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Islamophobia’s Coming-Out Party

The planned mosque near ground zero has been attacked by those who seem to think American values don’t apply to Muslim Americans.

The planned Cordoba Community Center, to be built not at ground zero but two blocks away from where the World Trade Center once stood, has brought American Islamophobes out into the open, aided by a sensationalizing media which persistently refers to the community centre as the “ground zero mosque.” But the controversy has also encouraged many public figures to stand up for basic American values and demonstrate their courage in the face of both demagoguery and foolishness.

While the proximity of the planned community centre (yes, a mosque will be incorporated into this large structure) to ground zero provides a convenient handle for Islamophobes, this is hardly an isolated incident. Mosque building projects are also under attack in Murfreesboro, Tenn., Temecula, Calif., and Sheboygan, Wis. These projects have drawn fire from Republican politicians, Tea Party activists, and (probably) fundamentalist ministers. According to New York Times reporter Laurie Goodstein, “In all of the recent conflicts, opponents have said their problem is Islam itself.”

Thus the New York conflict takes place within a much broader context, making attempts by some of the opponents of the community centre to differentiate themselves from the bigots ring somewhat false, especially when they are joined in their opposition by the likes of Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich. While not every opponent of the community centre is a bigot, they have nonetheless chosen a side in a larger contest over American values.

I have been unable to find similar large-scale opposition to planned mosques in Canada. In Oakdale, Ont., Edmonton, and Halifax, mosque building has moved forward without substantial protest. This is, after all, the country in which one of our favourite TV shows is Little Mosque on the Prairie, a wholesome sitcom exhibiting the good yet quirky relations between small-town neighbours. Yet, it would be a mistake to think that Canada can ever be immune from the virulent propaganda that often flourishes to our south.

There are those in Canada who seem to get more incensed by a few hundred niquab-wearing women than they do by those who don balaclavas for hockey riots in Montreal or conflicts with G20 security. My own cursory survey of letter writers to the Globe and Mail and the Montreal Gazette indicates that more than a handful of them are infected with the same virus of intolerance as many of our southern neighbours. One writer argued that the New York mosque would constitute a “one finger salute” to the 9-11 dead, while a second said he would only support the mosque project “providing they build a synagogue in Saudi Arabia.” Yet, despite such expressions of Canadian intolerance, I believe we are still spared much of the vitriol of the American right.

More problematic opposition to the Cordoba Community Center has come from the centrist anti-Defamation League, a Jewish organization prominently identified with the struggle for human rights. Abraham Foxman, its Executive Director, is very aware of the American constitution and its promise of the freedom of religion. Therefore, while he acknowledged the “right” of Muslims to build on their chosen site, he calls upon them to recognize the “rights” of the still grieving families of the 9-11 victims, even though he well knows that those families are divided on the project. Foxman’s line has been taken up by New York Governor David Paterson, who has offered to find an alternative piece of state land for the new building.

The “moderate” Patterson-Foxman position amounts to tolerance by city blocks. If two blocks from ground zero is deemed too close, would three, four, or 11 be enough to satisfy a constituency that somehow ties a community centre built by moderate American Muslims to al-Qaeda? I fear that such “moderation” makes Foxman and Patterson allies of some of the most intolerant forces in American life.

But there are also those who are standing up for America’s enduring values. The distinguished journalist and commentator Fareed Zakaria felt forced to return his 2005 First Amendment Award, including its $10,000 honorarium, to the ADL, following this betrayal of the organization’s dedication to constitutional rights. Perhaps the most eloquent voice raised in defence of the Cordoba Community Center and the freedom of religion, was that of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said:

Let us not forget that Muslims were murdered on 9-11 and that our Muslim neighbours grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values and play into our enemies’ hands if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists, and we should not stand for that.

We should all hope that such voices of sanity will triumph in the United States and will influence debates in this country too.

It is contrary to both Canadian and American values and interests to conflate all Muslims with Islamist radicalism and terrorism. The rights of our Muslim neighbours are equal, in every respect, to those of Christians, Jews, Hindus, and others. Only Osama bin Laden and his ilk will gain from marginalizing and discriminating against our fellow citizens. Islamophobia is a danger to us all.

By: Stephen Scheinberg (Emeritus Professor of History, Concordia University; Co-chair, Canadian Friends of Peace Now.).

Originally taken from (


Sing us a song and we’ll sing it back to you.

April 17, 2010 Leave a comment

15 letters, 5 syllables, 6 vowels, and 9 consonants; who knew that they could take up so much time?
Vague as it may be, I’m sure that we’ve all experienced it, the sweet siren song of procrastination. I mean here I am, its 1:43AM, Saturday morning, I casually gaze out the common room window to see nothing but the bright white office buildings reflecting the glow from the lights at Dundas Square. There’s something about this moment that doesn’t quite seem right though, the sad thing about it is that I know exactly what’s wrong; I am about 7 hours and 15 minutes away from an exam that I SHOULD be furiously studying for.

One major problem seems to be that I’ve completely lost all motivation to do any work anymore. I find myself looking for something, ANYTHING to distract me at even the best of times. I’ve had this week to study for the two exams I have this weekend (one of which was completed yesterday), and I had planned to study 2 days solidly for each, however; something always seemed to come up just as I was to sit down to study. Such as a movie at 3 AM, which seemed like a good idea at the time, but in retrospect, only served to make me more tired for the next day’s worth of “studying”.

Even now, as I write this post, in the painstakingly slow manner I usually adhere to; I am putting off studying for something I am only half prepared for. For some reason I decided to see what new was happening on the blog that I have been on hiatus from for the last 8-odd months, it occurred to me that I should really post something to show that I am still an active contributor and that I actually made a commitment to post every so often. Yes; that took precedence over the work that I need to do to stay in my university program and end up with a future of some sort. I only have my own work ethic to blame for this, if there’s no push to do anything, I just won’t do it period. I’m sure that after writing this however I’ll have worked all the need to avoid my work out, but for the time being I really just seem to want to ramble on and on.

On that note, I guess it seems to be a good time to write a “school-year-in-review” post, considering my last post was during frosh week at the beginning of this school year. I did the school thing, not doing the best I can, again chalk it up to my work ethic. I’ll pass, but I’m taking a course in the spring, and pushing one onto next year. But in all honesty, I don’t see how much one more semester, or even year can hurt my direction in life, as long as I find the drive to keep at it, I’ll be fine. The courses have been challenging, but not impossible.

On the social aspect of the last 8 months, I can say that I have made friends that are extremely close to me, and that I’m going to miss the experience of living in residence. I even managed to find a girlfriend this year, which surprised even myself, and I’ve managed to not screw up royally yet, so I have a good feeling about how things are going. The friends I’ve made, have centered about my floor, and I don’t think that there is any animosity between any of them. It seems like we’re all a big family, who share our experiences, and even our feelings with one another if someone has the itch to share something that’s has been weighing heavily upon themselves. It’s almost like there has been a trust developed between us all due to the long, sleepless nights we’ve spent together studying, or even just doing nothing. While there’s not the extreme feeling of closeness you get when you go to high school and stay friends with the same people for all 4 years, I feel that living with these people certainly accelerated the friendship building process. So this year has overall been good, and I even have found a place to live next year, that’s not far away at all, so my horizon looks bright as can be.

Even as I turn around right now, I’ve got people here with me, some of which shouldn’t be up for any reason whatsoever, one who is also semi-studying, and one who is being kept here by force, due to us not letting her have her phone back. But I’ve never felt so at home, at a quarter past 2, in the common room, procrastinating my study time away.

All-nighters and I have become well acquainted over the year, it just seems like another night that we’ll spend getting even closer. Ah well, that just how it’ll be. Maybe now I’ll cut Hayley Williams’ beautiful voice resonating fro my iPod short and get some work done, then again I still have 6-ish hours left to study in, maybe I’ll find another way to waste some time.

Till next time everyone, adieu!

A typical night on pitman 6

Categories: Lyrics, Uncategorized