For months starting in May, conservatives, right-wing media, and Republican lawmakers engaged in a campaign of misinformation, paranoia, fear, and anger toward Muslims, sparked by (old) news that the Cordoba Initiative led by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf would begin an effort to build an Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero in New York. The hysteria culminated in a protest rally near Ground Zero on the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on Saturday. Led by the group, Stop the Islamization of America, rally attendees regularly chanted, “No mosque here!”
Fox News and the network’s hosts and Republican guests — such as Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity — led much of the charge against Park 51, regularly trying to tie Rauf and his organization to either terrorists, terror funders or Hamas. Other conservative figures smeared Islam, made no distinction between the terrorists who claim to act on behalf of Islam and normal, moderate Muslims, or claimed Park 51 is a victory monument.
ThinkProgress attended the anti-Park 51 rally near Ground Zero on Saturday and witnessed placards and interviewed dozens of attendees. Not surprisingly, many of them echoed the right-wing noise machine’s anti-Islam rhetoric of the past few months:
— PARK 51 A VICTORY MONUMENT: “History shows us that they do build where they have conquered,” said one woman. “We came, we conquered and now we’re putting our mosque on this sacred spot. That’s what we believe,” said another.
— ATTACKS ON ISLAM: One attendee said, “They kill in the name of their god, it is not a peaceful religion,” while another claimed, “I don’t think Islam is religious at all.” “They’re not peaceful people,” one woman said. “Islam is a political system parading as religion,” said a gentleman we talked to.
— ATTACKS ON IMAM RAUF: “I think he’s a liar,” a rally-goer said, adding, “It’s gonna be a Sharia law mosque which, they believe in the Jihad.” “His intentions are not what he says,” said another attendee. “Hamas’s financier is financing this,” said another.
ThinkProgress also spoke with one New York resident observing the day’s events. “I’m so emotional here. It’s really crazy. It’s so aggressive…it’s all fear and it’s all anger, and it just makes me cry. … What is wrong with a mosque? It’s just the same, it’s a great religion just as all the others.” Watch a compilation of the interviews:
The Wonk Room’s Matt Duss contributed to this post.