Park51 And The Manufactured Outrage Of The Right

Need further proof that the controversy surrounding Park51 is nothing more than this campaign cycle’s wedge issue, whipped up by the right to distract from a lack of agenda or leadership?  Just follow the dollars.

So far backers of the project have raised less than $9000.  Park51 lacks an organizational structure and a coherent PR strategy.  It’s an idea, a hopeful idea, that has become the center of controversy as Republicans scramble to score cheap political points and hopefully drum up a few votes in the process.

As Asra Q. Nomani reports in The Daily Beast, these initial fundraising challenges are to be expected in any fledgling operation, let alone a project besieged by artificial outrage.  But rather than responding to those on the right who are challenging the center’s very right to exist, the group, the developer of the property, Sharif El-Gamal has hired a top New York publicist as part of the group’s efforts to improve its image over fears that these initial stumbles, alongside the heightened media scrutiny, has made the Islamic center effort look “juvenile and amateur”.  Of course, in many ways the efforts are juvenile because they are in their initial stages.  And there’s no shame in acknowledging that.

The initial money raised has been done so largely through a nonprofit organization called Muslims for Peace, a group started in 2006 by four Muslim moms.  The group has since halted its fundraising efforts as it regroups and refocuses its efforts.  As Nomani points out in her article, since actual fundraising details have been scarce rumors that the center is a well-funded operation full of cash from Saudi clerics and Iranian Holocaust deniers have become the norm, despite any lack of evidence to support these rumors.

Until cooler heads are able to prevail future fundraising efforts remain in doubt.  And that’s a shame because Park51 is imagined as part of a larger multi-cultural initiative and gathering place.  A spot where meetings between Muslims and Americans could occur that would be focused on promoting intercultural communication, trust and tolerance.  Some of the larger efforts by the parent organization also include plans for a “Cordoba Bread Feast” which would gather Christians, Jews and Muslims together to “break bread and celebrate the sacred significance of the role bread has played in the three Abrahamic cultures.”  Another effort includes the “Sharia Project”, a research-backed initiative aimed at demonstrating that “Islamic holy law is compatible with a pluralistic and free democratic society and that peace and tolerance are authentic expressions of Islamic principles”.

As is typical with manufactured outrage campaigns by the right a closer look reveals these efforts as little more than cynical and sad reflections of their own provincialism and intolerance.  What is even more outrageous about the Park51 controversy is the continued insistence by its opposition to campaign on the tragic losses of 9/11–a day in this country’s history where, for a brief moment, differences were put aside as we strived for common ground and understanding irrespective of belief or non-belief.  Unfortunately as this story unfolds what we are seeing is the common ground of intolerance and hatred shared between religious fundamentalists of both faiths–between those who perpetrated the gruesome attacks on that day and those that now oppose a space of unity–all in the name of religious fidelity.

photo courtesy of David Shankbone via Flickr

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Annmari Lundin
Annmari Lundin4 years ago

May I remind all you American patriots that at least two of the victims in the attack on WTC were SWEDISH citizens. Several other victims came from all over the world and from different cultures and religions. I, as a proud heathen, will never support the building of any house of worship or religious center no matter what they call themselves, but that is out of a firm belief that all religion is an opium to the people. That doesn't mean I condone remarks based on racism or hate towards people with another faith. I firmly believe we are all better off without religion and I hope for a world without prejudice and hate, where poverty and sickness are obligerated and happiness rules. (Yes, I'm a Trekkie too!)

Earthward PR
Earthward PR5 years ago

Jack T. wrote:

"Thank you for proving my point"

Huh? My restatement of your absurdity by no means endorses it. It was merely a reminder of your original point, since you had apparently forgotten what it was.

If a child dashes into the street causing me to slam on the brakes and swerve into the oncoming lane to avoid running him down, I might exclaim "Damn! I wish kids would check for traffic before crossing the street!" Even if there were 100 witnesses to the fact that the kid was of apparent African descent, it would be wrong to claim that I had said "I wish BLACK kids would check for traffic . . .", and therefore that my exclamation supported a racist pov.

It is equally wrong to suggest that "I’m not convinced that faith can move mountains, but I’ve seen what it can do to skyscrapers." refers specifically to Muslims, and therefore supports an Islamophobic pov. It does neither. It simply points to what faith, in the generic sense, can drive people of ANY religion to do.

You can call it splitting hairs, on my part, if you wish. I call it gross distortion on your part.

I think I made my point abundantly clear, and will therefore refrain from further posts on the subject. If you would like the last word, be my guest.

Earthward PR
Earthward PR5 years ago

For those who support religious tolerance / diversity, please see:

Angel K.
Angel K.5 years ago

In Spain, at Seville some local people found a way to stop the construction of another mosque in their town.They buried a pig on the site, making sure this would be known by the local press.Islamic rules forbid erecting a Mosque on "pig soiled ground".The Muslims had to cancel the project ..this land had been sold to t...hem by government officials..No protests were needed by the local people and it worked. For more on this visit

Linda H.
Linda h.5 years ago

Linda H.
Linda h.5 years ago

Kim, please go to 1 world trade center on the google and see why this will not happen. You can also have a look at the memorial and garden that is going to be part of that. Thank you for the concern though, it has been 9 years now and it is Lower Manhattan and it was a 16 acre hole that was always going to be re built. By NYC standards the Y that is being planned is quite a ways away and offends no one.

kim m.
kim m.5 years ago

Im not an American but what happened had an impact on me as well...i think Ground Zero should be left as a Memorial to all those lost and those left behind....

Linda H.
Linda h.5 years ago

Janice, you are from MO. Will you have a mosque next door to you?
There are 3,000 + official dead. This does not count the "sandwich guys" who disappeared from the face of the earth delivering morning coffee they are uncounted because they were mostly illegal Immigrants and there wives and children could not say anything or prove their existence. Then there are all the sick people who are now beginning to die. An arbitrary line was drawn on a certain street and no one was allowed to register to be on the few lists that have been compiled so that their health could be monitored. This is in spite of the fact that in Brooklynn across the river people were choked with smoke and flying debris large enough to read individual words on bits of paper which snowed for days and days. All of us are victims of what happened on 9/11.
Once more, Janice, all of us. There are huge groups of what you are referring to as 9/11 victims who support this Community Center. It's board cannot have more than 50% Muslims. The surrounding community supports this project.
As for Sarah Palin interjecting herself into the debate I could just leave it at that but now you have th All of our local politicians who support this Community Center were here that day and have loses too. The actual mosque nearby has been there for years and none of these protesters said a word in all this time.

Janice P.
Janice P.5 years ago

The outrage over the proposed Cordoba Center is not "manufactured" by the right wing, left wing, or any other quarter. It is a very real sense of insult and upset by not only many American citizens in general, but also by many families of 9/11 victims. It demonstrates utter insensitivity to the events of that horrible attack and its aftermath, along with all of its attendant emotions, significant meanings, and losses.

Given Jessica Pieklo's extreme views on almost everything, I am beginning to wonder if she has any affinity, compassion, or concern whatsoever for her fellow American citizens. If she does, I have been unable to detect them.

Jack T.
Jack T.5 years ago

Earthward: "You said there is something ironic about the fact that one of my favorite quotes includes the word "faith", and it was members of the Islamic "faith" that brought down the towers."

Thank you for proving my point: The quote was obviously referring to Muslims destroying the towers. Anything else is just splitting hairs!