ADL, AJC Weigh In On Ground Zero Mosque (Updated)
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The Anti-Defamation League issued a statement Friday against the building of a mosque near the World Trade Center memorial site. And on Monday, the American Jewish Committee entered the fray as well, saying the Cordoba Initiative's $100 million cultural center on Park Place "has “has a right to be built.” But the organization urged the founders of the center to "urgently address concerns about funding and support for terrorism."

The ADL's statement came as a surprise to much of the Jewish community, and was announced quietly on the organization's Web site and not through a press release. The civil rights group's national director, Abraham Foxman, said its national board decided to weigh on on the topic because ADL had been repeatedly asked its position on the matter after defending the Cordoba Initiative from what ADL considers to be a wave of anti-Islamic bigotry in response to the controversy.

"ADL has a position that we don't duck issues," said Foxman. "People were asking where we are."

The proposed construction of Cordoba House, a Muslim center at 45-47 Park Place, just two blocks form the former World Trade Center, has sparked a heated debate, and the ADL's statement that the center should be relocated out of sensitivity to victims of the 9-11 terrorist attacks seems to have put pressure on other Jewish organizations to come off the fence.

AJC's executive director, David Harris, writing in the Huffington Post blog on Monday, said "We hope the Cordoba Center will fulfill the lofty mission its founders have articulated. They have set the bar high, describing it as a Muslim-inspired institution similar to the 92nd Street Y (a well-known Jewish community center in Manhattan.) If so, it means a facility truly open to the entire community – and to a wide spectrum of ideas based on peace and coexistence.

"Once up and running, it won’t be long before we know if the founders have delivered on their promise. If so, New York and America will be enriched. If not, the center should be shunned."

Supporters of the plan accuse opponents of bigotry, slamming them for equating all Muslims with the 9/11 terrorists.In its statement Friday opposing the plan, the ADL called the bigotry that has surrounded the decision “unfair and wrong” but nonetheless opposes the construction, it says, out of sensitivity to those who had family members killed on 9/11.

“There are understandably strong passions and keen sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center site. We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel – and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001,” the statement reads.

“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." The ADL statement also evinces concern about the motivation behind the proposed mosque.

“In recommending that a different location be found for the Islamic Center, we are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build it, and what connections, if any, its leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values," the statement continued. "These questions deserve a response, and we hope those backing the project will be transparent and forthcoming. But regardless of how they respond, the issue at stake is a broader one.”The ADL has in the past also opposed the construction of a convent at Auschwitz.

Foxman told The Jewish Week that part of the reason for the ADL's stance was concern about being consistent with its ardent opposition to the Carmelite Convent near Auschwitz in the mid-1980s, which was ultimately relocated by Pope John Paul. "We wanted the world to understand our position, now we have to understand theirs," he said.

The president of the Interfaith Alliance, Rev. Welton Gaddy, expressed his disappointment in the ADL’s statement, especially because it came from an organization that tries to protect civil liberties.

“Those who claim to defend religious freedom can not turn their back on it when faced with controversy,” he said. “It is unfair to prejudge the impact this center can have on reconciliation before it is even built. And we must remember that just because someone prays in a mosque, that does not make them any less of a citizen than you or I."

Last Update:

08/20/2010 - 18:08

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The Carmelite Convent is the analogy of choice here. It has been used by the ADL and Charles Krauthammer but it is not on point. The proposed Convent at Auschwitz would have been within the boundaries of the death camp. The proposed Islamic Community Center, which would have a room for prayer within it, would be two long city blocks away from the site known as Ground Zero. It could not even be seen from Ground Zero at its proposed location, which is currently an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory. Moreover, the local community supported it and it was approved by the zoning board. If that's not far enough, what would be? Three, four, ten? There is already an actual mosque four blocks away. Would that need to be moved next? Will all the folks attending that mosque now be put under investigation, simply for attending religious services? When will it stop? Which religion will next come under such pressure due to some other action? Will Catholics be barred from having churches near playgrounds? Will Jews be barred from building community centers near populated areas due to the threat of terrrorism against those sites? The real question is whether America is eager to abandon the substance of the First Amendment by intimidating a religious group from siting its building where it is otherwise legal and appropriate. The right-wing, and those afraid of it, have attacked the location, but have no grounds for that attack. They have attacked the people of the congregation as being associated by religion with the 9/11 attackers, but that would leave all Americans in fear of what their co-religionsists have done and might do next. They have attacked the funding of the building, but a capital campaign has yet to begin and a pledge of donor transparency has been made by the organizers. They have used sympathy for the 9/11 families as an excuse but there were hundreds of Muslims killed there that day and many people with friends and families who were killed there that day refuse to dump the First Amendment and support the building of the community center On the other hand, no one has challenged the look of the building, as there will be no dome atop it, as it is not a mosque but will simply have a place for prayer within it. Further, no one has challenged the building based upon what would be around it because there is already a mosque in the neighborhood and there are also a few strip clubs. It is an eclectic area that is also depressed and in need of revitalization, which this building could bring. In addition, the goal of this community center is to be a place of learning and fun for everyone in the city. Moreover, the Muslims behind it are Sufi, an historically peace-loving sect. The bottom line, the only reason for this fight is midterm politics. The far right is hoping to and has stirred up anti-Muslim fear to generate votes. Much like the Shirley Sherrod issue, this is a false issue and should be trated as a right-wing scam. I firmly support the site and hope that there is no effort to move it by people looking for political advantage at the expense of the religious tolerance and the commitment to the First Amendment that makes our nation truly great.
To the editor, How dare the Anti-defamation league downgrade the swastika as a Jewish Hate symbol. Almost a year ago on Yom Kippur evening my synagogue, Congregation Beth El had numerous swastikas painted on the building. No one has still been caught. Numerous additional swastikas have appeared in Edison New Jersey, with no one captured. I saw a skin head personally and no one followed up on my report. It is stupid to say as the ADL claims that" the swastika has become a more generalized symbol of hate.The extensive article in the Jewish Week conveniently leaves out the Edison story and the swastikas on my synagogue in particular. I HAVE BEEN ASKING FOR AN INVESTIGATION BY THE ADL FOR ALMOST A YEAR. THIS ARTICLE EXPLAINS WHY THE ADL HAS DONE LITTLE OR NOTHING. THE ADL WIEGHS IN ON THE MOSQUE NEAR GROUND ZERO, YET REMAINS RELATIVELY QUIET ABOUT SWASTIKAS IN MY TOWN AND IN PARTICULAR ON MY SYNAGOGUE BUILDING. THE ADL ALSO FORGIVES OLIVER STONE WHO IS LAUGHING ALL THE WAY TO THE BANK GETTING FREE PUYBLICITY ON HIS ANTI-SEMITIC REMARKS. I LOST MOST OF MY FAMILY IN THE HOLOCAUST INCLUDING TWO SIBLINGS AND ALL GRANDPARENTS I WILL NOT REMAIN SILENT. I OWE IT TO MY PARENTS, OF BLESSED MEMORY WHO SURVIVED AUSCHWITZ AND BUCHENWALD. RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG EDISON N.J.

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