Florida Rep. Allen West’s fringe anti-Muslim beliefs are a well-established fact, whether he’s doing events with anti-Muslim activists like Pamela Geller, smearing his Muslim Congressional colleague Keith Ellison, or saying that Islam is an inherently violent religion. So it’s not surprising that he’s commemorating the 10th anniversary September 11 by hosting a screening in congressional offices today of Sacrificed Survivors, a wildly misleading documentary about the efforts to build the Park51 community center produced by the Christian Action Network.
The movie’s anti-Muslim slant is predictable. CAN started in 1990 as an anti-gay rights organization (the Federal Election Commission sued the group for violating election law during the 1992 presidential race, though the case was later dismissed). But it switched targets after September 11 and produced a thinly-sourced jeremiad about the risk of homegrown terrorism called Homegrown Jihad: The Terrorist Camps Around the U.S. in 2009. The group paints the threat of radical Islam as so severe that in its 2008 tax year IRS 990 filings, it explains that while it keeps “other governing documents, certain written policies, and financial statements” at its Virginia offices, “due to the sometimes antagonistic and hostile nature of its’ enemies and opponents to the organizations’ views & purposes, requests to view those items are considered on a case by case basis before inspection privileges are granted.”
Sacrificed Survivors: The Untold Story of the Ground Zero Mega-Mosque presents a paranoid and self-justifying worldview, where the only people allowed to have opinions about the uses of Ground Zero are anti-Muslim survivors or relatives of September 11 victims; where the efforts to build Park51 explain larger failures to redevelop lower Manhattan in the wake of the attacks; and where no Muslim can possibly have compassion for September 11 victims or number among them. Some of the more disturbing anti-Muslim sentiments in the movie:
Islam is inherently violent. “Many Hindu women were raped. This is part of Islam,” declares Narain Kataria, president of the Hindu American Intellectual Forum, a hardline group that’s protested the auction of paintings by an Indian artist and speaks out against the influence of Islam in India. “Now you tell me. Any Muslim majority area, can you go there? Can you walk there? Are you free there? Do you feel safe there? The answer is no,” Arish Sahani, the group’s vice president chimes in.
All Muslims share the beliefs of the September 11 hijackers. “The same ideology that drove, that spurred the 9/11 terrorists, to have that same ideology two blocks from where…so many innocent lives were lost, it’s very offensive,” says FDNY Lt. Jim McCaffrey in an interview. The movie expresses absolutely no nuance about the diversity of Islam or the possibility of conflicting religious interpretations, making all Muslims guilty by association.
Any Muslim who expresses contempt for terrorism or compassion for the victims of September 11 is lying to further a radical Muslim agenda. “He’s polished in his taqiyya, he’s polished in his approach to tricking us,” former New York firefighter Tim Brown says of Feisal Abdul Rauf, one of the main proponents of Park51. “Taqiyya is an acceptance of lying to infidels or non-muslims to further Islam.” That kind of worldview allows opponents of Park51 to discount statement’s like Rauf’s insistence to Larry King that “I’m less concerned by radicals in America than I am by radicals in the Muslim world,” as evidence of dissimulation, rather than as a challenge to their sense that all Muslims are jihadists.
Muslims believe that all people are born Muslim, and no other religions are legitimate. “[Rauf] as with all devout Muslims believe that we’re all born Muslim, we just forget it,” declares Madeline Brooks, president of the New York Chapter of Act! for America, a group founded by a Lebanese immigrant who lost “losing her country of birth to militant Muslim fundamentalists.” “He’s a real Pied Piper. He’s leading a lot of people astray, including Muslims who don’t know what they’re getting into.”
Liberals and Muslims are in a secret alliance to implement sharia law in the United States. “They’re hiding behind the media, hiding behind the liberals, and they are infiltrating,” declares Andrew Sullivan, the founder of the 9/11 Hard Hat Pledge, which appears to mostly be an anti-Park51 organization. “And they are planing the seeds of sharia throughout the nation.”
There’s more, of course. When Sharif El-Gamal, one of the Park51 developers says he hopes for dialogue with the people who are protesting the project, explaining that he sees the events of September 11 as “pure terrorism…The only thing that I can do or that we can do is have a dialogue to educate and to be courteous to one-another,” the movie pivots to a list of criminal charges that have been filed against him rather than engaging with his stated goals. Tim Brown, a former New York firefighter blames Park51 for a heart attack suffered by a relative of a September 11 victim and complains that “They’re burying the heroes of 9/11 underground, and they’re allowing a mosque to be built up aboveground. And it seems wrong.” Some interviewees complain that a Ground Zero memorial won’t contain the ranks of the uniformed personnel who died in the attacks, a decision that has nothing to do with Park51.
There’s room for a healthy debate about how to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the worst terrorist attacks on the United States, but Sacrificed Survivors, with its distorted version of events and bigoted attacks on Islam, poisons that debate rather than contributing to it. The only thing it proves is how marginal Rep. West’s views — and sense of what constitute a dignified, respectful, and productive conversation about religion and national security — continue to be.