The New York Civil Liberties Union on Wednesday released a white paper examining the rise of anti-mosque activities throughout the state.
As you might guess, the paper devotes significant attention to one project in particular, the proposed Park51 community center in Lower Manhattan. One of its developers, real estate broker Sharif El-Gamal, took part in a conference call on the release, along with NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman, the organization's Advocacy Director Udi Ofer and Prof. Foroque Ahmad Khan, director of the Islamic Center of Long Island.
"The anti-mosque and anti-Muslim sentiment expressed in the opposition to Park51 was not an isolated incident," Lieberman said, hastening to add that the civil rights group recognizes the right of the mosque's opponents to speak out.
The report cites nine examples of anti-mosque activity, ranging from the international furor over Park51 to ugly but rather penny-ante vandalism of a mosque in Hudson – many of them occurring during last year's election cycle, when Mosque Mania ruled the hustings. The report deals with several incidents in which public officials attempted to block the construction or expansion of mosques out of what Lieberman termed "an undifferentiated fear and distrust of their Muslim neighbors".
Khan noted that too many Americans have little knowledge of their local Muslim communities, a void currently being filled by anti-Islam pundits and activists. "Some people ... have made a cottage industry out of this," he said.
Khan described what he saw as a "double standard", noting that the vast majority of terrorist acts in North America are not committed by Muslims. He cited coverage of July's rampage by Sweden's Anders Breivik and noted a dearth of analysis on his twisted version of Christianity.
Khan praised Mayor Michael Bloomberg, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Rep. Jerrold Nadler for "setting the tone" with their opposition to broad-brush intolerance. He noted that one of the promising aftereffects of 9/11 was a strengthening of interfaith and outreach efforts across the country. "That's the only way you can break down the stereotypes," he said.
See also NYCLU press release, 24 August 2011
Download the report here