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August 18th, 2010
02:51 PM ET

Today's XYZ...

It's a controversial topic. The Islamic Center near Ground Zero…
It's an emotional topic and one I wasn't sure I should bring up in these last few moments with you.
But you have talked about it with me on Facebook and Twitter so here goes -
Did you know as an American citizen you have two Freedoms granted by the First Amendment of the Constitution when it comes to Religion?
The first part is known as the Establishment Clause.
The Establishment Clause essentially says the government can't pass laws that will establish an official religion.
This is commonly interpreted as the separation of church and state.
The second is the Free Exercise Clause...and it prevents the government from interfering with or controlling a person's practice of his or her religion.
Religious freedom is an absolute right in this country and includes the right to practice any religion OR no religion at all for all Americans.
The founders of this country crossed the ocean in the early 1600s seeking freedom of religion from an oppressive church and government.
I don't know how this situation in downtown New York City will play out but I know these are potentially dangerous times for our freedoms.
Suppose our government leaders or New York state leaders do step in, in some capacity, whether official or non-official and assist in moving the mosque somewhere else…then what?
What kind of precedent does that set?
Timothy McVeigh was raised Catholic and remained a Christian-do we then entertain petitions of moving Catholic churches away from the Oklahoma bombing site?
I'm sure you are thinking it sounds ludicrous but ask yourself this…is it ludicrous because Catholicism is familiar to you?
Or is your argument that what he did was different?
Or is your argument that Timothy McVeigh didn't kill in the name of Allah?
For every religion under the heavens there will always be extremists…the key is to understand that the extremists do not make up the masses.
Linda Lee on Facebook wrote me today…"Islam and terrorism are NOT synonymous. By fighting the mosque for those reasons, you are supporting Bin Laden's idea that the west is at war with Islam. Please don't be the cause of what you are so desperately trying to fight."
If you are an American citizen and choose to remain in this country -then whether you are for or against the Islamic Center *should* be irrelevant.
I say should be-in an ideal world. Because as an American citizen, we all should be for the Constitution that so many have fought, lived and died for-including the 2,976 souls who died on September 11th at Ground Zero.. at the Pentagon.. and in a field in western Pennsylvania.

Filed under: Ali Velshi • XYZ
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. Southgate Jo

    Sometimes being an American isn't conveinent. Sometimes being and American isn't fair. The one simple truth is that America endows us with certain priviledges that men fought and died for. These rights are precious and a part of the very fabric that is America. These rights are for all of us to use and the one steady promise of America is that they will always be there for us; for our children, for our children's children. It's a promise that those who came before us made. It's call our constitution.

    Personally I hate like hell the thought of the mosque being built so near ground zero. A very wise man named Volutaire one said that he didn't always agree with what a man said but, he was prepared to fight to the death for his right to say it.

    For his right ...to say it! It's all about rights folks and this is all about protecting all of our rights.

    August 18, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
  2. Robert Stroney

    Just because you can build something...doesn't always mean – you should.

    Tell the Mosque Developer to donate the land/building to the "Living of 9/11; this simple act will change how Americans, the world – view Muslims. Imagine the IMPACT a positive act of generosity like this would serve. This act would build a bridge for the rest of our lives. We would love Muslims instantly and isn't' love – what it's all about?

    August 18, 2010 at 4:57 pm |
  3. Jim Murphy

    As a former FDNY firefighter of 23 years who responded to the rescue and recovery efforts on Sept. 11th 2001 and in the days/weeks that followed, I offer you my "take" on the Ground Zero mosque:

    I acknowledge the religious "rights" you state above, and as a US Navy veteran as well, I fully understand the importance in preserving our American freedoms.

    Having said that, please know that from where I stand (as someone personnally affected by the events of 9/11/01), that the building of an Islamic Mosque near the site - a few blocks from Ground Zero is hugely insulting and insensitive to me and to the 70% of Americans pollsters say are in agreement with me.
    Now, again, the powers that be may be within their rights to build this mosque. Okay, but don't try to tell me that just because they can - they should. I cannot silently accept it. My emotions are still too raw 9 years later - I am still to attached to the memories of my fallen Fire Department brothers and what I experienced myself down at GZ.
    You may never know or understand the level of unselfishness and bravery instilled into the training of firefighters, and perhaps I'm wrong to expect you to "get it." But likewise, please don't expect so many of us who were directly and indirectly affected by 9/11 to be reticent and accepting of this issue either.
    It's slaps the face of everyone directly affected by Sept. 11th from the victims' memories, their families, and all those emergency personnel who responded .. in addition to so many other individuals who seem to understand and empathize.
    Simply said, on moral and yes, ethical grounds, the building of a Ground Zero mosque is insensitive and hurtful - that's why you hear the controversy - It's an insulting, insensitive pill that I'm not prepared to swallow anytime soon. Don't you get it???

    August 18, 2010 at 5:47 pm |
  4. Aaron

    Sorry if it offends your liberal sensibilities Ali, but a mega mosque paid for by the same people who danced in the streets during 9/11 will not rise victoriously from the ashes of ground zero.

    August 18, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
  5. Jim Black

    The so called "free exercise" clause is not so clear cut. The Supreme Court denied the Mormons the right to exercise their "religious freedoms" in the late 1800's and could be cited in this case. In fact the federal government was poised to grab up all of the Mormon Church's properties, monies and materials if they didn't give up certain religious practices. The reason given was "national interest" superiority over a religion's practices. I believe national interest can also be successfully cited in the case of this so-called mosque using the case against the Mormon Church as a basis. It is, in my humble opinion, in the nation's best interest to deny construction of this mosque because it would become a lightening rod for civil, political, and legal unrest.

    August 18, 2010 at 9:15 pm |
  6. John Tyler Pennsylvania

    I am a veteran of the US Navy and proud to be an American. This issue with the Mosque reminds me of Pearl Harbor. We allow Japanese businesses and places of worship near there. A large percentage of visitors to the Arizona memorial are Japanese but we as Americans don't protest this. So why can't people just let the issue pass if we want to show the world that we believe in our constitution and freedom of religion.

    August 19, 2010 at 9:21 am |
  7. Gail Samples

    We all need to remember that Muslims were also killed in the World Trade Center bombing. The fact that the terrorists were Muslims should not condemn the whole religion. We certainly do not treat the Germans with the same hatred and distrust that we do the Muslims.

    August 19, 2010 at 11:05 am |
  8. J.B. Fox

    If we as a country stupidly decide to force this proposed Mosque to move, I suggest we not play favorites.

    Since we periodically have radical Christians that shoot and kill doctors at abortion clinics, I propose we have legislation that stops any religious organization from building anything within one mile of any hospital or clinic that offers abortions.

    August 19, 2010 at 12:10 pm |
  9. Gabriella

    This issue has made me more angry than any other in a long time. I can't believe people are saying that putting a mosque in ground zero is "a monument to terrorism". This is exactly the attitude that has the whole world against the US and makes them call us ignorant. What now, if we build a Catholic church, will that be called a monument to inquisition? Please! This doesn't only go against what this country was built on, it goes against what Christianity goes for "love thy neighbors". Ignorance is NOT always bliss.

    August 19, 2010 at 1:02 pm |
  10. Raymond P. Bilodeau

    This is not a rational issue. Logic will not sway those who believe this ground to be "hallowed," even though they have not objected to other commercial and memorial buildings.

    The Islamic terrorists are also not rational. Rational people do not kill women and children of their own religion, nor of other religions.

    The problem is finding an emotional resolution. Good luck!

    August 19, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
  11. Maureen Ann Milligan

    I will listen to a Muslim in authority ONLY when the statement begins with "Our position of the horrific abuse of women by Muslim men is. . . and this is what we, as a religion of (everything we claim to be) are going to do about it . . . " Then, and ONLY then will I listen to an Muslim on TV or anywhere else. When the Muslim women in my community of Western New York can leave there homes without completely covering their person, then will I listen!
    I wish we would emulate the French: no body covering, or emulate Syria, no headscarf. Only when we take a stance about the behavior that dismisses the equality of women will I listen to a Muslim. In my opinion SILENCE IS AGREEMENT.

    August 19, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
  12. Escokat

    What happened to all the "Cultural Sensitivity" training that we have had to attend at work these past few years? How about some reciprocation from those who demand that WE respect their religious and cultural differences? Some of the worst examples of intolerence I have seen have been from Muslims. Building a mosque so close to the remains of the WTC is pouring salt in our wound. It is beyond insensitive. If these are truly peaceful people they will find another site for their mosque and cultural center.

    August 19, 2010 at 1:11 pm |
  13. Altee11

    The mosque debates are about an ideology within Islam. The ideology that says Sharia must rule, which is against the US Constitution. It is about the ideology that says Islam must kill people who wish to convert from it to another religion. It is about the ideology that says Islam must establish theocratic governments around the world. It is about the ideology that says religion is above everything else, which makes it a potential problem for secular governments. Don't allow people to equate an intellectual debate against ideology as the equivalent of racism. Islam is not a race topic. Right now this is about a poisonous ideology within the religion that continues to threaten all non-Muslims. Speak about the above and you can have a better discussion.

    August 19, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
  14. ian d.

    it is really unfair to the muslim people living peacefully in the US to be ridiculed, scorned, mistreated... just because they are muslims. i say not all of them are bad. these people just want to leave in peace with the rest of the people. there is a big difference between a radical muslim from a peace loving muslim. let us avoid hating those innocent muslims who does not have anything to do with the radical islamists. there are good muslims as well as bad muslims. there are also good non muslims and bad non muslims.
    give these peace loving muslims a chance to live with respect and dignity. give love rather than hate. hatred will only brings out more hatred.

    August 19, 2010 at 1:16 pm |
  15. Jean-Texas

    Ali, as a Christian Amercian I have pondered this issue for several days. My conclusion is that we either stand on the principals this nation was founded on or we don't. Freedom of religion was not included on a whim. If we tell the Muslims where they may or may not build an Islamic center, then who will be next? Additionally, if we stand by and allow the Muslims to be bullied into moving to a location we find more "desirable" haven't the terrosists won. They could point and say, see what hypocrits the Americans are? My heart goes out the families that lost loved ones on 911 but mass hysteria does not honor them and we are bordering that. As a christian we are taught that it is not the individual we are at war with but with the evil that is using them as a tool. The terroists were not tools of Islam, but tools of the devil. Did David Koresh or Jim represent all christians? No of course not. Shame on all those who are using this issue for political reasons and pushing fear mongering to the extreme.

    August 19, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
  16. Ed Swift

    Ali, Thank you for weighting in on the Mosque issue. I would have hoped that we would have gone beyond equating Muslins with Islamic Terrorists by now. This equivalence is simple ignorance and bigotry.

    August 19, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
  17. Beth Johnson

    I cannot even believe this is an issue. Shame on the media for labeling this as a Mosque on Ground Zero. Fear has allowed many to take control and label untruths as reality, the media continues to play right into this, for they are the ones reporting. As most Americans I was appalled and disgusted that such a thing would happen- until I learned that it was completely mislabled. It is more outrageous to me that the media continues to discuss this topic under such falsehoods. We cannot truely be the Great country we know we can be when there is so much hate being spread under the veil of the news, when it seems the stories are presented in a way to whip people into a state of hyper hysteria, the media contiues to warp and twist bits of their news in order to control the masses- I ask who really is in control and what is it they are after??? Could we just keep to the facts?

    August 19, 2010 at 1:27 pm |
  18. Altee11

    The debate about the mosque in New York is about an ideology in Islam that has taken hold of some muslims in America from a broad range of racial backgrounds. The ideology in Islam that says that Sharia must rule; this is inherently against the separation of church and state. It is about an ideology that says any converts from Islam must be killed; this is inherently anti-freedom. It is about an ideology that seeks to establish theocracies around the world; this runs counter to our belief of having no official state religion. It is about an ideology that seeks to destroy Israel; which comes across as very similar to other past atrocities against Jews. Islam has an ideological component that must not take hold, or else everyone will suffer. The moderates of Islam don't fight their radicals as much as they fight others; is it because they are christianphobic, or secularphobic. We need a real debate; lets stop this phobia thing because there is a debate about ideology to be had.

    August 19, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
  19. ClarityFirst

    As for the Mormon analogy, polygamy was not against the law in the USA until 1862. It was passed then specifically to prevent Christian Mormons from practicing their religion because it offended Christian Non Mormons. Thus it became the law of the land.

    However, the RIGHT to build is clear – it is not against the law – but that does not make the RIGHT to build the RIGHT thing to do.

    Perhaps Ross Perot had a good point when he advocated foreign policy that would "cut them the same deal they cut us." OK, if that's the case, we can let them build and worship here when we can build and worship there. That seems fair. But Islam is not fair.

    Unlike other religions, Islam wants to be both a religion AND a government – which would fly in the face of our "separation of church and state."

    In fact, to let Islam practice the way it wants here, we would have to abandon separation of church and state.

    It's great to want to be fair, and right, and turn the other cheek, but that cuts both ways, or at least it should.

    August 19, 2010 at 1:58 pm |
  20. Jose R

    Ugh, I cringed when the host said that the religion he is born into is as malleable as the color of his skins.

    No sir, that is entirely false and very sad. Your deep religious convictions, the beliefs that you hold deeply, should have very little to do with the geographic location of where you were born.

    You should THINK FOR YOURSELF and arrive at your own conclusion, rather than being born into something and mindlessly following it for the rest of your life. The fact that you believe this and try to justify it on air is sad.

    As for the issue at hand, these people who are trying to build a Mosque at Ground Zero are making a very strong statement, in my opinion. I think they WANT to ignite these sour feelings Americans have toward them, no different than the way Fred Phelps does. While people argue that they have the freedom to practice their religion, and the freedom to do what they wish with their public building, they are entirely right. HOWEVER, we can not deny that underneath their freedoms is a hidden agenda. Why there? Why? They are choosing that location for a REASON.

    August 19, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
  21. Phyllis

    Hi Ali,

    I just watched the comments you made about other's misunderstanding of your ground 0 statements, but I think there is a small point that you may be miss understanding.

    Tim McVey was Catholic at one time, but at the time of the bombing was not practicing. I'm not even sure he believed in God at all anymore. His motivation was 100% anti-government.

    But, from what I understand, the attacks of 9-11 and other such attacks are being committed because of a declaration made by Osama about Muslim obligation under God to destroy all Americans. Those Muslims are committing these murder and attempted murder in the name of God.

    I think that is why people are struggling with the Mosq (Sp?). There are parts of the Muslim religion that believe strongly that killing is what their God is asking them to do and there are others who believe in more traditional values (like those we were taught in school).

    This is where the confusion lies. Just l like there are some who claim to be Christians that don't believe salvation comes from God sacrificing and saving man, but from man saving man.

    So you see, a Catholic church wouldn't be the same because McVey didn't kill in the name of th eHoly Trinity or the Pope, whereas the Asama Muslims are doing just that. They are pulling religion into it.

    Does that make sense?

    Take care,

    Phyllis 🙂

    August 19, 2010 at 2:23 pm |
  22. darlene Livingston

    I don't understand why Bars and porn clubs aren't offense. Or the holding up of work on rebuilding because they are making more money on the interest isn't offensive to these sensitive people in lower Manhattan. I don't understand why these sensitive people don't know it was Al kaida not Moslems that brought down the trade center or that it was the U.S. governments failure to intercept 4 hyjacked planes that caused it. Are these the same mentally unstable people that attacked Iraq instead of going after Al Kaida and have bankrupted our country. Nice try blaming the Moslems they happen to provide your oil.
    A mosque would be an improvement to the sleazy around ground zero.

    August 19, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
  23. AJ Leigh

    Imagine a world run by the "Taliban" for a thousand years. Imagine every civic amenity, every theatre, every stadium and every leisure centre either destroyed or consecrated to God.
    Imagine women confined to domestic slavery, imagine unbelievers tortured to death, imagine education and science dismissed as an irrelevance and the only approved learning study of the Holy Book.
    Imagine the only cure for sickness is prayer and imagine men dying in almost continuous Holy War.
    Constantine gave the Church the tools with which to do it when he molded Christianity in his own image and made Jesus the only Son of God. From that moment on, the Church would become representative of a capricious and autocratic God –
    Constantine also took the opportunity to inaugurate the first systematic government persecution of dissident Christians. He issued an edict against "heretics," calling them "haters and enemies of truth and life, in league with destruction."
    He had begun his reign with an edict of religious toleration, he now forbade the hereticsto assemble in any public or private place, including private homes, and ordered that they be deprived of "every gathering point for [their] superstitious meetings," including "all the houses of prayer

    'The forgery of pious documents of every imaginable character was among the most constant and zealous activities of the holy propagandists of the Christian Faith, from the beginning to the critical era when forgeries were no longer possible or profitable.

    You are thinking of Christian Europe. It's not a dream. It's history and Christians are in blatant denial of their ill conceived faith.. The world mocks your ignorance

    The INRI above Jesus on the cross, it is an acronym of the Latin inscription (Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum), which translates to English as "Jesus the Nazarene (Galilean), King of the Jews."
    Yet now his absolute mortality has been forgot as Christians foam at the mouth wirh the threat of Muslims bring in our midst.

    Hypocrisy at its best.

    August 20, 2010 at 9:42 am |
  24. ClarityFirst

    Ross Perot had a point when, referring to foreign policy, said "we should cut them the same deal they cut us."

    To apply that thought to this case, they can build and worship in our country when we build and worship in their country.

    Obviously we are showing more tolerance and open-mindedness than they are. Fair should be Fair to Both sides.

    We do not try to force our beliefs on them, but darn sure want to force their beliefs on us. What's fair about that?

    Who are They to say They are Right and all the rest of us are Wrong?

    They are a Political Islam, not a Religious Islam.

    Mohammed only converted 150 people as a "prophet." He did not gain power or influence until he became "czar' of Arabia.

    Hence, Islam is a Political Islam, not a Religious Islam.

    August 20, 2010 at 10:19 am |
  25. AJ Leigh

    Regarding this post by Clarity First:
    ClarityFirst August 19th, 2010 1:08 pm ET

    Subject: A German's View on Islam

    "Will Islam let Jews or Christians build (even worship) in their country? NO. We should cut them the same deal they cut us. They can worship freely here when we can worship freely there."

    In 638, the Jews in Palestine assisted the Muslim forces in defeating the Persians who had reneged on an agreement to protect them and allow them to resettle in Jerusalem. As a reward for their assistance, the Muslims permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem and to guard the Temple Mount.

    The Muslims fended off their rivals until the end of the 11th century. In 1095, Pope Urban II called for Crusades to regain Palestine from the infidels. They succeeded in 1099 and celebrated by herding all the Jews into a synagogue and burning them alive. Non-Christians were subsequently barred from the city.

    I think that answers that statement adequately.

    August 20, 2010 at 10:20 am |
  26. Ray, West Coast

    Saw your interview w/Jihad Turk. How ironic

    to ignore the word "Jihad". When Islam

    DENOUNCES Jihad – a 12 century idea that its

    ok to wantonly kill people of other faiths,

    then they can build the mosque near ground

    zero.

    August 20, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  27. Melanie - California

    I have had some community college...some. Even I know there is something seriously wrong with the logic in the argument: 'If we can build churches in Saudi Arabia, then you can build mosques here in America.' That logic is saying, if you refuse your people the freedom of religion, then we will refuse our people the freedom of religion. Those Muslims two blocks from ground zero are our people. And for all you 'fiscal conservatives' out there who love our founding fathers and everything they did for our country, the BOTTOM LINE of our coutry set by our founding fathers was that no one church would be in charge of America, as stated above – the Establishment Clause. It is the very essence of our freedom. The difference between Saudi Arabia and America is that we have freedom of religion, and no one church or religion ruling us. Let them build their mosque in peace, and celebrate what our founding fathers did for America :-). Celebrate that there can be moderation in Islam and other religions. Celebrate that we can live in harmony and move forward from terrible things that happened to us.
    I also want to mention that I think too many Americans listen to their pastors every Sunday rip on other religions and peoples. I have in my life...when I was young. That might be why you think these Muslims in this future mosque will have some kind of 'victory dance ' in their mosque service. Like some kind of 'haha we showed them.' No. They are moderate Islam practitioners, and they probably don't have an Imam riping on other religions or peoples every Friday. I'm positive they spend their time honoring Allah. Praying. Fellowshiping and chatting after mosque about their last purchase of veggies at the farmers market. People. They are people. They are our people. Let them worship in peace. Blessings from California.

    August 20, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
  28. Lucymae

    First of all, countries where Islam is the dominant religion are not all alike. There are Christian communities all over the Muslim world that build churches and practice their religion freely.
    Second of all, the previous post to this one captures how pointless it is to expect any group practicing any religion to actually adhere to religious tolerance or non/violence. That's why we're lucky to live in the U.S. where nothing is left to chance and religious tolerance and religious freedoms are legislated.
    Thirdly, enter the address of the "mosque" (really more of a rec. center with a prayer room, a la the YMCA) at 51 Park Place at google maps and then do a google search of strip clubs near that address. There are six in under .5 miles. Doesn't anyone have any concerns about these if we are now regarding the World Trade Center site as hallowed ground?

    August 20, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  29. ClarityFirst

    Quote:

    "Islam’s success comes primarily from its politics. In thirteen years as a spiritual leader, Mohammed converted 150 people to his religion. When he became a political leader and warrior, Islam exploded in growth, and Mohammed became king of Arabia in ten years."

    Thus, further proof Islam is a Political Islam, not a religious Islam, and thus NOT entitled to the same religious freedoms of real religions (such as those not seeking to be or run a government).

    Further, some 10% of the Koran is about supposed words of Alla, where 90% is by Mohammed to get and keep himself in political power.

    Anyone can claim to be a prophet. Hundreds have. Most are fanatics and/or delusional. Judge for yourself if Mohammed is – given he is 90% political and 10% religious.

    Islam is not a religion. It is a political entity masquerading as a religion to get into political power.

    August 20, 2010 at 5:17 pm |
  30. P.MacKay

    Strange as it seems, everyone is right...on the "rights"! In America, we have certain freedoms...and anyone who is an American, is privy to them. That's not the problem from what I see. I'm afraid that if we say "let them build it...its their right, just as we can build a Catholic , Lutheran, Methodist...etc." Its our right....but! I almost feel as if we are being "baited".....think about it...they build it, and some nut case american gets outraged and goes in and blows the place up or shots a lot of people–well, guess what...then they can have reason to hate us even more! Either way, they get what they want....more hate. I wish it was not that way.

    August 23, 2010 at 1:42 pm |