1):

Just find another place to build the Mosque. Pride won't help you when the public gets their mob on – you get ma drift?

Or (2): Tell everyone to go fly a kite and build the Mosque where you want to build it and remind them that the US is a free country and you can build wherever you want. If the attack you ...well you get the idea don't you?

Siya   December 23rd, 2010 12:05 pm ET

Ralph...I am with you ma man...No new now ...just hog wash

marte atoli   March 9th, 2011 6:39 pm ET

why in saudi arabea,no church for christian believer.WHY.

Shahidul Islam   May 18th, 2011 8:02 pm ET

I agree with Marta Torres... think that this is a wonderful idea, this way people can learn about the similarities and differences of various religions. Furthermore, It will show one of the main liberties in the United States, which is the freedom of religion, it will also send out a larger message of tolerance toward all religions.
It is very importanr to learn the histories of all faiths and the basics..

Hank   January 29th, 2012 11:03 am ET

We are going to have a big problem when we cut the Army down
to 120,000 men and women. When they come home we will alot
people out of work then the new problem comes, we go from one to
the other, we play a game every time we move things around.
We need to think of what we are doing.

Think

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