From TALKING POINTS MEMO:
As president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, Dr. Richard Land is an influential opponent of the Cordoba House project in New York. But when he’s not speaking on behalf of one of the most powerful religious bodies in the country, Land has a second — some would say ironic — ecumenical role: member of the federally created United States Commission on International Religious Freedom [appointed by George W. Bush].
In his role as a commissioner, Land’s job is to press for a U.S. foreign policy that advances religious freedoms around the world. Reached by phone today, Land maintained that there is no contradiction between his service on the Commission and his efforts to see the Cordoba House Islamic cultural center project moved farther north in Manhattan.
Furthermore, Land says, religious people in many foreign countries — the countries the commission is most concerned with — suffer far greater opposition than do the sponsors and supporters of the Cordoba House project. “They would envy and relish the opportunity to have the peaceful debate over the mosque in the near vicinity of Ground Zero,” he says.
Land insists that his opposition to the Cordoba House project is principled — that he would and has opposed similar efforts when they upset local populations.
“There is a Japanese Shinto shine, I am told, blocks from the USS Arizona,” Land said. “That isn’t appropriate even 60 years later. Three-thousand Americans died there and they died at the hands of people acitng on behalf of the Japanese Empire.”
There isn’t, in fact, a Shinto shrine near Pearl Harbor, though many conservatives use this hypothetical as an example of a non-Muslim shrine they’d oppose for similar reasons. Rush Limbaugh used the same example, though he mistakenly referred to it as a “Hindu temple.”
Land said he’s not worried in the slightest that his position on Cordoba House might come back to haunt him in the future if a church he supports runs into local opposition, and argued that the principles supporting his opposition to the project cut both ways.
What’s a good remedy? Echoing one of the earliest and fiercest opponents of the Cordoba House project, Pamela Geller, Land said the Mosque Exclusion Zone need only extend a few hundred feet. “My position on the Mosque is that they should move it two or three blocks further north.”
From TALKING POINTS MEMO:
Pamela Geller, one of the most prominent opponents of the proposed Islamic center two blocks from the former World Trade Center, said today in an interview the treatment of the “South Park” creators is a prominent factor in her quest to stop the center from being built.
Geller, author of the book, The Obama Administration’s War on America, is the force behind the anti-Muslim group Stop Islamization of America and the Atlas Shrugs blog but insists her opposition to the Islamic center is not racist or bigoted. “It’s a common decency issue,” she said.
Geller tried to articulate her position on what critics have dubbed the “Ground Zero Mosque” by saying that interfaith understanding is a “two-way street” and citing what she believes are problems within the Islamic faith.
Her most prominent example was the death threats made to the Danish cartoonist who depicted Mohammed, and the subsequent controversy over “South Park” creators trying to show Mohammed on their Comedy Central show.
She also thinks it is not a fair comparison between the proposed center and the 92nd Street Y because “anyone could walk into a church or synagogue but non-Muslims can’t pray in a mosque.”
Geller argues the building where the Cordoba House is sacred because it was hit by landing gear on Sept. 11, 2001, and doesn’t buy arguments about some of the more seedy buildings in the area desecrating the memory of those killed nine years ago.
“Strip clubs didn’t bring down the towers. It’s faulty logic,” Geller told TPM.
She described herself as a “human rights activist” and said she has made a name for herself helping Muslim women seek “safe haven” in the wake of an increase in honor killings. She said among them is a teenage girl of Sri Lankan origin, Fathima Rifqa Bary, who converted to Christianity in junior high school, ran off with a college student who aspired to be a pastor and eventually settled with a minister and his wife in Florida who didn’t inform police that she had been found for two weeks. In an effort to stay in Florida, Bary told authorities she feared her parents would kill her; authorities in Ohio and Florida found no evidence to support her claims.
She also cited the actress from the “Harry Potter” series who was beaten by her father and brother because they did not approve of her relationship with a Hindu man. (Don’t forget, Geller is responsible for the New York City bus campaign urging people to leave Islam.)
She considers the proposed Cordoba House as not “near Ground Zero,” as most people characterize Park Place, two blocks away from where the World Trade Center once stood, but as being part of Ground Zero. Landing gear from the planes which struck the twin towers damaged the building.
“It was part of the attack, it was hit by a piece of the plane,” Geller said.
She claims that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf is not a “secular” Muslim and believes he has radical ideas. She said disagreed with President Bush’s administration for sending Rauf abroad, and protested the decision at the time. Geller said she believes Rauf said one thing in the United States and was telling the Arabic press he does not agree with interfaith dialogue. She also opposes the mosque within the Pentagon.
Geller also takes issue with the Cordoba House name, saying she finds it “deeply troubling” given its its historical significance. In 711, when Spain was controlled by Visigoths, Moorish armies conquered the city after the death of the Visigoth king and ruled for nearly 800 years. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was considered a cultural and intellectual center of its time.
She also claims “many 9/11 families support me,” although we’ve found very few taking public positions and just as many groups supporting the Islamic center as opposing it.
Geller several times said it was “insulting” to Americans who feel passionately about the issue to say she had anything to do with pushing it, even though she organized the first protest and has been one of the most prominent opponents on television. “It’s elitist that people are crediting me with the opposition, as if without me people would be down with it,” Geller said.
She added, “You’re not going to make this about me.”