NYT: Ground Zero Mosque Mainly a PR Problem

Leo Rennert
In its Aug. 11 edition, the New York Times runs a lengthy front-page article that points to inadequate PR preparations as the fuse that lit the controversy over plans to build a $100 million Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero ("For Muslim Center Sponsors, Early MIssteps Fueled a Storm" by Anne Barnard)

Barnard, in her exhaustive piece, faults the mosque's sponsors for failing to anticipate accusations of building a victory monument to terrorism.  While they garnered support from some Jewish and Christian groups, she reports, they did little to engage likely opponents, adding:  "More strikingly, they did not seek the advice of established Muslim organizations experienced in volatile post 9/11 passions and politics."

In other words, if there were missteps by the project's sponsors, it was all about lack of adequate public and community outreach in the planning process.

Nowhere, however, in an article that, in addition to its front-page prominence also takes  up a full one third of an inside page, does Barnard report substantive criticism by mainstream Jewish organizations with sterling credentials in the  forefront of civil rights battles for many decades -- such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center or the Zionist Organization of America.

While they recognize that the mosque's sponsors have a perfect legal right to build near Ground Zero, they question whether -- given the lingering pain of 9/11 survivors and families -- picking this particular location is the right thing to do.

None of this appears in Barnard's article that purports to inform readers why such a storm of opposition has clouded the proposed mosque.

Even more tellingly, there is nothing in her article about questions that have been raised about the anti-U.S., pro-Hamas radicalism of its sponsor, Imam Rauf.

For example, on Sept. 30, 2001, less than three weeks after 9/11, Imam Rauf said on CBS' "60 Minutes" program that "United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened...we have been accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world."

On the same program, Imam Rauf also opined that "in fact, in the most direct sense, Osama Bin Laden is made in the USA."

In other words, the man behind the Ground Zero mosque indicts the United States as an accessory to 9/11, while also blaming this country for turning Osama Bin Laden into an arch-terrorist.

More recently, Imam Rauf  again turned the tables against the U.S. by refusing to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization and declaring that "the U.S. and the West must acknowledge the harm they have done to Muslims before terrorism can end."

Barnard's article, with its focus on PR missteps, is silent about the real bona fides -- or lack thereof -- of its chief sponsor. Her only reference to the views  of Imam Rauf is a statement he  reportedly made to a real estate broker in 1999 that "we're not the ones doing bombs; we're moderates and Americans."

Really? What about his rationalization of terrorism, his demand for an American apology to the Muslim world, and his charges that the U.S. also bears responsibility for 9/11? 

These views of Imam Rauf somehow don't meet the NY Times standard of publishing "all the news that's fit to print."
In its Aug. 11 edition, the New York Times runs a lengthy front-page article that points to inadequate PR preparations as the fuse that lit the controversy over plans to build a $100 million Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero ("For Muslim Center Sponsors, Early MIssteps Fueled a Storm" by Anne Barnard)

Barnard, in her exhaustive piece, faults the mosque's sponsors for failing to anticipate accusations of building a victory monument to terrorism.  While they garnered support from some Jewish and Christian groups, she reports, they did little to engage likely opponents, adding:  "More strikingly, they did not seek the advice of established Muslim organizations experienced in volatile post 9/11 passions and politics."

In other words, if there were missteps by the project's sponsors, it was all about lack of adequate public and community outreach in the planning process.

Nowhere, however, in an article that, in addition to its front-page prominence also takes  up a full one third of an inside page, does Barnard report substantive criticism by mainstream Jewish organizations with sterling credentials in the  forefront of civil rights battles for many decades -- such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Simon Wiesenthal Center or the Zionist Organization of America.

While they recognize that the mosque's sponsors have a perfect legal right to build near Ground Zero, they question whether -- given the lingering pain of 9/11 survivors and families -- picking this particular location is the right thing to do.

None of this appears in Barnard's article that purports to inform readers why such a storm of opposition has clouded the proposed mosque.

Even more tellingly, there is nothing in her article about questions that have been raised about the anti-U.S., pro-Hamas radicalism of its sponsor, Imam Rauf.

For example, on Sept. 30, 2001, less than three weeks after 9/11, Imam Rauf said on CBS' "60 Minutes" program that "United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened...we have been accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world."

On the same program, Imam Rauf also opined that "in fact, in the most direct sense, Osama Bin Laden is made in the USA."

In other words, the man behind the Ground Zero mosque indicts the United States as an accessory to 9/11, while also blaming this country for turning Osama Bin Laden into an arch-terrorist.

More recently, Imam Rauf  again turned the tables against the U.S. by refusing to condemn Hamas as a terrorist organization and declaring that "the U.S. and the West must acknowledge the harm they have done to Muslims before terrorism can end."

Barnard's article, with its focus on PR missteps, is silent about the real bona fides -- or lack thereof -- of its chief sponsor. Her only reference to the views  of Imam Rauf is a statement he  reportedly made to a real estate broker in 1999 that "we're not the ones doing bombs; we're moderates and Americans."

Really? What about his rationalization of terrorism, his demand for an American apology to the Muslim world, and his charges that the U.S. also bears responsibility for 9/11? 

These views of Imam Rauf somehow don't meet the NY Times standard of publishing "all the news that's fit to print."