In the months leading up to the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, conservatives, right-wing media, and Republican lawmakers have led a campaign of misinformation, paranoia, fear, and anger toward Muslims, sparked by the recent hysteria over a hate pastor’s plan to burn the Quran (which he thankfully never carried out) and outrage over an organization’s plan to build a mosque and Islamic community center near Ground Zero in Manhattan. A recent Washington Post poll found that a plurality of Americans now have an unfavorable view of Islam, “the most negative split on the question” since Oct. 2001. Commemorating the 9/11 attacks, President Obama urged tolerance toward Muslims. “As Americans we are not — and never will be — at war with Islam,” he said. “It was not a religion that attacked us that September day — it was al Qaida, a sorry band of men which perverts religion.” Yet rhetoric from conservatives who gathered this weekend in New York City to protest the Park51 community center, and in Washington, D.C. for the Tea Party “9/12” rally was steeped in Islamophobia and general misinformation about the President, leading Democrats, and their policies.
‘NO MOSQUE HERE’: The Stop Islamization of America-sponsored rally near Ground Zero in Manhattan against the Park51 Islamic cultural center drummed up fears of Sharia law in America with regular “no mosque here” chants from the Tea Party-esque crowd. As the Wonk Room’s Matt Duss noted, the event stirred “together half-truths with outright falsehoods into a stew of anti-Muslim paranoia.” Speaking at the event, GOP House candidate Ilario Pantano attempted to instill fears that Park51 project leader Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, along with Iran, was responsible for the Gaza aid flotilla this summer that resulted in the killing of nine Turks — including one Turkish American — by Israeli commandos. And the event’s headline speaker, right-wing Dutch politician Geert Welders — who once called Islam “the ideology of a retarded culture” — falsely claimed that the Park51 center would be “a house of Sharia” and that Rauf “refuses to condemn terrorists.” In dozens of interviews with The Progress Report, attendees at the protest espoused similar views. “It’s going to be a Sharia law mosque. They believe in the jihad,” one woman from Long Island said. Another woman associated with the American Congress for Truth said Rauf is “building sharia on Ground Zero.” Echoing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, one man — not seeming to recognize the freedoms bestowed on the U.S. as opposed to other countries — said, “When they build a church in Saudi Arabia then they can build a mosque” near Ground Zero. Many attendees said that Rauf and his organization wanted to build a mosque near Ground Zero because that’s what Muslims do after a victory in battle — a notion propagated recently by Fox News, and by hate radio hosts Micheal Savage and Rush Limbaugh. “History shows us that they do build where they have conquered,” one woman said. When asked how she knew this, she replied, “On many different shows. … We have historians in our family and they said if you were to research that, that that would right. I don’t know personally myself, I haven’t seen them but they say in history, that’s what they have done.”
THE TEA PARTY IN D.C.: Tea Party members from all over the country gathered on the Mall in Washington, D.C. for their second annual FreedomWorks-sponsored “9/12” rally to protest against President Obama and his purported “socialist cronies.” Many attendees at the 9/12 rally appeared to represent the nearly 20 percent of Americans who believe that Obama is a Muslim. “None of the crowd members I talked to would say that Obama was either Christian or a U.S. citizen (the best I got was ‘only God knows what’s in his heart,’ from a nice woman from Ohio),” reported TPM’s Evan McMorris-Santoro. The rest of the rally — which was considerably smaller in size when compared to last year’s event — consisted of ridiculing taxes and spending and heralding the Constitution with “God repeatedly placed firmly on the conservative side of the political spectrum by speakers and audience members alike.”
SIGNS OF INTOLERANCE: Apart from the divisive and misinformed rhetoric that took place at these rallies, attendees often displayed signs, banners, and other placards displaying symbols and inscriptions of hatred and intolerance. At the 9/12 rally, one attendee held a sign that said “Obama wants to ban pork!” presumably a reference to the false claim that he is a Muslim. Another sign depicted Obama as both a Nazi and a communist while another associated members of Congress with rodents. One man carried a sign that said “Obama, the terrorist from within.” One banner at the New York rally read that the Park51 center is “the monument to terrorism,” while another sign read “no Muslim integration.” Many protesters carried small pieces of cardboard that read “No Obama’s Mosque.” One placard portrayed a cartoonish image of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and read: “‘Sharia’ Pelosi. Implant A Tongue Depressor — Wire Her Jaw.” Others wore t-shirts with an image of an airplane flying into the World Trade Center with the words, “They will teach” imprinted on them. Indeed, one observer at the anti-mosque rally in New York noticed the signs and rhetoric of hatred and intolerance, telling The Progress Report, “It’s so emotional here. It’s really aggressive…it’s all fear and it’s all anger, and it just makes me cry. … What is wrong with a mosque? It’s just the same, it’s a great religion just as all the others.”
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