August 5th, 2010
10:34 PM ET

A mosque, a strip club or a toxic waste site?

From CNN Senior National Editor Dave Schechter:

Would you be more comfortable with a strip club in your neighborhood than a mosque? What about a toxic waste site? I admit those questions sound extreme, but considering the opposition to the proposed location of mosques in this country, perhaps they’re not so far-fetched.

Look beyond the controversial Islamic center and mosque to be situated in a building (above) near the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks in New York City.

In the New York City borough of Staten Island, the board of a Catholic Church reversed an agreement initially made by its pastor to sell a building that formerly housed a convent to Muslims seeking to create a mosque and community center.

“There is a sense of sadness because people are so much misinformed in their opposition,” said Hesham El-Meligy, of the Arab Muslim American Federation. “You would think we’re in Nazi Germany and Muslims are Jews. I mean people are claiming so much nonsense. I know myself and I know Muslims. I don’t know where they get this information. Why don’t they ask a Muslim?”

In Murfreesboro, Tenn., hundreds of people opposed to construction of a mosque held a public rally. Hundreds have attended meetings of the Rutherford County planning commission, which has approved the plan, and similar numbers may turn out at next week’s meeting. A Republican candidate for Congress proclaimed that the mosque was "designed to fracture the moral and political foundation of Middle Tennessee."

In Temecula, Calif., the idea of local Muslims building a larger mosque sparked fears. "The Islamic foothold is not strong here, and we really don't want to see their influence spread," Pastor Bill Rench told The Los Angeles Times.

"There is a concern with all the rumors you hear about sleeper cells and all that. Are we supposed to be complacent just because these people say it's a religion of peace? Many others have said the same thing."

That attitude confounded at least one Muslim community leader.

"Our children go to the same schools their children go to. We shop at the same stores where they shop," said Mahmoud Harmoush, the imam of the Islamic center and an instructor at the California State University-San Bernardino's World Languages and Literatures Department.

"All of a sudden our neighbors wake up and they're opposed to us building the Islamic center there, the mosque. I hope it's a small group," Harmoush told the Times.

Back to Manhattan for a moment. Arsalan Iftikhar is a Washington, D.C.-based human rights attorney and creator of http://www.themuslimguy.com. His book, Islamic Pacifism: Confessions of a Muslim Gandhi, is to be published next January.

Referring to the “ground zero” controversy, Iftikhar asks: “So, to the fear-mongering xenophobic opponents of this mosque; my only question is this: How far away would be acceptable for you? Five blocks away? Ten blocks? Twenty blocks?”

That question would seem to apply to other locales in this country.

Washington Post contributor Pamela Taylor advertises herself as a “Muslim. Feminist. Progressive.” and recently offered this advice: “American Muslims and our friends must redouble our efforts to show how ludicrous the fears that right wing and conservative media have been whipping up actually are."

"As for those who are so scared by Muslims, I suggest you get to know some of us," she wrote. "Before you picket to forbid a proposed mosque, go meet the people who are going to pray in it. Before you burn that Qur'an, read a few pages of it.”

There are some 2.5 million Muslims in the United States, according to the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life. As their numbers grow, American Muslims are moving to communities where many people may never have met a Muslim and have little knowledge of Islam, creating the potential for greater understanding and awareness.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • Houses of worship • Islam • Mosque

soundoff (79 Responses)
  1. AGA


    I urge everyone to visit this sight to clear their misconceptions about Islam.

    Cheers! 🙂

    August 31, 2010 at 12:25 am |
  2. American Muslim

    The problem with all of this hate is that you are listening to people who have no idea about Islam. They have their own agenda and will do and say anything they want. And all for what? Some votes. At what cost? To spread hatred, this country was founded on religious freedom and now we are fighting that foundation based on fear mongering. Educate your self, do your own research, you'll be surprised at what you find.

    August 30, 2010 at 10:59 am |
  3. American Muslim

    For all of the uneducated people who have no idea of Islam or the Quran. I envite you to visit the website below. I think you will find it interesting.


    August 30, 2010 at 10:55 am |
  4. Pete Bogs

    I've heard this argument about the strip clubs before and I think it misses the point. If 19 strippers had hijacked planes and killed thousands on 9/11, it would be relevant.

    August 30, 2010 at 10:39 am |
  5. Jason

    "He Lives. He Reigns. End of Discussion." lmao. so well thought out! 2010 and we are still thinking like people in the dark ages! "End of discussion." YEAH. RIGHT.

    August 30, 2010 at 9:58 am |
  6. UmairC

    A Soldier Deployed,

    Thank you for speaking the truth.

    I hope that you are safe.

    August 24, 2010 at 9:09 pm |
  7. CalyGurl

    American ignorance never ceases to amaze me! However, I'm not surprised by the "simpletons" in Tennessee for protesting. Muslims have lived in this country for a very long time without any problems. I have gone to school with people of all faiths, and people of no faith, and understand there is good and bad in everyone. I'll bet you if you ask people why they are opposed, most of them cannot give you substantive answers. Republicans will have a field day with this issue in November because many Americans are very simple and will let their emotions get the best of them. What a sad time in our history! We're not living up to the very values we say we believe in, and our soldiers are dying on the other side of the world for those "so called" values.

    August 24, 2010 at 7:57 pm |
  8. nm

    Everyone is right Islam is not a religion and can not co exist with American way of life.
    Our current american way of life is based of sex, greed, and rock and roll. No religion is compatible with our life.

    August 24, 2010 at 7:38 pm |
  9. doctornm

    People who hate Islam will always hate Islam.. Its so easy to hate. Muslims are physicians, engineers, soldiers, and athletes. Muhammed Ali, Hakeem Olajawon, Kareem Abdul Jabaar.
    The holocaust started off with similar hatred undertones. Bosnian Muslims butchered in the name of christianity. Christians slaughtered Muslims in SPain for their religion. How many people die in 3rd world countries innocently b/c of our foreign policies.. A life is a life. whether they are white, black, yellow, or red. An American life is the same as a life of an austrailian, indian, or african.

    August 24, 2010 at 7:24 pm |
    • Darla 2010

      Foreign Policy?? How many have died because their religious beliefs over the centuries and how many are still dying over differences in religion. Foreign Policy is an excuse and not the reason. Christians and muslims are both guilty of slaughter in the name of faith throughout history.

      August 24, 2010 at 8:35 pm |
  10. Acmed Shams

    We should be wary of overt islamophobia, and be careful to single out extremists, such as the Taliban.
    You absolutely MUST see this... seriously:


    August 12, 2010 at 5:57 pm |
    • doctornm

      I can show you similar movie of what serbian christians did to Bosnian Muslims. Similar stuff of american aid to israel in gaza.
      AMERICAN FOREIGN POLICY Needs to change it supports Israel and is antiMuslim. Terrorism is a symptom of oppression. Lack of democracy and rights.

      August 24, 2010 at 7:33 pm |
  11. mizzzwizzz

    Excuse me Mr. Soldier Deployed, did you happen to see the cover of time magazine in august? If not, I suggest you google it and get back to us all about the wonders of the muslim world..

    August 7, 2010 at 10:52 pm |
    • amuslim

      I can kind of picture the amount of hate it would take to paint an entire people with an accusation that can only be logically aimed at a few.

      That image sickens me because I feel horror and pity for that woman. And while it shames me as a human, it does not shame me as a muslim. Don't blame a religion for the failings of our humanity. You share as much shame as me in that woman's plight. Help her if you feel for her. Do it the right way. Don't use her to create strife.

      August 8, 2010 at 2:00 am |
    • A Soldier Deployed

      Being that I am currently IN Afghanistan located in an isolated and small valley near Pakistan. One of the deadliest areas of Afghanistan in fact... I was only able to see the cover when I had time.

      If you knew anything about the history of Afghanistan, you would know that in the 70's you were as likely to see a miniskirt in Kabul as you would in New York City. After decades of war, strife and civil unrest it is no longer like that. After you've suffered that kind of trouble you regress as a society. Much like the strife of the Great Depression and Post WWI Europe bred extremism in Europe.

      The Muslim world is capable of great and wonderous things. Unfortunately for the West, it is misunderstood and feared. The US props up dictators in the Muslim world, by refusing to engage in fostering a civil climate we backed dictators like Hosni Mubarak. Maybe you should seek to educate yourself using actual academics instead of the pundits, religious zealots and fear mongers who seek to destroy what they cannot understand?

      August 8, 2010 at 3:53 pm |
    • Kate


      Aisha (the girl on that cover) is a Muslim – do you hate her,fear her, think she's a terrorist who's going to blow up LA while she recovers?

      August 24, 2010 at 8:28 pm |
    • gcrv

      80 lashes is the punishment for an unmarried person who has premaritial sex. That to if there is proof of 4 witnesses seeing the actual act. Mutilation is not the punishment for premaritial sex. Obviously this is a tribal area where neither islam is strong nor is the state machinery. Islamic laws require heavy burden of proof in cases of extreme punishments. Unfortunately the Islamic law system has be stunted for the last 300-400 years due to lack of support by ruling classes, colonialist and now the westernized elite. As a result of which even in relatively wealthy states there is little debate and little application of thought process in applying the law we have instead the most ridiculous justifications derived from the 3-4 hundred year old juristic thought process applied with disastrous consequences.

      In the same month a woman journalist was killed by her parents as she dared to think of marrying a person of her choice. This happened in New Delhi in India how come you dont have pictures of her in time? Was it because she was a Hindu?

      August 31, 2010 at 4:49 am |
  12. mizzzwizzz

    I am a student of world religions, I have read many holy books, the bible, the koran, the pali cannon, the mahabarata, the torah, the zohar and the enuma elish, just to name a FEW. By it's own verses the koran declares Islam to be a religion of power, intolerance and hate. Islam does not worship god, it pays lip service to allah and simply acknowledges that there is only one god, and that mohammed is his prophet. They don't worship god, they worship mohammed...anyone can do a little research on the life of Mohammed and they'll understand that he was a violent, war mongering piece of sh*t man that managed to charm a rich older woman into marrying and supporting him...he was an illiterate sheppard who figured out how to feather his nest. When his cash cow died, he decided that it was fine for Muslim men to marry NINE YEAR OLD GIRLS...hmmm–He ended up marrying 11 or 13 women, depending upon which text you read...all things considered, and these things here are the least of the things that should be considered, the world would be a much better and safer place without Islam in it.

    August 7, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
  13. America

    Tell Bloomberg and the other imbeciles to start drinking water and lay off the Kool-Aid. Here's an up-to-the-minute story of the peace, love & compassion these people show. Doctors, saving lives, murdered (er welcomed) by those with a different ideology.

    The Taliban has claimed that it has killed eight foreigners and their two Afghan interpreters for spreading Christianity.

    “These people were preaching Christianity and we punished them,” a Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid was quoted as saying.

    August 7, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
    • A Soldier Deployed

      Fortunately the Taliban do not speak for all Muslims. They are a small group of individuals, in a small Muslim country that has suffered from war since the 1970's. When you have violence from birth you know nothing but hatred and violence. It twists the mind, the soul. These men are crippled by the environment they grew up. Coupled by poisoned words of evil men who seek only hatred, they have been twisted into hatred.

      There are a billion muslims in this world, a billion Catholics and half a million or more other Christians. The Christian world suffered through times where they persecuted others. We must remember that Islam is roughly 600 years behind Christianity in its founding. Coupled with the horrible violence the cultural centers suffered during the Mongol invasions of the 1200-1350 time period this created a marked influence on the developement of Islam. We must stand beside our brothers hand in hand and guide them with love and compassion. Aid them and nuture them. Not condemn them and oppress them. A people subject to oppression and hatred only rise up in fiery anger.

      August 7, 2010 at 7:05 pm |
    • Joamiq

      So? I'm a Muslim New Yorker, I pray at the "Ground Zero Mosque" (for those who don't realize, there is already a mosque operating at that site and there has been for some time), and I'm all for fighting against the Taliban. Those people do NOT stand for what we stand for and they do NOT represent me.

      August 26, 2010 at 12:11 pm |
  14. SR

    To good Soldier Deployed

    Is your love confined to just Allah and his believing children or does it spread too all of us, his disbelievers?

    Just want to understand your love and show how it contrasts with Islamic "love".

    August 6, 2010 at 5:19 pm |
    • Roscoe

      Yeah, I would like an answer to that question too.

      August 6, 2010 at 9:41 pm |
    • A Soldier Deployed

      Unfortunately, your lack of history and sociology block you from understanding the world and theology.

      We the children of Abraham, are united by history and philosophy. The Qu'ran recognizes this and if you actually have proper translations of the Qu'ran and not lies spread by enemies of God. (Many Christians are in fact enemies of God, those who are racist especially, those who call for vengeful murder and injustice, such as torture and murder of innocent humans). You will see that Muhammad (PBUH) considers the Children of Abraham as People of the Book. That Jesus in the eyes of Muhammad is one of the Great Prophets. God in Mohammad's (PBUH) interpretation calls for peace and the wars he calls for are against Pagans.

      Regardless, nearly all religions call for the conversion of unbelievers. In the Catholic Church (of the past though some traditionalists like myself still do) there are prayers said after Mass for the Conversion of non-believers (Protestants, Jews, Muslims). It does not mean we cannot extend love and understanding to our brothers.

      August 7, 2010 at 6:52 pm |
    • SR

      To A Soldier Deployed
      Thank yiu for that hate filled drivel.

      I am a Hindu. I am not one of the "people of the book".

      I pray every day with The prayer "let everyone be happy. Let every one gpet what they want".

      Notice there is nothing in there about believers and nonbelievers of Hinduism. We don't treat them differently.

      We don't have one prayer for "believers" and unbelievers". We believe all are manifestations of God.

      Compare this absolutely all encompassing, peaceful statement with your hate filled statement. I don't care how many tours of duty you have served. We have Hindus serving the US as soldiers and doctors and statemen as well. But none as hatefilled as you have. Shame on islamists.

      August 7, 2010 at 8:54 pm |
    • gcrv

      @SR apparently hinduism considers more than half the population of India ie 500 million as not human that is why they dont even get to drink water from the same well as the higher caste Hindus. Their women considered fair game by high caste Hindus.
      Or are you forgetting about "Sati" the practice of burning the widow on the husbands funeral pyre? you cant say that this is not part of Hinduism. Your religious books are full of both caste discrimination as well as praising the practice of Sati. In fact the one of your important goddess 'Sita' is referred to as 'Sati savitri'. Do a Google search of the number of people killed every year because of caste conflicts. While you are at it also do a search of how many women are Burned in India because they husbands wanted to get rid of them for some reason or the other. Perhaps statistics of female infanticide will shock you into shame and give you actual picture how Hindus value girl babies. You must remember why there is a law in India prohibiting doctors from telling the sex of the unborn baby to parents.
      The peace of hinduism is entirely in your mind in reality there half the population are not even considered human and out of the other half 50% ie females can be burned on the funeral pyre of the husband as per your religious texts and as per your actual practice killed at birth.
      your most followed religious book Ramayana is full of stories which indicate caste discrimination by your gods.

      August 31, 2010 at 4:36 am |
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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.