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August 19th, 2010
10:59 AM ET

Today's XYZ: The Conversation Continues...

Time now for the XYZ of it...

Yesterday, for the first time, I dipped a toe into the debate about the proposed Islamic Center and Mosque near ground zero. I had held back because, frankly, another voice wasn't needed. I have been reading and listening and talking to you on Twitter and Facebook about it, and I could see a growing trend of misinformation and prejudice. So I put an idea out there yesterday – not an opinion – but an idea. I compared the anger over this proposed Islamic Center and Mosque to the Oklahoma City bombings, and asked whether Timothy McVeigh's Catholicism would create objections to a Catholic church near the Murrah Building. Moments later, I read a tweet which, out of context, implied that I had SUGGESTED banning Catholic churches from Oklahoma because of McVeigh. Obviously, I didn't. But it seems in this climate it's hard to profess ideas without ideologues trying to pin you down. Moments after that, adjectives were added to the dozens of retweets, identifying me both as "Kenyan born" and a "Muslim". I am Kenyan born and, unlike President Obama who faces the same accusation from some quarters, I actually AM a Muslim; he's not.

I wish I were as open to ideas as I profess to be on a daily basis. But the truth is we all have inherent prejudices. That's why I work really hard to make THIS show a place for ideas; ideas about technology and science and health and education and politics. And so what I said about the Mosque yesterday – well – those were some ideas to provoke discussion and thought. It clearly provoked something, and so many of you offered thoughtful responses. I agree with some of you and disagreed with some, but that's why this dialogue is so great – we can agree or disagree and still respect so much about ideas.

For what it's worth, my ideas can evolve; they are subject to ever improving arguments about a situation; I try not to get dug in. But where I was born, and the religion I was born into – that's about as malleable as the color of my skin or the way I do my hair. It would be better that we pay more attention to each other for what we say and write than where we're from or how, or even WHETHER, we choose to worship.

Watch my XYZ here.

Filed under: Ali Velshi • Anchors • XYZ
soundoff (16 Responses)
  1. reasonableguyca

    The immediacy of mass communication today, especially Tweets and blog comments, leads to foolish comments, over-reaction, and distortion. When a person takes a bit more time to THINK before responding, then reason has a chance to rise to the surface.

    Your comment on McVeigh and the lack of a parallel protest over locating a Catholic church near the scene of his crime is a good one. I have had the same thought. In both instances the flaw in the thinking is clear; equating the bad acts of an individual (or small group of individuals) with the religion the bad actors profess to follow.

    The bad logic:
    The 9/11 terrorists were evil criminals, who cited Islam as the reason for their evil actions.

    Islam, therefore must be evil.

    Allowing a mosque near the site of the evil act is bad.
    What if the 9/11 terrorists had cited the Bible as the reason for their evil actions. Would Americans be as quick to condemn all who take the Bible as their Holy Book? Or would they think a moment and realize that the evil acts were not caused by something in a Holy book, but were caused by the evil in the terrorists?

    August 19, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
  2. Ken from Little Rhody

    The only portion of Ali's narrative on Tuesday 8/18 that I did not agree with was a comparision of the proposed mosque near ground zero and the Timothy McVeigh bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. He mentions that McVeigh was brought up as a Catholic and that people are not in opposition to Catholic churches near the bombing site so why would people be up in arms with the mosque. The obvious reason to me is that the terrorists proclaimed their act was in the name of Islam and Allah while McVeigh never said his terror act was in the name of Catholics or God. Another reason is the fact that our troops have been fighting for Muslims in Iraq and Afgahnistan for years and been getting killed for years by Muslims. I do agree with their right to build a mosque anywhere that is legal but all religions seem to teach of the feelings for their fellow man but with such a sensitive issue it surley will not help in mending any fences that need fixing. Although there is any existing mosque almost the same distance from ground that does not generate any opposition this particular proposal seems to be "in your face" to those with closer ties to the tragedy. This is just my opinion of course as I watch what develops.

    August 19, 2010 at 4:10 pm |
  3. Janice

    Why shouldn't catholic church be moved away from Ok bombing? What stupidity. I didn't hear a single catholic church or ANY christian supporting Timothy McVeigh or his dastardly cowardly deed. But too many muslims said the Us was asking for it, deserved it icluding the Imam who is trying to build the mosque. If they were truly concerned about reaching out and healing and they realize this is hurting not helping they would move the mosque or not build one. They already are well covered in NYC. Muslims like to mark their conquests and this is what this mosque is all about!

    August 19, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
  4. Larry Frost

    In my opinion you have always set the bar quite high when it comes to all of the areas in which you have either chosen to report or been assigned to report with CNN. But today your XYZ struck a chord with me that has moved me to respond in an email for the very first time.
    I cannot precisely put my finger on the reason for my response or any point I intended to make, but will say that you have yet again raised the bar a little higher.
    My respect for you as an individual and as a journalist has grown immensely and if nothing else I will pay more attention to your reporting and your commentary from this point on. That is saying something because you have had my complete attention to date. Please carry on in your usual profession manner. You are a gem and are now on my list of people I would most like to have dinner with.

    Larry Frost

    August 19, 2010 at 5:05 pm |
  5. Sofia

    Here's the sad truth: Whenever a Muslim commits a crime, his religion and everyone who shares his religion are blamed for it. The reason for this could be due to the fact that the perpetrators, lacking any valid justification for the crime, try to justify it with their religion and those who are not familiar with Islam, believe them. And so prejudice against its followers is formed. Unfortunately, as we are finding out, prejudice, once formed, is almost impossible to correct. I doubt Americans will believe me when I say that Muslims were horrified by 9/11. That Muslim Americans in particular mourned with the rest of America. That our loathing for the attackers are 2 folds. First, because of the atrocities they have committed and second because they leave innocent Muslim civilians to bear the backlash.

    Logical of not, it is a fact that people associate the 9/11 attack with Islam, so if it hurts the families of 9/11 to see a Mosque near there, we as Muslim Americans should be sensitive to it. Do we have a constitutional right to build it there? You bet! Should we? Sometimes, decency and courtesy is more important than one's legal rights.

    August 19, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
  6. betty withers

    I think t hat is bad information that being Muslim is passed through the father's seed. Being Jewish is both a religion and ethnic origin; being Muslim is not. Please have someon who can speak with authority of this subject report accurately whether there is any truth to that.

    August 19, 2010 at 8:01 pm |
  7. Michael Armstrong Sr.

    Trying to compare a one time event to consistent events is a no brainer we have a few nuts that are christian the Muslims are overwhelmed with nuts .

    August 20, 2010 at 7:57 am |
  8. Ken Hayward

    Since the attacks of September 11th, 2001, the US realized that could be the target of terrorism. But instead of easing this fear, politicians and the media have used it for their own gain pushing the public to the point of paranoia. For the most part, Americans are not bigots... they are scared and being kept scared by people who benefit from this.

    Ken Hayward

    August 20, 2010 at 8:38 am |
  9. Todd Anthony

    I find this whole argument amusing. No you cannot judge an entire religion base dupon the acts of a few people. But let's say, I found a religion that calls for the conquer of all peoples and to turn converts at the end of a sword or kill them. Then my religion would be advocating creating converts or killing hold outs. If you compare that to the teaching of Christ, hence Christian, you find teaching about laying down the sword and preaching the Gospel. You cannot equate a religion that advocates violence, with a religion that advocates peace. That being said, there are certainly people that have tried to advance Christianity through forceful means or committed heinous acts in the name of Christianity, the difference is that doing this contrary to Christ's teaching, while it is not contrary to islamic teaching. Equating the two is a straw man.
    Also, bringing up the muslims who are moderate is similar to quoting luke warm Christians, should we even include them in the discussion about adherents? Most Christians do not even know the ten commandments, let alone the Sewrmon on the mount, just like many professing Muslims may be peaceful despite that being contrary to Mohammed's teaching.

    August 20, 2010 at 9:15 am |
  10. Richard Ray

    I feel as if locating a mosque at ground zero is another terrorist attack. I know that sounds silly but think about it. Muslims knew that locating a mosque there would create a outcry. They now get to show the world American intorerance for Islam. The great satan has struck again. This may be much better propaganda that a bomb in a market place.

    August 20, 2010 at 11:40 am |
  11. DD

    This is not a comment, but a question I would like answered... Is there any organized religion that is not responsible for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands of innocent lives?

    August 20, 2010 at 12:13 pm |
  12. Patrick

    Hi Ali: I've been following the ground zero mosque story on CNN from Canada's west coast and I may not have the whole story straight. But the message that seems to be coming across from the mosque proponents is: "The American public have Islam all wrong and we're going to educate them about the real Islam, and building this mosque is part of the education process."

    This strikes me as a PR messaging mistake because what they seem to be saying is that the American people are the problem rather than radicalized fundamentalist individuals/groups at the fringe of Islam.

    Perhaps the message the mosque proponents should be sending out is: "We strongly disagree with the corruption of the Islamic faith by radicalized fundamentalist individuals/groups claiming to be acting in the name of Islam. We are going to make it our mission to educate those within our religious tradition who have fallen into false interpretaions of Islam and the Koran, and those who have taken up violence, and restore the reputation of Islam in the community of world religions."

    Perhaps I'm wrong, but this strikes me as a message the broader American public probably want to hear from the Islamic community and it might help the cause of Muslims in America.

    As a footnote: What I've said above can be said for the extremist, fundamentalist strain of any world religion.

    August 20, 2010 at 8:01 pm |
  13. Dave

    A thought...if the Muslim people want to build a mosque at ground zero of where 911 took place then how about "in the spirit of All Nations praying together" that they open up the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem (the most contested piece of land on the planet) to include in the very same spirit; the multi faith prayer, which they themselves desire.

    August 23, 2010 at 1:13 pm |
  14. Fred

    Hi Ali,
    Did any Catholic bishop ever ask to build a Church near the site that McViegh bombed? I'm sure that in the Prayer of the Faithful we prayed for all the victims & their families, including the family of McVeigh? Also for the conversion of those who support such intolerance and barbarity. If I had a tree today, I would plant it in my garden and designate the environs as a free prayer zone for all people of all faiths to humbly pray for peace rather than domination. Does anyone have a such a tree to plant? And if such a one came to my door for such a charitable motive, I think even a child would be able to read that intention in the countenance of such a person!

    August 24, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
  15. John

    Why would you even make such an obviously flawed argument as the Timothy McVeigh one? Maybe you didn't have time to really think before you made it?

    August 24, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
  16. Richard Ray

    I still remember the video's of people dancing in the street in many Mid-East countries and the wild celebrations that took place in many Muslim countries on 9-11. The interviews with people that were delerious happy at the attack. These were not all terrorist, in fact, most were everyday common citizens. Is this a common mosque or is this a monument to the 9-11 Martyr's?

    August 24, 2010 at 4:13 pm |