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August 18, 2010

Arab group to Md. leaders: Speak up for liberty

The Baltimore chapter of a national Arab-American rights group is calling on Maryland leaders to support the religious freedom of all Americans, following criticism by some of the proposal to build a mosque near the former site of the World Trade Center in New York.

The statement by the local chapter of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee comes a day after Republican state Sen. Andy Harris drew national attention by calling the Park51 project “blatantly disrespectful.”

A spokesman for Republican former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., meanwhile, said Ehrlich was “firmly opposed” to a proposal he believes “is clearly inappropriate and insensitive to the victims” of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Bash Pharoan, Baltimore chapter president of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said Maryland politicians were failing to counter “election-profiteering Islamophobia against Muslims.”

In a statement, the committee called on elected officials and the media to speak up “in support of the rights of every American to worship or build a place of worship, as they chose, as long as they are not in violation of local, State or federal laws.”

It was the latest in a series of comments and statements by Marylanders on the New York proposal. On Sunday, Democratic Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Montgomery County told CNN’s Candy Crowley that he agreed with President Barack Obama on the subject.

At a White House event last week to mark Ramadan, Obama said the developers have the right to build the mosque on private property two blocks from Ground Zero, subject to local laws and ordinances. Obama said he would not comment on the wisdom of building the mosque and community center on the site.

Harris, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Frank Kratovil in the First Congressional District, said Tuesday that “the proposal to build an Islamic mosque and community center near Ground Zero is blatantly disrespectful to the sacred ground that is a memorial to the 3,000 Americans who died on September 11th.”

“The president is once again trying to have it both ways; publicly supporting the project while saying he won’t get involved in local politics,” Harris said in a statement. “He is thinking like a lawyer and not like an American, making declarations without America’s best interest in mind.”

Harris said he lost a “very close friend” in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and considers Ground Zero “a place to remember my friend and how she lost her life trying to save others on that day."

“The area around Ground Zero is a special place where Americans should feel comfortable to visit, mourn, and remember what happened on 9/11,” he said. “That will be impossible if this project is allowed to continue. One of America’s founding principles is freedom of religion, but that does not mean you should practice your religion without a sense of respect for others.”

Asked to respond, Kratovil told the Associated Press: "I mean, it seems to me those are issues related to local zoning laws and so forth, and that's a decision that they're going to have to make, but I don't see the federal government having any role in that.”

An Ehrlich spokesman, meanwhile, told WJZ that Ehrlich "is firmly opposed to locating a mosque at the site of the 9/11 attack. He believes it is clearly inappropriate and insensitive to the victims of this tragedy. While Bob Ehrlich respects religious freedom and believes New York should work with the Muslim community to find an appropriate location, Ground Zero is simply not appropriate."

Posted by Matthew Hay Brown at 12:41 PM | | Comments (26)


Only when you Arabs allow churches and Synagogues next to your Mosques in your countries- How many Jews can even live in your countries.

My big gripe is your damn insensitivity. We infidels mean nothing to you

Out of the almost 3,000 persons killed in the attacks (not including the hijackers) the odds would suggest that some of them might have been Muslim. Has anyone checked into this?
It is too bad that so many residents of NYC live in fear and cannot control their anger. Muslims may be a mystery to many, but shunning them is not going to conquer the fear and the hate it might engender.

Typical small government republicans want the federal government to decide where you can and can't build a church. Why? To prevent them from feeling upset. The ground zero mosque, which is not a mosque and not located at ground zero (thank you for bothering to mention these basic facts, Sun) is none of Andy Harris' business. He and Ehrlich can take their religious hatred and live happily ever after in some walled off all WASP baltimore county apocalypse preparation compound.

donato, I believe that America may be the greatest nation in the world, yet you want us to stoop to the level of other nations that restrict religious liberties? In other words, you want us to play the whole "we'll only do it if you do it" game?

I find it ironic when certain groups, under the banner of our freedoms, instiutions and laws, seek the very protection the majority of Americans would be persecuted for in countries which espouse thier values, ideals and norms.

Shame on Bob Ehlrlich and Andy Harris for pandering to prejudice for political gain.

The First Amendment is more than the law of the land; it's the central guiding principle of our society:

Americans don't tell other Americans where they may or may not practice their religion.

Exactly how far away from Ground Zero do Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Harris think an Islamic place of worship must be? Do they object to a mosque almost as close, where Muslims have been gathering to pray for 40 years?

We were all touched by the criminal terrorist acts of September 11th. I lost a schoolmate. But even if her family asked me to oppose the planned Islamic center, I would respectfully say that as an American I cannot hold a religion or those who practice it accountable for the acts of criminal terrorists, even if many people in the world who practice that religion agree with the terrorists' criminal acts.

America doesn't just have freedom of religion; America is freedom of religion, and religious freedom begins with freedom from prejudice against religion.

If Mr. Ehrlich and Sen. Harris cannot take a leadership position in defense of freedom of religion--and freedom from prejudice against religion--they have no business waving flags and bloviating about their supposed love for the Constitution at tea parties. Never before have I thought Mr. Ehrlich and Sen. Harris are as unfit for public office as I do today.

- Steve Lebowitz

No one is talking about shunning Muslims. In point of fact, many NY leaders have opened their arms to help these Muslim leaders build their faith center in NYC. The critics have simply pointed out the insensitivity of this group of Muslim leaders for insisting on building in an area many view as hollowed ground. I think Ralph Peters' said it best in his column on

"But no one has questioned the legal right to construct this mosque complex. Far more than a First Amendment issue, this is a question of wise judgment, of good citizenship, of calculated insult and deep emotion.

Social peace requires reciprocity. Each day, each one of us chooses not to do many things that would be legal but offensive to those around us. Even in our permissive society, restraint keeps the peace.

Imam Rauf is not being a good citizen. He is not 'building bridges,' but exploiting the arrogance of our cultural elite toward their fellow citizens. He is an exuberantly divisive figure, not a healer."

Well John, we know the pilots of the planes were Muslim don't we? So yeah, I agree with Donato, when I see Muslins showing tolerance (ie letting churches and jewish temples operate without being bombed), then maybe I will speak up for them.

The world will be a better place without any muslims. i hope the center in NY is vandalized daily and they are forced to move out of an inability to pay for repairs. every other religion in the world preaches tolerance of other religions, the only one that does not is the muslim faith. Until they are tolerant of others then they should not be tolerated. The us should get rid of the muslim nations once and for all to protect the future of the human race. Screw mohommad and all of his followers

Christians complaining and demonstrating about a mosque that offends them is just as ridiculous as Muslims complaining and demonstrating about a cartoon that offends them. This is just reverse political correctness.

This issue is about a private group using private funds to purchase or lease property from a private land owner. In a free market society, that's none of the government's business, but then, we haven't had a free market or a free country for a very long time.

Our government tries to interject itself into every aspect of our lives. The sad thing is that even those who claim to oppose big government are more than happy to call on its coercive force when someone wants to do something that they don't like. Government should only exist to protect rights. This mosque may hurt some feelings, but it does not violate any rights. This uproar is the reason that our Founders favored a democratic republic and warned against democracy. Under a system of majority rule, the minority will always be oppressed.

In my eyes there is no difference between muslims and terrorist.

to the muslim they build a mosque to commemorate a victory over their enemy. This is the fact all through History. The muslim teaches their god is the only god and all muslims should be prepared to kill all non beleivers.

Religious liberty? I'm all for it! Put the 10 Commandments and prayer back in public schools so that students can practice their religious liberties.

first, I think the proposed 'mosque" should be built at the site being proposed. Its not Ground Zero. But i have another take on this whole affair, I don't think this project is going to be built at the proposed location. i don;t think the developers ever intended to build it at that location. what they did was to create an incredible fundraising opportunity and Newt and Sarah have all helped. They have helped to spread hatred and hysteria both here and abroad. In turn, muslims around the world have rallied to the cause of the imam and his backers. in a couple of months they will announce that they have decided to locate the Mosque elsewhere and they will have millions of dollars in the bank.

The point is not that Muslim countries should be allowing other religions. This is America. This is the bright light of democracy in a dark and scary world. We don't care what they do in their country.

This is exactly the time for America to embrace the moderate, mainstream of Islam. Show the rest of the world that we are above the petty discrimination and hatred practiced in other parts of the world.

But then again, given the state of the media response to the NYC mosque, it doesn't seem like we're taking the moral high ground this time. More like we're lowering ourselves to the level of ignorance and prejudice that we claim to be above.

I think we should build a monument to Japanese Kamikaze pilots at Pearl Harbor. Liberals try to ban Christmas lights on public squares and now they are wrapping themselves in the First Amendment. What a joke. This is a stupid idea. 3,000 people were killed by Muslin fundamentalist. I have nothing against Muslims. But build your mosque somewhere else.

Our fight is with extremists, not Muslims.
So much blood throughout history has been shed due to extremists of all religions.

Steve Lebowitz, you and your fellow Jews are the first on the list of the Islamists who want to slice through your necks until they can hold your head high and praise Allah!

It's nice how you can support them at the same time they want your people wiped of the planet.

It seems that a lot of Deep Thinkers here;

a.) Constantly try to own 9/11 and everything about it and think the Park 51 community center is about them.

b.) Have no concept of geography; Park 51 is not being built at Ground Zero. You would need to go out of your way to be offended.

c.) Believe that Freedom of Religion and Seperation of Church and State are interchangeable (lookin' right at ya, RobertJ!)

d.) probably have an off-day if there arent enough U.S.A.'s in their morning bowl of Alpha-Bits

Maybe the Muslim community should practice tolerance of others, when expecting others be tolerant of Muslims.

First of all, the mosque is being built TWO BLOCKS away from ground zero. If you've been to New York, you know that two block can be an entirely different type of the city.

Second, Muslim does not equal terrorist. Look like 90% of these people need to learn that. Do you think Muhammad Ali, Dave Chappelle, and Kareem-Abdul Jabbar are terrorists? They seem pretty American to me.

Third of all, they have the right, under American law, to build that mosque wherever they choose. If you disagree with their right to build their mosque and exercise their freedoms, then you are disagreeing with the constitution and are 'anti-American' .

No one is pandering Mr. Lebowitz. Bob Ehrlich and Andy Harris are merely expressing the very legitimate and in my opinion correct view that while the Park 51 Group has every right to build a mosque near ground zero, to do so is inappropriate and an affront to the families of the victims of 9/11.
Ehrlich and Harris are not opposing freedom of religion nor stoking prejudice against religion.
The notion that both men are doing so is simply absurd and in fact shows Mr. Lebowitz’s own political pandering on behalf of his political paramour Martin O’Malley.
Mr. Lebowitz’s wrapping himself in our “guiding principles” to assail Ehrlich and Harris would be comical if it weren’t so cynical. Mr. Lebowitz’s concern for “guiding principles” is ever so situational, and evaporated in his defense of O’Malley rounding up thousands of Baltimoreans without probable cause.
At least Ehrlich and Harris are making a principled stand on the matter, whereas O’Malley has simply punted. Then again, as former Deputy State’s Attorney, Page Croyder so eloquently told us, Martin O’Malley is the man without principles.

Questions for Andy Harris, Bob Ehrlich and other politicians who believe freedom of religion excludes houses of worship whose presence offends non-communicants:

What is the role of state and federal governments in a local zoning issue?

Should tax $$ be spent to fight a construction project that is in conformity with local zoning?

Ought there be a moratorium (or federal law) banning the building of Christian churches near the bombed federal building in Okla City - since Timothy McVey was a self-identified Christian?

Many Sept 11 victims were Muslim. Might a community /prayer center near Ground Zero be consoling to them?

Should local zoning regs forbid houses of worship (synagogues, Baptist churches, etc) merely because non-communicants might be 'offended' at their construction?

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Contact: Ben Shnider, (240) 242-9451


(Gaithersburg, MD)- Maryland state Delegate Saqib Ali, candidate for State Senate in the 39th Legislative District, issued the following statement on the proposed Islamic Center in Lower Manhattan:

Last week I attended a White House Dinner for leaders of the American Muslim Community that was graciously hosted by President Obama. In his remarks that evening, the President boldly affirmed all Americans’ right to worship. The President stated, “As a citizen and as a President, I believe that 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.”

I wholeheartedly agree with President Obama. Certain elements in our society have cynically engaged in a campaign of demonization and demagoguery over this sensitive issue. This is wrong. National leaders should work to bring people together instead of dividing them and exploiting their base fears. Instead of scaring people and pitting Americans against each other national Republicans need to cooperate with Democrats to create jobs, improve our schools and protect our environment.

Ali, who lives in Gaithersburg, was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates in 2006 and represents Maryland’s 39th Legislative District, which includes Washington Grove and parts of Gaithersburg, Germantown, North Potomac, Montgomery Village and Derwood. He is the highest ranking Muslim elected official in the Mid-Atlantic Region. In the private sector, he works as a software engineer. Ali received a Bachelors and Masters Degree from University of Maryland College Park in computer science. Ali and his wife Susan are proud parents of two young daughters, Sofia and Sascha. You can learn more about Ali and his campaign by visiting


See the following (incomplete) list of non-terrorist Muslims who died in the 911 attacks:

I think the families these 57 victims might have a right to a place of worship near the main site of the tragedy.

Mary Ellis

Life and everything in it,
Is a gift from the infinite mind,
And the only way that life could go wrong,
Is through the limits of the finite mind.
Eric Foley Saucier

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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