As I write, nearly two thousand protesters are gathered outside the location of the future mosque — some having stood in the rain for hours — providing a clear indication that the campaign to stop this project is intensifying. The pollsters tell us that nearly 70 percent of all Americans oppose the structure, yet its sponsors say the edifice will somehow promote "interfaith dialogue" and "mutual understanding." They must certainly realize at this stage in the process that the mosque will do no such thing, but will instead act as a permanent provocation to a huge segment of Americans who deem it completely inappropriate — if not outright sacrilege.
Let us remember that the project organizers themselves created this controversy by announcing that the groundbreaking would take place on the ten-year anniversary of the attack, and that the exact site was selected because of its proximity to Ground Zero. Given that fact, the current media meme that this is not a "Ground Zero mosque" is dishonest spin.
Even more dishonest — and dangerous to this country — is the outrageously biased work in Time, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Newsweek, and on NPR, PBS, MSNBC and CNN that has consistently portrayed popular opposition to this mosque and several other mosques around the country as evidence of bigotry and so-called "Islamophobia." This is mass libel by these media institutions.
The mainstream media has deliberately ignored the fact that there is legitimate basis for fear of mosques — as it is a demonstrable fact that mosques and Muslims have been disproportionately connected to terrorism in this country and around the world, a fact that the media won't report. Moreover, in the examples of opposition to specific mosques chosen by the media as evidence of popular "bigotry," the media has selectively ignored the openly available evidence showing unambiguously that these mosques or their officials are connected to or supportive of the radical Muslim Brotherhood (the parent of al-Qaeda), Hamas, and other radical Islamic fundamentalist organizations.
Why have these media institutions not investigated these ties? Why does the media investigate American charities that support settlements in the West Bank, but refuse to investigate the militant and terrorist ties to mosques and Islamic groups here at home?
The imam heading up this $100 million project, Faisal Abdul Rauf, enjoys the full support of the sympathizing left-leaning media, and together they have attempted to frame this fight as a First Amendment issue. They've worked to cast the opponents of the project — including the 9/11 families — as bigots bent on denying "peaceful Muslims" the "right" to build a facility on their own property. All of this is sheer nonsense, because as many commentators already noted this week, the right to build the mosque was never in question — only the appropriateness of putting it near Ground Zero. It is simply not possible, and indeed quite dishonest, to characterize 70 percent of the population as bigots and "Islamophobes," despite what the media would have us believe.
As an American Muslim, I can say with confidence that most folks have no desire to trample our First Amendment rights, and have said so repeatedly. It is not even entirely clear to me that, were the Muslim developers of the mosque genuinely moderate, it would be so bitterly opposed. But then again, they probably would never have proposed such a thing in the first place.
But how can anyone believe that Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf and his followers are moderates when they very deliberately refuse to condemn Hamas, a sworn enemy of this country and a major center of terror in the world? When asked directly to repudiate the group, all he could say was: "I am not a politician."
This is typical of the double-speak and evasive tactics employed by the prominent Muslim groups in America, an unmistakable red flag that something is wrong here.
He's also called this country an "accessory" to the 9/11 attacks, and has written that America is shariah (Muslim law) compliant. Forget all the rubbish about "interfaith dialogue" and "mutual understanding." The ongoing battle over this site has already belied that charade. Abdul Rauf and his Islamic supporters — most of whom are affiliated with Muslim Brotherhood front groups — will never give this project up because there is too much at stake for him. If he manages to get the thing built, he will be one of the most powerful personalities in the Muslim world — radical, moderate, or otherwise. More importantly, the mosque will come to symbolize in the radical Muslim world the triumph of Bin Laden's attack, and provide a kind of heavenly validation for his approach to spreading radical ideology. For what other reason could the tenth anniversary have been chosen for the groundbreaking?.
It is not hard to see that this will only inspire more attacks. The logic will be: "If Allah gave us one miracle, maybe He'll give us more."
If some Americans are suspicious and fearful of Muslims, it's not without good reason, and nothing their self-appointed leadership has done or said in the nine years following 9/11 has allayed those fears. Non-Muslim Americans have yet to see any clean line of demarcation between radical and moderate Muslims. Everywhere around the globe Muslims are the cause of so much bloodshed and turmoil, making life on this planet a living hell.
What are people to think when they see a group of World Cup fans blown up in Uganda by Somali Muslim psychopaths? Closer to home, a U.S. Army Major shoots his fellow soldiers! What are they to make of a Pakistani national given U.S. citizenship just last year attempting to set off a car bomb in Times Square? And the self-taught "American" sheikh, Anwar al-Awlaki, who from his cave somewhere in Yemen calls on Muslims to murder Americans, and they listen?
The underlying problem in this bitter controversy is that Muslims in America suffer a deserved trust deficit, wherein they are seen as a foreign and dangerous element. Perhaps if the $100 million being spent on this mosque were used to build, say, a hospital, this perception would begin to change.
Abdur-Rahman Muhammad is a Washington, D.C.-based writer who was once the Imam of a mosque where he taught radical Muslim ideology. He has since renounced those views and works to combat Islamic extremism in the American Muslim community. He is a senior writer for the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) and his work has appeared in numerous publications such as the Washington Afro American, the Philadelphia New Observer, and others. His work can be read at his popular blog A Singular Voice. He holds a BA degree in Philosophy from Howard University.