(Video courtesy Pamela Hall.)
(Photos above courtesy Pamela Geller, who has many more here.)
Tonight Community Board 1 in lower Manhattan held a hearing to discuss the proposed thirteen-story (some reports say fifteen-story) mosque to be built at Ground Zero. It was a curious exercise, since the Board has no power to vote the mosque up or down, but since it offered citizens an open forum, it became an opportunity for people to voice their opposition to the mosque project -- and mosque proponents were up to the challenge, ready with speakers, a Power Point presentation, and prepared statements from politicians, including Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer and Congressman Jerrold Nadler. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the leader of the Cordoba House Mosque initiative, and his wife Daisy Khan were there, along with a large number of their supporters.
The leadership of Stop Islamization of America -- Pamela Geller and I -- was there as well. Hindu activists were there. Jewish activists were there. Christian activists were there. An ex-Muslim spoke via a cellphone held up to the microphone. It was a wonderful display of the unity among those threatened by jihad and Islamic supremacism that I've been calling for for years.
The atmosphere was rowdy, with tempers running high. The mosque proponents and the politicians were primarily responsible for this, as they immediately began to brand the opponents of the mosque initiative as racists and bigots. The local city councilwoman, whose name I believe was Chan, characterized all opposition to the mosque as hatred and bigotry, and said that to support the mosque was simply a matter of tolerance and pluralism. Mosque proponents distributed a written statement from Stringer, favoring the mosque and saying: "I for one never want to see our country or our city abandon religious tolerance as the result of an act of violence, even one as unspeakable as the 9/11 attacks."
This kind of talk angered the mosque opponents in the crowd, and there were many. There was a great deal of catcalling and booing of the multiculturalist platitudes and self-righteous moralizing, and the schoolmarmish chairperson of the Community Board repeatedly warned catcallers in the crowd that they would be held "out of order" -- but their threats were as toothless and empty as their moralizing, and the indignation of the crowd would break out repeatedly throughout the evening whenever another bemused liberal or smooth-talking Muslim would excoriate "hatred" and "bigotry" and extol "tolerance." Daisy Khan showed a brief Power Point presentation that said, among other things, that the Islamic Center would help non-Muslims to integrate.
Interesting word choice. Not help Muslims to integrate into the American secular fabric, but to help non-Muslims to integrate. Into...a Sharia state? Is that the goal?
Those who wanted to speak filled out forms giving their names and their planned topics, and were each allotted two minutes, although pro-mosque speakers were frequently given much longer. Feisal Abdul Rauf must have taken ten minutes, and Daisy Khan about that long. I put down on my form something like "Sharia law" as my topic, and turned it in. It became clear as soon as speakers started being called that the people running the show planned to call only supporters of the mosque initiative first -- apparently so that as the speakers started to make the same points that had already been made by earlier speakers, and people started to leave the hall, the side that would be given short shrift would be the mosque opponents. So imagine my surprise when, very early in the meeting, when several people had already spoken for the mosque and scolded the "bigotry" of its opponents, the Board called as just the fourth or fifth speaker...Pamela Geller.
Pamela, who is always a dynamic speaker, gave the speech of her life -- I am hoping that video will be posted soon. She explained how historically Cordoba was actually a place where Jews and Christians were oppressed, and a pogrom against the Jews saw thousands murdered in 1011, and so for the mosque organizers to dub their initiative "Cordoba House" was not quite the tolerant, multicultural signal that everyone was taking it to be. She spoke about respecting the sensitivities of the 9/11 victims, and a great deal more. Her speech seemed to rattle the Board chairperson, who apparently hadn't expected a mosque opponent -- and particularly such a passionate and eloquent one -- to speak so early in the program, and shut down the speakers in favor of a lengthy and tedious discussion of parliamentary procedure and just what could and could not be decided by the Board that night.
Afterward, when I told Pamela how surprised I was that she got to speak in the first part of the program, amidst all the mosque supporters, she said it was because she wrote as her topic "Outreach." So she was chosen as one who would speak out in favor of the mosque, and didn't deliver quite what they had expected -- although her topic certainly was "outreach," all right, as in the reaching out of Sharia and Islamic supremacism.
The meeting dragged on. After a long dry spell, the speakers were called again. Several speakers spoke powerfully about how their opposition to the mosque wasn't hatred and bigotry at all, and criticized the Board and the pols for saying otherwise. Some said they opposed it because it was an insult to the victims of that terrible day. Some said they opposed it because while they'd have no problem with a mosque anywhere else, they thought it was insensitive to put it at Ground Zero. Some quoted some of Abdul Rauf's statements blaming America for 9/11 and supporting Sharia. A few did say that a realistic appraisal of Islamic doctrine would make any non-Muslim suicidally stupid to support a mosque in his neighborhood. Some said they opposed it because the mosque leaders and Board members were not being honest -- and that was certainly true. One Board member early on said that the Islamic Center at Ground Zero would contain no mosque. But then Abdul Rauf said that it would contain a "prayer area." And then Daisy Khan, apparently forgetting the smoothly deceptive script, asked the crowd (to multitudinous catcalls), "There are 200 mosques in New York. What's the problem with another?"
The circus atmosphere continued throughout the evening. Someone distributed pretzels to the crowd. At one point a man in a clerical collar appeared and would blow loudly on a shofar whenever a speaker who opposed the mosque finished addressing the crowd. The crowd never let the befuddled liberals of the Board and the smiling deceivers from the Muslim group get away with anything. But as the meeting neared the three-hour mark and talks grew repetitive and tedious indeed, Pamela and I both left, even though I hadn't yet been called to speak. After all, the Board can't decide anything. And it is abundantly clear that whoever really holds the cards on this issue has made his decision already.
At around 10:30, according to Jamie of HRCARI, after a five and a half hour meeting, the Board voted, 29 for, 9 against, one abstention, to approve the mosque. Many Board members took the opportunity to say that they had never seen such hatred spewed at their meetings, etc. -- and they didn't mean the Sharia supremacists. Immediately after the vote the press was given a written statement from Stringer congratulating the Board for voting as they did, which indicates that he knew all along the way the vote was going to go.
But that doesn't mean that the 9/11 Mosque is a fait accompli. Oh, no. The people in that room tonight who knew that they were being lied to and sold a bill of goods are not going to take this lying down. This is why it is all the more crucial for you, if you possibly can, to attend our June 6 rally at noon at Zucotti Park in lower Manhattan. This is our last chance to make our voices heard. And we will be heard.