July 30th, 2010
05:25 PM ET

Anti-Defamation League's opposition to ground zero mosque sparks debate

The Anti-Defamation League this week announced its opposition to a proposed mosque and community center at Ground Zero - a decision that is already provoking anger. On Friday, the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) asked the ADL to retract its Wednesday statement:

"It is shocking that a group claiming to seek 'justice and fair treatment for all' would side with those engaged in one of the most egregious Islamophobic smear campaigns in recent memory," said CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad. "We ask the ADL to reconsider and retract this ill-considered and divisive statement. With its shameful statement, the ADL is exploiting and fueling the rising level of anti-Islam sentiment in our society."

A proposal to build a mosque near the site of Ground Zero, where the World Trade Center's twin towers were destroyed by Islamist hijackers on September 11, 2001, has triggered debates for the past two months.

Critics said building a mosque near Ground Zero would insult the victims of 9/11.

Supporters, like CNN Belief Blog contributor Stephen Prothero, said accepting the mosque would demonstrate religious tolerance and send a message that the U.S. is not at war with Islam.

Here's Anti-Defamation League's rationale:

The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process. Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.

At the same time, the ADL condemned those who opposed the proposed mosque out of religious bigotry:

Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right.

Plum Line blogger Greg Sargent criticized the decision:

That's just amazing. This is basically a concession that some of the opposition to the mosque is grounded in bigotry, and that those arguing that the mosque builders harbor ill intent are misguided. Yet ADL is opposing the construction of the mosque anyway, on the grounds that it will cause 9/11 victims unnecessary "pain...

On this one, you're either with the bigots or you're against them. And ADL has in effect sided with them.

- CNN Writer

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • Christianity • Ethics • Foreign policy • Interfaith issues • Islam • Uncategorized

soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. David Johnson

    The Republicans are trying their hardest, to make the Muslims a campaign issue. They are racist. Look at Arizona and what the Republicans are doing to the Hispanics there. Rand Paul, the Tea Party Grand Wizard, would allow private business to refuse service to non-whites.

    Don't fall for this. Register to vote, and vote these Repubican bigots out of office.

    July 31, 2010 at 11:34 am |
    • Omar

      I don't think turning it into a political issue, and a partisan one at that, is helpful. Anyone who is incompetent should be voted out of office, and those that get elected should establish term limits immediately so they themselves do not become incompetent. What someone says about the Cordoba Center should not be a litmus test of whether they should remain in office, as it's possible to pander to voters no matter which side you take. Throw out anyone who's incompetent or a bigot.

      Of course, this means New Yorkers like me have some serious house cleaning to do...

      July 31, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
    • Omar

      The Republicans may have been the ones that made it a political issue, but both sides are using their stance on the matter to pander to voters, even though there are much more pressing issues to be dealt with. In my own state, that means passing a budget, which was due all the way back in April. I don't need those fools in Albany talking about anything else right now. I hope they're all thrown out, Democrats and Republicans alike.

      July 31, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
  2. Moe

    The ADL is totally wrong for its statement. They claim it will cause pain to the victims. Contrary to popular belief, there were more than 19 Muslims who died in the towers. More than a 100 victims were Muslims, some worked as nurses, waiters, janitors, bankers and so forth. Don't they have a say? If you take the most conservative estimate of Fox News which on its website has 30 Muslim names that died in the towers. Other liberal estimates say more than 100. So why all this fuss, please cherish your ideals of religious freedom because there will come a day when they will take yours but in order to prevent that you must take a stand for all religions. And why all this comparison to Saudi Arabia, Is Saudi Arabia the worlds model for religious freedom?

    July 31, 2010 at 10:18 am |
    • John J

      Moe, they are comparing us to Saudi Arabia to show exactly how lenient and understanding the vast majority of Americans are. In Saudi Arabia, any religion other than Islam is illegal, therefore one would never see any Christian church or Pagan alter or (never in eternity) Jewish synagogue.

      Also, there appears to be a much larger number of non-Muslims who perished on September 11 than Muslims. Consider too, that the attack was purpetrated with the intent to kill non-Muslims. That would be why the thoughts of those other than Muslims are going to (or perhaps ought to) carry more weight.

      July 31, 2010 at 10:45 am |
    • Nonimus

      Isn't there also some question as to whether or not the funding is coming from Saudi Arabia? Or, am I confused?

      July 31, 2010 at 11:06 am |
  3. Aeric

    It is sad that ADL can only support the causes that benefit their side of a story. Again and again they are showing that they don't treat other groups the same way they treat their own. Their thinking is becoming more and more tribal. This opposition to the ground zero mosque and their lack of recognition of Armenian genocide clearly shows their agenda.

    July 31, 2010 at 10:13 am |
  4. Joshua gruber

    I was in the North tower when it was struck on September 11, 2001. I find the objections of a few hurt and confused people to other Americans building a house of worship in our free country to be disgusting. These objections, which clearly come exclusively from a place of fear, need to be called out as unreasonable and un-American.

    July 31, 2010 at 9:42 am |
    • Omar

      Keep in mind that many of the objections are not coming from genuinely hurt and confused Americans. Most of the objections are coming from not people who were in New York City that day, or lost someone close, but from people who merely watched what happened on TV from thousands of miles away. Sure, those people were shocked when it happened, and they have every right to be angry at the terrorists that perpetrated the attack, as it was an attack on America at large, but they're not suffering because of the attacks. Many of the out-of-state-non-suffering opponents who will eventually visit New York will probably not even notice the Cordoba Center, just the same as they don't notice 90% of the other buildings they walk past, and there are many of the same that will simply never take the trip. How is it they feel they have any right to speak for those who did suffer, those who were most directly affected? Those people are more than capable of speaking for themselves, as you did.

      July 31, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
  5. Reality


    "The faith of the vast majority of believers (and non-believers) depends upon where they were born and when."- is actually a quote from John Hick.

    Professor John Harwood Hick (born Yorkshire, England, 1922)[1] is a philosopher of religion and theologian. In philosophical theology, he has made contributions in the areas of theodicy, eschatology, and Christology, and in the philosophy of religion he has contributed to the areas of epistemology of religion and religious pluralism.

    Professor Somerville's thoughts about the convergence of the major religions can be found at theosophical.org/publications/questmagazine/mayjune2000/exclusivism/index.php and theosophical.org/publications/questmagazine/julyaugust2000/somerville/index.php


    July 31, 2010 at 9:03 am |
    • Bleheheh

      ...I still think you're grossly misconstruing what Somerville (and Hick for that matter) were trying to accomplish by cherry-picking quotes to a hard form of secularism...

      why can't organized religions work well for some and not for others?

      July 31, 2010 at 10:21 am |
    • Bleheheh

      *cherry-picking quotes to support*

      July 31, 2010 at 10:21 am |
    • Reality


      Obviously, you did not read the references noted. When you do, get back to us.

      July 31, 2010 at 3:41 pm |
    • Bleheheh

      pluralism does not equal secularism.

      August 1, 2010 at 1:43 pm |
  6. Samantha

    ADL has become a hate group (to demonize those deemed as enemies by Israel)

    July 31, 2010 at 5:16 am |
    • David Johnson


      I agree. I have not one anti-semetic bone in my body, but the Muslims haven't done anything to the Jews in this country. I don't want the ADL or the Republicans to cause problems.

      July 31, 2010 at 11:44 am |
  7. Exile

    9/11 was an attack that most Americans experienced in a way unlike any other. It remains an open wound, especially but not only for those who lost friends and loved ones. As such, Ground Zero is a place of mourning, much like Auschwitz is, just more recent. The attack was carried out in the name of Islam. Even if most Muslims do not share the aims or feelings of the perpetrators of this crime, they do share a religion and its basic tenets. I believe that they owe us sensitivity for our grief. That's basically what IDL's statement pointed out.

    A few years ago pope John Paul II called off the building of a convent near the entrance to Auschwitz, out of sensitivity to the grief of Jews who lost an entire world there. Thus he paved a way for reconciliation. It would be good for the Muslim leaders to follow his example. Two blocks away .... it's just too close... there are many other places... even if Islam can be trusted....

    July 31, 2010 at 3:14 am |
    • Daniel

      Auschwitz is not in Lower Manhattan.

      The development of the Ground Zero site is tacky enough, but it will move forward with office buildings, and a memorial and museum. That was settled by the city planning commission years ago.

      The mosque is TWO BLOCKS away. That is hardly "at" the site of the former World Trade Center. It's two Manhattan blocks away. There are many, many buildings within two blocks of the site. Why should a Muslim community center not be there as well?

      July 31, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
  8. Maria

    I don't understand why these muslims pushes for building that freaking mosque in that particular and only that one place ? I mean, this makes so many people angry (regardless of whomever thinks whatever!). If there is absolutely no reason behind this planned location for this mosque, which I'm willing to confidently bet my life on it there is (again, regardless of whomever thinks whatever, I have my strong reasons and experience with muslims to know them better), then why don't they just build it somewhere else?!? Isn't their insistance on having it build there a reason enough to make one wonder? Why is it so obviously important for them to have it their way regardless of whatever and whomever? I don't trust them. Europe is waking up and so will be soon America.

    July 31, 2010 at 1:56 am |
  9. Omar

    You all who don't live in New York City should mind your own business. The fuss over the Cordoba Center, which is neither a mosque nor being built at ground zero, is uncalled for. This is a local issue, not a national one, so please respectfully stay out.

    July 31, 2010 at 1:04 am |
    • Maria

      Oh yeah? At 9/11 this was NOT a local matter, sooo, Omar, zip up !

      July 31, 2010 at 1:43 am |
    • Omar

      No, but 9/11 was 9 years ago. This is about a building being built today. Unless you live in New York City, it isn't any of your business what's built where, and using 9/11 as a reason to get involved and oppose it says more about you than it does anyone else.

      July 31, 2010 at 12:12 pm |
  10. Alistair

    The ADL needs to mind their own business.

    July 30, 2010 at 10:30 pm |
    • David Johnson


      I agree. Quite frankly, the Jews have caused the U.S. tons of trouble in the Middle East. I am not surprised the ADL would try to stir up problems between the Muslims and the Jews in this country.

      July 31, 2010 at 11:38 am |
    • Susan One

      David Johnson, the ADL is wrong on this issue but there is no need to talk about "The Jews" as if any one organization represented the diverse communities and individual Jewish people. Generalizations like that are unhelpful. I will assume the ADL has good intentions and simply needs to be educated on what this mosque will really means for New Yorkers like myself and the victims ... many of whom were Muslim. (People forget.)

      July 31, 2010 at 5:48 pm |
  11. bill

    I wish the Jewish faithful and The Muslim faithful keep their hate in the middle east. It all started there any way.

    July 30, 2010 at 9:23 pm |
  12. I aM

    Why don't you put effort to let Arab Saudi Govt to allow non-moslem entering Mekkah and Medinah....we do not talk about building something there....

    July 30, 2010 at 8:37 pm |
  13. Luke

    Maybe white American men shouldn't be allowed to own houses in Oklahoma City?

    July 30, 2010 at 8:14 pm |
    • Nonimus

      I'm not following this one... some reference to McVeigh I'm guessing.

      July 31, 2010 at 10:51 am |
  14. Roberto

    Religious tolerance is an oxymoron. All religions believe that they are God's chosen, and most exclude those whose beliefs are not closely in line with theirs. It's the ultimate and most widespread form of bigotry on Earth.
    Unfortunately, most human beings are quivering idiots who live in fear, and require the "guidance" of joyless, impotent, twisted old men to conduct their hopeless lives. But since humanity is not likely to get much smarter in the near future, it makes perfect sense to exterminate any religious rival who threatens you. Live and let die.

    July 30, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
    • Bleheheh

      Hardly...most religions through history don't even have a "High God" type figure.

      July 30, 2010 at 9:41 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Christopher Hitchens once said, "Religion poisons everything". I have found nothing to contradict this statement.

      July 31, 2010 at 11:48 am |
  15. sellman

    I've read the koran- they make it quite clear- convert or die, the world will be Muslim. Treating Islam like any other religion is a huge mistake- it should be isolated. There is a reason you don't see Christian churchers in Saudia Arabia and most other majority Muslim countries- it's illegal. Political correctness is our doom.

    July 30, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
    • snakedart

      I wholly agree. In order to combat the tyranny of those who preach religious intolerance in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, we need to emulate that intolerance.

      Freedom is not political correctness. It applies to everyone or it is worthless.

      July 30, 2010 at 10:34 pm |
    • David Johnson


      You said, "I wholly agree. In order to combat the tyranny of those who preach religious intolerance in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, we need to emulate that intolerance.

      Freedom is not political correctness. It applies to everyone or it is worthless."

      Our freedoms are what set us apart from these other countries. They do not have the freedom you talk about.

      We are a nation of laws. If the Muslims or the Jews or the Christians or the Moonies break the law, then the INDIVIDUALS responsible should be punished.

      July 31, 2010 at 11:58 am |
    • Aretta Gall

      You are all taliking religion..Has anyone noticed the CNN calendar on this page? monday is not the first day of the week...who is pulling this over your eyes?? Is this to appear as if sunday is the seventh day? The Sabbath

      August 28, 2010 at 9:59 pm |
  16. Moderate

    Objecting to the mosque (which is two blocks away from Ground Zero) would be like objecting to the construction of a Catholic church near a school because a handful of priests are child molesters. I like ADL, but they're wrong on this one.

    July 30, 2010 at 6:34 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "...objecting to the construction of a Catholic church near a school because a handful of priests are child molesters."

      Now that's an interesting idea.

      July 31, 2010 at 10:48 am |
    • David Johnson

      The really odd part is, I would support such a ban. LOL

      July 31, 2010 at 12:01 pm |
  17. Daniel

    Yes, I believe that journalists fuel this fire by perpetuating the myth of a "mosque at Ground Zero". It is not one. Journalists who go for the cheap shot to get attention are as guilty as the ADF and other hate-mongers fueling American sentiment against Islam. Shame on you! You know better. Behave.

    July 30, 2010 at 6:33 pm |
  18. Reality

    And one more time "in order to bring order" to all this debate:

    Recognizing the flaws in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity by the "bowers", "kneelers" and "pew peasants" will quickly converge these religions into some simple rules of life. No clerics, imams, rabbis and priests needed or desired. It will be called the great "Pink Slipping" of religion and its leaders.

    As per James Somerville, philosophy professor emeritus from Xavier University, Cincinnati,
    "The faith of the vast majority of believers (and non-believers) depends upon where they were born and when."

    It is beyond disturbing that such religious violence and hatred continues unabated due to radomness of birth. Maybe just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of it all.

    July 30, 2010 at 6:11 pm |
    • bill


      July 30, 2010 at 9:18 pm |
    • Bleheheh

      Have you read either of Professor Somerville's books?

      If you did, you'd notice that you're taking his quote grossly out of context.

      July 30, 2010 at 9:40 pm |
    • Reality


      For some reason, the blog moderators continue to block my innocuous reponse to you. I believe it is because I referenced the work of John Hic-k, using a dash this time to get around their list of forbidden words. John Hic-k is not a hic–k.

      John Hic-k is the person Somerville quotes when he says: ""The faith of the vast majority of believers (and non-believers) depends upon where they were born and when."

      More about John Hic-k, Professor John Harwood Hic-k (born Yorkshire, England, 1922)[1] is a philosopher of religion and theologian. In philosophical theology, he has made contributions in the areas of theodicy, eschatology, and Christology, and in the philosophy of religion he has contributed to the areas of epistemology of religion and religious pluralism.[2]

      Google Somerville theosophical to get his interesting ideas about the convergence of religions. I would give the net address but again said blog moderators for some strange reason do not allow this. Note: there is more than one Somerville.

      July 31, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
    • Bleheheh

      Boiling down any of the major faith traditions down to its most basic moral components (the basis of the modern idea of the "secular"), is the exact opposite of what is/will happen (9/11, rising of the religious right, et al). Liberal Christians might buy into this stripping of the religion of the magic/superstition/what have you but it's not going to catch on.

      August 1, 2010 at 1:48 pm |
  19. Eric

    Also....perhaps you could remove the photo above which is Ground Zero...but is not the location of the planned community center. Thanks again!

    July 30, 2010 at 6:09 pm |
  20. Eric

    Mr. Blake: Just to be clear, it is not "a proposed mosque and community center at Ground Zero" but rather (and I know you must be aware of this) it is to be located several blocks away from "Ground Zero." Perhaps you could accurately state that fact. Thank you.

    July 30, 2010 at 6:08 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.