The right-wing controversy du jour? Construction of several mosques throughout the U.S. — perhaps most notably, a Muslim community center near Ground Zero in New York City. In many cases, the right-wing fear-mongering has fed a shrill campaign warning against Muslims inevitably using their places of worship to conspire to implant sharia law in the lives of unsuspecting Americans.
So which right-wingers are most afraid of the big bad mosques? TPM rounds up the worst offenders.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) laid out the following ultimatum on his website: “There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia.” Gingrich added: “The time for double standards that allow Islamists to behave aggressively toward us while they demand our weakness and submission is over.” In a subsequent appearance on Fox News, Gingrich explained that he wasn’t against all mosques in New York City — just near Ground Zero. Why not near Central Park or Columbia University instead? he asked.
Former half-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin (R) made Twitter headlines when she tweeted that “Peaceful Muslims” should “refudiate” the plans to build a Muslim community center near Ground Zero, if they “believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real” and agree that it “stabs hearts” and is an “UNNECESSARY provocation.”
Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, who is running in the Republican primary for governor, was discussing a planned Muslim community center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and implied that when it comes to that whole “religious freedom” thing, maybe Muslims need not apply: “Now, you could even argue whether being a Muslim is actually a religion, or is it a nationality, way of life, cult whatever you want to call it. Now certainly we do protect our religions, but at the same time this is something we are going to have to face.” He added: “My concern is that far too much of Islam has come to resemble a violent political philosophy more than peace-loving religion.”
Rep. Peter King (R-NY), who is also the ranking Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee, has called for an investigation into the Ground Zero mosque’s funding, also saying it’s “bad form” to build it in that location. “It’s a house of worship, but we are at war with al-Qaeda,” King said. “I think the 9/11 families have a right to know where the funding comes from; I think there are significant questions.”
Lou Ann Zelenik, running in the Republican primary for TN-06 also vehemently opposes the Murfreesboro mosque, even joining a march in opposition to its construction. Zelenik’s campaign manager summed up the problem to TPMDC: “Here’s what we’re seeing. We’re seeing it as — this isn’t a mosque. They’re building an Islamic center to teach Sharia law. That is what we stand in opposition to. And this is one of the largest Islamic centers in the country, at 53,000 square feet on 15 acres.”
Perhaps no one has been more outspoken about the Ground Zero mosque than Carl Paladino, Republican primary candidate for New York governor. He has said that “the Islamic fundamentalists are Fascists – women have limited rights, there is no free speech or freedom of expression, and citizens are subject to the often barbaric Sharia Law. I oppose a mosque near the site of Ground Zero, not because of race, but because of the ideology of the Islamic fundamentalists.” Paladino has also said he would use eminent domain to block construction on the mosque if elected, though current Gov. David Paterson got his legal team to look into the issue, and they concluded such a challenge wouldn’t hold water in court.
Not to be outdone, Paladino’s primary opponent Rick Lazio has been conducting his own campaign against the mosque, challenging Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Cuomo to a debate about the mosque…and only about the mosque. Cuomo had expressed support for its construction, but Lazio won’t back down: “You have called those of us who oppose building this mosque racists and bigots. You should be ashamed of yourself. To get real answers I suggest that we debate this issue in an open forum to be covered by the news media. Your position on this issue is so wrong and I recognize you may not want to defend it but all the same I am asking you to do just that.”
Mr. 9/11 himself, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, has been pretty outspoken against the Muslim community center near Ground Zero, declaring that “it not only is exactly the wrong place, at Ground Zero, but it is a mosque supported by an imam who has a record of support for causes that were sympathetic with terrorism.”
And don’t forget Rudy’s old pal Bernie Kerik. The former New York City police commissioner — and convicted felon — tweeted about the Ground Zero mosque from prison. As TPM alum Justin Elliott put it: “Kerik, inmate 84888-054, mysteriously tweeted a link to this lurid Frank Gaffney Web video that calls the progressive Muslims behind the planned community center terrorists and shows the Twin Towers falling. “If we let them defile ground zero with a beachhead for sharia we will validate their sense of victory on 9/11 and encourage future attacks on America. No mosque at Ground Zero,” the ad says.”