For months, conservatives — led by Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and right-wing media — have engaged in paranoia-induced hysterics over a proposal to build a mosque and Muslim community center near the former World Trade Center in New York City. Many claim that having a mosque near Ground Zero somehow disrespects the victims of 9/11 (despite the fact that there has been a mosque in the area since the 1980s). Others on the right think that the project’s leader, American Society for Muslim Advancement founder Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, has ties to terrorists and/or terrorist financing.
The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol and Keep America Safe’s Liz Cheney picked up on this meme yesterday on Fox News Sunday’s online “Panel Plus” edition. Cheney went so far as to say that a founding principle of the United States should not apply to Abdul Rauf:
KRISTOL: It’s just ludicrous. That’s not — his intention is not a good intention. Whether it can be stopped legally, I don’t know. Can people appeal to him and say, as the ADL did, to say, “This is counterproductive by your own…” — leaving aside his funding which is dubious and has terror-related connections, leaving aside past statements of him — “…is this the right thing to do?” I mean really.
CHENEY: I think that it’s exactly those things, the issue of his funding, and the issue of his past statements that take this out of the realm of freedom of religion. When you’ve got an Imam that has got the very questionable and dubious ties to radical Islamist organizations that this man does, saying he’s going to build a mosque at Ground Zero, I think we as Americans have every right to say, “No you’re not going to do that.”
When host Chris Wallace asked if Cheney would support the mosque if Abdul Rauf had none of these alleged terror connections, she still wouldn’t concede. “It would depend,” Cheney said. Watch it (the segment starts at 3:20):
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Of course, Kristol and Cheney did not offer any specifics on Abdul Rauf’s alleged terror connections. After inquiries from ThinkProgress, Keep America Safe would not provide any evidence on the record and the Weekly Standard did not respond. The Standard’s Steven Schwartz tried to connect Abdul Rauf to terrorism, but as the New America Foundation’s Robert Wright noted, he wasn’t very successful:
Schwartz’s piece goes on and on, weaving webs of association so engrossing that you have to keep reminding yourself that they have nothing to do with Rauf. At one point Schwartz spends several paragraphs damning someone whose connection to Park51 seems to consist of having spoken favorably about it.
While the project has received considerable support from New York state and city politicians, it has also been praised by local religious leaders, Jewish and Christian. And if Abdul Rauf is so anti-American as Cheney and Kristol say, why would the FBI praise his cooperation with the agency after 9/11? “We’ve had positive interactions with him in the past,” an agency spokesperson said.
So, by denying religious rights to Abdul Rauf simply because she disagrees him, isn’t Cheney espousing one of the central tenants of the religious extremism she claims to abhor?
Read more about the right-wing’s intolerance to the New York City mosque in today’s Progress Report.