August 5th, 2010
05:40 PM ET

U.S. Muslims underestimate 9/11 effect, Muslim thinker warns

Linda Rivera holds her head after a New York panel ruled the site of a planned Islamic center and mosque near ground zero can be demolished.

There's been plenty of opposition to the plan to build an  Islamic center near the site of ground zero in New York, but so far it has overwhelmingly come from outside the Muslim community.

Now a prominent Muslim thinker is warning that the idea is potentially dangerously misguided, and that American Muslims have failed to grasp how deeply the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, affected the country.

"I don't think the Muslim leadership has fully appreciated the impact of  9/11 on America. They assume Americans have forgotten 9/11 and even, in a profound way, forgiven 9/11, and that has not happened. The wounds remain largely open," said Akbar Ahmed, an Islamic studies professor at American University in Washington, D.C.

"And when wounds are raw, an episode like constructing a house of worship - even one protected by the Constitution, protected by law - becomes like  salt in the wounds," he argued, even as he said that "blaming an entire community for 9/11 is ridiculous."

But a leading spokesman for the American Muslim community is not convinced by Ahmed's analysis.

"The Council on American-Islamic Relations feels the impact of 9/11 on a  daily basis," said its communications director, Ibrahim Hooper.

"We take hundreds and hundreds of cases each year of anti-Muslim bias and  hate crimes. To a large degree it's the by-product of 9/11," Hooper said.

He rejects the controversy over the planned Islamic center as "manufactured" by "bigots."

"There has been a mosque in that neighborhood for 27 years," Hooper asserted.

And he said Muslims should not back down simply because a vocal minority was complaining.

"I am not going to base my actions and my principles and my future on the  ability of bigots to manufacture a controversy," he said.

The American Center for Law and Justice filed a lawsuit Wednesday, trying  to throw an obstacle in the way of what has come to be known as the "ground zero mosque" - although it is two blocks from the site of the World Trade  Center and backers say it will be more a community center than just a house of worship.

Ahmed and Hooper did agree, however, that the New York dispute is just an  extreme example of a problem Muslims face whenever they set out to build a  house of worship in the United States.

"Every time Muslims raise their head in America, these groups are going to come against Muslims," said Hooper, adding that the problem is worse now than in the immediate wake of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

"There was still a reservoir of good will after 9/11," Hooper said. "Now you've got people bringing dogs outside a mosque in California last week."

"The attacks on mosques are increasing in frequency and intensity," Ahmed  concurred.

"You recognize a minaret, so that becomes the focus and the lightning rod  of the fear and anger," said Ahmed, whose new book, "Journey Into America: The  Challenge of Islam" is an intensive study of Muslim communities across the  country, based on a year of travel, visits, meetings and surveys.

He found that the closer you get to New York, the higher the tension is  between Muslims and non-Muslims.

"Step back and put (the Cordoba Initiative project to build the New York Islamic center) in the context of American society today and then it will make perfect sense - the anger, and also the failure of the American Muslim leadership, an influential leadership, to explain to Americans that we, too, are Americans. We live here," he said.

The Cordoba Initiative did not answer CNN requests for comment.

Ahmed, who is also critical of "the American leadership" for not building bridges with Muslim America, warns that the New York project could become a dangerous flashpoint.

"Say non-Muslims go attack this mosque or attack the imam, and in response some young Muslims blow something up or blow themselves up," he warned. "That is the worst-case scenario."

"The best-case scenario is that the Muslim leadership really steps up its activity to explain themselves to the American community. We are at a crossroads," he said.

And whatever happens will resonate far beyond America's shores, he said.

"What happens in America will have an impact in the Muslim world,  especially Afghanistan and Pakistan, and vice versa," he argued. "Whatever happens now becomes critical."

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: 'Ground zero mosque' • Houses of worship • Interfaith issues • Islam • Muslim • Religious liberty • Violence

soundoff (904 Responses)
  1. Ira

    The Islamic War Memorial

    It is totally bewildering to me how New York Mayor Blumberg and other of my New York “Lantz men” (fellow American Jews), with their political correctness can be so damn blind to the reality of the Cordoba Mosque and its intention to build at “Ground Zero” where 3,000 Americans of all faiths were murdered by Islamic terrorists. Yes we live in a country where we are guaranteed the freedom of religion under the constitution, but this is not about freedom of religion. This is about the conqueror indelibly grinding his heel into the heart and soul of New York with the Cordoba Mosque.

    Imam Rauf’s mosque is a tribute to the terrorist’s murderous attack on 9/11 and nothing more. All else is false pretense to cover up the real intentions of building an “Islamic war memorial” commemorating their murder of innocents. Even their original projected opening date clearly warns you of their malicious intent: To have their grand opening on 9/11.

    Why 9/11 now and also why were we attacked on 9/11? If you had listened to the war criminal Bin Laden, his rational for being against the west has been as mercurial as his hiding places. The real reason for attacking us and for doing so on 9/11 was because the Islamists were commencing one of the greatest periods of proselytizing by the sword since the Caliphate. If you look at your history, 9/11 was the absolute pinnacle of the Caliphate, when Islam ruled a large segment of the world, including much of Europe. But by 9/12/1683 the Caliphate started its decline as they lost The Battle of Vienna. “The large-scale battle was won by Polish, Austrian and German forces commanded by King of Poland John III Sobieski versus the Ottoman Empire army and the Ottoman fiefdoms armies commanded by Grand Vizier Merzifonlu Kara Mustafa Pasha." Wikipedia.

    Despite Obama’s State Department hiring Imam Rauf to go on a world tour of the “Caliphate lands”, Rauf’s background alone is sufficient for this Mosque not to be built at Ground Zero. He will not even divulge its funding. “Besides being an open advocate for Sharia and restrictions on the freedom of speech in his book What's Right with Islam, Rauf has refused to denounce Hamas. He has lied about his commitment to religious dialogue. He has lied about whether the Islamic center planned for the Ground Zero site will contain a mosque or not. And he has lied about whether or not the project is getting foreign funding. He is involved with a group that helped fund the jihad flotilla against Israel.” JihadWatch.org. Rauf himself stated about 9/11 that "I wouldn't say that the United States deserved what happened," Rauf elaborated, "but United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened."

    Enough bull about “peace and understanding” for extremists who would do us harm, as only a fool is incapable of not knowing who his enemy is!

    August 12, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
  2. Ani

    If this mosque is not being built _at_ Ground Zero, or on any property damaged or destroyed by the 9/11 attacks, it is not insulting for it to be built where it is planned to exist. However, not enough time has passed for the general public to feel comfortable with this construction so close to Ground Zero. I feel very concerned that this community center/mosque will be targeted for attacks by Christian extremists, just as Muslim extremists targeted buildings that were so meaningful to America. The building will be like a beacon drawing crazy American terrorists to it to wreak destruction and death.

    August 12, 2010 at 12:39 am |
  3. stephen

    Islamic WMD on American soil, and Mecca is a radioactive, fused-glass wasteland. Believe it. Muslims are at a crossroads all right. Clean up your religion while it still exists.

    August 11, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
  4. harry1

    Listen up muslims why are you shoving this project down our throats, Build it elsewhere problem solved!!
    We hurt badly from 9/11 and the war we never wanted Don't you s$#@$#$heads understand its not always about YOU always complaining well man up and don't do it!!!

    August 11, 2010 at 2:39 pm |
  5. Donald Bondick

    It would seem everyone is mad that the Muslim Mosque is being built two blocks away from ground zero. I sat at a diner and heard some calling it a "victory monument." I do not agree that is the reason that the mosque is being built at all. America has fought for and its principles are entirely based on diversity of faith, culture, nationalities [both foreign & domestic], and as Americans we guarantee that people are free to worship whomever they declare is their "God." We also have the freedom not to worship and shout at the tops of our voices that we do not believe in Jesus Christ. We, as Americans must embrace that integrity to worship as we please or not to worship at all – it's called free will.

    Look at the damage the Roman Catholic Church has done throughout the centuries – protecting, supporting and their complicit actions including movement of pederast officials, whether it be bishops, priests, brothers, nuns, elders, deacons, etc. Where is the outrage when these new churches are being renovated, new construction, projects, etc., being built when there has not been justice for all victims, survivors and their loved ones.

    Would the outrage be as vehement if a new Roman Catholic Cathedral was being built? I would hope so – but unfortunately the answer is a simple, "No." People should be outraged DAILY for what the Roman Catholics have done to society throughout the ages and still continues to violate today in the use of the "good old boys" club mentality. Cover-up to the end, we are better than "them," women and children are subservient to all men and our needs [they do not even qualify as being human, let alone to call themselves "men"]. Where is your outrage – all you flag waving AMERICANS? Your so called trusted mentors, wolves hiding in sheep's clothing, that raped, destroyed and murdered so many – where is your anger now? What if it was a Lutheran church or a Jehovah Witness Center? Or even a Methodist or Baptist church structure or day-care, Boys Club of America, YMCA or YWCA?

    Where is your outrage now America? Where is your sensibility of justice and righteousness? We have to keep fighting to protect all of our children – they have no one else but us to protect, guide & help them.
    Peace In Your Hearts, Minds & Spirits – Always
    Survivor since age 13, of a brutal rape & strangulation 1969 at the hands of a criminal priest
    Rockford, Illinois

    August 11, 2010 at 11:19 am |
  6. CSnord

    Islam is an invasive religion/cult/political system. In every country in which Islam has every gained a foothold, it has expanded to, eventually, encompass the culture and twist whatever was there in the first place to Islam. This has happened throughout the Middle East, much of Africa – particularly Egypt, Indonesia, Malaysia, and, to a much lesser degree, Europe.

    Muslims slowly invade a culture, like we are seeing in Europe and the US, and begin forming ghettos in urban areas. Non-Muslims are "encouraged" to stay out – murder will do that. The Muslims in these enclaves use them to begin forming a power base from which they attempt to exert control on the surrounding areas. Then they start asking for concessions – head scarves at school, Sharia law in the enclaves, Halal foods at official functions, anything that can be used to create a little tension. If the non-Muslims push back, the Muslims raise all kinds of a ruckus, for example, the recent demonstrations and killings in France and, to a lesser degree, England are a good example.

    Eventually, as the power base grows, they take over more and more of the institutions. Then comes the repression of the non-Muslim groups. Eventually, the non-Muslims are completely subjugated and relegated to a marginal existence. One need only look to the fate of Coptic Christians in Egypt, Jews in the Middle East, and indigenous peoples in Timor for examples.

    Personally, I think all religions are evil. I have no problem with faith, but religion creates divisive gulfs between people that set different groups up in opposition to one another. The members of the groups all believe that they have the one true answer and that all others are misguided. Then the killing begins. The description above is brief and necessarily incomplete, but accurate in fact. People can choose to recognize how Islam works, or not. Societies that choose to defend against the invasion survive. Those that do not, are eliminated.

    Islam is particularly appealing to tribal cultures, which explains its success in Africa and the Pacific Island Groups. Culturally monolithic societies, like Japan, are more insulated. Permissive societies, like Europe and the US are easy pickings. All that is needed is to play off the permissive nature of the society. In such cases, Islam will be practically invited in as the liberal nature of the society falls all over itself to demonstrate their egalitarian nature. It gets to the point when leaders of other religions openly advocate in favor of concessions for the Muslims. All the Muslims need to do in America is keep pushing and they will eventually take over - assuming the Catholic Hispanic Immigrants don't deal with them. It is a near certainty that Americans won't deal with them.

    August 10, 2010 at 11:36 pm |
  7. CSnord

    This from a "Muslim Thinker" - Now THERE's an oxymoron. Thinking and devout adherence to outdated religions are mutually exclusive activities.

    August 10, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
  8. free2comment

    The plackards display 30" associating Muslims with 9/11 Murderers but not one piddly shingle or blurb appears anywhere about my heroic Muslim cousin who ran into that rubble and was decorated for his work in the aftermath by the City Mayor.

    August 10, 2010 at 4:33 pm |
  9. jbobj

    What if someone were to open a "Honey Baked Ham" store next to the Ground Zero Mosque? For those that don't know, they cook these great baked hams that are pre-sliced on the bone. Mmmm – yummy. The smell lingers for at least 5 or 6 store fronts. I wonder how the mosquers would appreciate the smell of cooking pork permeating the inside their building.

    BTW – "mosquers" is my way of describe people that go inside a mosque.

    August 8, 2010 at 7:20 pm |
  10. Chris

    The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) IS EVIL. TIME TO DISMANTILE THIS TERRORIST GROUP!

    August 7, 2010 at 6:03 pm |
  11. Chris

    ((((American Citizen Alert***** We must all Keep a watchdog eye on this anti-American group called C A I R (pro-muslim/terrorist/Hammas)
    C.A.I.R. is nothing but a mouthpiece for HAMAS, pure evil, if you do not believe that, read the pronouncements of CAIR as to the conviction of the Blind Sheik, Lucifer on Earth, and the other terrorists who did the first terror attack on the WTC in 1993. Then read Willful Blindness, A Memoir of the Jihad, by Andrew McCarthy, the lead prosecutor of these horrible evil people who should not be let into the country anyway, but thanks to stupid William Jefferson Clinton and his idiot advisors like Sandy Burgler, no problemo. After you read this book, finding Clinton and his Dhimmicrats and throwing them thru a window just may not be enough, this Defenestration of the Dhimmicrats, you might want to go after them with a blowtorch.

    -> Americans Friend: Anti-CAIR
    We are a group of concerned Americans dedicated to eliminating the
    Islamist terrorist threat to the United States Constitution.

    We believe that the Council on American-Islamic Relations, (CAIR), is a clear and present danger to our Constitution and our way of life. We will continue to expose CAIR's involvement in supporting Islamist terrorists, terrorist-sponsoring
    organizations and groups in the United States

    August 7, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
  12. Chris

    Stand Up America - we want the radical isamic men and women who support these animals) out of this country - they will never be welcomed!, The UK and France serve as a perfect example ....they have been invaded and are sorry now. "Honor Killlings" by these islamic men will never be accepted....those men should be sentenced to death for even thinking about it. ::s[pit on them all::
    Muslims need to go home OR abide by American traditions, period. Tell the PC lawyers of greed to screw themselves. We don't ever need to be politically correct.. ....just a way to silence us. DON"T BUY INTO IT! At times, be proud to know that we need to racial profile people to keep this country safe. I will proudly racial profile people - without any guiltt whatsoever to keep my fmaily and country safe from vultures.! We know who most of the illegals aliens look like - Mexican and South and Central Americans and even Muslims posing as Mexicans to sneak in.

    Keep alerts folks! We have fight amongst us but with our resolve we WILL prevail.

    August 7, 2010 at 5:38 pm |
  13. Lily

    This would be a victory for the 9/11 perpetrators who will be getting what they set out to do. That is, to destroy a central symbol of the West and America, and to replace it with a symbol of Islam. What craziness and muddled thinking prevails in New York. Why are there no marches to protest against this blatant attempt to promote Islam. Deceit prevails and this 'community centre' will become a centre for the promotion of radical Islamic ideas. Islam is on the road to further its radicalism, do not be naive..

    August 7, 2010 at 12:25 pm |
  14. BruceBalderston

    Yes, Americans believe in religious freedom and the law assures the freedom. That does not mean that any religious group can do whatever they want to do.
    The question of 911 is a lesson in evil. A attack on innoent civilians whether by Muslims, Christians, Jews will not be tolerated by Americans or any other freedom loving, religious people. Countries around the world reacted with forces to halt the evil invasions and genocide of the Nazis.

    It is sad that in the 21st century we people who are all brothers and sisters on planet earth do not realize that at the heart of all relgions there is a basic common thread of fare treatment of one's neighbors, love of family and of one's religion and revulsion of evil.

    All of the pettiness that separates us does not come from the hearts of our relgions but from the fears, greed, selfishness and clanishness that exists in all cultures.

    We all do our maker, regardless of what we call our maker, a shameful disservice, we when do not stand together to denounce and struggle against evil. It is unfortunate that 911 was carried out by "Muslims". When McVey bombed the Federal Building in Oklahoma City, he was hunted down, tried and finally executed. No one cared whether he was a Muslim, Jew or Christian. What he did was evil and he was punished for that. He happened to be Christian.

    Religion aside, mankind has a fairly common understanding of evil. Now it is time from all of us to stand against it.

    August 7, 2010 at 10:33 am |
    • free2comment

      Tell it to IPAC and let's not have them run us around doing whatever they want, too!

      August 10, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
  15. Linda Rivera

    A mosque at ground zero is the same as a Statue of Hitler at Auschwitz.
    By any code of ethics, only the leaders of a defeated country would agree to a victory mosque close to the site where thousands of their people were massacred. Instead of scandalously honoring Islam with a 9/11 Victory Mosque at Ground Zero where our 3,000 American brothers and sisters suffered horrific deaths, we MUST have a war memorial that HONORS our cherished 3,000 victims and honors our cherished firemen and policemen – wonderful heroes who willingly and courageously gave up their lives seeking to save innocents. America shone that day through these heroes! We will remember our slain 3,000 forever.

    August 6, 2010 at 10:38 pm |
  16. Sarah

    So you are a Hindu.
    The reason I was talking about Judaism and Christianity is because they, like Islam are the major monotheistic religions of this world. Which means they only believe in ONE deity; and therefore can be compared in their teachings.

    Second, the reason I was talking about Quran as the divine speech is because of your comment that it should (God forbid) go through a reformation. I have never listened to any taafsir (translation and explanation of Quranic verses without being struck with this fact.
    Please visit http://Bayyniah.com/podcasts and just listen to any surah's translation and you will know what I am talking about.

    Third, none of the arguments you give is in response to, or challenges, the fact that Quran has been unchanged and miraculous.

    As for the Vedas, from my research, it is even among your own religious scholars that the authority of this text is disputed. You say it yourself " Nobody knows the origin or the ancientness of the Vedas."

    So as of right now, I am still confused as to what argument you are exactly making. 🙂

    August 6, 2010 at 5:58 pm |
  17. Sarah

    So you are a Hindu.
    The reason I was talking about Judaism and Christianity is because they, like Islam are the major monotheistic religions of this world. Which means they only believe in ONE deity; and therefore can be compared in their teachings.

    Second, the reason I was talking about Quran as the divine speech is because of your comment that it should (God forbid) go through a reformation. I have never listened to any taafsir (translation and explanation of Quranic verses without being struck with this fact.
    Please visit http://Bayyniah.com/podcasts and just listen to any surah's translation and you will know what I am talking about.

    Third, none of the arguments you give is in response to, or challenges, the fact that Quran has been unchanged and miraculous.

    As for the Vedas, from my research, it is even among your own religious scholars that the authority of this text is disputed. You say it yourself " Nobody knows the origin or the ancientness of the Vedas."

    So as of right now, I am still confused as to what argument you are exactly making. 🙂

    August 6, 2010 at 5:53 pm |
  18. Junaid

    I, among many other muslims who have commented on this site, have tried to promote a message of peace and tolerance...

    and those of you who claim islam is a hateful religion are preaching the hate... your being hypocritical

    August 6, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
  19. SR

    My point is not to say one religion is better than another. I only object to Islam (and Islamists) calling it the "True Religion".

    I object to the intolerant and supremacist aspects of Islam. Just questioning them. That's all.

    August 6, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
  20. SadPanda

    Hey idiots! My magical deity could being up your magical deity! Na na naboo boo stick your head in doo doo. We should be killing eachother over real things like resources...killing over self contradicting, hypocritical fairymen is totally out. GROW UP!

    August 6, 2010 at 3:22 pm |
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About this blog

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.