ADL and NYC Islamic Center: What about the Pentagon?

The debate over the Islamic Center being planned for Lower Manhattan is unfortunately heating up. Islamophobes from neoconservative corners of the web, right wing politicians and Fox News have continued to drive a debate that should have died long ago with the unequivocal support of the local New York City community board (neighborhood council), and Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s assertion that no one would raise objections if it was a church or a synagogue, and that “Muslims have a right to do it, too.”

But I was shocked that an organization dedicated to combating bigotry – Abraham Foxman’s Anti-Defamation League (ADL) – chimed in to ask that the location of the Islamic center, which will house a mosque, be moved. Well, maybe not shocked, but surprised that the ADL – which claims that it fights “all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all” – would lay bare its myopic right-wing focus by publicly taking such a stand.

The ADL even admitted that much of the opposition to the Islamic center is based on bigotry and condemned those views! As Alex Pareene wryly quipped on Salon’s War Room blog: “Hah, I don’t think you guys know what “categorically reject” and “condemn” mean! For future reference: ‘condemn’ does not mean ‘join.'” If you can’t beat ’em, I guess.

I have little to add, as Jim, cribbing Paul Krugman’s argument, already captured nicely the hypocrisy of an organization ostensibly aimed at curbing defamation lending a de facto endorsement of a defamatory view of Muslims – and the implications that this has for other minority groups, like, say, for instance, Jews (the ADL’s original mandate, when it was formed nearly 100 years ago, was exclusively for this demographic). But there are two points I wanted to make.

The first is to do a little thought experiment. The proposed Islamic center is slated to be built two Manhattan blocks from Ground Zero. Now, the Pentagon, which, you’ll remember, was also attacked by radical Muslims on 9/11, is a mere stone’s throw away from Arlington National Cemetery. Say, hypothetically, of course, that family members of the 125 people who perished in the Pentagon that day raised objections to Muslim soldiers from U.S. armed forces being buried at the historic cemetery on Robert E. Lee’s old Arlington plantation. Or it could be the families of the 59 people who were aboard American flight 77 when it hit the Defense Department headquarters. What if it brought those family members pain to see the Islamic symbol – a star and crescent moon – atop the gravestones of these soldiers?

Would Sarah Palin, Rick Lazio, Newt Gingrich and their new friend, Abe Foxman, be asking that these Muslim soldiers not be buried there, or perhaps that their headstones not bear the insignia of their faith because it causes pain that the attackers shared their faith (albeit a twisted and delusional version of it)?

Furthermore, what if the families of Christian, Jewish and atheist soldiers objected that their kids were killed by Muslims in Muslim lands (invaded by the U.S., of course) and were pained by the fact that the next grave over bears Islamic symbols? Would right-wing anti-Islam politicians and figures like Foxman be asking that Muslims be barred from burial in Arlington? Now, after all, we’re talking a matter of feet, not even a stone’s throw, let alone two city blocks.

Oh, and about those city blocks: I fell in love with New York about seven years ago, spending spells of time there and visiting frequently. Last summer, I moved to Manhattan. I’m still exploring the city and would not yet consider myself a New Yorker. But even I understand that building something in New York two blocks away from a particular site is not building on top of said site. Tourists always comment that everything in Manhattan is right on top of everything else. For people living there, I’ve found, two blocks away is two blocks away. Consider, for example, that two blocks north of Columbia University (in Morningside Heights) is Harlem, as is two blocks East.

Conservative blogger Charles Johnson picks up on this distinction, including a nifty map (scroll down to updates) and noting that the center would “[have] no view of the area; there are two very big buildings in between the proposed community center and Ground Zero.”

In his “NYC” column in the New York Times last week, Clyde Haberman also took issue with the language used by opponents of the Islamic center to describe its location:

The center is routinely referred to by some opponents as the “mosque at ground zero.” […] There’s that “at.” For a two-letter word, it packs quite a wallop. It has been tossed around in a manner both cavalier and disingenuous, with an intention by some to inflame passions. Nobody, regardless of political leanings, would tolerate a mosque at ground zero. “Near” is not the same, as anyone who paid attention back in the fourth grade should know.

(The line about prepositions is valid, but I’m not quite sure why “nobody would tolerate a mosque at ground zero.” What if a Muslim developer bought the lot? I’ll just assume that Haberman sees Ground Zero as some sort of national symbol and therefore unfit for any sort of religious site.)

Joshua Holland, at Alternet, takes up the same issue with stronger language (less of a grammar lesson) and points to the absurdity of a New York-based organization like the ADL being unable to grasp this New York fact of life:

Only brain-dead out-of-towners could possibly confuse a building two whole blocks away from Ground Zero as one constructed on the 9/11 site. People who have been to New York understand just how small Manhattan is.

Holland, a native New Yorker raised just north of the former World Trade Towers, notes that he, too, lost friends on 9/11, and that what pains him is “the casual, socially acceptable and utterly despicable racism against Muslims that those attacks unleashed in the United States.”

But these assaults on Islam as a faith are exactly what the ADL is now in the business of peddling. When you condemn bigots, then join them, then they write glowing endorsements of your position (as Jim has Gingrich doing), what does that make you?

Author: Ali Gharib

Visit for the latest news analysis and commentary from Ali Gharib and Inter Press News Service's Washington bureau chief Jim Lobe.

20 thoughts on “ADL and NYC Islamic Center: What about the Pentagon?”

  1. There is no such thing as a real New Yorker.

    Most New Yorkers arrive from elsewhere and immediately start trying to imitate what they think all the other people who are "real New Yorkers" are doing.

    It's a little like a group of chameleons giving a costume party. They all come as….


  2. California is much worse.

    It is a costume party trying to generate a collection of chameleons.

  3. At any rate, when are the Neo-Cons going to sanctify "Ground Zero" as Holy Land in the US crusade against Islam?

    Surely they should also Arabic numerals within a radius of at least a mile as well.

  4. "Don't equate a church or a synagogue with a mosque in this era of muslim violence."

    True enough–such an equation defames Islam:

    "O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it — for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen."

    Mark Twain

  5. The ADL has a history of prejudice and hypocrisy. Just look at how it has helped Turkey deny the Armenian genocide and helped Turkey defeat Armenian genocide resolutions in the U.S. Congress. The ADL has still not unambiguously acknowledged the Armenian genocide.

    Too bad that Antiwar never brings this up. I think Antiwar has its own agenda, and that in the final analysis it is not much different from the ADL. You may find that hard to believe, but I think it is true.
    Antiwar also seems to think that because Israel is wrong, Turkey must be right. What illogic!
    For example, when Sibel Edmonds testified on behalf of Armenian American David Krikorian against pro-Turkish Cong. Jean Schimdt, Antiwar hardly covered the news about it. Beware Antiwar.

  6. The ADL, AIPAC and the whole Zionist movement demonstrate that being fawned over and having your ass constantly kissed can turn an erstwhile downtrodden victim into an obnoxious bully.

  7. Muslims should be stopped from:
    building / having any gathering places, such as mosques because where-ever muslims in America gather, they plot terrorism.
    studying science, math etc. because they make weapons of mass destructions.
    owning any sharp objects, such as kitchen knife, fork, spoon because they kill with sharp objects.
    having clothes because they can gag and kill people in America.
    preaching Islam in America
    having any rights
    living in America
    talking because when they talk, they incite terror

  8. This story is another proof that Foxman and ADL's upper zionist management are responsible for 9-11.

  9. The ADL is the most racist group that claim to fight racism.No mater how far is the center from the world trade center location be it 10 miles ,100 miles or a 1000 mile ,they would stil oppose it .They trive on farthering the hostilities between Muslims and the rest of the USA population.

  10. Freedom of religion people. People are free to place their faith in whatever they want. I don’t think religion should be blamed in any case; it’s the people who commit the action trying to justify it with religion. Each person interprets ideas differently. The person should be blamed and not the justification. They made the choice.

  11. Typical left-wing drivel–pro-terrorist p.c. nonsense–characterizing all opposition to this obscene proposal as "right wing", "neoconservative", and other derogatory terms.

    Every national poll has shown that a clear majority of Americans think the placement of a huge mosque on the site where over 3000 Americans were brutally murdered by Islamic fanatics is an insulting and very bad idea. Any one with a grain of common sense can understand the feelings of not just New Yorkers, but of Americans in general who are terribly offended by the idea of "commemorating" the worst foreign attack ever on U.S. soil with a mosque.
    And anyone who thinks that this plan isn't a thingly disguised triumphal memorial to Islamic jihad doesn't know any history. Do you know where the name "Cordoba" for the center came from? It's what the Muslims called the mosque they builit on the ruins of Spain's largest church, once they had conquered that country and vanquished Christianity.

    But the inane but fashionably pro-Islamist mindset demonstrated by this article's author also shows how dangerous this stupid thinking is. It plays right into the hands of those who want to KILL AMERICANS and other non-Muslims–read the statements of innumerable Islamic "leaders" around the world!.
    Opposition to this extremely offenive mosque idea has nothing whatsoever to do with bigotry, religious freedeom or "Islamophobia"–buzzwords thrown around by those trying to use American tolerance and good will for their malignant goals of triumphal Islam and widespread Sharia law.
    The author of this article is a caricature of politically correct stupidity, and exemplifies why more and more Americans are turning away from the politically correct but fundamentally dishonest narrative from the Left.

  12. What in the hell does "freedom of religion" have to do with the very appropriate (and mainstream) opposition to this offensive proposal, highly insulting to all those murdered on 9/11? There are over 100 mosqued in NYC! So "freedom of religion" is another 1 of these hot button issues pushed by those who support the jihadists and their well-funded backers, who attempt to play on noble American traditions and tolerance by lies and distortions such as this one.

    Those who are genuinely concerned about "freedom of religion" should instead turn their attention to the vast world of Islamic intolerance and the theocracies they have created: virtually none of the major Muslim countries have ANY churches or synagogues! That's where your concerns about "religious freedom" should be directed.

    Everything else is simply p.c. nonsense.

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