Ground Zero Mosque Controversy, As Viewed From the Muslim World

By Patrick Goodenough | August 16, 2010 | 5:22 AM EDT

Pedestrians walk past the 19th century building on Park Place in Manhattan where Muslims plan to build a mosque and cultural center. (AP Photo/Louis Lanzano)

( - Commentators in the Islamic world see “Islamophobia” behind growing opposition in the United States to the planned building of a mosque near the New York City site where al-Qaeda terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center in 2001.
Opponents of the project call it insensitive to Americans, especially to the families of the victims of the 9/11 attacks.
The Islamic cleric behind the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is viewed by supporters as a pioneer in building bridges between Islam and the West, and he says he wants to use the planned center for interfaith outreach as well as a religious and cultural facility.
But critics point to comments he made shortly after 9/11, to the effect that U.S. policies were “an accessory” to the attacks. Rauf has also declined to describe Hamas as a terrorist group.
Excerpts from recent editorials and columns in several media outlets in the Islamic world follow:
Editorial, Arab News, Saudi Arabia, August 16, 2010:
Unfortunately there are people who think mosques are breeding grounds for terrorism. No matter what Muslims do or say and how much they condemn terrorism, they are still all guilty in the eyes of many. The anti-mosque people were probably anti-Muslim before 9/11.

This mosque to the paranoid few will not become an Al-Qaeda hotbed. It can serve as a benevolent haven for New York Muslims who have felt isolated, ostracized and dishonored ever since 9/11.
M.J. Akbar, columnist, Khaleej Times of Dubai, August 16, 2010:
Ignorance is too generous an alibi for [former U.S. House speaker Newt] Gingrich and [former Alaska Gov. Sarah] Palin. They have been candidates for the most powerful job in the world. It is foolish to dismiss them as fools.
A mosque at Ground Zero will interfere with their politics, in which the Muslim must be etched as an irredeemable zealot with manic eyes and foaming mouth; the mosque must be distorted into a fountainhead of hatred; and every Muslim be blamed for the sins of the few bigots and terrorists who perpetrated 9/11. A range of political forces has a vested interest in the myth of the mad Muslim as the last evil standing between civilization and chaos.
Editorial, Dawn News, Karachi, Pakistan, August 16, 2010:
Unfortunately, some American politicians appear to have calculated that Islamophobia is a potent vote-getter. But that is as dangerous as it is self-defeating. Al Qaeda and militant Islamists could probably not dream of a better propaganda opportunity: see, they will say, America really is against Islam. The furor over the mosque isn’t winning hearts and minds for America, it is poisoning them.
Editorial, The Peninsula, Qatar, August 16, 2010:
Opponents of the Islamic Center are opponents of religious harmony and wanted to perpetuate a harmful stereotype against Islam.
Aijaz Zaka Syed, opinion editor of the UAE daily Khaleej Times, writing in Egypt’s Al Ahram Weekly:
The entire U.S. media and rightwing brigade are acting as if Muslims have invaded America and are building a monument to Osama Bin Laden at the site where the World Trade Center once stood.

Muslims must use this opportunity to clear the cobwebs clouding the image of their faith in the minds of Americans. They have an opportunity to remind and explain to Americans, and the world, that the destruction that struck the Twin Towers does not represent Islam, but peace, compassion and equality do.
In the Manhattan mosque initiative, America and Muslims have an opportunity to repair their long-frayed relations and build bridges for a shared future. The wounds inflicted by the US wars and policies in the Muslim world are deep, but gestures like these could make them less painful.
Hussein Shobokshi, columnist, pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat, August 10, 2010:
The Zionist-Christian extremist discourse is completely detached from the principles on which the United States was based, both in principle and in theory. Only ideas that are most beneficial for all survive, and extremism has no room regardless of its location, nationality or shape.
Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow