You can’t use the Ground Zero excuse for this one:
A church may be a church, and a temple a temple, but through the prism of emotion that still grips many New Yorkers almost a decade after 9/11, a mosque can apparently represent a lot of things.
In the last few months, Muslim groups have encountered unexpectedly intense opposition to their plans for opening mosques in Lower Manhattan, in Brooklyn and most recently in an empty convent on Staten Island.
Some opponents have cited traffic and parking concerns. But the objections have focused overwhelmingly on more intangible and volatile issues: fear of terrorism, distrust of Islam and a linkage of the two in opponents’ minds.
“Wouldn’t you agree that every terrorist, past and present, has come out of a mosque?” asked one woman who stood up Wednesday night during a civic association meeting on Staten Island to address representatives of a group that wants to convert a Roman Catholic convent into a mosque in the Midland Beach neighborhood.
“No,” began Ayman Hammous, president of the Staten Island branch of the group, the Muslim American Society — though the rest of his answer was drowned out by catcalls and boos from among the 400 people who packed the gymnasium of a community center.
more than a dozen speakers, including Robert Spencer, a writer whose blog, Jihad Watch, is widely read in conservative foreign policy circles, said that the society and its national director, Mr. Bray, had ties to Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood. The first two are on the State Department’s list.
“Will you denounce Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations?” Mr. Spencer demanded. “Yes or no?”
Mr. Hammous said he denounced “any form of terrorism, any act of terror — by individuals, by groups, by governments.”
It’s not surprising that Spencer, who is also behind the Ground Zero protests and is well-known as being anti-Muslim, would show up at a meeting like this, but Spencer isn’t alone unfortunately:
Bill Finnegan stood at the microphone, came the meeting’s single moment of hushed silence. Mr. Finnegan said he was a Marine lance corporal, home from Afghanistan, where he had worked as a mediator with warring tribes.
After the sustained standing ovation that followed his introduction, he turned to the Muslims on the panel: “My question to you is, will you work to form a cohesive bond with the people of this community?” The men said yes.
Then he turned to the crowd. “And will you work to form a cohesive bond with these people — your new neighbors?”
The crowd erupted in boos. “No!” someone shouted.
That, my fellow Americans, is just sad.