NEW YORK – One month after taking a stand against construction of the proposed
Islamic Cultural Center near the destroyed World Trade Center site in Manhattan,
the Anti-Defamation League has started an interfaith coalition meant to help
American Muslim communities that are facing opposition to the building of
The Interfaith Coalition on Mosques (ICOM) is composed of
individuals and Christian, Jewish and Muslim groups, and is meant to provide
support to Muslims when their rights are violated.
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Its charter members
include ADL national director Abraham Foxman, Park Avenue Synagogue Rabbi
Elliott Cosgrove, and Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, founder of the Center for Leadership
and Learning and former chairman of the United States Holocaust
The group’s statement of purpose says, “Working as the national
Interfaith Coalition On Mosques (ICOM) under the sponsorship of the Anti-
Defamation League, our purpose is to assist Muslim communities who are being
denied permission to build mosques in their neighborhoods.”
“While we are
extremely concerned about discrimination against mosque building in America, we
will also recognize that local governments have legitimate concerns about zoning
and other planning issues within the framework of current federal, state and
local laws,” the statement of purpose reads.
“We believe the best way to
uphold America’s democratic values is to ensure that Muslims can exercise the
same religious freedom enjoyed by everyone in America,” the statement adds.
“They deserve nothing less than to have a place of worship like everyone
The statement of purpose cites recent incidents in the United
States where construction of mosques have been opposed vociferously, and with
“ugly rhetoric,” including in Florida, Tennessee, Wisconsin and
Conspicuously absent from the group’s statement of purpose,
however, is any mention of New York City.
The ADL recently came under
fire for its controversial stand opposing the Park 51 Islamic Community Center
proposed for a site two blocks away from Manhattan’s Ground Zero.
proposed location of the center has become a highly politicized debate in the
United States. New York’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg has stood in support of the
project as testament to New York’s religious diversity.
national politicians, including former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin
and former speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich, have spoken
out against the center, calling its proximity to the World Trade Center site
inappropriate at best, in light of the attack there by Islamic terrorists on
September 11, 2001, and offensive at worst.
In August, the ADL released a
statement calling for the Park 51 project to be moved from its planned location,
citing the objections by relatives of the victims.
“The controversy which
has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is
counterproductive to the healing process,” the ADL’s statement on the issue
read. “Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New
York would be better served if an alternative location could be
At the time, Foxman vociferously rejected claims his organization
had betrayed the message of religious tolerance it usually preaches.
ADL’s position on the construction of the Islamic Cultural Center near Ground
Zero was more “nuanced’ than people had been led to believe, Foxman told The
Jerusalem Post last month, and the outcry against the ADL was “very
In an interview about ICOM with the Post, Foxman said the Park
51 issue was completely separate from ICOM’s goals, and that there is “no
disconnect” between the ADL’s stance on the two issues.
“In New York,
there is no issue of legality, and we made that very clear – they have a legal
right to do it,” Foxman said of the Park 51 plan. “It’s just a question of
whether they should do it.
“You know what’s similar?,” he asked. “That
rightwing lunatic minister has the right to burn the Koran, but it’s not the
right thing to do.”
Further explaining the ADL’s position on Park 51,
Foxman said, “we raised the question of sensitivity to the location – a position
which over 70 percent of American people agree with. It’s not a question of
their right to do it.”
“What the debate around the so-called ‘Ground Zero
mosque’ did was that it surfaced that there is a problem in America where
Muslims were having problems exercising their right to build a mosque,” Foxman
“They do have a constitutional right. So we decided to put together
an interfaith coalition, where we will ascertain and check the facts, find out
whether there has been discrimination and then determine what kind of remedy or
remedial help to dispatch, whether legal support, public relations support, or
“America woke up to realize there’s a problem out there,”
Foxman said. “Our purpose to address the issue and problem, and then to make
sure there is proper information and proper action.”