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. code

    There seems to be a lot of discussion on here about whether Muslims in general are responsible for 9/11 or just Al Queda (who, despite what some people seem to imply, did what they did in the name of Islam).

    One thing stood out to me more than anything else on 9/11 (I was there, btw)... shortly afterwards, several news stations were showing images of people ACROSS the middle east (specifically, Palestine, Iran and Saudi Arabia) of CROWDS CHEERING IN THE STREETS at our loss.

    First, just try to tell me those were just a tiny minority of Muslims. BS. That was clearly an indication of widespread Muslim joy at our injury.

    Second, I can guarantee, that if a plane were to crash into a building in any of those places, killing thousands, that there would be no Americans cheering in the streets at the loss of life. We would not be celebrating the culprits, we would offer aid, even to those that some might consider our enemies.

    THAT is how I can tell which people deserve the blame. And THAT is how I know what we're doing in the Middle East is the right thing. And THAT is how I know this Mosque near WTC is offensive gesture and not a controversy created by American bigots.

    August 5, 2010 at 7:57 pm |
    • watching

      First not all thoses were killed are Americans!

      Partial List of Muslim 9/11 Victims:

      Note: This list is as yet incomplete and unconfirmed. It has been compiled from the Islamic Circle of North America, the Newsday victims database, and reports from other major news organizations. The victims' ages, employers, or other personal information is included when available, along with links to further information or photos.

      Samad Afridi
      Ashraf Ahmad
      Shabbir Ahmad (45 years old; Windows on the World; leaves wife and 3 children)
      Umar Ahmad
      Azam Ahsan
      Ahmed Ali
      Tariq Amanullah (40 years old; Fiduciary Trust Co.; ICNA website team member; leaves wife and 2 children)
      Touri Bolourchi (69 years old; United Airlines #175; a retired nurse from Tehran)
      Salauddin Ahmad Chaudhury
      Abdul K. Chowdhury (30 years old; Cantor Fitzgerald)
      Mohammad S. Chowdhury (39 years old; Windows on the World; leaves wife and child born 2 days after the attack)
      Jamal Legesse Desantis
      Ramzi Attallah Douani (35 years old; Marsh & McLennan)
      SaleemUllah Farooqi
      Syed Fatha (54 years old; Pitney Bowes)
      Osman Gani
      Mohammad Hamdani (50 years old)
      Salman Hamdani (NYPD Cadet)
      Aisha Harris (21 years old; General Telecom)
      Shakila Hoque (Marsh & McLennan)
      Nabid Hossain
      Shahzad Hussain
      Talat Hussain
      Mohammad Shah Jahan (Marsh & McLennan)
      Yasmeen Jamal
      Mohammed Jawarta (MAS security)
      Arslan Khan Khakwani
      Asim Khan
      Ataullah Khan
      Ayub Khan
      Qasim Ali Khan
      Sarah Khan (32 years old; Cantor Fitzgerald)
      Taimour Khan (29 years old; Karr Futures)
      Yasmeen Khan
      Zahida Khan
      Badruddin Lakhani
      Omar Malick
      Nurul Hoque Miah (36 years old)
      Mubarak Mohammad (23 years old)
      Boyie Mohammed (Carr Futures)
      Raza Mujtaba
      Omar Namoos
      Mujeb Qazi
      Tarranum Rahim
      Ehtesham U. Raja (28 years old)
      Ameenia Rasool (33 years old)
      Naveed Rehman
      Yusuf Saad
      Rahma Salie & unborn child (28 years old; American Airlines #11; wife of Michael Theodoridis; 7 months pregnant)
      Shoman Samad
      Asad Samir
      Khalid Shahid (25 years old; Cantor Fitzgerald; engaged to be married in November)
      Mohammed Shajahan (44 years old; Marsh & McLennan)
      Naseema Simjee (Franklin Resources Inc.'s Fiduciary Trust)
      Jamil Swaati
      Sanober Syed
      Robert Elias Talhami (40 years old; Cantor Fitzgerald)
      Michael Theodoridis (32 years old; American Airlines #11; husband of Rahma Salie)
      W. Wahid

      August 5, 2010 at 8:00 pm |
    • code

      Yeah, you already posted that. The fact that Muslims were killed hardly changes the fact that I saw thousands of other Muslims cheering in the streets when the WTC came down.

      August 5, 2010 at 8:03 pm |
    • watching

      I posted that before..may be I should post it for a 3rd time...

      August 5, 2010 at 8:09 pm |
    • Ari

      This is exactly what I was thinking. Muslims across the globe were jubilant at our loss, yet they want us to be tolerant?

      August 5, 2010 at 11:12 pm |
  2. John

    Don't need to read the koran, just read the new health care bill that exempts muslims from paying taxes on their healthcare. They find taxes morally repugnant, so they don't have to pay them. That's courtesy of the ultimate illegal alien on Pennsylvania Ave.

    August 5, 2010 at 7:57 pm |
    • Abel Arce


      August 5, 2010 at 8:00 pm |
    • Conqui

      Another illiterate victim of irrational and false propoganda hits the forums!!

      August 5, 2010 at 8:30 pm |
  3. SeaknightRex

    Oh Wait, we seem to be freinds with the slants after the larger numbers of life taken during VN not to mention the chink killing of Peral Harbor. Seems we let Japan build all the churches they want and you all whinn about the Rags building a church? Surely you jest, 9/11 continues to leave unanswered questsions.

    August 5, 2010 at 7:57 pm |
  4. Sherri

    Some of you are very naive. Muslims DID blow up the Trade Center. What do you think Al Kaeda is? They are doing this to slap us in the face. As for tolerance, do you know what they do to Christians and churches in their countries? They burn the churches and kill the people. So much for tolerance. Muslims are very vocal about what they are doing – their plan is to take over America by 2050 and make it an Islamic country. Don't believe me? Do a google search "takeover of America" + Muslim? Or get the movie The Third Jihad and HEAR what they have to say about America and what they are going to do. Why do you not believe them when they say what they are doing? You better believe them. They have already done it in Europe. Wake up America!!! Time is running out.

    August 5, 2010 at 7:57 pm |
  5. ACitizen

    If any members of the American Muslim community read this, I would ask them to remember that sometimes it is wiser not to force an issue by insisting on your rights. The community center and mosque can be built in another location that is less in-your-face than the proposed location in the shadow of the World Trade Center, and it would be smart to abandon the current plan.

    Sixty-nine years ago, the Japanese seriously underestimated the depth of America's anger resulting from their attack on Pearl Harbor, and they eventually paid a terrible price for their bad judgment. It takes a long time for that kind of assault to fade in our collective memory.

    If the Muslim community wants to demonstrate that theirs is a religion of peace, then I suggest it demonstrate sensitivity and consideration regarding the attacks of 9/11.

    August 5, 2010 at 7:57 pm |
  6. md123

    It is a good opportunity for the Muslim community to show tolerance and true meaning of Islam by not building a mosque. Building a mosque simply multiply hate towards Islam and it will increase huge support for issues like "Banning Burqa".
    that normally people does not care.

    August 5, 2010 at 7:56 pm |
    • mexican123

      Ok First of all I might not have been born here, but I do love and respect this country as my own, I find it quiet offensive that the municipal authorities of New York would grant such a petition, not to mention that Obama himself Okayed it as well. There is something that really pisses me off though, and that is that the department of National security and INS worry so much about Mexicans that come illegally, but at the same time the U.S. keeps on granting Visas to families, workers,doctors, nurses, and all kinds of Muslims, or Muslim backgrounds families. That is insane, Don't they realize that the more income the Muslim immigrant makes here in our so beloved USA the more of the threat he/she represents to all of us as a Nation? why? because that person could use their money, their connections, and strategies to create another Terrorist attempt?
      Another thing is that Muslims do not have to only be from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. They are also in Puerto Rico, Philippines, Nigeria (Africa), Egypt, Iran, China, Saudi Arabia and last nut not least....Palestinian Refuge camps outside of Israel and Whoever is reading this Did you know that Muslims from these camps hate the U.S. the most? because the U.S. let Israel borrow our planes, F-16's with the purpose of bombing and kicking out these people out of Israel? and guess what country holds the most immigrants of Palestinian descent? We do!!!!

      August 20, 2010 at 2:39 am |
  7. Dave

    Akbar Ahmed sounds like a smart man, the other guy has a hard-on for the word bigot.
    What this country needs is LESS tolerance for immigrants from other countries who just want to duplicate their way of living over here. There was a time, maybe when the population was 1 million when the "everything goes" approach worked, but with everyone banging each other like bunnies and overflowing their nastiness into the USA we are slowing become a toilet bowl for the World to crap in.

    Time to change the rules...

    August 5, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
    • watching

      I love my Trailer and wont give it up!

      August 5, 2010 at 7:57 pm |
  8. Sasha

    Mohammed commands the Koran readers to convert by force or kill the infidels. In Cordoba, Spain, under the Caliphate, dhimmis were allowed to practice their own religions so long as they paid jizya, or tax to the Caliph. Their tax was higher and they had fewer rights than did muslims.

    Islam requires its adherents to follow Sharia law, which integrates religion into every aspect of everyone's life. It is no accident that Muslims who follow Sharia try to force their beliefs onto others, not accepting that their religious freedom stops when they try to make others adhere to their beliefs.

    The crusades were a response to Islam taking over Christian territories by force; once they do, they erect mosques on sites of existing churches and synagogues or turn churches, such as Hagia Sophia into mosques. In Cordoba they erected a mosque on the site of a 6th century church which was turned into a Cathedral after the reconquista, and are now bitching that they want to worship there also. That isn't possible as Muslims are unwilling to share worship space with others and have no mechanism by which to deconsecrate mosques so consider any former mosque to still be a place of their worship. Their motive for this placement of mosques is to announce to the world that they are the victors, which is their motive for putting a mosque near ground zero.

    I'm proud to be a descendant of people who turned the Muslims back and were not conquered.

    August 5, 2010 at 7:54 pm |
  9. RICH

    Ya know as a muslim i feel that they are taking the wrong step by building it there but the truth is many islamophobes don't want a MASJID ( real name for muslim place of worship) to be built anywhere in America never mind two blocks away from ground zero. Ironically many conservative Christian's want Islams third holiest MASJID i.e Al Aqsa to be ripped down and the third Jewish temple to be built on top of it so the coming of teh 'lord' can usher in. btw I know i was once an evangelical! So they have no sympathy whatsoever for the Arabs there if it was ripped down and the temple was built . Why you may ask!... simple... . GOD said so! So they should stop playing the sensitivity card !

    August 5, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
    • Sasha

      It's the holiest site in Judaism and is the site on which the First and Second Temples stood. That's why they want it back. It's typical of Muslims to build on other religions holy sites as a way of showing their dominance, which is exactly why they want the mosque at ground zero.

      August 5, 2010 at 9:49 pm |
    • Nimrod

      Bingo Sasha!!! What we really need to do is build a combination Protestant/Catholic church/Synagogue on the site of the Kaaba right after hitting it with a neutron bomb during the hajj!!

      August 6, 2010 at 12:14 am |
    • MaybeGodMaybeNot

      You shouldn't trust every astral voice you hear, you know... There are multitude of astral beings that speak to gullible people who would listen.. Just because you don't see who is talking to you doesn't make them God. Yea, according to some insane folks, God told them to kill innocent people, kids... or fly the plans into the buildings.

      August 6, 2010 at 4:35 am |
  10. JLP

    Muslims in this country are using our freedom and laws to beat us. The intent of ALL Muslims is world domination.Read the Koran and you will very quickly come to that conclusion.

    August 5, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
    • watching

      How many copies of the Quraan (not Koran) do you have??? o

      August 5, 2010 at 7:56 pm |
    • dave

      jlp, your message is falling on deaf ears.

      August 5, 2010 at 9:19 pm |
    • watching...NOT!!!

      watching: I do not need to know how to spell your book. domination and eradication of anyone who does not agree with your religion is written all over it. jihad is the religion of the weak. powerful people do not need to dominate.

      August 6, 2010 at 4:22 am |
  11. Listen

    All of you "Patriots" and "Muslims" and "Jews", America is gone. The entire idea of a melting pot is no more. We have a disparate population that refuse to accept each other much less trust each other. This is due to the acts that we have witnessed in the recent history of America; 9/11, Iraqi Invasion, Afghan Invasion, Oklahoma City Bombing, errant bombs falling on weddings. We had the opportunity to be a partner in the middle east many times but when the choices that were made were of the short term response we lost the opportunity. There is hope, We can vote in the right type of representation to our government, we can communicate with our Congress and Senate, we can turn off the TV and go get to know our neighbor. The more brotherhood and sisterhood we can build the better we will be. I think Allah, God, Jesus, Yaweh, Budha, and Shiva would agree on this. We were meant to be together as 1 people.

    August 5, 2010 at 7:52 pm |
  12. Timothy Lee

    The 9-11 Terrorists were radical muslims – but this is no justification for painting all muslims as terrorists. This goes against the basic freedoms that our Country holds so dear. This is the same kind of thinking that caused Japanese Americans to be rounded up and put in camps during WWII. Many evil and violent people have perpetrated crimes in the name of christianity as well, I can assure you, but we have not forever branded all christians as killers. We are taught as small children not to discriminate against entire groups based on the acts of a few. What message does this discrimination send to muslim Americans serving in our military – that we value them less? That we do not trust their patriotism because of their religious views?

    August 5, 2010 at 7:52 pm |
  13. BigDaddyR

    This is crazy. While a block or two away is not right on top of the site of the attacks the intent of the location is clear enough to send the message and anyone who doesn't get it better wake up. America which is a predominantly Christian country was attacked by Muslim extremists and then told they want to put a Mosque up near the site to show their victory. Of course people are going to be pissed! One of the great things in America is freedom but we have all been too complacent in protection this country. Try to go and erect a Christian church in some of the Muslim countries and see what happens, you won't live very long and before you know it you'll be on a video on Al Jazera. Americans need to stop letting the tail wag the dog. Political correctness needs to go away so people can express themselves instead of bowing down to a minority because of a stigmatism. Standing up for your beliefs and rights is not racist and should be what's expected. Anyone in the US who doesn't like how their being treated here is free to go back to where they came from. I'm sure approval can be gotten for a mosque in a Muslim country.

    August 5, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
  14. Derek

    He says everything I'm feeling with absolute clarity


    August 5, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
    • watching

      Who really cares about what an Atheist (Commie) says? he will say the same about Christianity and every religion...

      August 5, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
    • SPQR

      No religion is better than the other. The people that participated in 9/11
      were simply fanatics that used religion as their weapon. The mosque will
      send them a message that not all Muslims are like them. I think that a Church
      for the Muslims, Christians and Jews would have made a bigger and more
      powerfull statement.

      August 5, 2010 at 10:06 pm |
    • Gordon MacDonald

      Pat Condell nails the problems facing the West and the incursion of Islam into the West. One of the best indicators of this is the number and ferocity of death threats he receives.

      August 5, 2010 at 11:01 pm |
    • RefugeeFromCommunists

      Derek, thank you for this video! I am so with you on this. I am an American citizen since 1990, came to the US on a refugee status from the former USSR in 1980's so I'm not as naive as some of my fellow Americans. During 9/11 I worked on the team with 6 men from Iran. When the horrifying news broke up I remember their reaction that truly shocked me. There was no emotion of horror or disapprove in their comments. On the contrary, on the day of 9/11 they were chalking that it was the US Government conspiracy with Israel. They were either on Green Card or had US citizenship, working here and sending money back home. Yet when the tragedy happened, not one of them expressed disproval or condemned the terrorists. I'm not a vengeful person. I know that there are many peaceful muslims. Yet my then colleagues' reaction to 9/11 on that day and the days that followed will stay with me forever. Politics aside, I feel that building mosque by WTC site is a consecration and mockery. I understand that the peaceful muslims do not want violence but how about some consideration for the rest of the nation and not rubbing your faith into everyone's wounds? And yes, I agree with some of the posts, I am yet to hear outright condemnation of the 9/11 attack by the muslim community, without any flowery background on how peaceful Islam is. I am yet to hear that I and my muslim community condemn these terrorists and their actions without any excuses or trying to educate us about your religion.

      August 6, 2010 at 3:15 am |
    • WeLoveNPR...BUT

      I consider myself a liberal (especially when it comes to human rights) and love listening to NPR. But there was something that deeply offended me when I listened to the radio in September of 2001. Right after the 9/11 attacks, when I was sick to my stomach from the tragedy that just happened and knowing that it was carried out by the Radical Islamists, every time I would turn on the radio I would hear the middle eastern music or education about islam. It was so painful and distasteful to force the religion that produced such atrocity into our trouts. It felt like the terrorists actually succeeded to bring islam to everyone's attention by using violence. When the pain was so acute, I did not want to hear about the history of islam and how wonderful it was. Yes we have the right of free speech. One of the aspects of this right is the right to chose what information I want to know. I do not want to learn about islam, and after the 9/11 less than ever!!!! I agree that building a mosque at ground zero is a consecration and insult to the rest on the nation.

      August 6, 2010 at 3:55 am |
    • Yvette

      Thanks for sharing Derek. Maybe it will enlighten just one sympathizer.

      August 6, 2010 at 5:01 am |
    • John

      This video is dead on. Cordoba is exactley what he says, and that is exactley what musselmen do. Witness the Hagia Sophia, the dome on the rock, and countless other examples. And, i have to bring this up. the koran permits lying for moslems to achieve thier goals. The great allah permits deceit! If you are moslem, then you HAVE to agree with everything in the koran. that would include being deceitfull. So who knows, I take anything a moslem says as a half truth at best.

      August 6, 2010 at 10:22 am |
  15. Regina Alexander

    let them build it and them just blow it up, simple.

    August 5, 2010 at 7:49 pm |
  16. Pattu

    I personally believe that every religion inherently preaches the same. Mankind has tried interpreting these teachings in their own way and that has sprouted the difference between different religions. But that said, Ground Zero should be dedicated to all the people who lost their lives on that fateful due to some fanatic instead of some building to honor any particular religion. 9/11 has not only changed the very fabric of America but has also changed the world. Without honoring/inflaming any particular religious sect, it would be best served if they build a memorial or build back a business house to honor the American spirit.

    August 5, 2010 at 7:48 pm |
  17. John

    Being from the NY/NJ area, I can understand why people are angry about this mosque, what we should be worried about is someone attacking the mosque and starting trouble to say the least. The Muslim leaders should be aware of this and be more sensitive to people affected by 911 which is a very large group.

    August 5, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
  18. John

    Watching – Learn your history. The US is founded on the foundation of Christianity. The founding fathers would puke in their mouths if they saw how the progressives in this country have all but flushed the rights and privileges of the average, middle-class American down the drain. If you believe the US is secular, than why are there thousands of biblical references all of the US Capital? Go look at the Ten Commandments on the doors of the Supreme Court building and tell me how secular we once were. If true Americans don’t put their put foot down, and stop allowing the minority to dictate the direction of this country, than we deserve what we get.
    "Those who would sacrifice liberty for security deserve neither." Ben Franklin

    August 5, 2010 at 7:46 pm |
  19. bill phillips

    no flippin way should they be alound to build anything their.... we are at war with jihadists..... aND Alao bewcauase they cloised the comments on the kagan bitch..... I hate liberals they way they think they can save the worlld by using a better light bulb or driving a clown car.... let me just tell you i waste as much energy and water as i can so that i off set what you try to save

    August 5, 2010 at 7:46 pm |
  20. Kelly

    well put put"Coach" well done.

    August 5, 2010 at 7:44 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.