This week, hundreds of mosques and Islamic organizations across the country have been encouraging their members to invite non-Muslims to attend prayers, discussions and tours of Islamic centers as a way to defuse hostility toward the Muslim population. “A Week of Dialogue,” materialized from a summit of Islamic leaders last month in New York and was, in part, a response to the furor surrounding a plan to open a Muslim community center and mosque near ground zero.
A New York Times poll in August found that 75 percent of New Yorkers had never visited a mosque, and that those who had, or who had a close Muslim friend, were more likely to support the Muslim center planned in Lower Manhattan. “In terms of rectifying this Islamophobia and bigotry, we should focus on our relationship with our neighbors,” said Zaheer Uddin, executive director of the Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan New York, an umbrella group of mosques and Islamic groups in the city.
Juan Williams gave voice to such concerns this week when he said on the Fox News Channel, where he is a political analyst, that he got “nervous” when he saw people in “Muslim garb” on an airplane. National Public Radio, where Mr. Williams had also worked, terminated his contract on Wednesday; Fox gave him a new contract on Thursday. The organizers of the weeklong dialogue said the open houses were intended to help dispel just the sort of concerns that Mr. Williams expressed.
. . .When [Nevada?s Republican Senatorial candidate Sharron] Angle
suggested last week that certain American cities like Dearborn, Michigan
and Frankford, Texas, have been taken over by a “militant terrorist
situation” wherein Muslims have instituted Sharia law upon its
residents, many people were left scratching their heads at what she
could possibly have meant.
It’s not just that Dearborn is – last anyone checked – still under the
purview of the United States Constitution, or that there is no place in
America called Frankford, Texas (I?m not kidding, look it up). It?s the
rather bizarre notion that there may be a city in this country where the
Constitution does not apply. “It seems to me there is something
fundamentally wrong with allowing a foreign system of law to even take
hold in any municipality or government situation in our United States,”
Angle said about the real Dearborn and the imaginary Frankford.
Angle is right. There is something fundamentally wrong with this
idea?it?s not true. There is no city or municipality in this country
where Islamic law has taken hold. And yet, Angle is not the only one
sounding the alarm over an imminent Muslim takeover of America. Indeed,
now that the screeching over the building of the Islamic Community
Center in Lower Manhattan seems to have died down, a new battle cry is
arising from the radical anti-Muslim fringe: American Muslims, they say,
are trying to replace the Constitution with Sharia!
Leaders of local and national groups gathered at the site of the planned center, two blocks from ground zero, and declared not only that the planners had a constitutional right to build it, but also that they would help the project move forward in the face of heated opposition. They insisted that, as a matter of principle, the center should not budge from its planned site.
The Muslim leaders called on elected officials “to join their colleagues in denouncing and rejecting inflammatory rhetoric that endangers the lives of Muslim Americans.”
The proposed Islamic community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan got its strongest vote of confidence yet from major Muslim leaders on Monday, after months of behind-the-scenes grumbling that they were not properly consulted on the project, and a day’s worth of intense and painful conversations at a hotel near Kennedy International Airport.
New Jersey Transit fired an employee, Derek Fenton, for burning a Koran in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 11 in his off-duty hours. Derek Fenton’s 11-year career at the agency came to an abrupt halt Monday after photographs of him ripping pages from the Muslim holy book and setting them ablaze appeared in newspapers. Fenton was apparently inspired by Pastor Terry Jones (the Florida clergyman who threatened to burn the Koran that day who later changed his mind) did indeed burn the book during a protest on the ninth anniversary of Sept 11 outside of Park 51, where the controversial mosque slated to build near Ground Zero.
The incidence has sparked a debate on free speech and if public workers are limited to express such rights.
A radio interviewer asked me the other day if I thought bigotry was the only reason why someone might oppose the Islamic center in Lower Manhattan. No, I don’t. Most of the opponents aren’t bigots but well-meaning worriers — and during earlier waves of intolerance in American history, it was just the same.
Screeds against Catholics from the 19th century sounded just like the invective today against the Not-at-Ground-Zero Mosque. The starting point isn’t hatred but fear: an alarm among patriots that newcomers don’t share their values, don’t believe in democracy, and may harm innocent Americans.
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was set to be tried in a civilian court in Lower Manhattan. But after an assessment on the costs, logistical and security measures that would be required, the Obama Administration has decided to move it. The new location has yet to be disclosed.
NYC is responding with mixed reactions: some don’t want a vivid reminder of the event, some are concerned about security. Some want him tried in a military tribunal, others want justice for victims in a federal courtroom where the attack occurred.
Mayor of the small upstate city of Newburgh says his community would be a perfect place for the trial. They have a new courthouse, security could be easily implemented, and it is only a 90 minute drive from Manhattan.