defending the First Amendment against the Christian right ...
Jews On First!
... because if Jews don't speak out, they'll think we don't mind
by Robin Podolsky with Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak, JewsOnFirst.org, September 7, 2010
(Page 2 of 8) Print version
Khan, the Executive Director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, was
heroically gracious in the face of Ms. Ingraham's trademark crass provocations.
(Ingraham wanted to know, if a new Mosque is allowed near Ground Zero, what would
be the chances of building a new church in, say, Lebanon? We can't speak to the
church question, but as it happens, this August the government of Lebanon announced the completed restoration of the Magen Abraham
Synagogue in Beirut.)
Khan's husband, Imam Abdul Rauf, the spiritual leader of the Cordoba Initiative,
has conducted trainings for the FBI and gone on speaking tours throughout the Middle
East under the aegis of the U.S. State Department as a spokesperson for American
Islam. He preaches an inclusive form of Sufism, an inward, spiritually rich Muslim
One would be justified to expect that for those who have been calling loudly for
moderate, pro-American Muslims to raise their voices against terrorism, this group
and their project would look like a Godsend. However, such an expectation would
have been mostly disappointed.
In May, after the center won the unanimous approval of a local zoning board, a group
called Stop Islamization of America
(SIOA), led by Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, launched a campaign against
the project. (SIOA's sister web site,
Stop Islamization of Europe, features articles sympathetic to the genocidal
Serbian leader Radovan Karadzic). It was they who characterized the center,
inaccurately, as the "Ground Zero Mosque." Actually the proposed center is on the
grounds of a former Burlington Coat Factory, two blocks from the site of the former
World Trade Center, in a neighborhood bustling with fast food restaurants, "adult"
entertainment arcades and other commercial enterprises.
Between May and September, the echo chamber has grown in volume. Right-wing political
figures, such as Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin have added their voices to it, Palin
famously tweeting her hope that "peaceful Muslims" would "refudiate" the center.
Although New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Jewish Republican, speaks out eloquently
in favor of the center as an example of the United States' religious freedom, former
Mayor Rudolph Guliani, whose failed run for president was based, almost entirely,
around his leadership during the 9/11 attacks, has condemned it. Franklin Graham
(pictured at right),
son and successor to Billy Graham was quoted in Time magazine, saying, "It wasn't
Islam that built America; it was the people of the Christian-Judeo faith that built
[the U.S.]. We've given freedom to other religions to come, and now you have other
religions coming that want to bring America down." Read more. This use of the phrase "Judeo-Christian" exemplifies
the ways in which some conservative Christians seek to simultaneously court American
Jews and annex us as auxiliaries to their project. There is of course no single
faith called Judeo-Christianity. Judaism is an independent religion, not a modifying
adjective. This phrase is often tacked on to the word, Christianity when the user
wishes to assert Christian prerogatives without appearing to ignore Jewish allies
and also without abandoning the centrality of Christianity which is the heart of
Pajamas Media's Andrew Klavan, whom we can only assume to be both hip and cool due
to his shaved head and tieless red shirt, confronts us with the ever-so-edgy question, "Does Islam
Suck?", the answer to which question, he tells us, depends on whether the Cordoba
Initiative accedes to whatever proper Muslim-free zone its critics designate. Imagine
the howls of victimization if any mainstream commentator
appeared on cable news to ask "Does Christianity Suck?" and to assert that an answer
would depend on whether a single church agreed to conform to a set of rules
laid out by the interrogator. Such a person would not only lose their job, they
would expose themselves and their employer to a barrage of retaliation, including
a likely lawsuit from the ACLJ.
The ACLJ, the
American Center for Law and Justice—was formed, according to its mission
statement to, "protect religious liberty and safeguard human rights and dignity."
However, its work is almost exclusively dedicated to expanding the presence of Christianity
in such institutions as the public schools. The ACLJ has filed a lawsuit against
the construction of the center. (For more on the involvement of this group, please
see our Why Now? section below.) In addition, such figures
as the Reverend John Hagee, who like Sarah Palin, has connections to the more apocalyptic
strains of right wing Christianity, has attached his name to this cause (also more
below) as has the Reverend Pat Robertson of the 700 Club.
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The general argument against the construction of the community center, which will
contain a mosque, is that it would be insensitive to the feelings of the survivors
of people murdered at Ground Zero. Certainly, this was not the intention of the
Cordoba Initiative, which sought to make the statement that Muslim Americans will
not be deterred by terrorists from practicing their religion in their own country.
The center was originally to be called Cordoba House, in honor of that place and
time remembered by Jews as Al-Andalus, where Muslims, Jews and Christians lived,
traded and studied together. Incorrectly, as we will demonstrate, that name has
been characterized as an expression of triumphalism. However, in sensitivity to
a that concern, the project has been renamed Park51.
It cannot be emphasized enough, in this context, that there are Muslims included
among the 9/11 dead and among those first responders whose heroism provided Americans
with inspiration and hope at that terrible time. Among them are: Salman Hamdani, a 23-year-old New York City police cadet
and part-time ambulance driver, whose family was questioned by law enforcement officials
about his post-9/11 disappearance until six months later when his remains were identified
near the North Tower, along with with his EMT medical bag; and Rahma Salie, a passenger
on American Airlines Flight 11, who died seven months pregnant with her first child,
whose family members were barred from taking flights to her memorial service.
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