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walterrhett

walterrhett
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Charleston, South Carolina, USA
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July 09
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History Teller/Griot
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Charleston Perlo
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Walter Rhett attended Ohio State University, studied non-fiction at Johns Hopkins and NYU, and writes from Charleston, SC. He writes about national and global affairs with an eye on southern history and culture and actively listens to his readers. His writing combines speed, thoroughness, authority, discovery, seriousness, and humor.

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Salon.com
Editor’s Pick
AUGUST 5, 2010 3:27PM

Building Love at Ground Zero

Rate: 8 Flag
Believers in Islam should not become America's whipping boys, and nor should the guilt from the attacks on 9/11 be assigned as collective guilt to all Muslims. As an African-American Southerner, I live and work near monuments that celebrate the Confederate legacy, hailing as heroes and valiant soldiers men who died for states' rights to continue the cruel and inhuman practices of slavery, including the December 1864 massacre of men, women, and children at Ebenezer Creek, outside of Savannah in Newt Ginrich's Georgia. (The loss of life by some estimates may have exceeded the 9/11 attacks.)I attend church with the direct descendants of those who once owned slaves. But I assign no collective or historic guilt to those whose current wealth and status derived in large part from this abominable practice.

The parallels are very similar--as are the lessons. I do understand the pain and deep hurt and viceral anger at the attack carried out by extremists who killed innocent friends and family members in the name of Islam. I pray often for those who hold in their hearts the heavy and unrelieved weight of their personal loss and sarcrifice.

But I know the path of reconciliation and personal healing requires a strength of spirit rooted in love. The best way to honor the brave and wonderful souls we loss on 9/11 is to show the victory and triumph to that love. Sharing that love shows and affirms the very reasons we miss them so much and experience the loss so deeply.
Malcom X Mosque, Harlem, New York 
It takes special courage to face those who share faith with those who struck such a devastating blow. But our collective and personal losses should not become a shrine to anger, resentment, hostility, or civil revenge. If the lives loss are to have full meaning, we cannot let ourselves become hostages to scorn and silent hatred. We cannot allow our hearts to be pulled along the same path as those who initiated the attacks. If we do, the terrorists have won.

On 9/11, my daughter worked in an office building directly across the street from one of the Towers, and was in the subway when the first plane hit, but was able to evacuate safely. I think often how glad I am to have her, and feel the guilt of the survivor for those who loss so much. Still, with due respect and honor to those who experienced the direct losses, I do not believe their memory is served by assigning collective guilt.

The politics of those angered by the request to build the mosque on Park Avenue are asserting that proximity is policy and are making an unspoken equivacy between the "hallowed ground" and the Giza settlements. "Location is power; seize and preserve the ground at all costs" is the mantra for supporters of both issues. Strength and might are being equated as "feel good" territorial imperatives.

The fact that this creates a subjugated class of citizens and rights is overlooked and disguised by arguments framed in emotional (insulting, demeaning, provocative, goading) and security (new source of possible attacks) terms.
Please leave a comment!


Park Avenue, circa 1922, when the avenue consisted of a park.
Top: The Lord's Prayer written in Arabic by a South Carolina Slave, Omar Ibn Said, 1857; Malcolm X Mosque, Harlem, New York. Images in the public domain.

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Your assertion that the honoring of those lost is best shown through love, is magnificent. Glad this got an EP and hope it is widely read. Your points here are excellent. Fundamentalists (from ANY religion) hold the biggest danger...in my opinon.
Blessings...
As a 9/11 family member, I agree with you. I've been invited to meet the developers next week, to represent the "non-upset" side. Actually I'm upset that a few people presume to know what would best honor my husband. Thanks for your clarity on this issue and your positive outlook.
Your first sentence says it all. I'm happy to see Nikki Stern's comment here.
I was sitting on the fence with this, and now that the decision has come down, I am a bit relieved. I lost several loved ones in the FDNY, and I got barraged by well-meaning people who also lost loved ones to oppose this mosque. Truth be told, in my opinion there would be no buildings of any organized religions erected anew, because I am a firm non-believer in organized religion. But to deny this one because of the collective anger and simplification and assignment of blame with regards to what happened on 9/11 is simply wrong. (r)
I think you make an excellent point about how even though reconciliation and moving beyond fear and prejudice is difficult it is really the only way to move forward and the best way to honor the victims of this horrible tragedy. Rated for cogency.
Hatred will only breed more hatred.

We need to stop the hate, Realize
that Muslims in general are not those
responsible for 911.

Remember the Jews in natzi Germany,
the Japanese in WW2 America.

Dont let the same happen to the Muslims
today.

Build the Muslim Community Center and
let it be a Sign of Peace as well as a sign
that the USA is truly a country founded
on and for religious freedom.
great southern analogy!
Powerful thoughts, and very nicely penned. I just hope this piece is as widely read as it should be. It seems to me that there is a tendency around here, in these United States, of trying to dump one's anger, fear and frustration onto someone else.

In this case, "believers in Islam" have become the hated kind of the day. I fear that for some, the malignant affiliation (Islam and 9/11), will persist and infect their offspring.
It's my guess that the people who object to the Islamic Center would still object if it were 6 blocks away, 60 blocks away, or 60 miles away. Ultimately, they are the same group of people who have found that they gain political influence by selling hatred everywhere. They are probably the same ones who don't like immigrants from Mexico, the other party in control of government, or a black man being president.

However, I doubt that this is new. Selling hate has a history as far back as when we first stood up on our hind legs to look around.
Your comparison of the 9/11 attack by a bunch of savages to the Civil War is obscene.

Your apparent belief that the desire to erect this thing in the shadow of the World Trade Center towers is some sort of peace offering takes naivete to new heights.

I should expect no more intelligent analysis from someone who is happy that his daughter was able to "evaluate" the area.
It is the tolerance from Americans, demanded by Islam and progressive pro Islam Americans, which is the sorest of points. The first thing Americans are told when we complain is that we are haters. That term is really getting old. Either that or we are all racists. Yeah, that term is really wearing thin also.

Why can’t Muslims also have some tolerance? They refuse Christian churches in an Islamic country, and in fact, Muslims could be put to death to convert to Christianity. Their human rights violations, to their own people, are some of the worst on the planet. Yeah, along with all of the other countries on this planet, including America, Islamic countries have human rights violations also. Their goal is complete Islamic domination of the world. That is a useless goal on their part because the world will cease to exist before that happens.

You want to talk “Building Love at Ground Zero”? The best plan I heard was, why not make it a true 13-story Islamic COMMUNITY center that will cross the boundaries of Faiths and bring everyone together. Muslim should have the tolerance of letting there be a church for the Christians in it as well as a Jewish Temple. Then, due to the Islamists true tolerance and love, Muslims, Christians and Jews could all practice their faith in the same building and let further tolerance grow out of it. This would be an awesome act on the Muslims part, due to the controversial nature of the location. Many nationalities and faiths died in that act of terrorism on America. It would be fitting to make the Community center a True Community Center for all people.

Should everyone BUT Muslims practice tolerance? It is time for Muslims to begin to stand for practicing tolerance and the world will be a much better place for it.
Regarding Tommy T's comment: Why assume that "everyone" who practices and believes in Islam is intolerant? And why should the individuals who want to build the Islamic Center near Ground Zero open it to other faiths to "prove" how tolerant they are? Houses of worship generally are founded by those who believe in a certain religion, and formal membership is limited to those who share in those beliefs, with the exception of the Unitarian Universalist Church, which is open to all faiths. However, that doesn't mean that other faiths and houses of worship "hate" or are intolerant of those who don't worship there, or share in and support their religious views. In the U.S., all are free to worship, or not worship, as they choose. I think the point of an Islamic Center near Ground Zero is to demonstrate that not all who belong to the Islamic faith are terrorists, as were those who attacked the World Trade Center Towers. They were extremists. Islam is no more a "terrorist religion" than was Christianity a religion of enslaving Africans, although there were any number of individuals who claimed that their actions were justified and sanctioned under the Christian faith, just as their "decendants" today claim that their racism and intolerance against immigrants, people of color and religious beliefs that are not Christian is justified and sanctioned under Christianity. If anything, the presence of the Islamic Center might help in the healing process as New Yorkers and the rest of the nation move forward from that horrible and shattering incident.

Thank you, Mr. Rhett, for a thoughtful and insightful post.
"I think the point of an Islamic Center near Ground Zero is to demonstrate that not all who belong to the Islamic faith are terrorists, as were those who attacked the World Trade Center Towers. "

A very silly comment. Everyone knows that not all blah, blah, blah. What everyone does NOT know is that Islamic leaders have some sense of shame regarding the barbarism of extremists in their midst. You don't demonstrate this by suggestions of U.S. culpability in the event, waffling about the terrorist nature of Hamas, and resisting the very sensible suggstions above about making the site non-denominational.

In the true spirit of MLK, Jr., I would hope that this matter will be resolved peacefully by a total boycott of the project--from the bankers to the construction workers.
@margaret summers

If it was an honest Islamic mosque, no problem. You are basically not proving anything. What you fail to substantiate is that they refuse to open the books on their financing for this center. Would you not think that they would be jumping at the chance and showing who and what financing was coming from where, if they were not a possible Islamic extremist organization? Clear up the terrorist ties organization and there would be no problem. Taking Americans for fools is a clear misjudgment by muslims and the duped pro Islamic Americans.

Below is just some of the controversy surrounding the people involved with this mosque.

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan pretend they're “moderate Muslims.” The New York City office of their American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA), at 475 Riverside Drive, has for many years sat in the very building, on the very floor, immediately adjacent to the suite housing the New York City chapter office of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the U.S. representative of Hamas.

In 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice declared CAIR an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation terror-funding case. In October 2008, the FBI's Oklahoma office canceled plans to appear at a Muslim “outreach” event due to CAIR's participation. In Jan. 2009, FBI offices nationwide were reported to have also severed ties with CAIR. In a Feb. 2009 letter to U.S. Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC), the FBI confirmed the reports.

Meanwhile on Nov. 24, 2008, HLF and five of its officers were convicted of materially supporting the designated foreign terrorist group, Hamas. Federal prosecutors successfully opposed a petition by CAIR, the Islamic Association of North America (ISNA) and the North American Islamic Trust (NAIT) to expunge their names from the list of alleged HLF coconspirators. A federal judge denied their motion in 2009. Thus CAIR, ISNA and NAIT remain unindicted terror-funding co-conspirators.

By itself, sitting on the same floor, in the next suite to CAIR might not establish ASMA's tight connections to CAIR or the Saudi-based Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), built on Muslim Brotherhood principles. But sharing office buildings, floors and suites is common amongst Islamic terror-funding and supporting organizations. In the most famous example, in the May 2002 federal raid on the Herndon,Va. Safa companies and SAAR Foundation offices at 555 Grove Street, U.S. Treasury Department Operation Green Quest found over a dozen interlinked terror-funding Muslim charities and companies, all subsequently shuttered. They carted off truckloads of evidence. [1]

Rauf, more importantly embraces high-placed members of CAIR NY, whom he includes in the ASMA Muslim Leaders of Tomorrow (MLT) subsidiary. Rauf's Cordoba Initiative website also openly promotes Muslim Brotherhood and CAIR efforts and radical ideology. In January, Cordoba posted a news clip from the Muslim Brotherhood website Islam Online, protesting British boxing rules prohibiting players with beards. Cordoba likewise features a duplicitous CAIR press release, seeking funds to “rebuild churches in Malaysia” that were “firebombed by extremists.” It's highly unlikely, however, that an organization charged with terror financing will actually send money raised to Malay Christians whose churches its radical Muslim Brotherhood pals have destroyed.

Then there are Rauf's MLT appointees. Brooklyn-based Faiza N. Ali, for example, a self-described “community organizer” and “social justice activist,” serves as Community Affairs Director for CAIR NY, which Rauf and MLT let her deceptively describe as “America’s largest Muslim civil rights advocacy group.” Ali also helps lead several other Muslim Brotherhood groups, including the Muslim American Civil Liberties Coalition (MACLC), an offshoot of the MB's Muslim Consultative Network. Ali's MLT profile boasts as well that she wrote MACLC's “Countert-ERROR-ism” (sic) critique of the New York City Police Department's well-researched and reported 2008 white paper, “Radicalization in the West: the Homegrown Threat.” With a Pace University bachelor's degree in political science, Ali also led CAIR-NY's “campaign” to support her dissimulating piece of nonsense.

Rauf hosts other hotshot MB leaders in his MLT subsidiary too, including Dhaba “Debbie” Almontasser, who like Ali worked with the NY chapter of CAIR, Hamas’ U.S. arm, to counter-attack the New York City Police Department. She organized an online discussion group to obtain “input” for CAIR's “Community Statement.”

Other U.S.-based MLT radicals include Jihad F. Saleh, a top congressional aid to U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), helping fulfill the legislative goals established by CAIR founder and former chairman Omar Ahmad, who wanted increased Muslim “influence with Congress,” by using Muslims on Capitol Hill “to pressure Congress and the decision makers in America” to shift U.S. foreign policy. (P. David Gaubitz and Paul Sperry, The Muslim Mafia, p. 183) Saleh is not just a Congressional staff point man, though. He has been working closely with national CAIR official and convert Corey Saylor to increase the Muslim Congressional presence through the CAIR-backed Congressional Muslim Staffers Association.

Another, genuine al-Qaeda supporter Yasir Qadhi, serves as academic affairs dean at North America's “largest and fastest growing college-level Islamic educational” organization, Al Maghrib Institute. Al Qadhi gives frequent radical lectures on the internet, appearing on pages and blogs such as Halal Tube and Mujahadeen Rider, which both frequently mark videos “private,” presumably since Westerners and non-Muslims would take great offense. Al Qadhi doesn't even need CAIR as his radical middle man.

Several U.S. MLT appointees list no surnames or qualifications whatever. Yet another red flag.

New Yorkers and Americans who consider Rauf a not-so-secret radical are not alone. The devout Bengali Muslim dissident Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury agrees that efforts to build a giant mosque opposite Ground Zero are an abomination. Its construction will only delight jihadists, whom he wants to disappoint. His Weekly Blitz newspaper has published many objections to Rauf's plan, not least of all since New Yorkers are overwhelmingly opposed, considering it as insensitive, say, as “the German government opening ... a Nazi appreciation museum right outside the Auschwitz death camp.”

Choudhury has faced such fights before. Bangladesh authorities imprisoned him many times for his pro-American and pro-Israel sentiments and he still faces trial. Lately, a senior Bangladeshi intelligence official has called him repeatedly threatening “consequences if we continued to publish such [“extremely provocative anti-Islamic”] articles.” His newspaper's required government registration could be revoked. The official merely seeks to appease “Saudis and other anti-American elements,” however, and perhaps even to renew “previous secret affiliations with jihadist groups like Hizb-ut-Tahrir.”
Tommy T said: You want to talk “Building Love at Ground Zero”? The best plan I heard was, why not make it a true 13-story Islamic COMMUNITY center that will cross the boundaries of Faiths and bring everyone together.

okaaaay...thing is, that's exactly what it IS. it's an islamic community center dedicated to interfaith education and understanding-all faiths are welcome, the doors are open. it's not a mosque, it simply DOES have a place for worship set aside-where all are welcome. it also has a basketball court, swimming pool, and cooking school...yes, sounds very threatening to me...