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August 4th, 2010
09:02 AM ET

Jewish group won't fight ground zero mosque, leader says

The Anti-Defamation League will not fight the building of a controversial Islamic center and mosque planned near the site of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York, the group's leader told CNN Wednesday.

The Jewish organization sparked debate last week by opposing what's come to be known as the "ground zero mosque" on the grounds that the controversy over it was "counterproductive to the healing process."

But following a ruling Tuesday that clears the way for the mosque to be built, "we're not continuing to fight it. We raised an issue ... but once the community board ruled, we move on," Abraham Foxman told CNN's "American Morning."

He was speaking a day after New York City's Landmarks Preservation Commission eliminated a hurdle to the construction of the Islamic center two blocks north of the site of the attacks on the World Trade Center.

The commission denied landmark status for a building already at the site, moving the community center and mosque a step closer to reality. The existing building is owned by the Cordoba Initiative, a Muslim outreach group, and already serves as a site where prayer services are held.

The group wants to demolish the existing structure and build a "$100 million, 13-story community center with Islamic, interfaith and secular programming, similar to the 92nd Street Y," the Cordoba Initiative website says, referring to the cultural institution on the upper east side of Manhattan.

The project calls for a mosque, a performing arts center, gym, swimming pool and other public spaces.

The ADL, which exists to fight discrimination, especially anti-Semitism, said last week that building the mosque at the site "will cause some victims more pain - unnecessarily - and that is not right."

At the same time, its backers had "every right to build at this site," the organization said. "The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong."

On Wednesday, Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, compared the controversy to the battle over building a convent near the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz.

"We were opposed to it," Foxman said of the Carmelite order's plans in the 1980s. "Many called us bigots, saying we were anti-Catholic, anti-Vatican, anti-Christian. So finally Pope John Paul II stood up and he said, 'You know what? They're right.' And he moved the convent a mile outside of Auschwitz."

He suggested he would like a similar solution in New York.

"We're not challenging rights. We're asking, is this the right thing to do?" he said Wednesday.

He denied that that stance made him a bigot, although he said some opponents of the mosque were indeed prejudiced.

"We're not going to fight it," he said. "We're going to be there to fight bigotry."

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • Houses of worship • Islam • Judaism • Mosque • New York • United States

soundoff (74 Responses)
  1. Acmed Shams

    why isnt thsi going up as a multicultural center instead, either way, We should be wary of overt islamophobia, and be careful to single out extremists, such as the Taliban.
    You absolutely MUST see this:

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9aw6Cnw0hY&w=640&h=390]

    August 12, 2010 at 6:35 pm |
  2. max power

    Just bury a bunch of dead pigs where they want to build the mosque they won't use it after that i bet.

    August 7, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
  3. Susan

    Oh yes, I forgot to mention the anti-semite Mabruk too. He's also either a true devotee, an Imam, or Imam wanna-be. LOL

    August 6, 2010 at 3:01 pm |
  4. Susan

    HANOMAN is either an Imam or a true Muslim... referring to Americans as "these people" and anyone who disagrees as "Islamophobes". Isn't that right HANOMAN? Are you a "good" Muslim? LOL! At least "real mUslim" proclaims he's a real Muslim through his name. How about HANOMAN?
    Also love the way "real mUslim" jumps down Syed's throat, accusing him that he's not a real Muslim. You see how the moderate voices get suppressed so quickly? All Syed said was that it's more nuanced than that...and look at the reply from real mUslim! LOL Next thing we know, real mUslim's going to come after everyone else on this blog!!

    And to all the other believers here: Can we also build a synagogue, a church, a couple temples built around the site too? Wouldn't that be nice? A representation of all the religions and how tolerant they all are toward each other... Awwwwe, wouldn't that be nice? I am little sheep waiting to be led to the "right" path... who will teach me? who will guide me? who will save me? LOL!

    August 6, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
  5. Jordan Litwin

    How unfortunate that coming on 9 years after 9/11, the victim's families still have yet to grasp that a bunch of psychos trained in Afghanistan do not actually represent Islam. Victims of hand gun violence have tried to prevent further incidents like that. Mothers who lost children from drunk driving incidents started MADD to prevent the same outcome for other children. Yet the families of 9/11 victims opposing this building are more concerned with their grieving process 9 years later than on preventing another 9/11. A building like this is a step in the right direction. It should have been their idea. They should be the main proponents. Instead they join the likes of bigots such as Pat Robertson. (And another shame in all of this is the ADL's absurd position on the matter, which is nothing by the definition of hypocrisy.)

    August 5, 2010 at 3:25 pm |
  6. Big Bob

    Geez Louise! You guys must be on the Saudi's payroll!

    August 5, 2010 at 1:31 pm |
  7. Big Bob

    STILL waiting? It's been over an hour!

    August 5, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
  8. Zar

    First I want to just say that I'm a Muslim, and proud to be one. Originally born in Pakistan and was naturalized at the age of ten. I grew up most of my life in the U.S. and in fact joined the U.S. Army for 8yrs. My last commander was a Jew. He had much respect for me as I did for him no just because of my abilities but as a person in general. He's now a three star General and I still have contact with him off and on. I had a wonderful career in the military and would do it all over again! I'm proud that I could serve honorably in the military. I’m a patriot and proudly display it!
    As far as trust is concern, I’ve even had a very high level security clearance, when I got out of the military I became a DOD consultant to one of the intelligence agencies as well as being a consultant to the DHS. I've had a very respectable life and paid my taxes and obeyed the laws of the land. I practiced Islam without any hindrance while in the military and out. I’ve NEVER been discriminated EVER!
    Not ALL Muslims are terrorists! Majority are good citizens. Just because a Mosque & cultural center is being built doesn't mean that there will be fanatics there. It's open to all who want to learn about Islam as well as practice their religion.
    I personally know of a few Muslims who died in the 9/11 attacks. Yes, I condemn the attacks whole heartedly. The bottom line is not to equate terrorism to all Muslims. If you ACTUALLY read the Holy Quran you'll understand that it's a religion of based upon peace that some people have twisted for their own causes. Educate yourself before assuming ALL Muslims are terrorist!
    Just my two cents…

    August 5, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
  9. das0522

    Wonder how they felt about the Carmelite convent near Auschwitz

    August 5, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
  10. Big Bob

    I can't believe all of the relativists here. Islams borders are bloody throughout the world! They have been more Imperialist throughout history than any other culture, considering it started in Mecca, and by the sword and demography has spread throughout most of the world. I admire your tolerance, but open your eyes. It's in the paper and on TV everyday. They are not unrelated events. Mid east, far east, Europe, Africa and Australia. No culture has more of a sense of entitlement. Wherever they go, they expect to be accomadated, or else. Is our constitution also our suicide pact? When will it come to a point that we will allow ourselves to defend our culture against what has been proven to be a foreign, hostile one?

    August 5, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
  11. Harry

    I visited El Acsa in Jerusalem, which was buildup on top former church build by Cruceadors, on top the 2'nd temple, and so on.
    In Spain grand Churches where build as a thanks to God, who help with the victory. The Victory is not complete with out a land mark. SO WHAT IS NEW???.
    Outside El Acsa (at about 300 FT) is a pool with water for the people entering the Mosque to wash their feet. How convenient is to have the 9-11 Monument with the Reflection Pool just out side the new Mosque. The believers will have a place to wash their feet. Would n' you like this.
    Remember the Believers are called 5 times a day to prayer. This will be the sound heard by the relative and friends of those
    coming to pray or pay respect, too. There will be many more ramifications to this place if God Forbid will come to be build.
    Just think several steps ahead, out of the box, and you are not going to see a nice picture. You are not dealing with an inclusive way of thinking, but very rigid and not forgiving. Just offer one finger and you will be sallowed entirely.

    August 5, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
  12. Ray

    you can't e both a Muslim and a American. The Koran states that if you are a Muslim you hate the infidels. Please it's as simple as that. What do you think they would say if we wanted to build a church in Mecca next to their temple

    August 5, 2010 at 11:12 am |
    • Luke

      Ray – I really hate that dumb argument. Building a church there isn't possible because the country is not a democracy, but rather a theocracy/monarchy. It's a mute point and erroneous.

      August 5, 2010 at 12:37 pm |
    • Luke

      awesome. Moot. Not Mute.

      August 5, 2010 at 12:37 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.