Politics and Racism, behind “Manhattan Mosque” Controversy

Politics and Racism, behind "Manhattan Mosque" Controversy By: Ali Younes

The firestorm that erupted against building a Muslim cultural center in downtown Manhattan is a political issue. The Bill of Rights and the constitutional arguments aside, this case is serving several groups as vehicle to score political victories in the upcoming mid-term congressional elections. For the Republican Party and the neocons and people like newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin the real issue is not the September 11 victims or their families and, of course, not the first amendment or freedom of religion in this country. The real issue is politics.

First, what has been proposed to be built in Manhattan was not a “Mosque” a word that is being heavily used by the right wing conservatives and others to conjure up an image of a free-standing building of a traditional Mosque with a long minaret and a dome. By adding the words like “Ground Zero”, September, 11 and a “Mosque”, the issue becomes a combustible mix in the minds of those who think Islam is “inherently evil” and in the minds of average Americans who, for various reasons, view Islam as a whole as an “enemy” and that on September, 11 over a Billion Muslim attacked the United States, not 19 men who happened to Muslims. The proposed cultural center is a 100 million dollar center that will include a sport center, swimming pool, restaurant, culinary school and a prayer room.

Even though the owners of the cultural center have the constitutional right to go ahead and build their center anywhere they want; right wing conservatives and neocons attacked them not out of real “Patriotism” given that Muslims in this country are no less Americans than they are, at least in theory, but rather out of heinous plan to achieve two things.

One: by attacking Islam and Muslims, they appeal to certain constituency of American conservatives, and Christian fundamentalists who with or without September 11 issue will always be against Arabs and Muslims in this country or abroad. For Palin and Gingrich and even the Senate Majority leader Democrat Harry Reid, the real l issue for them is getting elected in the mid-term elections as in the case of Reid and many other Republican and Democratic candidates; or to position themselves as viable candidates for 2012 presidential elections as in the case of Gingrich and Palin.

Two: Linking President Barack Obama to this controversy particularly after he lent his support for the Muslim group legal right to build“place worship” anywhere in the country including downtown Manhattan. President Obama has been the subject of intense hate campaign that questions his religious affiliations “ accusing “ him of being a Muslim and claiming that he was born outside the United States therefore he is unqualified to be a president. Other wild and crazy theories accuse Obama of being a “Manchurian candidate” which means that Obama was actually a secret Muslim candidate, and later president, whose real goal is to destroy the United States from within.

By appealing to raw emotions and anti-Muslim sentiments, the uproar over the Muslim cultural center in Manhattan is therefore a very convenient vehicle for the Republicans to mobilize their constituency and create an environment that they hope will carry them through and defeat the democrats and president Obama come Election Day.

Ali Younes is a political analyst based in Washington D.C. He can be reached at:[email protected]

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About AliYounes

Ali Younes is an award winning journalist and writer. He is a member of the Arab American Writers Group and an award winning journalist and media strategist.

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