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New York Mosque controvery - a case study in the racist media

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The growing controversy over the "ground zero Mosque" is caused by rampant Islamophobia in the US media

There has been a hue and cry over the planned construction of Park51 (formerly Cordoba House), a Muslim community center to be located in lower Manhattan approximately two blocks from the site of the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. Opponents dubbed it the “Ground Zero Mosque,” but this title is far from accurate: it is destined to be a multi-purpose building with a prayer room on the top floor but not a mosque per se. In addition, it would be no closer to Ground Zero than some other religious houses of worship – particularly Christian cathedrals and churches.

Critics have called for a halt to the building, referring to its construction as “insensitive” to the victims of the 9/11 attacks and their families. Some far-Right commentators and public officials even went as far as to suggest that Islam itself (latently, of course) was ultimately responsible for the attacks on the United States and not Islamic terrorists, perpetuating the shamefully false notion of an equation between the religion proper and the acts carried out by certain individuals in the name of the religion. This feeds into the rampant anti-Muslim demagogy plaguing the country, i.e., Islam is intrinsically more violent and reactionary than its Abrahamic predecessors: Judaism and Christianity. An ignorant assertion to say the least, especially when one considers the history of white-nationalist racism in this country conducted via mobbing and lynching of African-Americans under the auspices of Christian “love” and “brotherhood toward (white) men.”

The usual suspects of Right-wing punditry came out predictably; however concerned about what this might mean for them in the General Election this November, Democrats such as Harry Reid and Barack Obama hitched a ride on the xenophobic bandwagon. The latter has equivocated on the issue, saying that the group behind Park51 has the “right” to build a community center but declining to comment on “the wisdom of making the decision” to build it. The opposition is particularly poignant as Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is behind Park51, has long been a proponent of interfaith understanding and cooperation.

The Right has increasingly perpetrated the dangerous myth that the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims are seemingly at war with America, which has led to murderous wars abroad and assaults (both physical and on civil rights) against the approximately 2 million Muslims in the U.S. September 11th was the bitter fruit of decades of imperialist foreign policy, particularly support for Israel and for dictatorships in the Middle East, perpetrated by a small group of extremists. Islam is labeled consequently a “dangerous” religion, and even the federal government has engaged in a series of entrapment cases where a provocateur set up a group of young Muslim men (e.g., the Fort Dix 5) in fake terror cases, which they subsequently utilized to convict them as terrorists. Park51 is simply a higher-profile development of such attacks on Muslim Americans.

There should be no question that the Muslim community center, which has been part of the lower Manhattan community for years, has the right to build any kind of house of worship desired. Freedom of religion is not subject to popular approval. Workers Power (US) stands firmly opposed to the xenophobia and racism that lie barely concealed beneath opposition to Park51. We support the right of Muslims and any other religious group to build community centers and houses of worship on any property they choose, and condemn those who go along with this wave of Islamophobia in the name of “sensitivity.” We oppose the so-called War on Terror in all its manifestations and call for an end to all attacks on men and women of Middle-Eastern origin both in the United States and abroad.