Letters to the Editor

A hypocrisy of a wedding

To the Editor,

When my wife and I got married in 1997 we spent $14,000 on our wedding. It covered all the basics — invitations, flowers, a photographer, video recording, music deejay, lunch and an open bar. All of this took place on a boat. We cruised for four hours, from the Flushing Marina down the East River to the Statue of Liberty and back. We and our 125 guests had the time of our lives. 

In May 2008, President Bush and Laura Bush hosted a wedding for their daughter Jenna at their Crawford, Texas ranch. For $100,000, several hundred guests enjoyed their day. Fast forward to Astor Courts — a private estate on the Hudson River in Rhinebeck, New York today. For the princely sum of several million dollars, Bill and Hillary Clinton hosted a wedding for their daughter Chelsea and 500 guests. In the middle of an economic recession with a 10 percent unemployment rate, perhaps the Clinton’s should have toned it down a little. My wife and I along with the Bushes and most average Americans enjoyed our respective blessed day for far less money in more humble surroundings. Perhaps in lieu of gifts, Chelsea could have asked her guests to make a donation to the Clinton/Bush Haitian relief effort. I hope the Clinton’s donated all the leftover food, and refreshments to a local food bank along with flowers and reusable decorations to a local homeless shelter. How ironic is it that “liberal” Democrats like the Clintons live a decadent life style spending like the multi millionaires, fat cat Republicans and greedy Wall Street investors they have historically always despised! I guess “do as I say, and not do as I do” is the Clinton family crest!

Larry Penner

Say no to Obamacare

To the Editor,

President Obama lied when he told the American people that under his plan they could keep their own health care plans. We now know from internal administration documents that up to 51 percent of employers will lose their plans. Small firms will be hit even harder. This bill is 900 pages of fine print and is creating 150 new federal agencies. The true purpose of the bill was not to improve health care, but to put doctors and patients under more federal control. In addition to destroying our freedom, this will cost hundreds of billions, if not trillions, over the next decade.

The time is now to repeal Obamacare. Tell your representatives to support HR 4972, which repeals Obamacare. Also tell them to support HR 5444, which offers free market solutions to our healthcare problems, such as eliminating the seventy-and-a-half percent threshold for deducting medical expenses, making them fully deductible.

Again, the time is now to repeal Obamacare and take control of medicine back from federal bureaucrats.

George Kotta

Mosquemania is a headache

To the Editor,

The letter by Tal Barzilai is a perfect example of the rationale of those who protest the so-called “Mosque at Ground Zero,” including half term Governor Sarah Palin, and our own NY gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio. In the first place it is not a mosque. The plans as presented before C.B. 1 clearly and openly call for a community center. Saying it is a mosque over and over and over does not make it so. Apparently, snapping up and running with a bald faced lie is easier than working to uncover the actual facts and then responding accordingly.

The community center plan calls for a much needed facility that will be used

for meetings, day care, counseling, exercise and so on. One small room is dedicated to prayer. That is not the definition of a mosque no matter how stridently the protesters shriek their unfounded accusations.

In addition, the center means construction and community jobs that our economy desperately needs, but that does not put a dent in the protest. In fact, it is not even a consideration.

Finally Tal Barzilai states, “The last time I checked, I have hardly ever heard of any mosque calling out Muslim fanatics in public as churches and synagogues did for their own kind.”

Well these are the Muslims you are looking for. They are speaking out for peace and for the betterment of the Lower Manhattan Community but you and the rest of the “anti-Ground Zero Mosque” crowd refuses to hear them. You will not even recognize the Muslim Americans who died on 9-11.

Shame on you Tal and shame on those others whose lack of understanding of

these good citizens and lust for misplaced revenge against them has made you behave in such an ugly manner. This is simply not the American way. Thankfully, the vast majority of citizens in Lower Manhattan agree with me.

Lawrence White

Why A.D.L., why?

This is an Open Letter to the Executive Director of Anti Defamation League (ADL) from the Executive Director of Muslim Consultative Network (MCN)

In the brave new media-saturated world constantly abuzz with speculation and defamatory comments one should show respect to any group that claims to be concerned with defamation of any people. But with all due respect I write as a disappointed interfaith dialogue advocate and community partner: why was it necessary for the Anti Defamation League to take any position at all against the proposed mosque and community center that opponents have branded “the Ground Zero Mosque?” Why not simply remain neutral?

It is ironic that the political party that is making this project an “issue” is the same one that this past week voted to deny benefits to the 9/11 rescue workers. Why would the ADL wish to stand with those that do not have New Yorkers’ best interests in mind?

The tabloid name “Ground Zero Mosque” is a sort of lie and we should all stop using it. This is a unique and forward looking project that honors diversity and promotes the mutual understanding that has nurtured this nation — and, moreover, none of this is to be built on the sacred ground where thousands died. Or do Sarah Palin and the ADL propose to make the neighborhood near Ground Zero a “Muslim free zone” — when our own Muslim colleagues also perished on that day, as I know very well.

As a Muslim who worked for years with Jewish and Muslim survivors of the terror attack, and with no connection to the organizing of this project, I must point out that the proposed meeting, sports and recreation center would be open to all and only a very small proportion of its space will serve Muslim worship services. It is not a “13-story mosque,” as Newt Gingrich and other political opportunists like to call it, any more than a “13-story swimming pool.”

As former Chair and out-going Executive Director of Muslim Consultative Network (MCN), I take this moment to express personally the hope that Mayor Bloomberg will remain committed to the current proposal or perhaps, if need be, to slightly scaled-down versions. There is no inherent reason that such an embrace of diversity cannot happen in New York City of all places, which after all has long had a mosque a three-minute walk from Ground Zero. The organizers of the project have no similarities to the Taliban or to Al Qaeda by any conceivable stretch of imagination. Let’s please not give into foolish fantasy about any proposed projects in our city led by Muslim New Yorkers.

At the same time, understandably, the 9/11 families do differ in their opinions on this project. In hindsight it seems clear that out of respect, special outreach to them might have been undertaken before this became a hot button topic. I do know that at least one Muslim mother of a 9/11 victim has long been trying to rouse Muslim leaders and 9/11 survivors to clarify project intentions.

The organization I co-founded, MCN, came together in the aftermath of 9/11 as I worked in disaster response services and other co-founders provided spiritual care to survivors. During the ensuing years, our members engaged in a number of programs and projects including intensive interfaith dialogue, often with the Jewish community. But at times like these, when special interests are keen on excluding and marginalizing us as Muslims, it seems to have been to no avail.

In 2007, a leading Muslim American educator and interfaith activist, Debbie Almontaser, was pilloried in the local tabloids and forced out of her job after her statements were distorted, much as Sherrod’s words were distorted in recent weeks by a right wing blogger, then the media and the government. In 2007, some of Ms. Almontaser’s close interfaith partners, especially in the Jewish community, disappointingly failed to raise their voices in public to protest her defamation. Certainly, the ADL’s comments at the time did not help.

Some relationships that were potentially useful for the city have not healed since that time. Nevertheless, Debbie Almontaser is now an MCN Board Chair and a tireless advocate for interfaith understanding — which is still apparently in short supply. Moreover, a recent EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) ruling vindicated her rights and version of events leading to her ouster.

Now with the July 30 ADL statement, potential dialogue partners are deeply disappointed again and Muslims cannot help wondering if history is repeating itself. Is the ADL really so powerful or do we (or spineless media and politicians) make it so? I know many Jewish and Christian leaders are very disappointed with the ADL stance and expect that the public will hear from them soon, as back door whispering has limited utility, as does any response from a Muslim organization, sad to say.

ADL Executive Director Abraham Foxman: you have compared the idea of a Muslim prayer space near ground zero to the Roman Catholic Carmelite nuns who had a convent at the Auschwitz death camp. I understand the basic sensitivity and suppose if it were up to others, one might also choose to similarly compare the downtown plans to the (Jewish) Museum of Tolerance plans to build a museum on top of a Muslim cemetery in Israel as well. Naturally these are sensitive issues. But significantly, in this case the renovation or construction would not be actually at the site of the former World Trade Center, but simply where fuselage fell.

By invoking the Nazis in this misleading and provocative way, and indeed by taking any stand at all against a Muslim house of worship, the ADL begins to make this a Jewish-Muslim issue where previously it was not one. To address this there must be serious, public dialogue on all levels between our diverse communities despite of and because of our differences. Therefore, I invite public response from ADL as a Jewish organization to MCN and to other local Muslim partners.

Since 9/11 there has been an enormous failure in our social discourse to understand and distinguish between different sorts of Muslims, to fund and support “moderate” Muslims’ projects and programs and urgent social needs, and to take preventative action to prevent another attack. Far right interests must not be allowed to keep us all at each other’s throats. Fear is not a true solution.

 There are more than enough idiots in both our communities for Jews and Muslims to sink under the weight of shame. Instead, why not engage as partners, support each other’s positive works and disagree where we must? Why not have some truly meaningful — and honest — interfaith partnerships for a change: to build a safer city and a better world.


 Adem Carroll

Executive Director

Muslim Consultative Network

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