Modern-day witch hunts

Broadly targeting the Muslim community is antithetical to America's founding ideals

Salem in 1692 was a dark place. Witchcraft was the talk of the town and accusations were rampant. The situation in Salem unraveled into a frenzy, with villagers fearing the devil was recruiting followers in their town, followers that would bring down the church. This hysteria caused the hanging of 19 villagers, the pressing of one of them to death and potentially the deaths of 13 in prison. Yet, it turns out there was no witchcraft in Salem after all. Soon after the last execution, Massachusetts’ governor dissolved the prosecuting court and pardoned its prisoners. Irrational fear and paranoia caused the deaths of those in Salem; the Salem trials are a perfect example of what irrational fear can do to a community. Just as irrational fear of witchcraft in 1692 led to the execution of Salem villagers, irrational fear of terrorism in 2010 is leading to the persecution of American Muslims.

The persecution of Muslim Americans takes many forms, but one that has garnered a considerable amount of attention lately involves the Ground Zero Mosque in New York City. The name “Ground Zero Mosque” is misleading, as the mosque is not on Ground Zero, but rather located two blocks away – one of many buildings within the dense area of lower Manhattan. Opponents of the mosque claim that its proximity to the former site of the World Trade Center would offend the families of those who died on 9/11. Yet those who attack the existence of the mosque are in effect attacking the very right that all religions have, including Islam, to free worship in this country.

The high-profile controversy about the Ground Zero Mosque only scratches the surface when it comes to attacks on Islamic places of worship. In August alone, heinous attacks were reported against mosques in three different states: Arizona, Connecticut and California. And these are only a sampling of the total attacks in 2010. In Glendale, Arizona, a bottle filled with acid was thrown at a mosque while mosque officials stood nearby. In Bridgeport, Connecticut, protestors picketed a mosque celebrating Ramadan and shouted slurs. In Madera, California, a brick was thrown at a mosque and signs were left reading, “Wake up America, the enemy is here” and “No temple for the god of terrorism.”

These attacks on mosques are incredibly disturbing and the belief that the Ground Zero Mosque would offend victims’ families brings up the very serious question of who really attacked the United States on 9/11 �- al Qaeda or Islam? Al Qaeda, an Islamic terrorist organization, attacked the United States on 9/11 – not an entire religion. Recall that a number of Muslims also lost their lives with the fall of the towers. While this is not a competition of numbers, it is a testament to the fact that the victims of Islamic terrorist organizations include Americans who happen to be Muslim.

Furthermore, every religion has extremists and terrorists, including Christianity. The Army of God is a Christian terrorist organization that uses violence as a means to end the practice of abortion. In 1984, they were responsible for a string of bombings at abortion clinics and members have murdered doctors who give abortions to patients. One member, Clayton Waagner, sent more than 500 threatening letters to abortion clinics and pro-abortion organizations containing a white powdery substance in 2001. Another Christian terrorist organization is Hutaree, whose members were arrested earlier this year for plotting to kill members of law enforcement. In this horrific plot, members planned to kill one law enforcement officer and use the officer’s funeral to kill many more officers who would have assembled to honor their co-worker.

More important, however, is the fact that Muslims have a right to their religion. They have a right to worship in this country. They have a right to the safe, secure and free practice of their religion. They have a right to celebrate holidays, like Ramadan, without having slurs lodged against them. They should feel safe in their mosques and outside them and should not go to worship only to find their places of worship vandalized and desecrated. The First Amendment guarantees the right to religious freedom and states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Religious freedom and religious toleration are two of the most important foundational ideas of our nation.

Just as leaders in Salem finally called an end to the absurd witch hunt that killed many who had nothing to do with the devil, Americans should take a stand against this new witch hunt targeting Muslims who have nothing to do with terrorism. Irrational fear is threatening to tear apart the fabric of religious toleration and freedom in this country. Such a threat is too costly and too devastating to ignore.

Jamie Dailey’s column appears Fridays in The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at j.dailey@cavalierdaily.com.


Published November 12, 2010 in Opinion







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Commentary

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Carolyn
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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Discrimination is all about fear and fear turns into hate. Through education, fear can be replaced with reason. Excellent points and a thought-provoking article Jamie.


Bes
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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Fear and hate arise from a lack of knowledge about an individual or group. It is only through education and inclusion that fear and hate of minority groups has diminished, but we still have a long way to go. Thank you Jamie, for converging the past with the present and illustrating how old hates were overcome with knowledge and compassion.


Frank
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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Very well-said, Jamie. It is amazing how powerful the single sentence of the First Amendment is. When coupled with The Golden Rule - present in most of the world


GoWahoos
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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Dear Jamie,\nAs a victim of the September 11 Attacks, I am highly offended by your article which considers those opposed to the Mosque near Ground Zero to be on a "witch hunt" of Muslim Americans. You fail to acknowledge the fact that many in opposition to the Mosque acknowledge the right of Muslims to build a Mosque in the said location, but believe the Mosque would be inappropriate. I am one of these believers and my arguments against the Mosque have nothing to do with prejudice against Muslims. I have many Muslim friends and colleagues and of course am not on a "witch hunt" against them. Like Muslim Americans and as an American, I too have my constitutional right to express myself. I do not fear Muslims. What I fear is the politicization of the September 11 tragedy. I fear that the burial ground of thousands of Americans has become more about politics and agendas than about the loss of innocent Americans. NYC is a very large island and the location was chosen to politicize the issue. We are not telling Muslim Americans not to build the mosque, but asking them not to. There is not so much hate as their is pain: pain that loved ones remaining legacy will be overshadowed in political protest. Imagine losing someone you love and then having the place where they died become a place of political protest from both opponents and proponents of the Mosque. Can you imagine this? So Jamie, you are very wrong when you call all those opposed to the Mosque on Ground Zero witch hunters and compare them to those who burned women and men alive. While some who oppose the Mosque do so out of hate, many others do so out of pain and concern for loved one's legacies. Before making such blanketed arguments you should research the issue and present all sides, not just extreme sides. You should not condemn the opposition but recognize their arguments. If saying there is a witch hunt in America, give us facts, not broad summations. This falls in line with your original argument- most Muslims are not terrorists, just as most Americans are not witch hunters and Muslim-haters. Of course there is prejudice but those who attack Muslims are prosecuted under American law. Prejudice affects every race and religion. Just as you can't condemn all Muslims for the acts of terrorists, you should not condemn everyone who voices opposition or all Americans for the acts of a select few. I do hope Muslim Americans receive the respect and justice they deserve as Americans. But to compare me to those at Salem is wrong and ill-served. I am offended and saddened. I have not burned or imprisoned Muslim Americans. I simply possess a viewpoint shaped by the pain September 11 brought on NY and the country. I want the September 11 burial grounds to be remembered for all the innocent loved ones lost, not the Mosque Controversy.\nThank you.


Katie
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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to GoWahoos- I agree with your excellent and well said points on this issue and article... The salem witch hunts and prejudice against Muslims does seem like a strange comparison!


Carolyn
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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Actually GoWahoos and Katie, The Salem Witch hunts are relevant if you understand it was the Puritans that hung the villagers out of fear. It's about religious discrimination based on fear. Again, Jamie, thanks for your well thoughtout and researched point of view.


GoWahoos
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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Dear Carolyn,\nI guarantee you, no one who is in opposition to the Mosque at Ground Zero is burning Muslims as occurred in the Salem Witch Hunts. I also guarantee you that although I don't support the location of the Mosque as a victim of September 11, I am certainly not on a "witch hunt" against Muslims as implied in the article. I am not seeking to physically target Muslims or harm Muslims in any way. I am expressing a viewpoint. As Americans, we are all free to represent our viewpoints and should not be labeled something because we share a different point of view than the author. Again, I reiterate, many of those in opposition to the Mosque are victims of the attacks who lost loved ones. We recognize the right but question the placement of the Mosque due to the politicization of the issue. Many, not all, but many oppose the Mosque out of pain, not hate. I regret being labeled and compared to a witch hunter because I possess views that may differ from Mr. Daileys and I still question whether Mr. Dailey's article argues against its own assertions. Just as most Muslims are not terrorists, most Americans are not Muslim-haters. While I do believe some in this country fear Muslims, I believe far more understand that most Muslims are not terrorists. Mr Dailey's article makes claims without well researched statistics on American sentiments towards Muslims. It saddens me that I am labeled something I am not, just as I am sure it saddens Muslims to be labeled terrorists when they are not. So in trying to argue that people should not make claims against others that have no bearing, Mr. Daily does just that. It is offensive and it is hurtful.


Reader
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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Even though "Ground Zero Mosque" construction would not be in the exact footprint of the former World Trade Center, the name is indeed accurate in that a piece of an airplane's landing gear crashed into the proposed mosque building on 9/11 rendering it uninhabitable. Several feet of dust and debris from the destruction and human carnage of the terrorist attacks surrounded that building. It is "Ground Zero" to many: a killing field at the hands of Islamic Jihadists. Maybe that's why 70% of Americans - including New Yorkers - oppose a mosque at that site. Or maybe opposition is rooted in studying the 1400 year Islamic history of building mosques on sites of conquest, beginning with the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on the sacred Temple Mount, to today's location of over 2000 mosques in India built on the sites of Hindu Temples, for example. Or maybe some have researched that the imam for the proposed mosque has ties to the terrorism-sponsoring Muslim Brotherhood and supports Islamic jurisprudence (Sharia) with its assaults on human rights and dignity that are most definitely antithetical to America's founding ideals.

There really is so much to look at here.

I suggest inviting Robert Spencer, Islamic Scholar, for another campus visit.


Sam
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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I think what is missing in this article is an acknowledgement that those who share alternate views on the Ground Zero Mosque may have legitimate arguments for why the mosque should not be built so near to Ground Zero that have nothing to do with prejudice against Muslims. Because the issue is a complex one, it is not appropriate to define all the opponents of the mosque as prejudiced. There are many legitimate, unprejudiced arguments for and against the Mosque in the proposed location.


Chelsea
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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This article is not offensive at all. It is a touchy subject, yes, but this article was clearly written to avoid offending any viewpoint. We are all entitled to our opinions, and they should all be respected. That being said...

I think this article is great. Because it IS such a touchy and current subject, think about the amount of courage it must have taken to write it. Jamie is speaking out against the many, and sadly uninformed, opinions about this topic. There is a deeper issue here than just building this mosque. We need to stop our prejudice against Muslims, as well as other races/cultures/ways of life. I have even found myself at times judging other cultures, and it is really a horrible thing to do and it is time for it to come to an end. This is 21st Century America. Jamie's article brings to attention something we need to think about every day. As not only citizens of America, but also members of a greater Earth, we need to respect and value what each one of us has to offer. It is not a crime to express oneself, but hate is. Many of us take for granted freely walking into an airport without the stares, suspicions, or judgmental thoughts of others. Sadly, the horrible actions of a few has only aided in discriminating against an entire population.

This is not a strange comparison. We should constantly be looking to the past to prevent the same mistakes from happening again, and we should be thankful that there are such insightful individuals who possess enough courage to bring topics like this to our attention.


Tissy
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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Not all terrorists are Muslim and not all Muslims are terrorists. It is a


Starla
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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Jamie~\n I am currently doing research on this very topic more focused on the feelings of building a Mosque near ground zero. I found while doing my research a lot of what you have shared in your article; and the truth about many of the ones who oppose the building didn't realize the location was to be 2 miles away. Many of the people I have spoken to that were against it didn't even realize what a Mosque is. During the peak of the controversy I heard a radio station play audio propaganda that alluded to the hype that if you worship at a Mosque then you were a terrorist. In fact the exact words were "come join us at our Mosque, we have something for everyone in the family! We will even teach your kids how to build bombs"

I appreciate the time and attention of this matter you have brought to the public. We need people brave enough to acknowledge hatred and prejudices to raise awareness and provoke change. It might not always be popular, but certainly was the right thing to do.

As for the persons who found this article was done in poor taste. I am sorry for your loss and sacrifice, I truly am. Although your feelings might be of a different caliber what I have witnessed over the course of the past few months have been ignorance and hate stemming from fear, much like Jamies' article discussed which is where the comparison to the Salem witch hunt came from I am assuming. People making judgments and condemning members of the Muslim faith because they feel as though they are terrorist. The witch hunt might not be as literal, but from the outlets I have witnessed it certainly does reflect a witch hunt to me. You have nationally known commentators or their television shows proclaiming that members of the Muslim faith are terrorist. I have heard Muslims referred to as being a cult and not a religion. I have heard people say they have no right to be over here, they need to go back. I have seen people grab members of the Muslim faith by the shirt color and scream at them. I have heard them accused of horrible things in front of their children. I am sorry for your losses, I am, but we have to be able to show that we are a country of freedom, we are a country that really stands behind what we say. If we do not teach these things, if we do not allow one the outlet to share what they have seen then the terrorist have won. I appreciate where you are coming from, and while I continue my research I am certainly going to look into your position and coordinate it with my results. But you are the first person to explain it that I have spoken to in such a way. It has given us more to think about, just as Jamie did in his article. And I do disagree, you said he failed to mention both sides. He mentioned why members would be upset but with all the information out their already about why members who oppose it are upset very little have been said about location, why they chose that spot to build, or what someone currently of Muslim faith has to go through. The article might have been focused more on one side, but to be honest it is about time. And I must add, it was done very well!


Person
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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For all of the people arguing for or against the mosque, you people are making moral arguments. That's fine, but it has no practical relevance.

The only consideration in my mind is freedom. The fact is if someone has the money and resources to buy something, they have the right to do what they want with it. It is important to not let personal sensibilities and personal morality, get in the way of creator-given freedoms. Just because something has the potential to offend some people, we're going to restrict freedom?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Not 9/11, not fear mongering should impede freedom. This is what I cannot stand about post-9/11 America. Fear mongering has been used to attack and restrict the very freedom that this country was founded on. Fear is just being used to manipulate the general public into a certain mindset, a mindset that has lost all vision of the American dream, of the American frontier, and of American-inspired freedom. Instead it's been replaced by "freedom" that is typified by fear, and secured through the barrel of a gun. That is not real freedom to me.

If someone is scared or fearful of muslims. Fine, I don't care. But it pisses me off that my freedoms (including those in the airport) have been restricted because these ppl are making our public policies.


GoWahoos
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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Chelsea, it may not have been offensive to you, but it is highly offensive to me. I am just as a for a free and tolerant America as anyone else. I support Muslim Americans and acknowledge their right to build religious institutions, just question the mosques placement. That is why being compared to a Salem Witch Hunter because of my viewpoints hurts me. Reader, your points are on target as of the Mosque controversy. Dear Starla, it is hard to imagine what victims of September 11 have "to go through" when Ground Zero becomes more about politics and controversy than about the tragedy that occurred there.


Frank
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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Person - well said, that is what Jamie's article was all about, freedom!

GoWahoos - just what gives you the right to "just question the mosques placement"? That viewpoint is contrary to the religious freedom that the article was all about - when you can "question" people's right to practice their religion, next you will question their right to assemble, free speech (that you don't agree with), and on and on . . .


GoWahoos
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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Dear Frank, the constitution gives me the right to question the mosques placement!!!!!

Just as it gives you the right to question me! Like I said, questioning the mosque's placement does not make me a bigot. There are many legitimate reasons for questioning the placement!


GoWahoos
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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Like I say, many in opposition to the mosque are questioning the mosques placement, not burning Muslims alive. The issue is complex.


Reader
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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Jamie,

Your column serves as a terrific springboard for discussion. Thank you.

While it is true that all religions have violent extremists, I think it's important to look at the distinction between those who are straying from their religious doctrines vs. those who are acting on it. A cover-to-cover reading of the Koran reveals a significant amount of content advocating violence against infidels (non-Muslims). Does that explain why there have been over 16,000 deadly Islamic Jihadist attacks around the world since 9/11? Is reform possible? Is there violence in the Bible - is it in the Old Testament? or New Testament from which Christian doctrine originates? Is it descriptive or prescriptive? So many questions. You've opened up a great topic.


Leigh
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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9/11/01 is a day I will never forget. I will forever remember the image of the World Trade Center crashing down as people are running for their lives. With that said, ever since that day we as a nation have appeared to have forgotten the principles on which we were founded upon. One of which being religious tolerance. People came to this nation fleeing from their homes, leaving their families behind due to the fact that they were being killed because of what they believed in. The Salem Witch Trials occurred out of fear. The fear of being different. The fear of not going with the norm. The fear that if you see someone who appears different from you they are therefore evil. That is what is happening here. \nAs a nation we need to stand together and stop this prejudice. Regardless of what has happened. The Mosque is not standing on the ground zero which is what people keep forgetting. All it is is a place of worship in lower Manhattan. I could go with the argument that no one would say anything if they were building a church, but no. I will not stoop that low. Instead I will state the facts. The facts are that the Mosque is a house of worship for those practicing the Muslim religion. And as a nation we need to remember the principles that we have be founded upon. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." We do not judge others based upon the color of their skin, their religion, their sexuality but rather we all have rights that cannot be taken away from us. Those rights were taken away during the Salem With Trials and during this debate on a Mosque. A Mosque whose sole purpose is to provide someone with a place of peace not be used as an act of intolerance.


Celia
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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The proposed mosque near where the World Trade Center was attacked and destroyed, along with thousands of American lives, would be a 15-story middle finger to America.\nIt takes a high IQ to evade the obvious, so it is not surprising that the intelligentsia are out in force, decrying those who criticize this calculated insult.

What may surprise some people is that the American taxpayer is currently financing a trip to the Middle East by the imam who is pushing this project, so that he can raise the money to build it. The State Department is subsidizing his travel.

The big talking point is that this is an issue about "religious freedom" and that Muslims have a "right" to build a mosque where they choose. But those who oppose this project are not claiming that there is no legal right to build a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center.

If anybody did, it would be a matter for the courts to decide -- and they would undoubtedly say that it is not illegal to build a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center attack.

The intelligentsia and others who are wrapping themselves in the Constitution are fighting a phony war against a straw man. Why create a false issue, except to evade the real issue?

Our betters are telling us that we need to be more "tolerant" and more "sensitive" to the feelings of Muslims. But if we are supposed to be sensitive to Muslims, why are Muslims not supposed to be sensitive to the feelings of millions of Americans, for whom 9/11 was the biggest national trauma since Pearl Harbor?

It would not be illegal for Japanese Americans to build a massive shinto shrine next to Pearl Harbor. But, in all these years, they have never sought to do it.

When Catholic authorities in Poland were planning to build an institution for nuns, years ago, and someone pointed out that it would be near the site of a concentration camp that carried out genocide, the Pope intervened to stop it.

He didn't say that the Catholic Church had a legal right to build there, as it undoubtedly did. Instead, he respected the painful feelings of other people. And he certainly did not denounce those who called attention to the concentration camp.

There is no question that Muslims have a right to build a mosque where they chose to. The real question is why they chose that particular location, in a country that covers more than 3 million square miles.

If we all did everything that we have a legal right to do, we could not even survive as individuals, much less as a society. So the question is whether those who are planning a Ground Zero mosque want to be part of American society or just to see how much they can get away with in American society?


Chris
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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What about the area around Ground Zero would lead one to believe that it is any sort of "sacred ground?" What other buildings, businesses and activities have we objected to?

The building where the new Islamic Cultural Center is proposed is privately funded, on privately owned property and is a private decision to be made. What would be permissible to people who would prevent the construction of the Cultural Center if this is not?

The people who carried out the attacks did not represent the people who want to build this Islamic Cultural Center. The people who were killed were not homogenous; they were from around the world and from many different cultures and religions.

Celia, your use of "they" as opposed to "American society" betrays the bigotry inherent in these objections. The folks who are building the Cultural Center are American. Period.


Deborah
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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Brilliantly stated, Jamie. We need more people (like you) to be today's voice of "Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?" to these demagogues.


Bob
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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As another victim, of sorts, of 9/11, I understand exactly what GoWahoos means. She's not saying they don't have a right, but there are MANY things that you have a right to do that you SHOULDN'T do, that's what she's saying.

I also disagree with GoWahoos on the ultimate issue, however. I can't imagine a more fitting, more American thing to do. It's a symbol to the world that life goes on, you lost, and a mosque is being built and I don't care, cause that's America. All people are here, and even in one of the most hallowed places in America, it says we respect and tolerate everyone, no matter what you scum try to do to us. I can't imagine a more fitting tribute to my Uncle's life than that.


Tissy
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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If you're afraid of the future, then get out of the way, stand aside. The people of this country are ready to move again.\n~Ronald Reagan


Sean
(01/01/70 12:00am)
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As someone who worked in the World Trade center for years delivering boxes every morning, and who lost childhood friends on 9/11, perhaps I can give you all some local perspective. I was also in Manhattan when the first, rather less successful, al queda bombing of the WTC took place.

While I agree with Jamie's assertion that property rights and the US constitution clearly state that they have every right to build a mosque on whatever land they own, I think the question of why anyone would want to build one in this particular spot, at the particular time is worthy of some scrutiny. Personally, i don't care if someone builds a mosque where i used to deliver boxes to the Burlington Coat Factory that used to be there. (that building was a dump then, too..) But we're kidding ourselves if we don't see this very expensive plan it as a bit peculiar. Let me explain.

Back when I was there, the southwestern end of Manhattan still had a few elderly Irish dock workers living in the area who used to service the ships that docked by the river. But those docks have long since rotted away, and what fragments of working class lower Manhattan that remained have died along with those dock workers. While there are sizable Muslim populations in Brooklyn and Queens, there is none to speak of in Southwest Manhattan. There is no local community that this mosque will serve! It is not a residential area anymore. Battery Park City is indeed there, and indeed residential. But those condos can only be had if you have a coll million or two dollars laying around. It is for Wall Street big shots, not large religious Muslim families (unless of course they are headed by an oil tycoon from the Emirates).

There are several churches in the area. Indeed, there is one less. There was a small Greek Orthodox Church that was pummeled out of existence when the towers next door came down. But all these churches harken back to a day when there were people in the area that went to them, and sailors were a regular mainstay for the local economy. Those days are long gone. The Greek Orthodox Church has made what I think is another peculiar decision. Instead of selling this extremely valuable piece of real estate and putting that money towards better uses in other places, they have decided to rebuild!

http://www.stnicholasnyc.com/

In my opinion, building a church long after it's worshipers have vanished from the area is a rather bad real estate decision. So is building a multi million dollar mosque and Muslim community center on Park Place. There is no Greek Orthodox community in lower Manhattan. There is no Muslim community in lower Manhattan. And there already is a mosque that was another two blocks away that is currently renting space and looking to move to another location nearby.

It does not make sense to build such a very expensive project far from any community it is supposed to serve (especially when there is already a mosque two blocks away. And while I don't pretend to know the motivations of anyone involved in the project, I do know that it is a Muslim tradition to build mosques on or near the sites of military victories. Whether or not this was or is the motivation of any of the people involved in trying to do this, it remains clear to me that there will be many people around the world who will see this as that kind of mosque - both happily and angrily.

I still agree with Jaime that they have every right to do this. And that right should be defended by public officials. We should never open the pandoras box of telling law abiding citizens where they can or cannot build a place of worship. But I think it is a very bad decision on the part of these folks planning to do this. Indeed, there have been a few Muslim leaders who, to their credit, have expressed this same opinion.



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