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Adam Chandler: Prominent Park51 Opponent: Stop Anti-Muslim Bigotry

14 October 2010 Huffington Post 2 Comments Email This Post Email This Post

In a benumbing turn of events, Abe Foxman, chief of the influential Anti-Defamation League and opponent of Park51 — the so-called Ground Zero Mosque — gave a speech this week decrying the rising culture of anti-Islam bigotry. Addressing the Boston chapter of the ADL, Foxman spoke passionately about the need to stem the prevailing tide of intolerance toward American Muslims and to promote interfaith outreach.

“It is evident that this surge [of anti-Muslim sentiment] is taking place with greater force now than at a time when one might have expected it, immediately after 9/11. At that time we were worried about an explosion of hatred against American Muslims, particularly after there were a few serious incidents following the terrorist tragedy. As things turned out, anti-Muslim bigotry did not explode. Yes, there were incidents, and even one is too many, but dire predictions did not materialize.” Foxman said, adding, “But now, nine years later, we are seeing a surge of incidents. I believe it is related to the broader trends in America — the lack of civility, the tendency to see enemies all around and the reinforcement of prejudicial views rather than diverse views.”

This is, of course, two months after Foxman buckled under the influence of the exact same fervor he now denounces. As the story of Park51 gained its diversionary traction, many in favor of the community center looked to the leadership of politicians and NGOs alike to stand behind the project as an emblem of American strength and pluralism. The Anti-Defamation League, which built a sterling reputation as an advocacy group against racism and discrimination, offered this incoherent moral palliative:

“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.”

Foxman’s decision was met with consternation in the blogosphere and elsewhere. Fareed Zakaria, the Newsweek writer and CNN host, returned an award given to him by Foxman and the ADL and made an on-air address about the decision:

“I have to say I was personally and deeply saddened by the ADL’s stand because five years ago, the organization honored me with its Hubert Humphrey Award for First Amendment Freedoms. Given the position that they have taken on a core issue of religious freedom in America, I cannot in good conscience keep that award… I hope this might spur them to see that they have made a mistake and to return to their historic robust defense of freedom of religion in America, something they have subscribed to for decades and which I honor them for.”

In the aftermath of the controversial decision, Foxman did not reconsider his position. An ensuing intolerant mania rode roughshod over the initiative’s mission of interfaith goodwill. With the story of Park51 retreating under a cloud of Tea Party witchcraft and midterm election white noise, Foxman’s crucial reaffirmation of the need for tolerance arrives at the exact moment when it is least needed. In other news, Jackass 3D, the newest installment in the Jackass film franchise, will premiere this Friday in most major cities.


  1. Muslims have every right to put up their Mosque even though their choice of location is rude and insensitive.

    People who think the Muslims who are trying to put up this mosque are rude and insensitive have every right to say so.

    It is illegitimate for left wingers to use this issue as a political excuse to attack people’s deeply held convictions. Muslim theologians in Arabia have condemned the mosque as a Zionist plot to arouse hatred against Islam.

  2. I have lived with the Muslims in India. I know the evil of Islam. It was good but unfortunate that India had to be partitioned because of the Muslim aggressiveness. However India could not tolerate Hydrabad,a Muslim Princely State to exist in the heart of its own territory. It was good riddance.

    We have today a good example of Palestinian territory in the State of Israel.Muslims have always been aggressors. Just look at Europe today. Islam is gaining upper hand through sheer weight of “Migration of Muslims” from other lands. Great Britain,Holland and Germany will be in big trouble if these countries continue with their liberal policy of allowing emigrants from Islamic countries. Gert Wilders of Holland has been warning Europeans of this. I hope they listen to his warnings and I hope we in the U.S. also wise up to his warnings. Pay attention to what Islamic Imams are saying about conquering the whole World for Muhammed !

    Believe me, there is no such thing as moderate Islam !

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