Let NYC Muslim Center Be Built!Mobilize Against Racist Attacks
Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants!
on Muslims and Immigrants
Defeat U.S. Imperialist War on Afghanistan, Iraq
and Class Struggle Education Workers at August 22 rally in defense of
the Islamic community center. (Internationalist photo)
SEPTEMBER 5 – Over the last few months and particularly in recent weeks there has been a concerted drive by reactionary forces to whip up hysteria against a project to build a Muslim community center in New York City, a few blocks from the World Trade Center, target of the 11 September 2001 (9/11) attack. It is cynically claimed that building a “mosque” in proximity to “Ground Zero” is somehow an affront to the 2,700 people who were killed in that attack. How so? The implicit message: that Muslims were responsible for the indiscriminate terror. The same rationale presents the U.S. imperialist war on Iraq and Afghanistan as part of a “Judeo-Christian” crusade against Islam. What do these bigots care that the organizers of the Muslim center chose the site in order to promote “multi-faith dialogue”? The hysteria is part of the violent racist campaign targeting Muslims and immigrants for attack ever since 9/11. Thus a couple of days after an August 22 anti-mosque hate fest, a passenger stabbed and slashed an NYC taxi driver after he confirmed to the would-be murderer that he was a Muslim. Now the bigots plan an even bigger Muslim-bashing event at the WTC site for September 11. This provocation must be met with a vigorous labor/immigrant countermobilization to defend Muslims and drive out the racists.
As the mid-term election campaign heats up, right-wing forces are vituperating against immigrants. In a number of states, bills have been introduced imitating Arizona’s racial-profiling law, SB 1070, instructing police to stop and question anyone on “reasonable suspicion” of being an “illegal alien” – which in practice means anyone who “looks Mexican.” This was followed up by a manufactured frenzy over so-called “anchor babies,” alleging that immigrant women come to the United States to give birth so that the parents can obtain residency (a total myth, particularly as the U.S. government is deporting tens of thousands of parents of U.S.-born children). This morphed into a frenzy over “terror babies,” product of the fevered brain of Texas congressman Louis Gohmert, who claimed Muslim moms come to the U.S. to have children who grow up to be terrorists. From there it was only a short step to the mid-summer mania about abolishing the post-Civil War 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which grants citizenship to anyone born in the United States. (Many of the anti-immigrant racists would no doubt like to get rid of the 13th Amendment as well and bring back slavery.) Against the xenophobes, the Internationalist Group calls for full citizenship rights for all immigrants.
The uproar over the Muslim community center in lower Manhattan is also a blatant electoral ploy by the reactionary forces that coalesced in the so-called Tea Party movement. These are the people who during the 2008 election campaign staged rallies for Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin who accused Barack Obama of “palling around with terrorists,” and where death threats against the black Democrat were yelled from the crowd. Now right-wing Republicans want to get their Christian fundamentalist base mobilized to vote out Democrats in the November elections. Newt Gingrich compared building a mosque to support for Nazi Germany and the genocide of Jews. At the August 22 anti-mosque rally there were loud chants of “Obama Must Go!” and references to “Imam Obama.” Time magazine (30 August) reported that nearly a quarter of Americans think Obama is a Muslim. Yet Obama, as president and commander in chief of the U.S. military, is responsible for waging and escalating the war that is slaughtering Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq. As usual Obama equivocated on the Islamic community center, first coming out for the “right” to build a mosque there, then backtracking the next day on the “wisdom” of doing so. This only emboldened the anti-Muslim bigots.
Other Democrats were even more explicit in pandering to the right-wing mob, including Senate majority leader Harry Reid (who said the mosque “should be built someplace else”), liberal darling Howard Dean (who said a mosque near the World Trade Center would be an “affront”) and New York governor David Paterson, who proposed a “compromise” by building the center away from the WTC area. Looking to Democrats and bourgeois liberals to oppose the anti-Muslim hysteria is a recipe for disaster. New York’s billionaire mayor Mike Bloomberg has opposed attempts to stop the mosque, on the grounds that this kind of virulent Muslim-bashing is bad for business – and bad for war. Same concern from Obama, who needs Muslim allies to justify the U.S. terror war and occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. But as the polls show two-thirds of New Yorkers opposed to construction of a mosque at “Ground Zero,” no doubt the push for moving the Islamic center will grow. It should be clear to all that any such ruling-class “compromise” would hand the bigots a victory and constitute an assault on freedom of speech, supposedly enshrined in the 1st Amendment.
The racist instigators of the anti-Muslim protests spew out wild claims that this would be a “Ground Zero victory mosque,” a “command center for terrorism,” a center to “train and recruit Sharia law advocates who become terrorists,” etc. Yet the sponsors of the Park51 project (named for its location at 51 Park Place), Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and Daisy Khan (his wife and founder of the American Society for Muslim Advancement), stated as their purpose “to promote inter-community peace, tolerance and understanding.” Rauf and Khan have also sponsored the Cordoba Initiative, recalling when a thousand years ago “Muslims, Jews, and Christians coexisted and created a prosperous center of intellectual, spiritual, cultural and commercial life in Córdoba, Spain.” Their brand of Sufi Islam is considered heresy by the Salafi and Wahabi Sunni Islamists such as the World Islamic Front (Al Qaeda) of Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. So why the over-the-top rhetoric about a “terror mosque”? Because the promoters of the anti-mosque frenzy are pushing a war on Islam, and anything that goes against that undercuts their warmongering. As an Internationalist Group sign at a counterprotest on August 22 stated, “Imperialist War Abroad Breeds Bigotry ‘At Home’.”
Right-wingers complain that Imam Rauf commented (on the CBS-TV 60 Minutes program, 30 September 2001) that “United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.” Despite U.S. espousal of democracy and human rights, he noted, “we ally ourselves with oppressive regimes in many of these countries” and “in the most direct sense, Osama bin Laden is made in the U.S.A.” Nothing radical about this, these statements are undeniable facts. Imam Rauf is currently speaking on a tour of the Middle East sponsored by the U.S. State Department, as he has done before. Some have complained that he did not forcefully oppose the U.S. attack on Afghanistan or the round-up of thousands of Muslims in its wake. In fact, the Cordoba Initiative reports, “At the request of the F.B.I. after 9/11, he provided cultural training to hundreds of F.B.I. agents”! Far from denouncing the war, Rauf ends his book What’s Right with Islam is What’s Right with America (2005) with a ruling by five Islamic clerics titled, “Fatwa Permitting U. S. Muslim Military Personnel to Participate in Afghanistan War Effort.” To top it off, Rauf declares: “I am a supporter of the State of Israel” (New York Times, 22 August).
Many “progressives” argue that Muslims have a right to build a mosque, the issue is where. Chris Mathews on MSNBC’s Hardball argued with an opponent of the mosque that the issue is “location, location, location.” The whole brouhaha over the location of the cultural center is phony. In fact, Imam Rauf has led a mosque located only 12 blocks from the WTC site in Tribeca for the last 27 years. There is another mosque only two blocks away from the Park51 center. On the other hand, there have been right-wing protests against a mosque in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn and plans to turn a Roman Catholic convent into an Islamic community center on Staten Island. In the latter case, a meeting of a civic association this past June erupted into an orgy of bigotry. Anti-mosque rallies there have taken on the quality of lynch mobs, with the few defenders of the mosque who showed up in physical danger. And all the talk of the “Ground Zero” area as “hallowed ground” is hogwash, the area is full of strip joints and betting parlors: a block away are the “gentlemen’s clubs” New York Dolls and Pussycat Lounge, an OTB location is only a few doors down from 51 Park Place. (Just to be clear, we have no objection to those business establishments being there either.)
Politically, we are no friends of Imam Rauf, who is a supporter of U.S. imperialist and Zionist war and occupation which communists seek to defeat. As Marxists and atheists, we are ideologically opposed to all religions – whether “moderate” or “extremist” Islam, evangelical, mainstream Protestant or Catholic Christianity, the different varieties of Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism – which throughout history have served to justify the rule of exploiting ruling classes and blind the exploited population to a real solution to their misery. As Marx noted, at the same time that it serves as the “opium of the masses,” religion can be an illusory refuge for those seeking salvation from distress. To finally overcome religion, it is necessary to abolish the oppressive conditions that produce it, through international socialist revolution, and lay the basis for the masses to achieve a scientific understanding of the world. From Afghanistan and Iraq to Egypt and Algeria, we oppose Islamism as a political movement while fighting to mobilize the working class and the oppressed to defeat the imperialist occupiers and “secular” dictatorships. Back when the U.S. (and much of the Western left) was backing the likes of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, Trotskyists hailed the Red Army intervention against the Islamists.
Various leftist groups have taken up the cause of the Park51 Islamic cultural center. For the most part, however, they have done so not on a class basis but by joining in political coalitions with various liberal and supposedly “progressive” bourgeois forces, and even appealing to outright reactionaries. The International Socialist Organization (ISO), which in the 1980s praised the Iranian Islamic “revolution” and hailed the victory of the CIA’s anti-Soviet Afghan cutthroats , is now campaigning against Islamophobia. Recently the ISO has helped initiate an NYC Coalition to Stop Islamophobia which issued an appeal, stating in part:
“We call upon the leaders of hate groups such as Stop Islamization of America (SIOA) and their supporters to end their campaign of venomous falsehoods, intimidation, and hate speech against the Park51 project and its supporters, as well as against the Muslim community more generally…. In particular, we call upon SIOA to stop politicizing the grief that all New Yorkers will feel this September 11th….
“Finally, we call upon both local and national politicians, as well as media outlets, to stop using the so-called ‘Mosque Controversy’ for partisan political ends, and to take a strong and unequivocal stance against Islamophobia.”
There is certainly a good deal of hatred of Islam as a religion among the opponents of a “Ground Zero mosque.” Televangelist Franklin Graham has for years vituperated against Islam as “a very evil and wicked religion,” a “religion of violence,” and fundamentalist Christian evangelicals make up a sizeable part of right-wing forces in the U.S. But the current hysteria goes beyond religion. As Daisy Khan remarked on ABC’s This Week (22 August), “This is like a metastasized anti-Semitism…. It’s not even Islamophobia, it’s beyond Islamophobia – it’s hate of Muslims.” And this organized anti-Muslim bigotry will not be stopped by appealing to the conscience of the bigots or municipal unity (“all New Yorkers”). The idea that the SIOA and right-wingers will stop bashing Muslims is an illusion.
This coming September 11, another orgy of chauvinist hatred is in the works. A Florida pastor says he will burn the Koran. In New York there will be a larger anti-mosque mobilization at the Islamic community center site. Dutch ultra-rightist politician Geert Wilders has announced he will speak there. On the other hand, while many liberals inveigh against bigotry, most are loath to publicly protest the bigots. A left-wing version of this is the Spartacist League (SL), which published a front-page article on the chauvinist anti-mosque mania. The article notes that on August 22 anti-mosque protesters outnumbered counterprotesters, but doesn’t mention that the SL only bothered to send a couple of newspaper salesmen. The Internationalist Group came out on August 22, as seen in a Newsweek video where our spokesman recalled the attacks on Jews in Nazi Germany and denounced the racists for seeking to stigmatize Muslims. We will be there again this September 11 with our signs calling for workers defense guards against racist anti-immigrant attacks. For the IG, this is not an abstract issue. Starting the day after 11 September 2001, when there was a danger of anti-Arab attacks, we patrolled at night for an extended period in Arab neighborhoods of Brooklyn. When the City University of New York tried to carry out an “anti-immigrant war purge” of undocumented students by doubling their tuition, we led a struggle that resulted in substantially rolling back this chauvinist measure.
The current anti-Muslim frenzy in the United States is whipped up by bourgeois rightists. Nobody was bothered by the Islamic center until the New York Post and Zionist bloggers seized the issue. It is of a piece with anti-Muslim mobilizations by the Lega Nord and other government parties in Berlusconi’s Italy, or the current hysteria against Romanis (Roma) in France. The media have fed the hysteria by exaggerating its popular support. While noting that polls in New York City show a majority against building the mosque, they do not highlight that this is of registered voters, which excludes a huge percentage of the population in a city which is 40 percent foreign born, nor that a majority of those in Manhattan, where the cultural center is to be built, support it. At bottom, the witchhunt against Muslims is an integral part of the anti-immigrant campaign fostered not only by Republican conservatives but also by the liberal Democrats. While media attention and protests by immigrants’ rights groups focus on the Arizona law, the Obama administration has sent more than 1,200 troops to patrol the U.S.-Mexican border, 500 of them in Arizona. And while among the racists there are fascistic forces involved in the anti-mosque mobilizations, the far greater threat to immigrants and Muslims is the U.S. imperialist government, currently controlled by the Democratic Party.
Thus the fight against the Muslim-bashing hysteria over the New York mosque must be part of a struggle to build a revolutionary workers party that champions the cause of all the oppressed. Communists vigorously defend bourgeois democratic rights including freedom of assembly and the separation of church and state (which were united under feudalism and in theocratic Islamic regimes). While expropriating the holdings and breaking the secular power of the church and its control of education, as well as combating religious prejudices among the masses and the use of religion as a cover for counterrevolution, the Russian Bolsheviks under Lenin and Trotsky upheld the freedom of religious belief and worship. As Leninists and Trotskyists, the Internationalist Group defends the building of an Islamic cultural center and place of worship (mosque) near the World Trade Center and anywhere else, and comes to the defense of immigrants and religious minorities under attack. Rather than looking to the Democrats and bourgeois liberals, who are supporters of the imperialist rulers, we defend democratic rights through mobilizing workers, oppressed minorities and immigrants against the entire ruling class and its racist capitalist system. ■
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