Laurie Goodstein Translates Mosque Opposition Into Anti-Islamic Bigotry, Hate Crimes

Religion reporter Laurie Goodstein is not taking public opposition to the Ground Zero mosque very well, labeling it straight-up red state bigotry: "[Muslims] said they were scared not as much for their safety as to learn that the suspicion, ignorance and even hatred of Muslims is so widespread."

The Times continues to generate pro-Muslim profiles in support of its latest ideological obsession, the successful construction of a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. Religion reporter Laurie Goodstein Monday's front page on how specific opposition to the project translates into "suspicion, ignorance and even hatred of Muslims." "American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong?"

Her article is topped with a posed picture of a beaming Muslim nuclear family of Dr. Ferhan Asghar inside what the photo caption describes as a "Muslim center" in West Chester, Ohio. Asghar is also the article's first source.

For nine years after the attacks of Sept. 11, many American Muslims made concerted efforts to build relationships with non-Muslims, to make it clear they abhor terrorism, to educate people about Islam and to participate in interfaith service projects. They took satisfaction in the observations by many scholars that Muslims in America were more successful and assimilated than Muslims in Europe.

Goodstein stated as fact that various acts of vandalism nationwide are a result of opposition to the mosque in New York City.

Now, many of those same Muslims say that all of those years of work are being rapidly undone by the fierce opposition to a Muslim cultural center near ground zero that has unleashed a torrent of anti-Muslim sentiments and a spate of vandalism. The knifing of a Muslim cab driver in New York City has also alarmed many American Muslims.


Eboo Patel, a founder and director of Interfaith Youth Core, a Chicago-based community service program that tries to reduce religious conflict, said, "I am more scared than I've ever been - more scared than I was after Sept. 11."

That was a refrain echoed by many American Muslims in interviews last week. This is not the trajectory toward integration and acceptance that Muslims thought they were on.

Some American Muslims said they were especially on edge as the anniversary of 9/11 approaches. The pastor of a small church in Florida has promised to burn a pile of Korans that day. Muslim leaders are telling their followers that the stunt has been widely condemned by Christian and other religious groups and should be ignored. But they said some young American Muslims were questioning how they could simply sit by and watch the promised desecration.

They liken their situation to that of other scapegoats in American history: Irish Roman Catholics before the nativist riots in the 1800s, the Japanese before they were put in internment camps during World War II.

Except, as Goodstein surely knows, there will be no rounding up of Muslims into camps. It didn't happen in the wake of 9-11 and it's not going to

happen tomorrow.

The great mosque debate seems to have unleashed a flurry of vandalism and harassment directed at mosques: construction equipment set afire at a mosque site in Murfreesboro, Tenn; a plastic pig with graffiti thrown into a mosque in Madera, Calif.; teenagers shooting outside a mosque in upstate New York during Ramadan prayers. It is too soon to tell whether hate crimes against Muslims are rising or are on pace with previous years, experts said. But it is possible that other episodes are going unreported right now.

Newsbusters' Noel Sheppard rounded up some hate crime statistics and found that there is no rampant Islamaphobia going on in America; in fact, FBI data indicates hate crimes against Jews are ten times more common than hate crimes against Muslims.

You know the Times thinks things are dire when a Times-approved source praises the good old days under President Bush, who said time and time again that Islam was not the enemy:

Now, unlike Mr. Bush then, the politicians with sway in red state America are the ones whipping up fear and hatred of Muslims, Mr. Patel said.