Building While Muslim.

Ground Zero.jpg

Alex Pareene on the conservative hysteria over the proposed Islamic Center near Ground Zero, which has now become a gubernatorial campaign issue:

If we don't give in to the most reactionary anti-Muslim forces in the nation, the terrorists who seek to convince Muslim youths that we're a reactionary, anti-Muslim nation will have won.

Pareene is being sarcastic, but the opposite point is true -- a Muslim place of worship near Ground Zero would be proof that al-Qaeda hasn't succeeded in turning America's fight against terrorism into a war against Islam. Of course, if you believe we should be at war with Islam, then you're not going to make a distinction between your average Muslim and your average terrorist. By the numbers of course, it's al-Qaeda that is at war with Islam.

The latest attempt to prevent the center from being built involves calls to landmark the building so it can't be changed. Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio argued yesterday that this ostensibly needs to happen because the building is "a place of deep historical significance" due to its proximity to Ground Zero. But by implying that the center will be financed by extremists without any actual evidence, he's already let the cat out of the bag -- he's opposing the center because of the religious persuasion of the builders, even though he insists that's not the case. Certainly those protesting have been less demure. To his credit, NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg has refused to play along. A recent poll shows that New Yorkers as a whole are opposed, although tellingly, the vast majority of people in Manhattan, where the center will be built, support its construction.

Meanwhile, it's not just a local issue anymore, as Rep. Peter King echoed Lazio's call for an investigation:

"It's a house of worship, but we are at war with al-Qaida," King told the AP. "I think the 9/11 families have a right to know where the funding comes from; I think there are significant questions."

Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf who has harshly criticized U.S. policy in the past (something that in and of itself is not illegal, nor does it imply ties
to terrorism) and whose Cordoba Initiative organization is building the center, is mostly known as the proponent of an Americanized version of Islam. To the extent that there's really any controversy over the center at all, it's only because the proposal is to build the center near Ground Zero. If that weren't the case, no one at this level would be calling for an investigation. Which implies just how frivolous and baseless these accusations are.

In any case, if you're wondering what turned Lazio on to the search for a Muslim Willie Horton, it might be because his war chest is reportedly not looking too full, and he is potentially facing a Tea Party primary challenger, Carl Paladino, who is apparently willing to pour his own personal fortune into the contest. The deadline for him to get on the ballot is Thursday.

Things could get interesting if Paladino wins, what with those e-mails he likes sending around.

(Flickr/Johnnie Utah)

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