News agencies around the world are blasting the stunning admission by a Hamas co-founder who – echoing President Obama’s recent controversial comments – argued that a mosque must go up near Ground Zero.
“We have to build everywhere,” Mahmoud al-Zahar, co-founder of the terror group and leader of its Gaza Strip faction, said on air Sunday to Aaron Klein, WND Jerusalem bureau chief and host of “Investigative Radio” on WABC New York.
“We have to build the mosque,” Zahar said, “as you are allowed to build the church and Israelis are building their holy places.”
The Hamas chieftain’s comments come days after an Obama speech honoring Ramadan where he said: “Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. …That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.”
The administration issued statements both affirming and downplaying his original comment. But the president’s comment on the contentious battle over the mosque proposed near Ground Zero towered in the background after Klein’s interview made the cover of The New York Post. With the headline, “Hamas Big Backs Mosque,” the Post found New York politicians far more tightlipped after learning about the Hamas endorsement.
“Rep. Peter King … said only, ‘I don’t respond to Hamas,'” reported the Post. “Mayor Bloomberg, a strong supporter of the plan, declined comment through a spokesman. Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam behind the proposed mosque, and two other leaders of the plan who previously had commented extensively, were silent yesterday.”
Under the headline, “Ground Zero mosque row to become muddier as Hama pitches in with support,” The International Business Times writes, “The Obama administration, which has been taking pains to heal the racial rift and reach out to the Islamic community across the world in a bid to mend America’s image in the Islamic world, has its hands full with the latest turn of events.”
The Drudge Report linked to the Daily Mail, which cited Klein and his work, and the Associated Press ran with Klein’s coverage, which was picked up by CBS News, Forbes.com, The Jerusalem Post, the Israeli news site Arutz Sheva, an ABC affiliate, and blogs such as the Huffington Post, Al Bawaba, Truth Drive and Polijam.com.
Zahar told Klein Hamas “is representing the vast majority of the Arabic and Islamic world, especially the Islamic side.” He also cast Muslims around the world and in America as united in common cause.
“First of all,” Zahar continued, “we have to address that we are different as people, as a nation totally different. We already are living under the tradition of Islam. … Islam is controlling every source of our life as regard to marriage, divorce, our commercial relationships. … Even the Islamic people or the Muslims in your country, they are living now in the tradition of Islam. They are fasting, they are praying.”
This isn’t the first time Klein has evoked candid and revealing comments from terrorist leaders, recalls Politico, which identified Klein as being “best known for having gotten Hamas officials to endorse John Kerry and Barack Obama at key moments.”
Still, Politico followed some members of the media in noting little extraordinary about the terror leader’s statements, referring to Zahar’s as “rather vaguely supporting the construction.”
In fact, Zahar’s remarks even scored some supporters – albeit with qualifiers – among reporters.
New York Magazine writes that, “Obviously, this is not helpful in any way for the mosque’s defenders. But let’s hear al-Zahar out; maybe it won’t be so bad. ‘We have to build the mosque, as you are allowed to build the church and Israelis are building their holy places.’ Oh, actually, that’s right. Freedom of religious expression is the same rationale used by Mayor Bloomberg, President Obama, and other people who believe in the Constitution even when it’s politically beneficial not to. Just because a group of fundamentalist Muslims attacked the World Trade Center does not mean that Muslims-Americans are not just like everybody else.”
Also from New York Mag was another Zahar comment: “‘First of all, we have to address that we are different as people, as a nation, totally different,” [al-Zahar] said.'”
“Okay,” the magazine’s writers continued, “you can stop now.”
Greg Sargent of The Washington Post writes, “The angle here is that one of the criticisms of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the Islamic center, is that he refused to call Hamas a terrorist organization. … And here’s Hamas standing up for the imam’s mosque, in firm agreement with Obama. Hamas, Rauf, and Obama all agree: Build the mosque! In reality, of course, Obama did not ‘endorse’ the Islamic center. Rauf is widely seen as a moderate, and he has condemned terrorism.”
Rauf, president of the Cordoba Initiative, has caused a stir with his proposed 13-story, $100 million Islamic cultural center and mosque near the corner of Park Place and West Broadway – about two blocks from the site of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Rauf also sparked controversy last month when he refused during a live interview on Klein’s WABC show to condemn violent jihad groups as terrorists. Rauf repeatedly refused on the air to affirm the U.S. designation of Hamas as a terrorist organization or call the Muslim Brotherhood extremists.
The Brotherhood openly seeks to spread Islam around the world, while Hamas is committed to Israel’s destruction and is responsible for scores of suicide bombings, shootings and rocket attacks aimed at Jewish civilian population centers.
During the interview, Klein also asked Rauf who he believes was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks.
“There’s no doubt,” stated Rauf. “The general perception all over the world was it was created by people who were sympathetic to Osama bin Laden. Whether they were part of the killer group or not, these are details that need to be left to the law-enforcement experts.”
Rauf has been on record several times blaming U.S. policies for the Sept. 11 attacks. He has been quoted refusing to admit Muslims carried out the attacks.
Referring to the Sept. 11 attacks, Rauf told CNN, “U.S. policies were an accessory to the crime that happened. We (the U.S.) have been an accessory to a lot of innocent lives dying in the world. Osama bin Laden was made in the USA.”