Ground Zero protests and Islam

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, upon capture.
Image via Wikipedia

Editor’s Corner, Yahoo! News Editor

By Richard Evans

I’ve read several blogs and comment pieces over the past week about the proposed Islamic cultural centre in New York. You won’t know of it by that name of course; the right wing media has decided to refer to it as the ‘Ground Zero mosque’ instead. The fact that the proposed centre is not on the site of Ground Zero nor is it a mosque is seemingly irrelevant. After all, why bother letting the facts get in the way of a media-friendly soundbite?

Now, I don’t mean to sound egotistical but I think I can put an end to all the controversy that this proposal has sparked across the pond, and has resulted in thousands of people protesting at the former site of the Twin Towers.

Let’s address the protesters’ problems one by one.

Protestors: We are against the building of a mosque.

Solution: That’s OK, as I’ve already said, it’s not a mosque. The proposed plans are for a centre which would house a swimming pool, basketball court, restaurant and yes, a prayer room. It would be available to everybody of course, what with America being such a bastion of freedom and opportunity, and it would include a memorial to victims of the attack on the Towers.

Protestors: We don’t want the mosque (it’s not a mosque) to be built on the same site that the 9/11 Twin Tower attacks took place on.Solution: The proposed centre would be built a three-minute walk away from Ground Zero, or ‘two blocks’ if you speak American. Instead of being built on the rubble of the Twin Towers, it would be built on what used to be the Burlington Coat Factory. Hardly the same thing.

Protestors: But where will we get our coats from now?

Solution: Don’t worry; Burlington Coat Factory has a website with a ‘store locator’ and you can even order online.

Problems solved right? Afraid not. Because whatever these people say they are protesting about, it’s most definitely not a mosque. Whether they realise it or not they are taking part in an anti-Muslim march. Some of them are using the ‘mosque’ as an excuse to justify their xenophobia and some actually believe that a mosque will be built on the Ground Zero site – either way they’re ignorant. There is a third group of people, who are less ignorant but more sensitive. What this group of people object to is the proximity of the centre to where the 9/11 attacks took place. They say it’s ‘offensively’ close’.

As Charlie Brooker says in his (brilliant) article on the same subject, perhaps the protestors should elect a representative to point out on a map where it stops being offensive. If two blocks isn’t far enough, is the third block less offensive? Perhaps make it five blocks just to be safe. As a result of the New York protests, similar marches have also occurred in places such as Wisconsin and Tennessee, so what’s their excuse? Are mosques in Tennessee too close to Ground Zero too? No it’s simply that they don’t like Muslims. At least they’re not even trying to dress their protests up as something else, I suppose.

Take a look at this video from the protests last week (Warning: video contains strong language). You’ll see a black man walking through the crowd wearing a white hat. (How dare he?) It doesn’t take long for the extremist protesters (not to be mistaken for the normal protestors) to start shouting anti-Muslim chants at him – despite the fact he’s not Muslim.

They’re not off to a very good start, are they? Protesting against something that hasn’t even been proposed and now chanting anti-Muslim taunts to a random black man. They could have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they’d just hired a fact checker.

So who are they, these protestors? Well most of them appear to be Republicans but they officially go under the name of the ‘Tea Party’, a conservative socio-political movement that emerged in the United States last year through a series of locally and nationally coordinated protests in response to several Federal laws.

Chief ignoramus Mark Williams (not the guy who used to be in ‘The Fast Show’) is the spokesperson for the Tea Party. He recently said that the mosque would represent a “monument… for the worship of the terrorists’ monkey-god.” Well, that’s a bit racist, isn’t it? Not only that, but completely incorrect. It is Hindus that worship the monkey god Hanuman. And that’s the spokesperson – imagine what the rest of them have been saying. Again, the need for fact checking in extremist groups is prevalent.

Not only has Sarah Palin called upon peaceful Muslims to reject the building but Newt Gingrich, a hopeful in the race to be the Republican candidate for President said: “The folks who want to build this mosque are radical Islamists.” Again, I would refer Newt to my first solution and point out, it’s not a mosque. Secondly, building a cultural centre with modern facilities doesn’t sound so radical to me. What are they going to do that’s so radical on a basketball court? They’re not going to play lacrosse on it instead are they? The animals!

The 9/11 terrorist attacks are a very sensitive subject in America, and rightly so. Americans weren’t used to being the targets of terrorism. Nor were we when the London bombings took place on 7th July 2005, but to dramatise an event such as the proposal for an Islamic cultural centre so hysterically to justify their own delusional response is the stuff of children.

Now, I don’t mean for this article to descend into an American-bashing rant like so many I’ve seen on the same subject, because many of these people are far-right extremists, and by the very nature of the word ‘extremist’ they do not represent the views of the masses. Just like the English Defence League, whose march on the Bank Holiday weekend ended in violence in Bradford, are not representative of most other English people. Extremists are extremists the world over. They don’t speak for the rational people of this world – they shout over them.

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