"No mosque at Ground Zero" was the rallying cry of the day as thousands of angry demonstrators gathered for a rally to oppose the proposed construction of a 13-story mosque just blocks away from the site of the 9/11 attacks. A palpable patriotism and zeal filled the air on Sunday afternoon, June 6th, as Zucotti Park at the corner of Church and Liberty Streets in lower Manhattan was filled to capacity. Rally attendees who came from as far as Chicago and Los Angeles held signs saying, "Ground Zero is a War Memorial - No Mega Mosque here," "You Can Build a Mosque at Ground Zero - When Can We Build a Synagogue in Mecca?", "Pack Your Sharia and Get Out," and "Mayor Bloomberg: This Mosque Has Radical Ties - and you still approve?" Hundreds of American flags blew in the summer breeze as speakers representing every walk of life condemned the notion of a mosque being erected near the site of the former World Trade Center's twin towers.
The Cordoba Initiative, headed by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, is the chief sponsor of the project that is to be called The Cordoba House, a name that refers to the city in Spain which, in the Middle Ages, was a center of Islamic culture and learning. Cordoba was also the seat of an Islamic caliphate in which Jews and Christians suffered under second-class dhimmi status and was the site of a large-scale pogrom, perpetrated by Muslims, in the year 1011.
The proposed mosque will be built at 45 Park Place, which is the site of a four story edifice built in 1857 and was a Burlington Coat retail store until 9/11, when part of the plane's landing gear crashed through the roof. The building, which currently houses a mosque, will be razed to make room for the new structure. The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission could conceivably thwart the intended project if they determine that the building has historic status. Elisabeth de Bourbon, a spokeswoman for the Landmarks Commission said a hearing is scheduled to take place on that very subject. New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has weighed in on the issue and has expressed support for the project.
Imam Rauf insists that the $150 million project is meant to heal the wounds of 9/11. "We've approached the community because we want this to be an example of how we are cooperating with the members of the community, not only to provide services but also to build a discourse on how Muslims and non-Muslims can cooperate together to push back against the voice of extremism," he said.
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, says there are more productive ways to fight Islamic extremism and has questions about the financing. According to reports, the building that occupies the site was purchased last year for $4.85 million in cash by Soho Properties, a real estate company run by Muslims. Imam Rauf, who is also the founder of the American Society for Muslim Advancement was an investor in that transaction.
Dr. Jasser said that with such a financial commitment, there needs to be full disclosure about where the money is coming from. "There should be transparency about who those investors are; whether that money is coming from a domestic source or not, and if it's coming from foreign interests we need to know, because I think that's a liability, and it shows that there is another agenda rather than domestic security and tranquility," he said.
Organized by such organizations as Stop the Islamization of America, Families of the 9/11 Victims, The New York City Firefighters, the Tea Party Activists of Brooklyn and Staten Island among other such groups, the rally goers stood in the scorching heat and listened to the impassioned words of the litany of speakers. "We're not here today to condemn Muslims or Islam," said Pamela Geller, executive director of Stop the Islamization of America, "but we are here today to condemn the kind of mosque that will teach the very same radical ideology that gave birth to the 9/11 attacks," she intoned. "Building a mosque just several blocks away from Ground Zero is an insult and an affront to every single person that was killed on 9/11, to their families, to the first responders and every concerned American who cherishes liberty, democracy and freedom," she continued.
"3000 pairs of eyes are looking down at us today," declared James Lafferty of the Virginia Anti-Sharia Task Force who traveled to New York to speak at the rally. "We must stand together as a free people and tell the world that we will fight the imposition of Sharia law until our last breath. These evil, cowardly bastards who took the lives of those proud Americans on 9/11 will be remembered forever and this mosque which represents the triumph of Islamic fanaticism will not be built if we have anything to say," he said. Mr. Lafferty received thunderous applause when he said, "The good people of the USA must also stand in solid unity with the Israel Defense Forces who are waging a war against Hamas terrorism as was evidenced several days ago when they intercepted a Turkish based flotilla of ships whose aim it was to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. It is the IDF who is on the front lines in the battle against Islamic radicalism and we must support them."
Dr. Babu Suseelan, a Hindu human rights activist, told the crowd,
"We Hindus and Sikhs have a story to tell. Islamists killed 80 million of us since 700 AD and they continue to kill us. They destroyed 3000 glorious temples and built mosques over them. In the last 60 years, Islamists in Pakistan wiped out infidel Hindu and Sikh populations. At one time we represented 25% of the population and now we are less that 1%. Know this: The 9/11 mosque is not a symbol of understanding. It is a symbol of conquest. Imam Rauf is a master of Taqiyya, which is the use of deception to forward the agenda of Islam. What Faisal Shahzad failed to accomplish in Times Square on May 1st with overt jihad, Imam Rauf will succeed with stealth jihad."
"Not here! Not now!" was the resounding theme of the speech delivered by Jay Townsend, the GOP candidate of the US Senate from New York who will be challenging the incumbent Charles Schumer in the upcoming November elections. "The wounds have not healed, Imam," he said. "And we cannot so soon forget. The hatred that spawned this assault on our sensibilities is still taught in too many of your mosques and inscribed into too many of your prayer rugs. Not here, not now, until you have excised the hatred that is inscribed in the school books of your impressionable young. Not here, not now, until you are willing to say that Israel has the right to exist, that the people of Israel have a right to a life absent of fear of a nuclear armed tyrant who denies the Holocaust," he declared.
Robert Spencer, director of Jihad Watch, a program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center, and a co-organizer of the rally referenced a June 5th article in the New York Post that said, "The imam behind a proposed mosque near Ground Zero is a prominent member of a group that helped sponsor the pro-Palestinian activists who clashed violently with Israeli commandos at sea this week. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is a key figure in Malaysian-based Perdana Global Peace Organization, according to its website. Perdana is the single biggest donor ($366,000) so far to the Free Gaza Movement, a key organizer of the six-ship flotilla that tried to break Israel's blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip Monday."
Members of the Human Rights Coalition Against Radical Islam (HRCARI) also made their presence known at the rally through their visual depiction of the heinous murders committed by radical Islamists around the globe. "We are glad that the speakers here today drew a distinction between the Islamic faith and those who commit murder in the name of Allah. We work with Muslims and ex-Muslim dissidents who oppose the pernicious ideology of radical Islam and we are an inclusive alliance of people of all religions and nationalities who cherish freedom," said Dr. Marvin Belsky, a retired internist.
Responding to the remarks of the "Dean" of the White House Press Corps, 89 year old Helen Thomas who told a reporter on May 27th, following a celebration of Jewish Heritage Day at the White House that, "the Jews should get the heck out of Palestine. The Palestinians are occupied by those who stole their land. They should go home to Poland and Germany, America, anywhere." Dr. Belsky said, "Ms. Thomas is a disgrace to the White House Press Corps and she should have her press credentials revoked. She is a virulent anti-Semite that should be roundly condemned."
Other speakers included: Anders Gravers of Stop the Islamization of Europe; Simon Deng, the Sudanese ex-slave and campaigner for human rights for Sudanese Christians; Richard Connerney, a philosophy professor at Pace University; Nonie Darwish, an Egyptian ex-Muslim and author of "Now They Call Me Infidel" and "Cruel and Unusual Punishment;" Nelly Braginskaya, a 9/11 family member who lost her son; Larry Savinkin, father of Vladimir Savinkin, 21 and president of the September 11th Family Group uniting 9/11 families from the Russian-American community; Dan Maloney, New York Director of the Gathering of Eagles organization and congressional candidate in District 4 in New York; Germano Rivera, who recovered remains on 9/11; Nabil Asaad and Dr. Esmat Zaklama, Coptic Christian human rights activists; Pamela Hall of SIOA-NY and a human rights activist; Herb London of the Hudson Institute and Beverly Carlson of the Band of Mothers, among others.
The rally organizers urged those in attendance today to continue their work against the mosque in their localities and they were exhorted to return for yet another rally in opposition to the mosque on September 10th. The rally concluded with the singing of "God Bless America."