Hometown Heartbreak: Mosque Opposition Spreads to Formerly Sophisticated New York City

After spending a month assuring readers that most sophisticated New Yorkers support building a mosque near Ground Zero, the Times conducts its own poll and finds New Yorkers are just as opposed to the project as the ignorant masses from outside the city: "A New York Times poll of New York City residents that found that even this city, the country's most diverse and cosmopolitan, is not immune to suspicion and to a sadly wary misunderstanding of Muslim-Americans."

Well fancy that: The Times has learned what Times Watch has been pointing out for weeks: Not even New Yorkers want a large mosque built two blocks from the site of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

New York residents were previously praised by Times reporters like Sheryl Gay Stolberg as better informed and thus more tolerant of the idea of a mosque at Ground Zero than ignorant outsiders.

But a New York Times poll conducted last week showed that New Yorkers don't like the idea of building a mosque near the site of the 9-11 terrorist attacks anymore than the rest of the ignorant country. In fact, New York City residents (that includes Manhattan and the outer boroughs) oppose it by a 50%-35% margin. Yes, the nationwide opposition to the construction, twice declaimed as a "nativist impulse" by the paper's main political writer Matt Bai, has infected even the tolerant, sophisticated liberals of Manhattan.

Building its story around the poll, reporters Michael Barbaro and Marjorie Connelly reported on last Friday's front page: "New Yorkers Divided Over Islamic Center, Poll Finds." (Actually New Yorkers are more than merely divided but are mostly opposed to the mosque being built near Ground Zero.)

Two-thirds of New York City residents want a planned Muslim community center and mosque to be relocated to a less controversial site farther away from ground zero in Lower Manhattan, including many who describe themselves as supporters of the project, according to a New York Times poll.

The poll indicates that support for the 13-story complex, which organizers said would promote moderate Islam and interfaith dialogue, is tepid in its hometown.


Over all, 50 percent of those surveyed oppose building the project two blocks north of the World Trade Center site, even though a majority believe that the developers have the right to do so. Thirty-five percent favor it.

Opposition is more intense in the boroughs outside Manhattan - for example, 54 percent in the Bronx - but it is even strong in Manhattan, considered a bastion of religious tolerance, where 41 percent are against it.

The poll was conducted Aug. 27 to 31 with 892 adults. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

It suggested that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the center's most ardent and public defender, has not unified public opinion around the issue. Asked if they approved or disapproved of how he had handled the subject, city residents were evenly split.

Indeed, Times reporters took to Twitter to gush over NYC Mayor Bloomberg's weepy speech in defense of building the mosque near the site of terrorist attacks committed in the name of Islam. The Times worked in its standard jab against Newt and Palin as outsiders (albeit outsiders who are on the side of the majority of New Yorkers on this issue):

While a majority said politicians in New York should take a stand on the issue, most disapprove of those outside the city weighing in: Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, among others, have tried to rally opposition to the center.

The article was accompanied on the editorial page by a righteously concerned editorial, "Mistrust and the Mosque," moaning over how New Yorkers have failed to teach a moral lesson to the ignorant masses.

The furor over the proposed Islamic cultural center and mosque near ground zero keeps giving us new reasons for dismay. As politicians and commentators work themselves and viewers into a rage, others who should be standing up for freedom and tolerance tiptoe away.

To the growing pile of discouragement, add this: A New York Times poll of New York City residents that found that even this city, the country's most diverse and cosmopolitan, is not immune to suspicion and to a sadly wary misunderstanding of Muslim-Americans.


Tolerance, however, isn't the same as understanding, so it is appalling to see New Yorkers who could lead us all away from mosque madness, who should know better, playing to people's worst instincts.

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