In the Name of Intolerance
Since 2001, opponents of at least 18 proposed mosques throughout the nation have justified their hostile resistance by repeatedly claiming that no, they are not bigots, yes, they believe in freedom of speech—and that regardless, something has to be done to prevent the “Islamification” of the United States. In states and towns across country, from Staten Island to Tennessee, opponents assert that they just cannot trust that Muslims (a population of 2.5 million people in the United States according to the Pew Research Center, and much larger, according to other estimates) are not terrorists.
Taking up the airwaves as of late, the proposed mosque near Ground Zero has only stirred up an ever more heated and incoherent uproar. Last week, CBS and NBC rejected an ad from a conservative political action committee titled “The Audacity of Jihad” that displayed images of terrorists and the 9/11 attacks, as a narrator inveighed again and again against the “they” who perpetrated such violence.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reported yesterday that as the public hearing for a proposed mosque in Temecula approaches, many have turned increasingly sour and vocal. While places of worship are common in the city—indeed, the mosque would be set on a plot of land immediately adjoining two churches—residents are having none of it. As the pastor of Calvary Baptist Church stated, "There is a concern with all the rumors you hear about sleeper cells and all that. Are we supposed to be complacent just because these people say it's a religion of peace?" Well, of course if you speak in deliberately vague terms of rumors, "all that" and "these people," then just about anything could be true.
Those who support the mosques all cite the opportunity to engage with the wider community as one reason for their development. Now if only the majority of Americans were listening.