Opposition to the planned building of mosques in New York City and Temecula, California has oozed firmly into bigotry territory.  But, don’t worry…it’s just anti-Muslim bigotry.

An ad produced by the National Republican Trust PAC  proclaims the proposed N.Y. City mosque as a “celebration of the murder of 3,000 Americans.”  In a CNN interview, majordomo of the PAC and producer of the ad, Scott Wheeler, confirmed his belief that the people establishing the mosque are doing so to honor the “19 martyrs” who leveled the Trade Center Towers. In other words, Wheeler is saying for all the world to hear that NYC Muslims–some of whom not only lost family and friends in the tragedy, but also put their lives on the line as first responders to the attack–not only condone mass murder, but also hold the 9-11 murderers in the highest esteem.

Meanwhile, 3,000 miles to the left, anti-Muslim bigotry is running full tilt in the rolling hills of Southern California wine country. Muslims in Temecula, CA, who have been saving for over a decade to build a new mosque and community center, are getting the same kind of treatment.

“The Islamic foothold is not strong here, and we really don’t want to see their influence spread,” said Bill Rench, pastor of Temecula’s Calvary Baptist Church. “There is a concern with all the rumors you hear about sleeper cells and all that. Are we supposed to be complacent just because these people say it’s a religion of peace? The two religions mix like oil and water, it would create a confrontational atmosphere,” Rench added.

Sadly, the good reverend is not the only Islamophobe in town. Members of a conservative group called Concerned Community Citizens are circulating a petition to stop the mosque.

Leaders of the town’s Muslim community are surprised by the level of opposition to the center, telling the L.A. Times that their current makeshift mosque and community center — a converted industrial warehouse — has been in town for more than a decade and members always have felt welcome in the community. “Our children go to the same schools their children go to. We shop at the same stores where they shop,” said the mosque’s Imam Mahamoud Harmoush. “All of a sudden our neighbors wake up and they’re opposed to us building the Islamic center there, the mosque. I hope it’s a small group,” he said.

Imam Harmoush will find out how large the group is at next week’s planned protest in front of his current mosque/warehouse. According to Temecula Valley News, an e-mail blast was sent out last week by a local “conservative coalition,” announcing that a one-hour “singing – praying – patriotic rally” would be held and that participants should “bring” their Bibles, flags, signs, dogs and singing voices to the rally. The email explained that singing voices would be needed because “Muslim women are forbidden to sing.”  Why the dogs? You guessed it — Muslims “hate dogs.” If these concerned citizens could only find some singing dogs they might be able to frighten Temecula’s Muslims into abandoning the mosque altogether. “If we see so much as a shovel at that site…we un-muzzle the hounds!”

Zero Tolerance of Intolerance

Planned Temecula mosque

The words “ignorance” and “lack of understanding” have popped up in a number of articles about opposition to the planned mosques. Conspicuously absent are words like “bigotry,” “scapegoating” and “hateful.”

To their credit, major networks are refusing to run Wheeler’s ad condemning the New York mosque on the grounds that it is offensive, and the Temecula Interfaith Council, a group of local religious leaders, has endorsed the proposed Temecula mosque, saying “It’s important for people to see our neighbors, and for them to be part of our community,”

As admirable as the networks’ refusal is, their characterization of Wheeler’s ad as “offensive” should also have included the words “stupid, “hateful” and “dangerous.” The Interfaith Council’s similarly welcome-but-tepid endorsement of the Temecula mosque  is sorely lacking a stinging repudiation of the bigotry spewed by fellow minister Rench and the singing dog-wranglers.  “The Islamic foothold is not strong here, and we really don’t want to see their influence spread” sounds like Rench is defending his community from an outbreak of malaria rather than a faith practiced by 6 million Americans – the vast majority of whom are as peaceful as the vast majority of Baptists. His “oil and water” line is frighteningly reminiscent of the old “birds of a feather” mantra howled by 60s era segregationists. Poisonous statements like these should be attacked mercilessly at every opportunity.

Reactions to the 9-11 tragedy in particular and Muslim extremism in general have led to a dangerous new tolerance of intolerance. Though most Americans would find Rev. Rench’s remarks to be out of line if he were talking about, say, a Jewish community center, many are giving him a pass because, after all, it was a group of Muslims who caused 9-11.

Therein lies the danger. That a Christian leader is attempting to drive a faith-based wedge between Americans is sad enough, but worse is his implicit belief that he can make anti-Islamic statements with impunity and by extension, question the peacefulness and motives of the 150 to 200 families that have been quietly practicing their faith in Temecula for years.

Are Rench’s parishioners OK with his views? How about the op/ed pages of the local press? What about his church’s governing body? How do Temeculans feel about it?

Or is it now OK to make public statements disparaging entire groups because of the actions of a few of their members?  Is it now acceptable to bash the whole of American Mohammedanism because a group of Muslim zealots believed mass murder was their ticket to glorious eternity? If so, let’s tar Protestants for their witch-burning indiscretion years ago and the anti-Constitutional stance on gays currently taken by many in their number. While we’re at it, let’s pillory Catholics for their pedophile priests and the Inquisition.

Pastor Rench and Scott Wheeler’s widely disseminated us-against-them remarks are not only divisive, unfair and decidedly un-American, they also play directly into the hands of Muslim extremists looking to paint all Americans as crusading anti-Islamists.

Rest assured that comments like his are being played over and over in the world’s madrassas. Who knows? Rench’s “oil and water” reference alone might have been good for two or three Al-Qaeda recruitments today.

It’s time to call this anti-Muslim crap what it is…plain old, unadulterated hate.

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Comments
  1. Peter Reynolds says:

    If this NRT advertisement is what free speech means in America then for the first time ever I’m glad Britain isn’t hidebound by a written constitution.

    Mind you, I think the Islamic activists behind the Ground Zero mosque are stupid and they demean their own beliefs by their provocation.

    http://peterreynolds.wordpress.com/2010/08/19/republicans-reveal-true-colours-to-brits/

    Like

    • Russ Buchanan says:

      Hi Pete –

      Well said. Actually, I’m beginning to wonder how hidebound by our Constitution we are. We seem to be in the middle of “We don’t need no stinkin’ Constitution” Month. With the “strict constructionist” Republicans assaulting the 14th Amendment regarding citizenship birthright, the trashing of our “Equal Protection” guarantee by denying gays and lesbians the right to marry, and the scary disregard for the 1st Amendment’s “Free Exercise” clause by the anti-Muslim crowd, the Constitution is beginning to seem like an artifact we used to pay attention to–before we went nuts.

      Regarding the wisdom of erecting the mosque so close to the 9-11 site, I agree that it’s probably not the best PR move ever made. How were they to know that this would become a cause célébre for the forces of darkness. After all, there is another mosque in the same neighborhood, and one in an adjacent neighborhood. Terrific article at Salon about this. Here’s the link:

      http://www.salon.com/news/ground_zero_mosque/index.html?story=/politics/war_room/2010/08/16/ground_zero_mosque_origins

      Thanks again,

      Russ

      Like

  2. Rosemary says:

    You know, White Christian Americans do NOT own the 9-11 tragedy.

    I repeat– White Christian Americans do NOT own the 9-11 tragedy.

    Muslims were killed , as well as Jews and people from 40 other countries of all cultures and beliefs. There were Muslim first responders, and surviving families of Muslims killed in the attack. There are Muslim soldiers serving in OUR military in Iraq, Afghanistan and all over the world! How must they feel to be demonized this way?

    New York is a GREAT BIG CITY. The world trade center sits on 16 acres, and will not be hallowed ground. That land is too valuable and they will be putting new buildings up on it’s site, with some memorial as long as it does not take up too much valuable space. I mean, who are we kidding?

    If someone is offended by the presence of this center, they must have gone out of their way to find it to BE offended! Those TWO blocks are really much further away than normal city blocks.. has anyone been to NYC?? I have… Good luck finding that place. This whole discussion goes to the absurd. How far would be far enough? Ridiculous!!

    see: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/19/islam-already-party-of-gr_n_687639.html

    What about the Muslim prayer center in the Pentagon, not 80 ft. from where the plane crashed? Should they relocate that too??

    “The xenophobic disrespect Americans have shown for another monotheistic world religion is completely unwarranted and inappropriate — there would be less outrage if an atheist bath house for sadomasochists were put in its place (an establishment that would likely be patronized by many who doth protest). And if this moronic open dissent is ultimately successful, I may start a movement to have Christian churches shut down within the vicinity of where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building once stood.”
    excellent commentary: (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-hughes/ground-zero-mosque-americ_b_689900.html)

    Who is ultimately being hurt the most in this nasty show of intolerance and bigotry? What is that saying about anger/hate being like a hot coal…

    WE are giving more ammunition to the Islamic extremists, by comments equating Muslims with nazi’s and the rest of th ignorant derogatory comments . I can just see the recruitment posters, with picture of the protestors filled with anger red-faced with their horrible signs.

    Just imagine the effect on the global community, if this community center ( it is not a mosque) were to be welcomed with open arms? What a revolutionary idea? Tolerance and acceptance? instead of the wholesale condemnation of the entire Muslim world over the attacks of their extremists?

    Personally I have no love lost for any religious institution, but that is another discussion. I could propose that all Catholic Churches should be located 10 miles from any playground or school… okay?

    But the First Amendment works best when it protects those of whom we least approve or find offensive , in speech or religion. Because that door swings both ways. So I must tolerate the presence of child molesting priests being located near our children. ( BTW I was a “fisheater” and survived C School for 12 years… )
    Why is that ? Because we have the First Amendment, and NOT all priests are responsible for the molestations of innocent children. Some do really good work. But those nuns– they were tough.

    The Constitution and Bill of Rights are NOT supposed to be subject to a whim or vote or popularity contests. ( Exceptions were made by the previous administration, but that is not supposed to be the norm.)

    Americans need to get a grip and grow up!

    And that is my two cents.

    Lastly, Here is the comment by Ted Olson, former Solicitor General who lost his first wife one of theplanes that hit the towers. WE should all take a lesson from his dignity and grace on this matter. “Well it may not make me hap– popular with some people, but I think, probably, the president was right about this,” Olson told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “I do believe that people of all religions have a right to build edifices, or structures, or places of religious worship or study where the community allows them to do it under zoning laws and that sort of thing, and that we don’t want to turn an act of hate against us by extremists into an act of intolerance for people of religious faith. And I don’t think it should be a political issue. It shouldn’t be a Republican or Democratic issue, either. I believe Gov. Christie from New Jersey said it well, that this should not be in that political, partisan marketplace.”

    Peter, NOW who looks “stupid?”

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    • Peter Reynolds says:

      Rosemary, I agree with every word of your eloquent and forthright contribution. So I don’t understand your last question at all! Seems to me we’re both on the same side of this one.

      Have you misunderstood me?

      Like

  3. Rosemary says:

    Russ,

    Timing is everything. I just saw this piece about WWII about the consequences of condemning or demonizing people because of the actions of others with similar backgrounds… We all know about the racist treatment of the Japanese, but this is something I was not so familiar with- the treatment of Italian Americans. Maybe you saw it already in the LA Times: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/aug/23/local/la-me-italians-20100823

    I guess we never learn. Knee jerk bigotry is so much easier than rational thought!
    R

    Like

    • Russ Buchanan says:

      Hi again, Rosemary –

      Hearing from bright and informative people is definitely one of the rare perks of blogging…especially when they think I’m “cute.”

      I hadn’t a clue about this particular burp in our history. Wow, the Framers weren’t kidding about the “eternal vigilance” necessary to guard our freedoms.

      How many lessons do we need about the dangers of pin-headed prejudice? I think it’s safe to say we are the worst remedial class ever assembled. “Knee-jerk bigotry,” indeed.

      Thank you again for your comments,

      Russ

      Like

  4. Rosemary says:

    Peter,

    I took exception to this comment:
    “Mind you, I think the Islamic activists behind the Ground Zero mosque are stupid and they demean their own beliefs by their provocation.”

    I don’t see that there was anything to misunderstand…

    I don’t think you can have it both ways. This whole issue is either completely absird discussion, or it is valid. AND get your facts straight– It is NOT a mosque, and it is NOT on Ground Zero.

    Why are these “activists” stupid? If they put this community center anywhere else in NYC with this guy’s high profile as a mediator for the Bush and Obama adminstrations, do you think the neocons and the knee jerk bigots would sign off happily on the location?? C’mon! They are protesting mosques going up 300 miles away, and in several locations all around the country!

    This place is 7 real city blocks from the WTC… and the rest of the argument in my comments, regards the facts about the WTC being very valuable COMMERCIAL land, in the middle of a HUGE working busy city. It is not a gravesite, not a death camp, not hallowed ground.

    Only the people who WANT to be offended can even find this place!

    I don’t think it is appropriate to call these people “stupid” or question their location based on “sensitivity.” What about the Muslims who were victims? If this is a place they consider close enough to recall and reflect, why should it be a problem for anyone else?

    The ‘STUPID” people are “the-village-is-missing-its-idiot” Newt and the other bigots and political opportunists who are making an issue out of this, to manipulate the other bigots and single minded activists, who need to read up on forgiveness and reconciliation. It is the stupid small-minded people who keep instigating religious conflicts with other Americans whose beliefs are protected, just as theirs are, under the First Amendment.

    I take issue with your judgment which is just as knee jerk in it’s “apology” to these religious fascists for the “lack of sensitivity” on the part of the “Islamic Activists.”

    Personally, if I had a magic wand, I would end ALL of these relion based conflicts. I would erase ALL religious institutions from human memory for all time… but since I cannot do that, my only rule is “do not tread on me and I will not tread on you.” I believe in the Golden Rule and the scientific method, not any form of institutionalized superstition. And believe me, I get tread on a lot for not being “a believer.” But that is another discussion.

    You would have to expand by billions the class of “stupid” if you really want to go there. We could have a whole discussion about various religious beliefs of ALL religions that are demeaning… esp. from a woman’s perspective. IMHO 😉
    But that is also another issue, and I have a soapbox for that too…

    I REALLY hate having to defend believers of ANY “faith” so I REALLY hate this unconstitutional, un-American provocation by the neocons and the right. It is like defending the rights of an alleged child molester to have a proper legal defense.

    The thing is, the Constitution doesn’t work, unless it works for everyone, all the time. Exceptions add up and set precedents that become accepted as law and then are not easily undone.

    Understand that even though we know who wrong the internment was, our government uses that precendent even now. The “material witness ” statute was used to pick up thousands of innocent Muslims and Americans or Immigrants of Arab descent after 9-11. It will happen again… and each time it becomes a stronger precedent, until it no longer has to be defended.

    Unless of course you have a majority of “non-activist” activist judges on the Supreme Court who believe in stare decisis, until they don’t find it convenient. Then it is a lot easier.

    Sorry… I get on a soapbox because I don’t think people generally understand how the courts and the government can work to either strengthen or weaken the Constitution. The last ten years have been toxic.

    Take care,
    Rosemary

    Like

  5. Rosemary says:

    sorry about the spelling errors… I should be more careful. My fingers are faster than my brain can engage….

    Like

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