If you’re living in New York City, or anywhere on Planet Earth, you’re probably well-versed in the controversy surrounding Park51, an Islamic Center set to be built in lower Manhattan, two blocks North of Ground Zero.
The project was designed to promote moderate Islam and its sponsors looked to the 92nd Street Y, a Jewish cultural and community center that is open to all religions. Yet the project’s motives have been deeply misconstrued, sparking debate about freedom of religion, Sept. 11, and the place of Islam in American society; debate that has all but hijacked the media for the past 9 months.
The problem with the ever-presence of this controversy on the news is that the lies blend into the truth. It becomes a singular vehicle of noise as opinions and misinformation circulate with the certainty of facts. Here are three of lies and perpetuated misrepresentations to be aware of, associated with the Park51 Islamic Center:
1. Park51 will open on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The culprit: The New York Post.
2. Imam Abdul Rauf is an extremist and a supporter of terror. The culprits: Among many, Newt Gingrich, who referred to Rauf and his followers as “radical Islamists” and compared their presence in lower Manhattan to Nazis in The National Holocaust Memorial Museum.
3. Building a mosque at ground zero is insensitive to the families of the victims of 9/11. The culprit: the intentional blurring of the distinction between moderate Muslims, like Rauf, and terrorists, like Al Quada. It’s easy to blame the likes of Sarah Palin, who wrote a tweet last month calling on “peaceful Muslims” to “refudiate” the “ground-zero mosque” because it would “stab” American hearts. But unfortunately, the river runs deeper than the former Alaskan Governor. The real culprit is Islamophobia, and the misconception that Islam lies in opposition to American values.
Until America opens itself to true freedom of religion, and breaks the association between Islam (as a whole) and terrorism, it’s hard to foresee the debate dying down anytime soon.