Fox News is again trying to drum up “controversy” around the Park51 Islamic community center in Manhattan. On Sunday, Fox Nation re-published a New York Post article claiming that “community programs” no longer exist at Park51, just Muslims praying. From there, Fox and Friends discussed the latest “development” on Park51. “It’s all pray and no play,” host Gretchen Carlson said and complained that the center isn’t hosting community programs and is instead attracting Muslims for prayer. Noted Islamophobe Donald Trump cited the oft-repeated far-right claim that Muslims built the community center to celebrate victory on 9/11:
GRETCHEN CARLSON: It’s all pray and no play. The controversial Ground Zero Mosque was supposed to be a cultural center, but it turns out it’s now an empty space with no community programs. Dozens of worshipers gather at the site for prayer services, but that’s pretty much the only activity in the building aside from a small martial arts class.
BRIAN KILMEADE: … Donald, do you want to finance the mosque downtown?
STEVE DOOCY: The Mosque-erade
DONALD TRUMP: No, I don’t think so, I’d certainly buy the site. But I don’t think it’s an appropriate use of the site. A lot of people don’t. You know, in the Arab world, when they have victory, they like to build a Mosque at that site. It’s very strongly out there. I think this is a terrible idea. It shouldn’t be done and let’s see what happens…
Fox is recycling rhetoric from more than two years ago when anti-Islam activists like Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer led an all-out war in their attempt to prevent the cultural center from opening. At the time, Fox News became a major broadcaster of their Islamophobic agenda. Back then, Fox gave anti-Islam activists a platform to make their virulent attacks against the proposed Park51 community center.
Multiple news organizations, like the Washington Post, debunked the fearmongering, pointing out that the “stated point of the project is creating a world where Jews, Christians and Muslims connect again in a way that builds mutual understanding and respect. This is precisely the opposite goal of the 9/11 terrorists.” Conservatives like Orrin Hatch supported Park51. And New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg spoke up in favor of the center as well, saying that freedom of religion should be tolerated.
As far as Fox’s new angle goes, it’s hardly a new development that the center serves as a place of worship; it was always slated to provide a home for Muslim worshipers in Manhattan. And the lack of cultural events likely has more to do with the center’s perceived financial issues than with a sinister plot: last year, a rental dispute between the center and its landlord went to court.
But unlike two years ago, the center faces no legal hurdles from the city to continue operating in the site. New York City’s Landmark Preservation Commission approved the center in 2010 and Mayor Bloomberg agreed. Park51 opened up last year without protests and little to no fanfare.