Fact Checking The Sunday Shows - August 15, 2010

August 16, 2010 10:00 am ET

As expected, several Republicans used their appearances on the Sunday shows as an opportunity to demagogue over the controversy involving a proposed Islamic community center and mosque in Lower Manhattan, two blocks from Ground Zero.  Sen. John Cornyn falsely claimed that the project would be built on the site of Ground Zero, Rep. Peter King attacked the motives of the man heading the project and Rep. Kevin McCarthy, oblivious to the growing anti-Muslim sentiment within the conservative movement, claimed that the backlash against the project had to do with the sensitivities over Ground Zero and claimed that Americans would support such efforts if it were built elsewhere.

Fox News Sunday

CLAIM: Sen. John Cornyn Claimed That Islamic Community Center And Mosque Would Be At The Site Of 9/11 Attacks

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX):  Well, this is not about the freedom of religion because we all respect the right of anyone to worship according to the dictates of their conscience.  It's nice that folks on the left now are sensitized to the importance of freedom of religion; I think we all should be.  But I do think it's unwise to build a mosque at the site where 3,000 Americans lost their lives as a result of a terrorist attack.  And to me, it demonstrates that Washington, the White House, the administration, the president himself, seem to be disconnected from the mainstream of America.

FACT: Proposed Project Would Be Two Blocks From Ground Zero; Several Mosques Already Exist In Neighborhood

Project Not A Mosque And Not On Site Of Ground Zero.  According to The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg: "Well, for a start, it won't be at Ground Zero. It'll be on Park Place, two blocks north of the World Trade Center site (from which it will not be visible), in a neighborhood ajumble with restaurants, shops (electronics, porn, you name it), churches, office cubes, and the rest of the New York mishmash. Park51, as it is to be called, will have a large Islamic 'prayer room,' which presumably qualifies as a mosque. But the rest of the building will be devoted to classrooms, an auditorium, galleries, a restaurant, a memorial to the victims of September 11, 2001, and a swimming pool and gym. Its sponsors envision something like the 92nd Street Y-a Y.M.I.A., you might say, open to all, including persons of the C. and H. persuasions." [The New Yorker, 8/16/10, parentheses original]

Two Mosques Already Exist Near Ground Zero.  According to the New York Times: "But what the two mosques have in common - besides the sense of celebration and camaraderie that comes at the beginning of Ramadan, the holiest month of the Islamic calendar, in which Muslims fast from sunup to sundown, give alms and focus on self-improvement - is that both have existed for decades, largely unnoticed, blocks from the World Trade Center site.  Masjid Manhattan, on Warren Street, four blocks from ground zero, was founded in 1970. Masjid al-Farah, formerly on Mercer Street, moved to its present location on West Broadway, about 12 blocks from ground zero, in 1985. Both mosques - essentially one-room operations - routinely turn people away for lack of space." [New York Times, 8/13/10]

State of the Union

CLAIM: Rep. Peter King Suggested That The Leading Man Behind The Project, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, Does Not Denounce Terrorism

Rep. Peter King (R-NY): The attack was carried out in the name of Islam.  And I visited many mosques before September 11th.  And I was one of the first to defend the Muslim community after September 11th.  But I've been extremely disappointed since then by so many leaders in the Muslim community who do not denounce al-Qaeda.  For instance, even this imam himself who wants to construct the mosque at Ground Zero, he says that the United States was an accessory to 9/11.  He refuses to denounce Hamas as a terrorist organization.  So the record is not that clear on this.

FACT: Rauf Has Denounced Terrorism And Has A Long Record Of Promoting Tolerance And Interfaith Dialogue

Rauf: "We Condemn Terrorists. We Recognize It Exists In Our Faith, But We Are Committed To Eradicate It."  According to the New York Daily News: "The Imam planning an Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero says his critics are bigots and the project will stamp out terrorism - not fan the flames.  'We condemn terrorists. We recognize it exists in our faith, but we are committed to eradicate it,' said Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is leading the charge to build the Cordoba House.  'We want to rebuild this community,' he said. 'This is about moderate Muslims who intend to be and want to be part of the solution.'" [New York Daily News, 5/21/10]

Rauf Believes "American Democracy Is The Embodiment Of Islam's Ideal Society." According to Time: "The Kuwaiti-born Rauf, 52, is the imam of a mosque in New York City's Tribeca district, has written extensively on Islam and its place in modern society and often argues that American democracy is the embodiment of Islam's ideal society. (One of his books is titled What's Right with Islam Is What's Right with America.) He is a contributor to the Washington Post's On Faith blog, and the stated aim of his organization, the Cordoba Initiative, is 'to achieve a tipping point in Muslim-West relations within the next decade, steering the world back to the course of mutual recognition and respect and away from heightened tensions.' His Indian-born wife is an architect and a recipient of the Interfaith Center Award for Promoting Peace and Interfaith Understanding." [Time, 8/3/10, parentheses original]

Rauf Preaches "Tolerance And Interfaith Understanding."  According to the New York Times: "Those who have worked with him say if anyone could pull off what many regard to be a delicate project, it would be Imam Feisal, whom they described as having built a career preaching tolerance and interfaith understanding.  'He subscribes to my credo: 'Live and let live,'' said Rabbi Arthur Schneier, spiritual leader of Park East Synagogue on East 67th Street.  As a Sufi, Imam Feisal follows a path of Islam focused more on spiritual wisdom than on strict ritual, and as a bridge builder, he is sometimes focused more on cultivating relations with those outside his faith than within it." [New York Times, 12/8/09]

CLAIM: Rep. McCarthy Claimed That There Are Other Places To Build Mosque

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA): There is sensitivity to that area.  Yeah we have the freedom.  Build a mosque, build more than one mosque.  But don't build it there.  There are other places to build it.  And I think that's really what America is saying.

FACT: Mosques Around The Country Are Being Protested. 

Mosque Projects Around The Country Are Being Opposed.  According to the New York Times:

While a high-profile battle rages over a mosque near ground zero in Manhattan, heated confrontations have also broken out in communities across the country where mosques are proposed for far less hallowed locations.

In Murfreesboro, Tenn., Republican candidates have denounced plans for a large Muslim center proposed near a subdivision, and hundreds of protesters have turned out for a march and a county meeting.

In late June, in Temecula, Calif., members of a local Tea Party group took dogs and picket signs to Friday prayers at a mosque that is seeking to build a new worship center on a vacant lot nearby.

In Sheboygan, Wis., a few Christian ministers led a noisy fight against a Muslim group that sought permission to open a mosque in a former health food store bought by a Muslim doctor.

At one time, neighbors who did not want mosques in their backyards said their concerns were over traffic, parking and noise - the same reasons they might object to a church or a synagogue. But now the gloves are off.

In all of the recent conflicts, opponents have said their problem is Islam itself. They quote passages from the Koran and argue that even the most Americanized Muslim secretly wants to replace the Constitution with Islamic Shariah law.

[New York Times, 8/7/10]