New York Mosque Protest

Apparently this was said with a straight face at Sunday’s anti-mosque protest in New York:

“We’re not here today to condemn Muslims or Islam” said Pamela Geller, executive director of ‘Stop the Islamization of America’, “but we are here today to condemn the kind of mosque that will teach the very same radical ideology that gave birth to the 9/11 attacks…”

As has been widely reported, Geller was speaking at a protest against plans to build a mosque and Muslim community centre a couple of blocks away from the site of World Trade Center. A few days before, Geller had thundered that

“The only Muslim center that should be built in the shadow of the World Trade Center is one that is devoted to expunging the Quran and all Islamic teachings of the violent jihad that they prescribe, as well as all hateful texts and incitement to violence”

Of course, this isn’t a statement made in good faith: a Muslim center with an “expunged” Quran makes about as much sense as a church with the anti-Jewish parts of the New Testament expunged or a synagogue with the more sanguinary passages of the Torah expunged – ancient religious texts may be re-interpreted or contextualised in ways that make them more amenable to the modern world, but they are seldom repudiated by adherents.

Some background to the Cordoba House Muslim centre project was provided by the WSJ‘s Metropolis blog in May:

The project is driven in part by the needs of a growing Muslim population in Lower Manhattan. The nearest existing Islamic prayer space, the Tribeca Mosque, has been holding three evening prayer services on Fridays to keep up with demand.

“New immigrants coming to the area — you see a lot of people coming to Canal Street, a lot of street vendors and laborers,” says Daisy Kahn, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement. “But also a lot of people in the financial community coming to prayers as well.”

When Kahn’s organization found a vacant property on Park Place, the former site of a Burlington Coat Factory that had been damaged by airplane debris on September 11, 2001, the potent symbolism of the site also became a compelling rationale for the project. “We decided we wanted to look at the legacy of 9/11 and do something positive,” she explained in an interview. Her group represents moderate Muslims who want “to reverse to trend of extremism and the kind of ideology that the extremists are spreading.”

For Geller and her Stop Islamization of America organization (currently on a roll following the “Leaving Islam?” bus-ad controversy), this is all a ruse – the purpose of the mosque is to gloat over the site of the World Trade Center and to establish Muslim supremacy over America; as reported by the London Times:

“What could be more insulting and humiliating than a monster mosque in the shadow of the World Trade Centre buildings that were brought down by an Islamic jihad attack?” said Pamela Geller, the group’s director. “Any decent American, Muslim or otherwise, wouldn’t dream of such an insult. It’s a stab in the eye of America.”

Ms Geller’s group said that Islam had a history of building mosques on top of the holy places of other religions as a symbol of Muslim dominance. It cited al-Aqsa Mosque on top of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Ayasofya Mosque in the former Hagia Sophia basilica in Istanbul, and the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus atop what was once the Church of St John the Baptist.

The Times refered to an “anti-Muslim backlash”, which Geller objected to as a “lie” (Geller’s ally Robert Spencer does occasionally refer positively to “Muslims of conscience”, but how exactly they are to be defined is unclear).

Khan’s quote – slightly re-edited – has also been turned against her in a press release:

Daisy Khan has trivialized and insulted the memories of the victims of the 9/11 jihad attacks by saying that the mosque is intended to “make something positive out of 9/11.”

We’re also told that

…Ground Zero mosque Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is an open proponent of Sharia, Islamic law, a system that denies the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and the equality of rights of all people before the law.

Abdul Rauf has said that “an Islamic state can be established in more then just a single form or mold. It can be established through a kingdom or a democracy. The important issue is to establish the general fundamentals of Shariah that are required to govern.” Thus it is clear that this mosque will teach Sharia, Islamic supremacism, and the denial of basic rights.

Abdul Rauf and other mosque organizers have been inconsistent and deceptive about whether their planned Islamic Center at Ground Zero will contain a mosque; ultimately they have admitted that it will. Belying his claim that this mosque will become a place for interreligious harmony, he has told the Arabic press: “I don’t believe in religious dialogue.”

This information was provided by Walid Shoebat (who was not at the protest himself);  it seems he’s realised that he needs to come up with some new material if he’s going to keep his profile up. However, even Shoebat’s article puts the “religious dialogue” comment into some context; in his translation, it refers to:

Religious dialogue as customarily understood is a set of events with discussions in large hotels that result in nothing.

From the Google translation of Shoebat’s source, it appears that Rauf goes on to praise American diversity and to criticise Egypt. But whether Rauf is secretly an extremist is hardly the main point – it is clear that SIOA objects to any mosque in principle.

The protest itself brought together the usual “anti-jihad” activists, along with a few 9/11 rescue workers and bereaved family members – Geller has posted a number of speeches. The event also gave a politician named Jay Townsend an opportunity to grandstand, and there was an attack on Obama from a certain Bev Carlson, who insisted that America is a “Christian nation”.

The size of the rally has been disputed; a journalist named Mike Kelly puts the figure at 500, Geller herself has declared there were 8,000, while WorldNetDaily rounds the number up to 10,000. Sentiments expressed on some of the protest signs made further mockery of Geller’s claim that “we are not here today to condemn Muslims or Islam”, and Kelly notes one telling incident:

At one point, a portion of the crowd menacingly surrounded two Egyptian men who were speaking Arabic and were thought to be Muslims.

“Go home,” several shouted from the crowd.

“Get out,” others shouted.

In fact, the two men – Joseph Nassralla and Karam El Masry — were not Muslims at all. They turned out to be Egyptian Coptic Christians who work for a California-based Christian satellite TV station called “The Way.” Both said they had come to protest the mosque.

“I’m a Christian,” Nassralla shouted to the crowd, his eyes bulging and beads of sweat rolling down his face.

But it was no use. The protesters had become so angry at what they thought were Muslims that New York City police officers had to rush in and pull Nassralla and El Masry to safety.

“I flew nine hours in an airplane to come here,” a frustrated Nassralla said afterward.

[UPDATE: More on this incident here]

Ahead of the protest, there were various objections, ranging from some Muslim criticisms of the project through to the most vitriolic spewing. As was widely reported, a Texas radio host named Michael Berry expressed the hope that the mosque would be bombed, and his excess was matched by the Tea Party leader Mark Williams, who denounced the Manhattan Borough President, Scott Stringer, as “a Jewish Uncle Tom who would have turned rat on Anne Frank” because he supports the project. Across the Atlantic, atheist comedian Pat Condell fired off another of his hectoring (and curiously joke-free) rants, insisting (I paraphrase) that the mosque was obviously being built to celebrate 9/11 and as part of a strategy to take over the USA, that Islam ought to be suppressed as a political ideology akin to Nazism, and that anyone who can’t see this is a fool (Condell objects to religion in general as being authoritarian and supported by people who are self-righteous).

The Forward carried a thoughtful editorial on the subject a few weeks ago. While backing the project, it notes that

Some families of those who perished on September 11, 2001, have displayed great courage by supporting the proposal to create a 13-story hub for Muslim religious and cultural life, two blocks north of where the twin towers stood. But other families have not and — unlike some of the bigots who oppose the project for unjustifiable reasons — their qualms and resistance need to be respected.

But with so much overheated rhetoric on the subject, it is difficult to see how the project organisers could make any revisions to their plans without opponents trumpeting alterations as climb-downs that supposedly prove extremist intent.

Meanwhile, Geller’s motives have been derided by her equally-unpleasant rival “anti-jihadist” Debbie Schlussel; she dismisses the protest as “a cleverly designed PR vehicle”, and claims that Geller is expressing

…faux-outrage in a “battle” that we already know won’t be won.  It’s already lost.  They have the property.  Move on to something we can win, not a… attention-whore trick, just weeks before her book is about to be released and needs to earn back a bloated advance.  If you think it’s anything other than this, you are a malleable tool, easily manipulated and not of much substance.

Schlussel, who has been in a feud with Geller for some time, also makes reference to the p0lice investigation into Geller’s ex-husband’s business affairs (I noted Geller’s book – which has a Foreword by John Bolton – here).

(Some links H/T Loonwatch)

UPDATE: Ed Brayton has some fun with one detail:

Geller added, “There is a large piece of an airplane in that building. That is a war memorial”… That’s funny, there were pieces of airplane and debris in pretty much every building for many blocks in every direction after 9/11. And yet the only one she demands be made into a museum is the one owned by Muslims.