July 9, 2010

Protesters gathered in lower Manhattan mid-day Sunday (July 4th don't you know?) to demonstrate against plans to build a mosque near the site of Ground Zero, where the twin towers of the World Trade Center were destroyed by Islamist hijackers on September 11, 2001.

Pamela Geller organized the protest. She is a conservative blogger, and her group, "Stop the Islamicization of America," planned the event because, according to the group's website, "Building the Ground Zero mosque is not an issue of religious freedom, but of resisting an effort to insult the victims of 9/11 and to establish a beachhead for political Islam and Islamic supremacism in New York... Ground Zero is a war memorial, a burial ground. Respect it."

Geller said the NYPD and security at the rally told her about 5,000 demonstrators were there. But NYPD spokesman Sgt. Kevin Hayes said the police department's policy is to not provide crowd estimates and that he could not confirm Geller's number.

CNN iReporter Julio Ortiz-Teissonniere, who attended the rally and sent photos to CNN, said the number was closer to 200-300 while he was there for the first 45 minutes of the event. But I supposed the NYPD is too incompetent to know the difference between 5,000 and 300. All three said the protest was peaceful.

Human rights advocates, politicians and families of 9/11 victims addressed the crowd. Both Geller and Ortiz-Teissonniere said those family members elicited a powerful, emotional response from the protesters.

Geller recently told CNN's Joy Behar that no one's telling the mosque's planners they can't build it, but are merely asking them not to. She and those of her group have also suggested they build a mosque somewhere else.

Geller to Behar "We feel it would be more appropriate maybe to build a center dedicated to expunging the Quranic texts of the violent ideology that inspired jihad, or perhaps a center to the victims of hundreds of millions of years of jihadi wars, land enslavements, cultural annihilations and mass slaughter."

What's wrong with this complaint? Well, many in the media are quick to point out that local political leaders turned out in support of the community last month after Mark Williams of the conservative Tea Party Express reportedly said the mosque was for "the worship of the terrorists' monkey-god."

Even New York City Councilman Robert Jackson was quick to retort that the building should go ahead as planned because in order "to make room for peace there can be no room for hatred, bigotry or prejudice." He made this statement at the same demonstration in which Williams made his comments.

The project has the backing of the Community Board of lower Manhattan. It does not require city permission to go ahead. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other city officials support its construction and have said that it poses no security concerns.

Enter New York's GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio. On Tuesday, Lazio called on his Democratic rival, Andrew Cuomo, to investigate the development of a $100 million mosque being planned near ground zero.

At a news conference, Lazio said he was concerned that not enough is known about the project's funding sources and raised questions about its director, Imam Faisel Abdul Rauf. He noted that Rauf had recently refused to call the radical Palestinian group Hamas a terrorist organization, and had said in a "60 Minutes" interview televised shortly after 9/11 that "United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened."

Lazio said that Cuomo, as attorney general, has the authority to investigate the project because Cuomo's office has jurisdiction over nonprofit organizations in New York.

Cuomo, through his spokesman Richard Bamberger, said he supports the mosque's construction saying that anyone who has evidence of wrongdoing should send it to us and we will review it."

Debra Burlingame, a 9/11 activist and the sister of one of the pilots killed in the attacks who joined Lazio at the news conference, went further, saying there was a "propaganda element" to building a mosque at ground zero. There are interests in creating an Islamic presence at the site of the worst atrocity in the history of the Republic. Burlingame said "It's very important to the people who want to hurt this country."

Some survivors and family members of the 9/11 victims say building a mosque there disrespects the memory of those who died at the hands of Islamic terrorists.

I wonder just what are city leaders smoking these days that they would go so far as to bless the construction of a anything tied to Islam, mosque or otherwise, near Ground Zero. There is no doubt that such allowances definitely a snack in the face to the victims families, the City of New York and the U.S. as a whole.

We believe that the Constitution of the United States speaks for itself. There is no need to rewrite, change or reinterpret it to suit the fancies of special interest groups or protected classes.