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Debate: Ground zero mosque

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Should the ground zero mosque be allowed? Is it acceptable?

Background and context

Cordoba House, also referred to as the "Ground Zero Mosque" and "Park51", is a planned $100 million, 13-story, glass and steel Islamic cultural center and mosque. The plan is to raze an existing 1850s Italianate building that was damaged in the September 11 attacks, and build the mosque in its place. It is to be built two blocks (less than 600 feet, or 180 meters) from Ground Zero in New York City. An anticipated 1,000 to 2,000 Muslims will pray at it every Friday, once it is built. The proposed location of the mosque triggered an intense national controversy.
Polls showed that a majority of Americans, as well as most New Yorkers, opposed the mosque being built on that site. Many were upset by the prospect of an Islamic center being built so close to Ground Zero, where Islamist terrorists had killed nearly 3,000 people in the name of Islam. Across the United States, families of 9/11 victims, as well as politicians, Muslims, and organizations, came out both for and against the mosque being built in the Ground Zero vicinity. Some relatives of 9/11 victims argued that the project's choice of location was insensitive, while others said that the project would be an opportunity for Muslims to demonstrate that there are moderates among them. Some politicians, such as Rick Lazio, questioned the project's source of funding, as well as the project leader's views on 9/11 and terrorism. Others, such as New York City Mayor Bloomberg, welcomed the mosque as an expression of freedom of religion. Prominent Muslims split over whether the project was an act of friendship, or an unnecessary and ostentatious provocation. Newt Gingrich and others assailed the name of the project. It harked back to 8th century Córdoba, Spain, the Islamic seat of power after Muslim conquerors defeated Western Christians and occupied and ruled Spain, though the project sponsors said it was meant to point to where Muslims, Christians, and Jews co-existed peacefully. With the name proving to be inflammatory, its investors subsequently renamed the project "Park51".

See Wikipedia: Cordoba House for more background.

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At ground zero? Is the "ground zero mosque" actually at ground zero?

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Pro

  • Ground zero mosque is a discreet 2 blocks from world trade ruins. As the satellite image in this article shows, the "ground zero mosque" is not actually on the world trade center ruins, as might be guessed at by the name "Ground zero mosque", but instead a good two blocks north on a smaller street that actually has no direct site to the ground zero ruins. Many scholars have pointed this out. Sharif el-Gamal, the site's lead developer, emphasized "we are not at Ground Zero." Georgetown academic John Esposito informed CNN’s readers that it “is not at Ground Zero but two blocks away.” Huffington Post editor Matt Sledge devoted a rather long essay, complete with maps, to explaining that “it’s not at Ground Zero.” Pundit Matthew Yglesias has asked where the New York City “Mosque Exclusion Zone” should be. All of this dampens the idea that this is actually a "ground zero mosque", or a mosque intended to be plopped down in the middle of the ruins site to enshrine the massacre of 3,000 people.


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Con

  • Park51 is certainly within broad attack zone of ground zero. The Directors of Red State. "The Ground Zero Mosque Should Be Stopped." August 2nd, 2010: "A primary talking point in defense of the “Ground Zero mosque” these days is that it is not, in fact, at Ground Zero. Sharif el-Gamal, its lead developer, is now giving interviews in which he emphasizes, “We are not at Ground Zero.” Saudi-funded Georgetown academic John Esposito informed CNN’s readers that it “is not at Ground Zero but two blocks away.” [...] To begin with, you have to wonder where some of these people were on September 11, 2001. The entire area east of Broadway, south of Chambers street and north of Wall Street was a front-row seat to mass murder that morning, and much of that area was showered with pulverized debris (mixed among it the bodies of the dead). Few of the national parks and monuments commemorating America’s historic battlefields are so narrowly drawn as the defenders of the mosque would now define “Ground Zero.” Nobody who stood within that area that day would say that 51 Park Place is not within the location of the September 11 attacks."
  • Just because it isn´t right on ground zero doesn't mean it's good taste. Building the Islamic mosque is comparable to putting a pro Nazi building in the middle of Israel or building a nuclear plant in the middle of Nagasaki or Hiroshima. All three have terrible taste and why is that? Because of the slaughter at the world trade center, the 6 million Jews killed in camps and the 58,000 killed in one day at Nagasaki. Just because they didn´t take part in the attack doesn´t mean the symbol isn´t still hurting the public. So indirectly you are hurting the victims of each one of the attacks even if you didn´t take part believe in taking part. The symbol alone can cause an unjust amount of pain.
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Rights: Do developers have a right to build ground zero mosque?

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Pro

  • First amendment protects right to build ground zero mosque New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said in August of 2010 at the height of the ground zero mosque debate: "The simple fact is, this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship, and the government has no right whatsoever to deny that right. And if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution. Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here."[1]
  • Banning ground zero mosque would violate sep of church/state New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said in August of 2010 at the height of the ground zero mosque debate: "This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan. [...] I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetimes, as important a test. And it is critically important that we get it right."[2]
  • Ground zero mosque might be tasteless, but still must be allowed. It is irrelevant whether or not the ground zero mosque is considered tasteless. Mini-skirts and tie-die shirts are too. But, nevertheless, it still must be tolerated, and the right of Muslims to build the mosque must be protected.


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Con

  • Ban ground zero mosque on grounds it does more harm to victims. If it is established that the ground zero mosque does more harm to the victims of 9/11, subjecting them to further feelings of resentment etc, then it is possible to ban it or force moving it to another location on the basis of protecting other citizens.
  • Ban ground zero mosque on basis of it as terrorist-recruiting threat. If it is determined that the ground zero mosque is seen as a rallying symbol for terrorists, then it may pose a threat, which could give cause to moving it.
  • Developers have right to build ground zero mosque, but should not The Anti-Defamation League: "Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right."[3]
  • Opponents have a right to protest ground zero mosque vigorously. "If we have talked ourselves into a belief that American liberties demand social toleration, or worse, approval of an Islamic site explicitly branded with 'Ground Zero,' a mosque clothing itself in the respect accorded to the victims of that atrocity, then we must sincerely question whether our national life and purpose is damaged beyond repair." Instead, RedState argues that the mosque should be opposed and condemned vigorously by its opponents in an effort to shame the developers into picking another, less sensitive site.[4]
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Respecting victims: Does ground zero mosque respect 9/11 victims?

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Pro

  • 9/11 victims are not entitled to make bigoted demands. Abraham Foxman, the head of the ADL, explained that the anguish of the 9/11 victims "entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted." Fareed Zakaria responded by saying. "does Foxman believe that bigotry is OK if people think they’re victims? Does the anguish of Palestinians, then, entitle them to be anti-Semitic?"[5]
  • Defending mosque honors constitution first responders were protecting. New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said in August of 2010 at the height of the ground zero mosque debate: "On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked, 'What God do you pray to?' (Bloomberg's voice cracks here a little as he gets choked up.) 'What beliefs do you hold? [...] The attack was an act of war, and our first responders defended not only our city, but our country and our constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked."[6]


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Con

Abraham Foxman. "The Mosque at Ground Zero." National Director of the Anti-Defamation League. August 2nd, 2010: "To us, after much discussion and debate it became clear that the overriding concern should be the sensitivities of the families of the victims that dictated finding another location for this massive, $100 million project. [...] At its essence, our position is about sensitivity. Everyone -- victims, opponents and proponents alike -- must pay attention to the sensitivities involved without giving in to appeals to, or accusations of, bigotry. Ultimately, this was not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center would unnecessarily cause some victims more pain. And that wasn't right."
  • Ground zero mosque is generally offensive to memory of 9/11. Madeline Brooks. "Why the Ground Zero Mosque Must Be Stopped." American Thinker. May 10, 2010: "Planting a mosque just two blocks from where Muslims murdered Americans on 9/11 in the name of Islam is a huge slap in the face. Why shouldn't Muslims be sensitive enough to realize that a huge mosque planted right near the horrific wound to the U.S. created at Ground Zero by Muslims is outrageous to us? They claim a right to be insulted by cartoons mocking their prophet, even to the point of beheading people."
  • Ground zero mosque violates Islamic pledge of sensitivity Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, a devout Muslim and director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington. Schwartz noted that the spiritual leader of the Cordoba Initiative, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, describes himself as a Sufi — a Muslim focused on Islamic mysticism and spiritual wisdom. But “building a 15-story Islamic center at ground zero isn’t something a Sufi would do,’’ according to Schwartz, also a practitioner of Sufism. "Sufism is supposed to be based on sensitivity toward others," yet Cordoba House comes across as "grossly insensitive."[8]


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Offensive? Is the ground zero mosque offensive or respectful?

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Pro

  • Mosque is not new in lower Manhattan; it is simply moving. Gabriel Winant. "Ground zero mosque touches off right-wing panic." Salon.com. May 27th, 2010: "The mosque is already just a few blocks away, in Tribeca, but has overgrown its current space. Rauf says that he hopes that having a moderate mosque so near ground zero can send a message of tolerance and peace." The point here is that this was not a mosque out of nowhere, but rather a mosque that already existed blocks away, and which is merely being moved to a new location, a couple of blocks closed to ground zero, where a new building can fit the growing demand for the mosque.


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Con

  • Building mosques is a symbol of Muslim conquest Islam has built mosques on conquered territory before. Cordoba's mosque in Spain is a good example, where the Moores built a mosque as a sign of victories in Spain in the 11th and 12th centuries. The ground zero mosque is no different.


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Intentions of mosque: Are intentions of mosque developers pure?

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Pro

  • Cordoba House is a place of tolerance and integration "Build that mosque." Economist, Lexington. August 5th, 2010: "In a tweet last month from Alaska, Ms Palin called on “peaceful Muslims” to “refudiate” the “ground-zero mosque” because it would “stab” American hearts. But why should it? Cordoba House is not being built by al-Qaeda. To the contrary, it is the brainchild of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a well-meaning American cleric who has spent years trying to promote interfaith understanding, not an apostle of religious war like Osama bin Laden. He is modelling his project on New York’s 92nd Street Y, a Jewish community centre that reaches out to other religions. The site was selected in part precisely so that it might heal some of the wounds opened by the felling of the twin towers and all that followed."
  • Intentions of ground zero mosque developers are pure. State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said: "We have a long-term relationship with [Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf]. His work on tolerance and religious diversity is well-known and he brings a moderate perspective to foreign audiences on what it's like to be a practicing Muslim in the United States."[9]
  • Name "Cordoba House" is about past period of tolerance "Build that mosque." Economist, Lexington. August 5th, 2010: "Mr Gingrich also objects to the centre’s name. Imam Feisal says he chose “Cordoba” in recollection of a time when the rest of Europe had sunk into the Dark Ages but Muslims, Jews and Christians created an oasis of art, culture and science. Mr Gingrich sees only a “deliberate insult”, a reminder of a period when Muslim conquerors ruled Spain. Like Mr bin Laden, Mr Gingrich is apparently still relitigating the victories and defeats of religious wars fought in Europe and the Middle East centuries ago. He should rejoin the modern world, before he does real harm."
  • Park51 is a Muslim community center first; mosque second. Only the top floor of the mosque will be a prayer space. Most of Park51 will act as a Muslim community center, with a pool and exercise areas and spaces for other community-related activities that have very little to do with prayer. This just dampens the idea that this is somehow a hard core, or even radical, religious institution. It simply is not.


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Con

  • Radical views underlie the ground zero mosque Sarah Palin: "Just days after 9/11, the spiritual leader of the organization that wants to build the mosque, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, suggested that blame be placed on the innocents when he stated that the “United States’ policies were an accessory to the crime that happened” and that “in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the USA.” Rauf refuses to recognize that Hamas is a terrorist organization dedicated to the destruction of our ally, Israel, and refuses to provide information about the sources of funding for the $100 million mosque. Rauf also plays a key role in a group behind the flotilla designed to provoke Israel in its justifiable blockade of Gaza. These are just a few of the points Americans are realizing as New York considers the proposed mosque just a stone’s throw away from 9/11’s sacred ground."[10]
  • If developers intentions pure, they should be fine finding new site. Joe Liebarman. "If the people building this large Islamic center are just looking to build a large facility — a house of worship and center — in New York, why so close to 9/11, with all the sensitivity associated with that?"[11]
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Discrimination: Is opposing ground zero mosque discriminatory?

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Pro

  • Opposing religious buildings is a relic of past eras NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in an August 2010 speech in defense of the ground zero mosque: "In the mid-1650s, the small Jewish community living in lower Manhattan petitioned Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant for the right to build a synagogue, and they were turned down. In 1657, when Stuyvesant also prohibited Quakers from holding meetings, a group of non-Quakers in Queens signed the Flushing Remonstrance, a petition in defense of the right of Quakers and others to freely practice their religion. It was perhaps the first formal political petition for religious freedom in the American colonies, and the organizer was thrown in jail and then banished from New Amsterdam. 'In the 1700s, even as religious freedom took hold in America, Catholics in New York were effectively prohibited from practicing their religion, and priests could be arrested. Largely as a result, the first Catholic parish in New York City was not established until the 1780s, St. Peter's on Barclay Street, which still stands just one block north of the World Trade Center site, and one block south of the proposed mosque and community center."[12]


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Con

  • No mosque at ground zero as long as no churches in Saudi Arabia. Newt Gingrich. "there should be no mosque near ground zero so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia."[13]
  • Many hypothetical religious sites internationally would be offensive. The Directors of Red State. "The Ground Zero Mosque Should Be Stopped." August 2nd, 2010: "To grasp exactly why the “Ground Zero mosque” / Cordoba House / Park51 is so objectionable, it is useful to consider a range of hypotheticals, in which a site of an infamous slaughter is appropriated by promoters of the group that perpetrated that slaughter. Ask yourself whether any of the following would be morally acceptable, if not simply rejected by an outraged world: A League of the South monument in Philadelphia, Mississippi. A Turkish-culture office at Deir ez-Zor. A Shinto shrine in Nanjing, China. A Serbian Orthodox Church on the fields outside Srebrenica. Or even, for that matter, a Catholic convent outside Auschwitz. There are undeniably good and laudable things about the cultures and faiths of the Southern United States, Turkey, Japan, Serbia, and European Christianity in general: yet promoting them at the very sites of their historic crimes is rightly repellent. These sites ought to be places of apology and repentance — not promotion."


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Public opinion: Where does local and national opinion stand?

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Pro

  • Ground zero mosque has received support from mainstream groups. Abigail R. Esman. "The Case Against The Ground Zero Mosque." Forbes. July 7th, 2010: "The Center has earned endorsements from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and prominent rabbis, along with funding from the Hunt Alternative Fund, the Carnegie Foundation, the Rockefeller Fund (whose director of grants programs, Taleb Salhab, founded the Coalition for Peace and Justice in Paltestine and is the former director of the Palestine Aid Society of America) and the government of Qatar."


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Con

  • Ground zero mosque has angered and offended many New Yorkers. "Ground Zero mosque plan angers New Yorkers." Telegraph. May 17th, 2010: "because of the proposed mosque's location, just around the corner from the gaping Ground Zero hole, the plan has upset some locals. 'The outrage continues,' says website www.nomosquesatgroundzero.wordpress.com under a close-up of the collapsing Twin Towers. The protest site says the centre will 'cast a rude shadow over Ground Zero.' Others compared the idea to building a German cultural centre at Auschwitz. 'Spitting in the Face of Everyone Murdered on 9/11,' writes Blitz, a self-described 'anti-jihadist newspaper.'"
The Ground Zero Mosque caused a major 8,000 to 10,000 person protest in June of 2010.[14]


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Islamic faith: Is the Islamic faith peaceful, or complicit in 9/11?

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Pro

  • Islam is a religion of peace. The vast majority of Muslims and Muslim clerics see Islam as a religion of peace, and practice its mostly peaceful texts. While there are some quotes that could be construed as violent in the Quran, this is the minority, and there are also a good number of violent passages in the Bible as well, but Christianity and Judaism are not seen as violent religions; neither should Islam been seen this way.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the head of the Cordoba Institute, which is in charge of the project, said in May of 2010: "We are Americans, we are Muslim Americans. Many of us were born in the United States. We have no higher aspirations than to bring up our children in peace and harmony in this country. Freedom of assembly is the right of all Americans."
  • Muslims have peacefully integrated into American society John Esposito. "Do Muslims have equal rights?": "Over the past few decades, the vast majority of American Muslims have become economically and increasingly politically integrated into mainstream American society. Muslims represent men and women spanning the socioeconomic spectrum: professionals (doctors, lawyers, engineers, and educators), corporate executives, small business owners, or blue-collar workers and laborers. In fact, 70 percent have a job (paid or unpaid) compared to 64 percent of Americans overall. ... Muslim women report monthly household incomes more nearly equal to men's, compared with women and men in other faith groups."
  • Assoc. ground zero mosque with terror is like assoc. Christians/KKK. Steve Chapman. "Ban a ground zero mosque?" Chicago Tribune. July 22nd, 2010: "A group called the National Republican Trust Political Action Committee says that 'to celebrate that murder of 3,000 Americans, they want to build a monstrous 13-story mosque at ground zero.' [...] Of course, the 'they' who planned and executed the 9/11 attacks are not the same 'they' who want to erect this structure. Both groups are made up of Muslims. But associating all Muslims with al-Qaida is like equating all Christians with the Ku Klux Klan."


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Con

  • Islam is a religion of violence and conquest. Madeline Brooks. "Why the Ground Zero Mosque Must Be Stopped." American Thinker. May 10, 2010: "Rauf gets even trickier here. He states in What's Right With Islam that a society that follows natural law, such as America, is already practicing Sharia. However, he does not note that his peculiar definition of Sharia acceptance is shared by just about no other Imam. So what prevents him from adjusting his singular idea of Sharia back to the norm of forced conversions, murdering non-Muslims and apostates, amputations of thieves' hands, stoning of adulterous women, execution of homosexuals, etc.? Throughout his writing, Rauf floats an image of a harmonious, pleasant Islam -- nice to everybody. But this is totally disconnected from Islam's actual history of bloody conquest, enslavement, and humiliation of other people -- which he never acknowledges."
  • Radical Islam was cause of 9/11; ground zero mosque is offensive. Former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani said in August of 2010: "I mean, they died there because of Islamic extremist terrorism. They are our enemy, we can say that, the world will not end when we say that. And the reality is it will not and should not insult any decent Muslim because decent Muslims should be as opposed to Islamic extremism as you and I are."[15]
  • Many Muslims supported 9/11; ground zero mosque is offensive William Engle Jr. "No mosque near World Trade Center." Baltimore Sun. August 6th, 2010: "I can clearly remember the video coverage coming in from many Muslim countries at the time. There were thousands of persons demonstrating in the streets of major and even small cities in many Islamic countries when the attack and its results were announced. This outpouring of glee over the success of the terrible massacre of thousands of innocents still lingers in my mind. I cannot forget the images of that day. The destruction of the World Trade Center and the deaths of Americans had the effect to cause Muslims to cheer and rally in the streets sickened me and I was disgusted. I am still disgusted. [...] It is a travesty to imply that there is only a tiny group of Muslims that wish to harm our country and its citizens. There are thousands in the Mideast that believe that we should be attacked. [...] That is my reason for wishing and hoping that the Islamic nations of the world, and those that cheered the ugliness of the perpetrators or those that simply gave homage to them silently in their heart, not be rewarded by allowing the construction of a large Islamic center within a few blocks of ground zero."


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Muslim relations: Would allowing mosque improve US-West relations?

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Pro

  • Ground zero mosque helps bridge gap between West and Muslims. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the head of the Cordoba Institute, which is in charge of the project, insisted that the site would help "bridge the great divide" between Muslims and the rest of America. Catholic priest Kevin Madigan, of St. Peter's Church, which is about a block away, agreed. "I think they need to establish a place such as this for people of goodwill from mainline Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths so we can come together to talk."[16]
  • Opposing ground zero mosque alienates/radicalizes American Muslims "Build that mosque." The Economist. August 5th 2010: "WHAT makes a Muslim in Britain or America wake up and decide that he is no longer a Briton or American but an Islamic “soldier” fighting a holy war against the infidel? Part of it must be pull: the lure of jihadism. Part is presumably push: a feeling that he no longer belongs to the place where he lives. Either way, the results can be lethal. [...] America is plainly safer if its Muslims feel part of “us” and not, like Mohammad Sidique Khan, part of “them”. And that means reminding Americans of the difference—a real one, by the way, not one fabricated for the purposes of political correctness—between Islam, a religion with a billion adherents, and al-Qaeda, a terrorist outfit that claims to speak in Islam’s name but has absolutely no right or mandate to do so. [...] Why would any responsible American politician want to erase that vital distinction? Good question. Ask Sarah Palin, or Newt Gingrich, or the many others who have lately clambered aboard the offensive campaign to stop Cordoba House [...] Every single argument put forward for blocking this project leans in some way on the misconceived notion that all Muslims, and Islam itself, share the responsibility for, or are tainted by, the atrocities of 9/11."
  • Ground zero mosque is a source of moderate Islamic reform. Fareed Zakaria. "Build the Ground Zero Mosque." Newsweek.com. August 6th, 2010: "The debate over whether an Islamic center should be built a few blocks from the World Trade Center has ignored a fundamental point. If there is going to be a reformist movement in Islam, it is going to emerge from places like the proposed institute. We should be encouraging groups like the one behind this project, not demonizing them. Were this mosque being built in a foreign city, chances are that the U.S. government would be funding it."
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War on terror: How does this fit into the war on terror?

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Pro

  • Opposing Cordoba House fosters divisions extremists want New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg said in August of 2010 at the height of the ground zero mosque debate: "Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies' hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that."[17]
  • Opposing ground zero mosque supports message of US at war w/ Islam. George Bush advisor Mark McKinnon: "Usually Republicans are forthright in defending the Constitution. And here we are, reinforcing al Qaeda’s message that we’re at war with Muslims."[18]


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Con

  • Opposing ground zero mosque is part of war on radical Islamism. Newt Gingrich. "No mosque at ground zero." Human Events. July 28th, 2010: "Radical Islamism is more than simply a religious belief. It is a comprehensive political, economic, and religious movement that seeks to impose sharia—Islamic law—upon all aspects of global society. [...] America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization. Sadly, too many of our elites are the willing apologists for those who would destroy them if they could."


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Pro/con sources

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