Khush Amdeed (Welcome)

Welcome to Chowraha - crossroads!

Chowraha is the crossroads of thoughts, events, opinions and feelings...all that have been shaped by individuals living in an increasingly complex world inter-connected through various means of communications.

This blog is about the crossroads in society - whether it is those of a diaspora community, global media complicating the structure of nations and cultures, or individuals finding parallels in spaces unknown to them.

The above picture is courtesy a much-admired photographer (Ali Khurshid) whose work is a source of inspiration and reaffirms the belief in the complex beauty of this world.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Comedic Approach to Ground Zero Mosque Debate

3 Reasons the "Ground Zero Mosque" Debate Makes No Sense

  • By: Gladstone
  • August 20th, 2010
I don’t usually write about politics. It’s important, but something I want no part of – kind of like a raw sewage treatment facility. But frankly, I haven’t been this upset in a long time. And it's due to the logic-hating, herd-mentality rhetoric that some have been flinging in opposition to the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque.” For the uninitiated, there are plans to construct an Islamic community center in lower Manhattan. And, of course, lower Manhattan is where the World Trade Center stood before terrorists destroyed it, thereby murdering 3,000 Americans. I was working in New York City at the time. As was my father. As was my pregnant wife. I remember the day well. And the days that followed. I think most of all, I remember standing on the Staten Island Ferry, coming home with 200 other silent, reverent New Yorkers of every age, race, and religion, as we watched our city still smoldering a full week later. And it is with this backdrop that I can say to every politician spouting off and opposing the construction of this Islamic community center: “Shut up. Go away. You hate America.” I’m talking about people like professional political tumor, Newt Gingrich, and future worst President ever, Sarah Palin, who have both slammed supporters of the Islamic community center with rhetoric so flawed, I’m afraid even linking to it might impair your computer’s higher functioning circuits. But it's not just them. Due to the wave of misinformation being spread, apparently 68% of Americans also oppose the mosque. How did this happen? Well, basically a complacent or a complicit media helped perpetuate three ideas that are either outright lies or intellectually dishonest arguments designed to bring out the very worst in all of us. And as you continue to hear them--and you will--take out this column which you will have already printed and laminated, and recite thusly:
1. It’s Not at Ground Zero
The proposed structure is not on the hallowed ground of the former World Trade Center. It’s at an abandoned and private building blocks away that used to be the Burlington Coat Factory. That means that if every one of the “g’s” that Sarah Palin drops when she’s talkin’ folksy were 10 by10 feet large, you could still stack over 120 of them from Ground Zero to this community center. Easy. That sort of makes all the difference, doesn’t it? I know, when I first heard they were building a mosque at Ground Zero, I literally said, “What the fuck.” Like out loud and everything. I didn’t even pull a “WTF” despite years of writing for the Internet. That’s because for the last nine years, we New Yorkers have listened to countless proposals and plans and ideas of how to best rebuild the area while honoring the memories of those who died. And suddenly it seemed we were being told, “Yep, it’s all decided. Mosque. We want a mosque here. Just feels right.” So yeah, of course, no one was on board. That just made no sense. What happened to that proposed waterfall and wall of names? Nothing happened. Because no one was ever building a mosque on that site. It’s just a lie that was told to you by people who wanted you to be afraid, upset, and hurt. People who wanted to manipulate your tender emotions to inspire contempt for the government. It’s about as intellectually dishonest as manipulating debate footage to make it appear that “Drill, baby, drill” is Sarah Palin’s stance on partial birth abortions. It's just wrong. And to those who say that any location in lower Manhattan is too close for a Muslim structure, let me remind you that right now, in the shadow of what would be the former World Trade Center, there’s a Halal Meat Hot Truck with a multi-denominational line that wraps around my building every day at lunch time. And I’m positive that’s owned by a Muslim. And I’ve even suffered at his hands. (Spoiler alert: avoid the goat rhoti). Should he move a few more blocks away too? Of course, not. That would just be silly, right? Is it different? Why? Because mosques are religious and the 911 terrorists perverted Islam into something violent and hateful? Guess what? Those knights did the same thing to Christianity for the 300 years of the Crusades, and no one’s saying that churches shouldn’t be built anywhere in … Europe.
2. It’s Not Strictly A Mosque
A mosque by definition is a purely religious structure. This is a large proposed community center, open to the public and set to house, among other things, a basketball court. Yes there will be a prayer space inside it as well, but you don’t call St. Mary’s Hospital a church because it happens to have a chapel inside it, do you? Well, maybe you do. You read about politics on the Internet from a guy who claims not to write about politics, so maybe you’re functionally illiterate. But the point is, you shouldn’t. But “Islamic Community Center open to the public” doesn’t have the same ability to scare people the way "mosque" does. I mean, you hear "mosque" you think mosquito, you think STING! You hear "mosque" you think “mask,” you think DECEPTION! You hear “community center” you think “OK. One more place I’ll never go.” So, yeah, clearly the decision was made by those who hate you to call this the “Ground Zero Mosque” even though it’s not at Ground Zero and not technically a mosque. Why are we still discussing this? Why haven’t you already asked Sarah Palin if she’s the devil on her Twitter account? Oh, that’s right. Because the devil is supposed to be good at lying.
3. You Can’t Simultaneously Acknowledge A Right And Insist That Your Government Suppress It
But the real reason I’m writing is not just because of people like Sarah Palin, but because of shameful, spineless panderers like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Here’s a statement from each of them designed to give the appearance of being tolerant while adhering to good old-fashioned common sense values:
From Sarah Palin’s Twitter Feed:
And from Harry Reid’s spokesperson:
Let me make something clear. In order to make these statements you must hate two things: logic and America. There is NO way to say that an individual has a protected right to do something and simultaneously criticize your government for not suppressing the execution of that right. There is no way for President Obama or any other president to put a stumbling block in the way of the free exercise of religion without violating the sanctity of that freedom. Should I say it more simply? OK.
You can’t legally stop people from obeying the law.
The Burlington Coat factory is private property. Those who want to build on it are private citizens. They are violating no law in wanting to build a community center. Under what authority do you propose we stop them? There is no “unless you’re a Muslim within X yards of a national tragedy exception” to the free exercise of religion. Do the Gingrichs and Palins and Reids want to start a precedent where you can compel people not to exercise the freedoms guaranteed under our Constitution provided enough people don’t like you? And what are we saying to Muslims? That if they were good Americans they would willingly give up their rights? I can’t think of anything less American than that? This is America. We do what we want. And all you have to do to have that right is be a citizen here. And if you’re a traitor, well then we will prosecute you for treason and penalize you for taking up arms against the greatest country in the world, but we will NOT start curtailing your freedoms based on mere speculation fueled by lies about what you’re building and where you’re building it. In the days following 911 it was very popular to say that we couldn’t do anything differently in America or “the terrorists would win.” We can’t stop driving gas guzzling cars. We can’t stop supporting dictators in other parts of the world for financial or political gain. We can’t vote for a Democrat. Most of that was rhetoric. Some of it was probably true. But one thing is definitely true: if we ask our leaders to start dishonoring the freedoms that make this country great, the terrorists surely will have won. And I don’t want to see that. Because unlike those with power and influence who would lie to you, I love America.

Read more:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Obama's Stand on Mosque Weakens

August 17, 2010

Our Mosque Madness

Maybe, for Barack Obama, it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.
When the president skittered back from his grandiose declaration at an iftar celebration at the White House Friday that Muslims enjoy freedom of religion in America and have the right to build a mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan, he offered a Clintonesque parsing.
“I was not commenting, and I will not comment, on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there,” he said the morning after he commented on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. “I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about.”
Let me be perfectly clear, Mr. Perfectly Unclear President: You cannot take such a stand on a matter of first principle and then take it back the next morning when, lo and behold, Harry Reid goes craven and the Republicans attack. What is so frightening about Fox News?
Some critics have said the ultimate victory for Osama and the 9/11 hijackers would be to allow a mosque to be built near ground zero.
Actually, the ultimate victory for Osama and the 9/11 hijackers is the moral timidity that would ban a mosque from that neighborhood.
Our enemies struck at our heart, but did they also warp our identity?
The war against the terrorists is not a war against Islam. In fact, you can’t have an effective war against the terrorists if it is a war on Islam.
George W. Bush understood this. And it is odd to see Barack Obama less clear about this matter than his predecessor. It’s time for W. to weigh in.
This — along with immigration reform and AIDS in Africa — was one of his points of light. As the man who twice went to war in the Muslim world, he has something of an obligation to add his anti-Islamophobia to this mosque madness. W. needs to get his bullhorn back out.
Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are both hyper-articulate former law professors. But Clinton never presented himself as a moral guide to the country. So when he weaseled around, or triangulated on some issues, it was part of his ultra-fallible persona — and consistent with his identity as a New Democrat looking for a Third Way.
But Obama presents himself as a paragon of high principle. So when he flops around on things like “don’t ask, don’t tell” or shrinks back from one of his deepest beliefs about the freedom of religion anywhere and everywhere in America, it’s not pretty. Even worse, this is the man who staked his historical reputation on a new and friendlier engagement with the Muslim world. The man who extended his hand to Tehran has withdrawn his hand from Park Place.
Paranoid about looking weak, Obama allowed himself to be weakened by perfectly predictable Republican hysteria. Which brings us to Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich fancies himself an intellectual, a historian, a deep thinker — the opposite number, you might say, of Sarah Palin.
Yet here is Gingrich attempting to out-Palin Palin on Fox News: “Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington.” There is no more demagogic analogy than that.
Have any of the screaming critics noticed that there already are two mosques in the same neighborhood — one four blocks away and one 12 blocks away.
Should they be dismantled? And what about the louche liquor stores and strip clubs in the periphery of the sacred ground?
By now you have to be willfully blind not to know that the imam in charge of the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, is the moderate Muslim we have allegedly been yearning for.
So look where we are. The progressive Democrat in the White House, the first president of the United States with Muslim roots, has been morally trumped by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, two moderate Republicans who have spoken bravely and lucidly about not demonizing and defaming an entire religion in the name of fighting its radicals.
Criticizing his fellow Republicans, Governor Christie said that while he understood the pain and sorrow of family members who lost loved ones on 9/11, “we cannot paint all of Islam with that brush.”
He charged the president with trying to turn the issue into a political football. But that is not quite right. It already was a political football and the president fumbled it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Debate over Mosque Near Ground Zero splits GOP

As top Republicans including House Minority Leader John A. Boehner and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich attack plans for an Islamic community center and mosque near the destroyed World Trade Center site, a larger schism is opening up in the GOP over the inflammatory issue.

Some Republicans fear that pressing the issue carries risks, diverting attention from bread-and-butter issues and undercutting the party's efforts to broaden its base — just as it is losing ground among other ethnic minorities such as Latinos.

"This is a distraction from a winning game plan," said Grover Norquist, a conservative activist who a decade ago worked with President George W. Bush and his political guru, Karl Rove, to cultivate Muslim American and Latino voters to try to build a more diverse and durable Republican majority. "It is very stupid, when Republicans are poised to win an overwhelming victory in November over Democratic spending, to focus attention on this issue."

Gingrich, in recent appearances, has compared construction of the mosque to placing Nazi signs near Holocaust memorials. Sarah Palin, former GOP vice presidential nominee, called the mosque project an "unnecessary provocation" in a Twitter message.

"Ground Zero Mosque supporters: Doesn't it stab you in the heart, as it does ours throughout the heartland," read another message by Palin, who like Gingrich is a potential presidential aspirant with an eye on the party's conservative base.

Norquist, whose wife is Muslim, has emerged as the most outspoken foe of politicizing the mosque issue. But other Republicans — especially those focusing on the midterm election or in swing states — have taken similar stands.

"As it relates to religious buildings in the vicinity of ground zero, it's either all or nothing — churches, synagogues and mosques should be treated the same," Chris Gibson, a Republican running against a House incumbent in upstate New York, said on his Facebook page.

In New Jersey, GOP Gov. Chris Christie warned Tuesday against politicizing the mosque dispute and tarnishing "all of Islam" with fears of terrorism.

"What offends me the most about all this is that it's being used as a political football by both parties," Christie said.

The controversy has been rippling through the political world all summer. But the turbulence intensified sharply last week when President Obama defended the right of Muslims to build the center, later adding he was not advocating its placement near the Sept. 11 attack site.

In the days that followed, Democratic candidates were asked by Republican opponents whether they agreed with their president on the issue.

In a measure of how awkward many Democrats felt about Obama's statement, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), a close Obama ally facing a tough reelection fight, distanced himself from the president in a statement saying that the mosque should be built elsewhere.

Republicans redoubled their efforts, with Boehner criticizing the president. "The decision to build this mosque so close to ground zero is deeply troubling, as is the president's decision to endorse it," the Ohio Republican said Saturday.

Gingrich argued that authorities had the right to bar the mosque construction because it was akin to the "Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor."

" Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington," Gingrich said Monday on Fox News. "There is no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center."

Norquist attacked Gingrich and others for rhetoric that he believed gave a "get out of jail free" card to politically vulnerable Democrats.

"It is an opportunity for all big-spending Democrats like Reid to change the subject" in a close election year, Norquist said.

In response, Gingrich said in a statement that he favored religious liberty but that his "opposition to the ground zero mosque is principled and focused on the outrage of triumphalist radical Islamists choosing a deliberately provocative site."

He added: "As to politics, the American people are instinctively opposed to the ground zero mosque, by 68% to 29%. Why would taking the 68% side be a weakness?"

The controversy comes at a time when some Republicans also are concerned that their party's focus on illegal immigration — especially a new drive for a constitutional amendment to deny automatic citizenship to U.S.-born children of foreigners — could also undercut the GOP's long-term hopes of expanding its appeal to the nation's burgeoning Latino population.

"In the long term, there are reputational issues for the Republicans that could make it very tough to compete, particularly at the national level, given the changing demographics of the country," said Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush.

Gerson backed Obama's initial remarks on the topic, saying that a president had no other choice but to take a stand.

"I have spent time in the West Wing and know what it is like for a president who has Muslim citizens, has armed forces at his command and has Muslim soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq who are fighting at our side against Islamic radicalism" to oppose construction of a mosque, Gerson said. "A president cannot say that a holy building serving people of this faith somehow desecrates Manhattan."

Bush has stayed out of the political dispute over the mosque. His spokesman, David Sherzer, said Tuesday that Bush would have no comment on the building plans. Less than a week after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Bush visited the Islamic Center in Washington. "The face of terror is not the true faith of Islam," he said then. "Islam is peace."

A group of prominent Arab American and Muslim Republicans circulated a letter Tuesday to top party officials, expressing concern over the language Gingrich and other notables were using in the debate.

The signers included Norquist's wife, Samah, who served as an advisor in the George W. Bush administration; former Bush White House aide Suhail Khan; and Sherine El-Abd, president of the New Jersey Federation of Republican Women.

"While we share the desire of all in our party to be successful in the November elections, we cannot support victory at the expense of the U.S. Constitution or the Arab and Muslim community in America," they wrote.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Just How Far Is the "Ground Zero Mosque" From Ground Zero?

The "Ground Zero Mosque" that we have been and will be hearing so much about is not exactly a mosque, nor is it at Ground Zero. Here's why: you can't see Ground Zero -- the former site of the World Trade Center -- from the future site of the Cordoba House.

From 45 Park Place, the former Burlington Coat Factory building that will make way for the Cordoba House, it's two blocks, around a corner, to get to the WTC site. Park Place doesn't lie between the construction site and any mass transit stations, so you would need to go out of your way to have it offend you.
If you look up the walking directions you'll notice that it takes a couple of minutes to walk the distance (approximately a tenth of a mile) between the two spots. Pretty much two minutes exactly when I took the trip with a shaky video camera. Here's the clip, first sped up to 4X speed then slowed down to 1X

Exaggerating the Jihadist Debate

The following is an article I am re-sharing from Aman's google buzz, an American citizen and a law student in the USA. The original article was written by ROMESH RATNESAR onTuesday, Aug. 17, 2010 for TIME.

This is a great article in Time that talks about how this obsession in the media and in politics, regarding the Park51 community center, is a distraction from more important things. 

There is a line in here about how this mosque/community, if it is built, will be "a symbolic monument to the triumph of Islamism in the United States." This was meant to be a negative statement said by an opposer of the community center. I reply by saying that should this center be built, it will indeed be a monument to the triumph of Islamism in the United States. The triumph of Muslims being fully accepted into America, not just as Muslims, but as Americans. 

We Muslims here in America are not just Muslims, but Americans as well. As an American I can say with conviction, "I am a proud Muslim and I am a proud American. Those terrorist SOBs are gonna go down, because this is a great country, and we don't put up with that bull!"

The 'Ground Zero Mosque' Debate: 
Exaggerating the Jihadist Threat

Should Muslims be allowed to build a mosque at Ground Zero? Merely posing the question is an act of deliberate distortion. As its defenders point out, the Community Center at Park51 will occupy not a solitary inch of the 16-block site on which the Twin Towers stood. Once built, the center will indeed house a mosque, "open and accessible to all" — but also a swimming pool, basketball court, auditorium, library, day-care facility, restaurant and cooking school. The center is being built by a private organization on land it legally owns. Twenty-nine out of 30 Lower Manhattan community-board members voted to approve it. By every legal standard, the case for allowing Park51 to be built is, in the words of conservative UCLA constitutional-law professor Eugene Volokh, "open and shut."
But the question isn't going away. President Obama's statement on Aug. 13 endorsing "the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan" has unleashed another storm of partisan bloviation. Obama is "pandering to radical Islam," says Newt Gingrich; John Boehner finds Obama's comments "deeply troubling." On this issue, the President's critics have public opinion on their side: nearly 70% of Americans in a CNN–Opinion Research Corporation poll say they oppose a Ground Zero mosque.(See Mark Halperin on why the GOP should avoid the issue.)

Many opponents of the Park51 project claim that the mosque itself isn't the problem; it's the idea of building it so close to the World Trade Center. Such misgivings have some validity. But the heat the mosque controversy has generated, on both the left and right, is unhealthy, misplaced and ultimately self-defeating. It reflects our tendency to exaggerate the real threat posed by Islamic extremism and what America should do about it. And nine years after 9/11, the fight over the mosque near Ground Zero shows how obsessed we remain with an enemy that may no longer exist.(See more commentary on Islamophobia and the mosque near Ground Zero.)

The mosque's critics and champions both say their goal is to counter radical Islam. In his Aug. 3 speech defending the Park51 project, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that "we would play into our enemies' hands" if we were to deny American Muslims the right to build a mosque where they choose. "To cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists," Bloomberg said. New York Congressman Jerrod Nadler, a mosque supporter, says, "Everybody's liberty is at stake here." The mosque's opponents make the same argument in reverse. Gingrich has called the Cordoba Initiative part of "an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization." Building the mosque, in the words of one conservative columnist, would be "a symbolic monument to the triumph of Islamism in the United States."(See the moderate imam behind the mosque near Ground Zero.)

The prevalence of such rhetoric on both sides of the mosque debate makes it seem as if the struggle against global jihadism hangs in the balance. The truth is that Osama bin Laden and his ilk face much bigger problems. The story of the past decade in the Muslim world is that of the widespread rejection — or "refudiation," to borrow a phrase — of terrorism. A study by the Pew Research Center earlier this year found that support in Muslim countries for suicide bombings has fallen precipitously from post-9/11 levels. One-third of Pakistanis believed terrorism was justified in 2002; now just 8% do. For all our anxiety about the rise of religious extremism, no government in the Arab world has been toppled by forces sympathetic to al-Qaeda since 2001. And though some militant Muslims surely wish us harm, their ability to actually inflict it has eroded; it has been more than five years since the last successful al-Qaeda attack in the West.

The eclipse of al-Qaeda has come about largely through revulsion at the jihadists' indiscriminate slaughter of fellow Muslims, from Indonesia to Iraq. And yet we have failed to notice. A Gallup poll taken in June found that Americans still believe terrorism is a bigger threat to the future well-being of the country than health care costs, unemployment and illegal immigration. (Only the federal debt was deemed an issue of equal seriousness.) America's post-9/11 obsession with terrorism, the belief that we are locked in an epic ideological struggle with radical Islam, has stretched our resources to the limit and distracted us from higher-order priorities. National myopia poses a bigger challenge to the U.S.'s long-term stability than terrorism ever will.

What does this mean for the mosque near Ground Zero? However the dispute is ultimately resolved, its impact on the "threat" posed by radical Islam will be negligible. That's because the threat is receding on its own. Allowing a place of worship to be built in lower Manhattan will constitute neither an American triumph nor a defeat. It will simply tell the world that this nation, wisely, has decided to move on.

Read more:,8599,2011400,00.html?xid=rss-topstories#ixzz0wtbyerga

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Obama's Encouragement for Mosque Near Ground Zero

A friend has nicely worded his thoughts on Obama's approval of mosque near Ground Zero site. Here it is below:

Obama and Mayor Bloomberg (who, incidentally, is Jewish) deserve credit for their courageous stance. The mosque debate may be more symbolic than substantive, but symbols are important, they crystallize and shape ideas, and ideas often drive actions in international politics. It is not easy to take such a position in the America of today. Obama will probably pay a political price for it, but these are the sorts of moments that highlight the best aspects of the United States of America.


August 13, 2010

Obama Strongly Backs Islam Center Near 9/11 Site

WASHINGTON — President Obama delivered a strong defense on Friday night of a proposed Muslim community center and mosque near ground zero in Manhattan, using a White House dinner celebrating Ramadan to proclaim that “as a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country.”
After weeks of avoiding the high-profile battle over the center — his press secretary, Robert Gibbs, said last week that the president did not want to “get involved in local decision-making” — Mr. Obama stepped squarely into the thorny debate.
“I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground zero is, indeed, hallowed ground,” the president said in remarks prepared for the annual White House iftar, the sunset meal breaking the day’s fast.
But, he continued: “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are.”
In hosting the iftar, Mr. Obama was following a White House tradition that, while sporadic, dates to Thomas Jefferson, who held a sunset dinner for the first Muslim ambassador to the United States. President George W. Bush hosted iftars annually.
Aides to Mr. Obama say privately that he has always felt strongly about the proposed community center and mosque, but the White House did not want to weigh in until local authorities made a decision on the proposal, planned for two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.
Last week, New York City removed the final construction hurdle for the project, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg spoke forcefully in favor of it.
The community center proposal has led to a national uproar over Islam, 9/11 and freedom of religion during a hotly contested midterm election season.
In New York, Rick A. Lazio, a Republican candidate for governor and a former member of the House of Representatives, issued a statement responding to Mr. Obama’s remarks, saying that the president was still “not listening to New Yorkers.”
“With over 100 mosques in New York City, this is not an issue of religion, but one of safety and security,” he said.
Sarah Palin, the former governor of Alaska and the Republican vice-presidential candidate in 2008, has called the project “an unnecessary provocation” and urged “peace-seeking Muslims” to reject it.
The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization, has also opposed the center.
In his remarks, Mr. Obama distinguished between the terrorists who plotted the 9/11 attacks and Islam. “Al Qaeda’s cause is not Islam — it is a gross distortion of Islam,” the president said, adding, “In fact, Al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than people of any other religion, and that list includes innocent Muslims who were killed on 9/11.”
Noting that “Muslim Americans serve with honor in our military,” Mr. Obama said that at next week’s iftar at the Pentagon, “tribute will be paid to three soldiers who gave their lives in Iraq and now rest among the heroes of Arlington National Cemetery.”
Mr. Obama ran for office promising to improve relations with the Muslim world, by taking steps like closing the detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and more generally reaching out. In a speech in Cairo last year, he vowed “a new beginning.”
But Ali Abunimah, an Arab-American journalist and author, said the president has since left many Muslims disappointed.
“There has been no follow-through; Guantánamo is still open and so forth, so all you have left for him to show is in the symbolic field,” Mr. Abunimah said, adding that it was imperative for Mr. Obama to “stand up to Islamophobia.”
Once Mr. Bloomberg spoke out, the president’s course seemed clear, said Steven Clemons of the New America Foundation, a public policy institution here.
“Bloomberg’s speech was, I think, the pivotal one, and set the standard for leadership on this issue,” Mr. Clemons said.
Mr. Bloomberg, in a statement, said: “This proposed mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan is as important a test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetime, and I applaud President Obama’s clarion defense of the freedom of religion tonight.”
Sharif el-Gamal, the developer on the project, said, “We are deeply moved and tremendously grateful for our president’s words.”
A building on the site of the proposed center is already used for prayers, and some worshipers there on Friday night discussed the president’s remarks.
Mohamed Haroun, an intern at a mechanical engineering firm, said, “What he should have said was: ‘This is a community decision. Constitutionally, they have the right to do it, but it’s a community decision and we should see what the local community wants to do.’ ”

Jon Stewart on Mosque Near Ground Zero

A distrust of Muslims is the one thing that unites America from sea to shining sea. Airdate - 08/10/2010

Friday, August 13, 2010

Transcript of Mayor Bloomberg's Popular Speech on Ground Zero Mosque

Transcript of Mayor Bloomberg’s Speech on Ground Zero Mosque

Delivered August 3, 2010 at Governors Island in New York.
“We’ve come here to Governors Island to stand where the earliest settlers first set foot in New Amsterdam, and where the seeds of religious tolerance were first planted. We come here to see the inspiring symbol of liberty that more than 250 years later would greet millions of immigrants in this harbor. And we come here to state as strongly as ever, this is the freest city in the world. That’s what makes New York special and different and strong.
“Our doors are open to everyone. Everyone with a dream and a willingness to work hard and play by the rules. New York City was built by immigrants, and it’s sustained by immigrants — by people from more than 100 different countries speaking more than 200 different languages and professing every faith. And whether your parents were born here or you came here yesterday, you are a New Yorker.
“We may not always agree with every one of our neighbors. That’s life. And it’s part of living in such a diverse and dense city. But we also recognize that part of being a New Yorker is living with your neighbors in mutual respect and tolerance. It was exactly that spirit of openness and acceptance that was attacked on 9/11, 2001.
“On that day, 3,000 people were killed because some murderous fanatics didn’t want us to enjoy the freedoms to profess our own faiths, to speak our own minds, to follow our own dreams, and to live our own lives. Of all our precious freedoms, the most important may be the freedom to worship as we wish. And it is a freedom that even here — in a city that is rooted in Dutch tolerance — was hard-won over many years.
“In the mid-1650s, the small Jewish community living in lower Manhattan petitioned Dutch governor Peter Stuyvesant for the right to build a synagogue, and they were turned down. In 1657, when Stuyvesant also prohibited Quakers from holding meetings, a group of non-Quakers in Queens signed the Flushing Remonstrance, a petition in defense of the right of Quakers and others to freely practice their religion. It was perhaps the first formal political petition for religious freedom in the American colonies, and the organizer was thrown in jail and then banished from New Amsterdam.
“In the 1700s, even as religious freedom took hold in America, Catholics in New York were effectively prohibited from practicing their religion, and priests could be arrested. Largely as a result, the first Catholic parish in New York City was not established until the 1780s, St. Peter’s on Barclay Street, which still stands just one block north of the World Trade Center site, and one block south of the proposed mosque and community center.
“This morning, the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission unanimously voted to extend — not to extend — landmark status to the building on Park Place where the mosque and community center are planned. The decision was based solely on the fact that there was little architectural significance to the building. But with or without landmark designation, there is nothing in the law that would prevent the owners from opening a mosque within the existing building.
“Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.
“The simple fact is, this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship, and the government has no right whatsoever to deny that right. And if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
“Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.
“This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions or favor one over another. The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.
“Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11, and that our Muslim neighbors grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.
“For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetimes, as important a test. And it is critically important that we get it right.
“On Sept. 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked, ‘What God do you pray to?’ (Bloomberg’s voice cracks here a little as he gets choked up.) ‘What beliefs do you hold?’
“The attack was an act of war, and our first responders defended not only our city, but our country and our constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked.
“Of course, it is fair to ask the organizers of the mosque to show some special sensitivity to the situation, and in fact their plan envisions reaching beyond their walls and building an interfaith community. But doing so, it is my hope that the mosque will help to bring our city even closer together, and help repudiate the false and repugnant idea that the attacks of 9/11 were in any ways consistent with Islam.
“Muslims are as much a part of our city and our country as the people of any faith. And they are as welcome to worship in lower Manhattan as any other group. In fact, they have been worshipping at the site for better, the better part of a year, as is their right. The local community board in lower Manhattan voted overwhelmingly to support the proposal. And if it moves forward, I expect the community center and mosque will add to the life and vitality of the neighborhood and the entire city.
“Political controversies come and go, but our values and our traditions endure, and there is no neighborhood in this city that is off-limits to God’s love and mercy, as the religious leaders here with us can attest.”
Read more:

Bloomberg's Landmark Speech on Ground Zero Mosque

Bloomberg, the mayor of new york city, has stood firmly in support of the mosque and islamic center being built in close proximity to ground zero in spite of some harsh objection to it from some. Bloomberg is a very successful ex-businessman who is worth billions, and is, of course, jewish. 

"Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion?" Bloomberg asked. "That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here. This nation was founded on the principle that the government must never choose between religions, or favor one over another."

The video can be found here

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Foreign Relief Aid to Pakistan So Far for Flood Relief

Note: the following is from an email I received today

It's interesting and very sad, but not surprising, to note that India, which only last week extended a $1 billion line of credit to Bangladesh has provided zero aid to Pakistan during this terrible flood. The people affected by this terrible disaster are ordinary poor people that have lost everything and are as subcontinental as the rest of us. It is churlish and unbecoming of the Indian claim to represent an entire multi-faith, multi-ethnic civilization.

The feelings are mutual; I have seen several Pakistani politicians and commentators express strong, sometimes virulent, anti-India feelings on Pakistani TV channels, and talk of "Pakistan won freedom from "the Hindus"" is not even controversial in Pakistan. Likewise, anti-Pakistan feelings run deep among much of India's urban middle-class, and the extremist attitudes of parties such as the Shiv Sena and some BJP leaders are well-known.

When you add the pre-partition riots, the partition genocide, four wars, three near-wars, the genuine dispute over Kashmir, India's suppression of Kashmiri aspirations and murder of thousands of innocent civilians, the Pakistani military's arming and training of Sikh militants and then murderous Wahhabi groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, and then the infamous Mumbai attacks, you have a potent brew of vicious antagonism that appears to be irreversible in our lifetime.


Data summary

Aid pledged and funded to Pakistan

As of August 9, 2010. Click heading to sort
Committed funding USD
% of Grand Total
Uncommitted pledges USD
Committed funding in $ per head of pop
United Kingdom 7,824,726 23.03 7,824,726 0.126
Kuwait 5,000,000 14.72 0 1.639
Australia 4,516,711 13.29 0 0.210
United States 3,996,000 11.76 35,000,000 0.013
Japan 3,455,000 10.17 0 0.027
Norway 3,263,557 9.60 0 0.672
Italy 1,743,119 5.13 3,276,540 0.029
China 1,479,290 4.35 0 0.001
Allocation of funds from Red Cross / Red Crescent 715,443 2.11 0 0.000
Private (individuals & organisations) 500,000 1.47 3,912,363 0.000
France 393,185 1.16 0 0.006
Turkey 279,365 0.82 0 0.004
Sweden 269,183 0.79 2,774,694 0.029
Switzerland 240,154 0.71 0 0.032
Greece 131,062 0.39 0 0.012
Germany 76,016 0.22 2,621,232 0.001
Thailand 75,000 0.22 0 0.001
United Arab Emirates 20,027 0.06 0 0.004
Belgium 0 0.00 655,308 0.000
Canada 0 0.00 1,937,984 0.000
Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) 0 0.00 10,000,000 0.000
Czech Republic 0 0.00 209,699 0.000
European Commission (ECHO) 0 0.00 25,436,616 0.000
Korea, Republic of 0 0.00 500,000 0.000
New Zealand 0 0.00 1,455,604 0.000