Last week, Newt Gingrich joined in on the right-wing freak out over plans to build a mosque and Muslim community center near the site of the former World Trade Center in New York City. Strangely arguing that the U.S. should model itself after a non-democratic country, Gingrich said in a statement, “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.”
Last night on Fox News, Gingrich seemed to stand by that claim, reiterating, “I’d love to have these folks say, ‘Let’s build a church and a synagogue in Mecca, or rather in Saudi Arabia, and that would balance off our having an interfaith mosque.’” Gingrich went on to say that the organizations behind the project — which are based in New York — are “hostile to our civilization”:
VAN SUSTEREN: The interesting thing is that Sarah Palin came out against it. And Mayor Bloomberg responded, saying that the — that efforts to derail the mosque are un-American.
GINGRICH: See, and I just think that’s baloney. … I like Mike a lot. He’s a very good mayor. I don’t know why he’s taking this position. The idea of a 13-story building set up by a group many of whom, frankly, are very hostile to our civilization — and I’m talking now about the people who organized this, many of whom are apologists for sharia, which is a form of law that I think we cannot allow in this country, period.
TPM’s Eric Kleefeld notes that, in the same interview, Gingrich signaled that a mosque near Central Park would be more appropriate than one near Ground Zero. Matt Yglesias responds by trying to map out the “mosque exclusion zone.”
The downtown Manhattan mosque and community center project is a collaboration between the American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA) and the Cordoba Initiative, both of which seek “to elevate the discourse on Islam” and bring “together leaders across the Muslim-West divide to speak out for innovative, proactive, and positive solutions to challenges we share.” And as Van Susteren noted, New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg recently offered support for their effort:
What is great about America and particularly New York is we welcome everybody, and if we are so afraid of something like this, what does that say about us? Democracy is stronger than this. You know the ability to practice your religion was one of the real reasons America was founded. And for us to just say no is just, I think, not appropriate is a nice way to phrase it.
In fact, other city and state politicians stood by ASMA founder Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s project. “This is precisely where this kind of center for peace and place of worship should rise up,” New York City Comptroller John Liu said. Moreover, 46 percent of Manhattan voters support the proposal while 36 percent opposed. So according to Gingrich’s logic, these New Yorkers are also by extension “hostile to our civilization.”