Ahmed Rehab: The Untold Story Behind the “Mosque at Ground Zero”
Americans have a right to assemble and worship freely in this country, period. It’s not only a founding principle of this nation, but a main justification for its founding. It is why many White Christians flooded to this country in the first place.
Those opposed to American Muslims practicing their right to build a religious and cultural center on their private property near Ground Zero and in concordance with all laws and regulations reluctantly concede that they have no legal grounds to challenge it. So they argue instead that they should voluntarily forgo their right out of sensitivity for the sacredness of that site.
This is a particularly disingenuous line.
If it is about sensitivity for the sacred, then why aren’t those same people opposing the deli, bar, coffee shop, and offices, or strip club for that matter, that are open for business in that same sacred vicinity?
What is particularly indecent or insensitive about American Muslims building a house of peace, community, and worship that doesn’t apply to the New York Dolls gentlemen club?
Let’s be blunt: it is only indecent and insensitive if you buy into the canard that American Muslims are somehow collectively guilty for 9/11. That is the coded message at the heart of opposition to the center. It is a message we reject on its face.
American Muslims bear no collective guilt. We have nothing to apologize for and everything to be proud of, including our loyalty and hard-earned livelihoods. We are not guest citizens, we are not second-rate citizens; we reject marginalization and require no validation. We are equal citizens living and worshipping in our country.
We are part and parcel of the diversity of America including the diversity of the 3,000 people who died on 9/11. We are part of the diversity of the hundreds who were injured and those who were first respondents to Ground Zero. We are part of the diversity of the millions who grieved and still grieve. When “they” attacked “us,” we were attacked. We are part of the “us” not the “they.”
The whole brouhaha about the “Mosque at Ground Zero” is frankly bogus. It has little to do with sacred ground, or sensitive hearts. It does however have everything to do with the exploitation of the sacred and the sensitive for the furtherance of the sacrilegious and the insensitive: the phenomenon of Muslim-bashing that is ravaging our nation today.
The Cordoba House, now Park51, is an old story. In fact, it was reported on in the New York Times and other mainstream media as far back as two years ago. Why the frenzy now?
That’s not all: Muslims have been worshipping at Mosque Manhattan a few blocks away from Ground Zero, long before Ground Zero was Ground Zero; in fact, since 1970, before the twin towers were the twin towers.
So again, why the sudden frenzy?
Failure to ask “why” is a collective indictment of the media establishment (with a few notable exceptions). Just as the media shirked its responsibilities in questioning the Bush administration on the justifications for the war in Iraq, now too it fails to properly investigate, scrutinize, and report the origins of this controversy. Here is what it failed to tell you:
The”Ground Zero Mosque” fiasco is a fabricated controversy that traces its origins to a couple of long-time anti-Muslim goons from the annals of the hate blogosphere by the names of Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller as a flagship campaign of their newly founded organization, Stop the Islamization of America (SIOA). SIOA is part of an emerging phenomenon of astroturf anti-Muslim organizations that seek to project any public expression of Muslim life in this country as tantamount to a stealth “Islamization of America.” (Except it’s not so stealth since everyone and their mother is talking about it).
It was SIOA that first coined the misnomer “Mosque at Ground Zero,” purposely twisting the reality that the proposed Muslim cultural center near Ground Zero is neither a Mosque nor at Ground Zero. It was the SIOA that sought to redefine Imam Rauf as a radical Imam even though he was heralded by the Bush administration, the FBI and others as a moderate voice of reason. It was the SIOA and its partners that ruthlessly sought to stoke the fears and suspicions of otherwise good, unsuspecting Americans.
The fact that bigots see fit to peddle sensational dribble for a living is not shocking.
The fact that the media is unwilling or incapable of calling it out is disturbing.
The fact that a significant segment of this population stands to be duped by it is disappointing.
Here’s another underreported fact:
The battle raging on now is not one that pits Muslims on one side and non-Muslims on the other as critics would have you believe. It is in fact a showdown between Americans of all backgrounds (Muslim and otherwise) who are fighting for the freedom and dignity of what it means to be American, on one side; and those who are willing to throw those values under the bus in exchange for publicity, notoriety, ratings, or votes, on the other.
It is a struggle between those wishing to affirm our pluralism and our equality as color-blind, race-blind, and faith-blind citizens and those wishing to immerse us into identity politics that make some more equal than others.
The Park51 battle is a microcosm of this generation’s struggle for the soul of America.
That’s the untold “Mosque at Ground Zero” story any red-blooded American journalist who still has respect for the integrity of the profession should be telling.