“Scary Arabs ... want to kill you, all of you, because that is their nature,” blogged Alex Pareene at Salon sarcastically.
Contrary to Mr. Foxman’s remarks, it is not “survivors of the Holocaust” who are raving mad about the “Ground Zero mosque.” Nor, for the most part, is it the families of the Sept. 11 victims.
The entire controversy has in large part been fabricated and perpetuated by Islamophobic extremists who make money by fomenting suspicion and intolerance toward the “other.”
In popular discussions, the proposed Islamic center has usually been considered as a symbol of tolerance in a free society, as a museum of sorts to the freedom of conscience we hold so dear.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg underscored this freedom in a passionate defense of the center this week: “The World Trade Center site will forever hold a special place in our city, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves and who we are as New Yorkers and Americans if we said no to a mosque in lower Manhattan.”
800,000 Muslims in New York
Seeing the center as primarily a symbol of tolerance, however, for all its merits, risks obscuring a more tangible reality. After all, New York is home to one of the nation’s largest and most vibrant Muslim-American communities, recently estimated by the New York City Police Department at over 800,000 strong.