Another local take on the ‘Ground Zero Mega Mosque’

By Bill Grimmell
Special to the Oak Ridger
Posted Sep 17, 2010 @ 08:31 AM

PARIS, Tenn. — Carolyn Dipboye (The Oak Ridger “Guest Column,” Sept. 6), suggested that those who object to the construction of a 13- to 15-story “Ground Zero Mega Mosque” are either stampeding public opinion for selfish purposes or thoughtlessly being so stampeded.

She stated, rightly in my opinion, that we should not view all Muslims as terrorists, though I haven’t heard anyone suggesting that all Muslims are terrorists, only that most terrorists are Muslims. However, she implies that all of us who object to the mosque are one with that miniscule minority of Americans who would burn Qurans or vandalize mosques (the Dove World Outreach Center’s Rev. Terry Jones, who has threatened to burn Qurans, leads a group of about 50 people).

Most of us who object to the mosque see it as a structure that could easily be interpreted as a monument to a radical Islam victory in killing nearly 3,000 U.S. residents and bringing down the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers. As such, it may well be a powerful tool for recruiting Muslims to the cause of radical Islam since it was in the name of Islam that the 9/11 acts of terror were carried out. The proposed location of the mega mosque is 600 feet from the World Trade Center’s ground zero at a site where a building was severely damaged by an engine from one plane flown into the Center’s Twin Towers. I, along with others, believe the mega mosque’s location belies its sponsors’ claim that it will be built to foster tolerance and interfaith understanding.

As Mark Helprin (in an Aug. 30 Wall Street Journal op-ed) wrote: “Building close to ground zero disregards the passion, grief and preferences not only of most of the families of Sept. 11th but, because we are all families of Sept. 11th, those of the American people as well, if even not the whole of the American people. If the project is to promote moderate Islam, why have its sponsors so relentlessly, without the slightest compromise insisted upon such a sensitive and inflammatory setting? That is not moderate. It is aggressively militant.

“Disregarding pleas to build it at a sufficient remove so as not to be linked to an abomination committed, widely praised, and throughout the world seldom condemned in the name of Islam, the militant proponents of the World Trade Center mosque are guilty of a poorly concealed provocation. They dare Americans to appear anti-Islamic and intolerant or just to roll over.”

Supporting Helprin’s description of the uncompromising approach of the mega mosque sponsors is the sponsors’ refusal to meet with New York Gov. David Patterson to discuss the possibility of another location. Even now, in an otherwise moderate sounding op-ed, Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf, the apparent leader of the mosque development, affirms his determination to build the Mega Mosque at the designated site (New York Times, Sept. 7).

As noted in a petition currently on the Human Events website (and pointed out in part by Helprin and others):

“Throughout Islamic history, the placement of mosques has been an expression of conquest and superiority over non-Muslims. Muslims built the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock on the site of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem to assert Islam’s superiority over Judaism. Similarly, the Hagia Sophia Cathedral in Constantinople was converted into a mosque to assert the superiority of Islam over Christianity. An estimated 2,000 mosques in India were built on the sites of Hindu temples for the same reason. Even the proposed name of the ground zero mosque, ‘Cordoba House’, is a clear historical reference to the Spanish city where a church was converted into a mosque after the city was conquered by a Muslim army.”

Knowing the Human Events-cited history lends weight to a belief that the mosque will be viewed by many, particularly radical Muslims, as a monument to a radical Islam triumph and a symbol of Islamic superiority. Further, Cordoba also was the headquarters city of the Caliphate that resulted from the Muslim conquest of most of Spain. Possibly the publicizing of the significance of Cordoba has led to the name change of the proposed mosque from Cordoba House to Park 51. (Imam Rauf claims the name Cordoba “was inspired by the city in Spain where Muslims, Christians and Jews co-existed in the Middle Ages during a period of great cultural enrichment created by Muslims.” Others have pointed out that that coexistence was actually a Muslim dominance that at times had a brutal character. According to Alyssa Lappen, as documented in her May 14, Pajama[s] Media website article, “Muslim rule in Spain never remotely approached the mythic level of beneficence that Rauf pretends.”)

The Rev. Dipboye would have us believe that the U.S. government’s embrace of Imam Rauf and his wife, Daisey Khan, should lead us all to believe that they are the benevolent, admirable folks that they portray themselves to be. Yet the federal government’s judgment of Muslim organizations and individuals has been far from consistently on the mark. The Clinton and G.W. Bush administrations embraced the Council on American Islamic Relations as the civil rights organization that it claims to be. Nihad Awad, representing CAIR, served on the civil rights advisory board of Vice President Gore’s commission on airline safety. (Awad, a founder of CAIR, was the only member of that advisory board representing a religious-based organization.) President Bush’s administration and the FBI during his administration consulted with CAIR, despite private individuals pointing to evidence that CAIR might be funneling funds to a Mideast terrorist organization (an illegal act in the U.S.). The FBI essentially severed its relationship with CAIR in 2008 after finding sufficient evidence in 2007 to name it an unindicted co-conspirator with the Holy Land Foundation and five officials of that foundation. The foundation and the officials were indicted and subsequently convicted for providing financial support to a terrorist organization, i.e., Hamas.

Also, there is U.S. Army Major Nadil Malik Hasan, who despite evidence of his unfitness to remain in the Army, was not removed from service. He went on to slaughter 13 of his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood. While the actions of CAIR and Major Hassan should in no way be seen as an indictment of other American Muslims, they do belie the idea that the U.S. government’s embrace of someone assures his or her benevolence.

Rev. Dipboye, in my opinion, views the moderate writings of Imam Rauf and his supporters with insufficient skepticism. Rauf’s associations, e.g., with the anti-Semitic and virulently anti-Isr[ae]l former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato Mahathir bin Muhamad, his use of a gathering of a radical Muslim organization to promote a book (Hizb ut Tahrir in Kuala Lumpur, Maylasia, in 2007) and the manner in which he promotes that book outside the U.S. provide part of the grounds for some skepticism. Could it be that Alyssa Lappen‘s suspicion is correct, that Imam Rauf is engaging in the practice of deception that is accepted in some Muslim circles? (Rev. Dipboye approvingly mentioned Rauf’s book that in the U.S. is titled, “What’s Right with Islam is What’s Right with the United States.” She didn’t mention that it was originally published in Malaysia, titled, “A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawah in the Heart of America Post-9/11” and that Dawah is “inviting non-Muslims to accept the truth of Islam,” i.e., it is proselytizing.)

Rev. Dipboye also brushes aside some of what Christopher Hitchen refers to as “shady and creepy things” said by Imam Rauf (Slate, Aug. 9, 2010), and Hitchens is not an avowed opponent of the mega mosque. Yes, in one of those “shady and creepy” statements the Iman did say that the U.S. through its policies was an accessory to the 9/11 acts of terror (”60 Minutes” interview, Sept. 30, 2001). He did refuse to acknowledge that Hamas was a terrorist organization (June 18, 2010, WABC radio interview with Aaron Klein), he did support the Iranian revolution after Ayatollah Khomeini had declared Iran to be governed by the harsh Islamic Sharia law (Rauf’s New York Times letter to the editor, Feb. 27, 1979) and among other things, he said Islamic terrorism would not stop until the U.S. president issued a “America Culpa” statement (i.e., a statement that America is to blame) for ills that have befallen the Muslim world (Sydney Sun Herald, March 24, 2004). It may be true that the context in which the Imam made some of his statements might soften them, but they still by design or inadvertence have an inflammatory character for many if not most Americans.

At the beginning of this year, Christian churches in Malaysia were firebombed apparently by Muslims (two Muslim brothers have been convicted in the worst of these attacks). This was a reaction to a Malaysian legal decision that allowed a Catholic paper to use the name Allah to refer to the Christian God. The Imam Rauf, who maintains a “Cordoba Initiative” presence in Malaysia, advised Christian Malaysians as follows (Malaysia Star, Jan. 13, editorial):

“My message to the Christian community in Malaysia is that using the word Allah to mean the Christian God may be theologically and legally correct, but in the context of Malaysia, it is socially provocative. If you want to have influence with people in Malaysia, you must find a way to convey your message without provoking this kind of response.”

If Imam Rauf applies his advice analogously to his proposed mosque, then he should recognize that in the context of a United States that has been attacked in the name of Islam, it is provocative to go forward with the mosque construction at the designated site. Polls indicate that 70 percent of the American people are against construction of a ground zero mega mosque. I suspect that the best thing that the Imam could do to build bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims in this country is to build his mega mosque outside of the World Trade Center neighborhood.

William McGurn (Wall Street Journal, Aug. 3) noted that Pope John Paul II in another dispute recognized “that having the right to do something doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.” Certainly, the Rev. Terry Jones has the right to burn Qurans (if he isn’t violating any burning ordinances, covenants or regulatory restrictions in so doing). However, I don’t think such burning is the right thing to do. Similarly, the ground zero mega mosque sponsors have the right to build and operate their mosque (if they aren’t violating any laws, covenants or regulations while so doing). However, I and apparently the great majority of the American people, including numbers of American Muslims, don’t think it is the right thing to do.

Bill Grimmell is an Oak Ridge resident.

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Alyssa A. Lappen is a U.S.-based investigative journalist. She is the former Managing Editor at the Leeb Group (2012-2017); a former Senior Fellow of the American Center for Democracy (2005-2008); and a former Senior Editor of Institutional Investor (1993-1999), Working Woman (1991-1993) and Corporate Finance (1991). She served six of her 12 years at Forbes (1978-1990) as an Associate Editor. Ms. Lappen was also a staff reporter at The New Haven Register (1975-1977). During a decade as a freelance, her work appeared in Big Peace, Pajamas Media, Front Page Magazine, American Thinker, Right Side News, Family Security Matters, the Washington Times and many other Internet and print journals. Ms. Lappen also contributed to the Terror Finance Blog, among others. She supports the right of journalists worldwide to write without fear or restriction on politics, governments, international affairs, terrorism, terror financing and religious support for terrorism, among other subjects. Ms. Lappen is also an accomplished poet. Her first full-length collection, The Minstrel's Song, was published by Cross-Cultural Communications in April 2015. Her poems have been published in the 2nd 2007 edition of Blood to Remember: American Poets on the Holocaust and both 2007 issues of Wales' award-winning Seventh Quarry: Swansea Poetry Magazine. Dozens of her poems have appeared in print and online literary journals and books. She won the 2000 annual Ruah: A Journal of Spiritual Poetry chapbook award and has received a Harvard Summer Poetry Prize and several honorable mentions.

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