Right-wing media smear Park51 as potential haven for terrorists

››› ››› ERIC SCHROECK

In their relentless attacks against the planned Park51 Islamic community center in Manhattan, right-wing media have smeared the center as a potential haven or recruitment center for terrorists and extremists.

Right-wing media smear Islamic center as potential haven or recruitment center for terrorists

Morris: Park 51 will be used to "train and recruit Sharia law advocates who become terrorists." On the August 19 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Fox News contributor Dick Morris cited a study that he claimed said "80 percent of the mosques...teach Sharia law as the main event at their mosques." Morris later claimed that Park 51 will be used to "study and promote and train and recruit Sharia law advocates, which, who become terrorists."

Morris: Park51 would be a "command center for terrorism." On the August 18 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, during a discussion of Park51, Morris claimed "these Sharia mosques ... have become the command centers for terrorists," adding, "so this one would be, too."

Bolling: Park51 "may be a meeting place for some of the scariest minds -- some of the biggest terrorist minds." On the August 19 edition of Fox & Friends, Fox Business host Eric Bolling claimed that Park51 "may be a meeting place for some of the scariest minds -- some of the biggest terrorist minds."

Kilmeade: "The next Hamburg cell could be right downtown." During the discussion with Bolling on the August 19 Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade said of Park51, "The next Hamburg cell could be right downtown." A terrorist cell in Hamburg, Germany, whose members would later become the 9-11 hijackers, is believed to be the origin of the 9-11 plot.

Limbaugh suggests Park51 would be a "recruiting tool for domestic extremists." On the August 3 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh stated that if the Guantanamo Bay detention center "is a recruiting tool for foreign extremists, what about a World Trade Center mosque being a recruiting tool for domestic extremists?"

Nugent: "The mosque will attract extremists and radicals who will try to harm America." In an August 19 Washington Times op-ed attacking Park51, Ted Nugent wrote that "[t]he mosque will attract extremists and radicals who will try to harm America." Nugent repeatedly referred to Islam as a "voodoo religion" and concluded, "If additional American blood is spilled in the Big Apple, the politicians who supported this mosque will be as guilty as the Muslim voodoo kooks who love death and destruction in the name of Allah."

Cal Thomas repeatedly suggests Park51 would be a terrorist front. In an August 3 column, conservative commentator Cal Thomas wrote: "Ask yourself: if you wanted to infiltrate a country, wouldn't a grand strategy be to rapidly build mosques from Ground Zero in New York, to Temecula, Calif., and establish beachheads so fanatics could plan and advance their strategies under the cover of religious freedom and that great American virtue known as 'tolerance,' which is being used against us?" In a July 21 post on The Washington Post's On Faith blog, Thomas wrote:

A mosque near Ground Zero is not about tolerance, but triumphalism. It isn't about honoring the dead, but celebrating their deaths.

[...]

Don't we know why our enemies desire a beachhead in America? They wish to launch new terror attacks and forcibly convert Americans to their way of thinking and believing. What will we gain by allowing this to happen?

Park51 organizer has repeatedly condemned terrorism and "Muslim militants"

Rauf: "We condemn terrorists. We recognize it exists in our faith, but we are committed to eradicate it." A May 21 New York Daily News article quoted Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, who is leading the Park51 initiative, as stating: "We condemn terrorists. We recognize it exists in our faith, but we are committed to eradicate it." He also stated: "We want to rebuild this community. ... This is about moderate Muslims who intend to be and want to be part of the solution."

Slate: Rauf has "denounced church burnings in Muslim countries ... proposed to reclaim Islam from violent radicals." An August 2 Slate.com article reported that Rauf "has denounced church burnings in Muslim countries, rejected Islamic triumphalism over Christians and Jews, and proposed to reclaim Islam from violent radicals such as Osama Bin Laden."

NYT: Rauf "condemns suicide bombings and all violence carried out in the name of religion." A June 23, 2004, New York Times article reported that Rauf "condemns suicide bombings and all violence carried out in the name of religion." The Times further reported that Rauf "meets regularly with Christian and Jewish leaders, not only to forge a common front but also to explain his belief that Islamic terrorists do not come from another moral universe -- that they arise from oppressive societies that he feels Washington had a hand in creating."

After 9-11, Rauf "categorically condemned suicide bombers." A June 8, 2004, Newsday article (accessed via Nexis) reported: "Rauf has done little else since the terrorist attacks that pulled him from his mahogany pulpit in the shadow of Ground Zero. At the outset, he categorically condemned suicide bombers and, in fact, any violence committed in the name of religion." From the Newsday article:

"One frequently hears the refrain: 'Where are the moderate Muslim leaders? Why aren't they speaking out more loudly about world issues?'" said John Bennett, former president of the Aspen Institute, an international relations think tank, where he first met Rauf, and now a cofounder of the Cordoba Initiative. "And here is a man who has the courage to do so and who is speaking out with great eloquence and feeling."

Rauf has done little else since the terrorist attacks that pulled him from his mahogany pulpit in the shadow of Ground Zero. At the outset, he categorically condemned suicide bombers and, in fact, any violence committed in the name of religion. He also said that American policies "were an accessory to the crime that happened" since they had armed a generation of jihadists to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan.

"Explaining is not justifying," he said. "I want people to understand the things that have fueled terrorism, because if we address them, that's how we eliminate terror."

Rauf: "I can confidently assert that I am closer to my Jewish and Christian brothers here ... than the Muslim militants carrying a narrow view." According to a September 8, 2002, Denver Post article (accessed via Nexis), Rauf told congregants at his Manhattan mosque: "I can confidently assert that I am closer to my Jewish and Christian brothers here a [sic] than the Muslim militants carrying a narrow view."

Daily News: Rauf "has a long history of opposing radical teachings." A May 21 New York Daily News editorial stated that Rauf "has a long history of opposing radical teachings and reaching out across religious lines to Christians and Jews. He leads a mosque in Tribeca, several of whose members were killed in the collapse of the World Trade Center."

Rauf widely described as "moderate"

Time: Rauf a "moderate" who "openly condemn[s] the death cult of al-Qaeda and its adherents." An August 3 Time article reported: "Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan, are actually the kind of Muslim leaders right-wing commentators fantasize about: modernists and moderates who openly condemn the death cult of al-Qaeda and its adherents."

Abraham Foxman: Rauf "a moderate imam" who "certainly has spoken out against some of the extremism in the Islamic world." On the August 5 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League, which opposes the planned Islamic center, stated that Rauf "wrote a book about moderation and tolerance" and that "as far as we're concerned, he is what he is: a moderate imam. He certainly has spoken out against some of the extremism in the Islamic world."

Jeffery Goldberg: Rauf is "a Muslim who believes that it is possible to remain true to the values of Islam and, at the same time, to be a loyal citizen of a Western, non-Muslim country." In an August 3 post, The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg wrote: "I know Feisal Abdul Rauf; I've spoken with him at a public discussion at the 96th street mosque in New York about interfaith cooperation. He represents what Bin Laden fears most: a Muslim who believes that it is possible to remain true to the values of Islam and, at the same time, to be a loyal citizen of a Western, non-Muslim country."

Colleagues have reportedly described Rauf "as having built a career preaching tolerance and interfaith understanding." A December 8, 2009, New York Times article stated: "Those who have worked with him say if anyone could pull off what many regard to be a delicate project, it would be Imam Feisal, whom they described as having built a career preaching tolerance and interfaith understanding." The Times quoted Rabbi Arthur Schneier, leader of New York City's Park East Synagogue, as saying, ''He subscribes to my credo: 'Live and let live.' '' The Times also reported that Joan Brown Campbell, former general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Christ U.S.A., is "a supporter" of Rauf.

Rauf worked with FBI agents to present a "view of Islam that avoids stereotypes." The Daily News reported on March 11, 2003, (accessed via Nexis) that Rauf spoke to FBI agents "as part of an FBI effort to present agents who are the ground troops in the war against terrorism with a view of Islam that avoids stereotypes." From the Daily News article:

In an office in lower Manhattan yesterday blocks from Ground Zero, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf talked about his Muslim beliefs to an unusual audience -- a roomful of FBI agents.

"Islamic extremism for the majority of Muslims is an oxymoron," he explained to the agents. "It is a fundamental contradiction in terms."

Rauf -- imam of the Masjid al-Farah mosque of Tribeca -- was speaking as part of an FBI effort to present agents who are the ground troops in the war against terrorism with a view of Islam that avoids stereotypes.

[...]

Rauf made clear Islam's image has been distorted by radical fundamentalists who insist on strict adherence to their interpretation of the Koran and impose a fascistic order on certain countries.

"It can happen under any religion," he noted.

He insisted Islam has a historic kinship with both Judaism and Christianity, a relationship of which not only Americans but many Muslims are unaware.

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