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Posted at 8:37 PM ET, 08/18/2010

Mosque fight helps al-Qaeda, says former FBI interrogator

By Jeff Stein

Ali Soufan, reputed to be the FBI’s most skillful terrorist interrogator after the Sept. 11 attacks, asserted Wednesday that opposition to building a mosque near Ground Zero is helping al-Qaeda.

“There are many reasons for supporting the Muslim community's right to build a cultural center and mosque on private property, not least of all the First Amendment of the Constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion,” wrote Soufan, a supervisory special agent with the bureau from 1997 to 2005, in an essay for Forbes and published online Wednesday.

“But from a national security perspective, our leaders need to understand that no one is likely to be happier with the opposition to building a mosque than Osama Bin Laden. His next video script has just written itself.”

Soufan, a Muslim himself who cracked some of al-Qaeda’s top operatives by rejecting harsh interrogation methods, noted that no American Muslims participated in the Sept. 11 plot.

But the current opposition to the mosque, mixed with “poor (and even harmful) leadership within the American-Muslim community and failed strategies from our government in dealing with the [terrorist] threat,” could be undermining young American Muslims’ support for their country.

“When demagogues appear to be equating Islam with terrorism, it's making young Muslims unsure about their place in the country,” he wrote. “It bolsters the message that radicalizers are selling: That the war is against Islam, and Muslims are not welcome in America.”

The proposal to build an Islamic center four blocks from a hole where the World Trade Center once stood in Lower Manhattan has fueled a Web-based furor driven by conservative activists, now joined by some influential Republicans and Democrats.

President Obama inserted himself into the debate, saying last week that the project has the right to go forward. Since then, the White House has been struggling to contain the domestic political fallout, but so far seems little concerned about the effects on the Muslim world.

“As President, what President Obama can do is make sure that we communicate exactly how we're feeling to the Muslim world, and we're focused on that,” Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton told reporters Aug. 12. “But I don't think that the boundaries are shifting in such way that that's dangerous.”

A half-century ago, another Democrat in the White House was slow to apprehend the threat of civil rights resistance to his foreign policy.

President John F. Kennedy was at first enraged by the sit-ins and "Freedom Rides," seeing them as undermining his ability to deal with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

But events, particularly the images of white cops unleashing attack dogs on black demonstrators in Birmingham, Ala., caused him to change.

“What a disaster that picture is,” Kennedy moaned. “That picture is not only in America but all around the world.”

Kennedy’s eventual support of civil rights legislation was inextricably linked with America's struggle against Soviet-backed liberation movements.

"We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home," he said in a major speech in 1963, "but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other, that this is the land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes?"

Likewise, Soufan argued that inflammatory rhetoric against the mosque proposal and the struggle for the Muslim minds around the world are linked.

“The potential damage to our national security is not only to our work abroad," he maintained, "but at home too.”

“Some young Muslims are finding themselves increasingly isolated and marginalized -- and are becoming easy prey for radicals."

By Jeff Stein  | August 18, 2010; 8:37 PM ET
 
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Comments

America was founded on the concept of Freedom of Religion. If you are a Christian you should stand up for the rights of religious Muslims to build their own house of worship. Freedom only works if we are all free. Don't let hate and fear win out.

This all comes down to persecution. One religious group persecuting another and if you don't practice a religion, they all persecute you. Ultimately if you are in a religion it is as if you are in a gang and your allegiance is with that gang and its rules. You must join the “gang” or be persecuted. Once you are a member of a religion (the gang) your allegiance is with that gang and its rules. Worse still, when the rules of the gang contradict the rules of the government - like it does here- you are asked to choose the rules of the gang or else.

Sean Thibodeau has more at SusPack

http://suspiciouspackaging.blogspot.com/2010/08/religious-intolerance-intolerance-of.html

Posted by: simplygeorge | August 19, 2010 12:08 AM | Report abuse

The developers of the Cordoba House-Park51 are making the right decision to keep their present Site.* Moderate, pluralistic Sufi imams, including the ones involved here, are the front line against the most violent forms of Islam. In my opinion, Sufism, with its emphasis on love rather than judgment could be considered a New Testament of Islam. We have a responsibility to use our rights and to stand up strongly for them. If we decline to use rights because others think them unwise or because of public condemnation, we forfeit the right. That includes even those who, whether through ignorance, fear of desire for political gain, are protesting so publicly and irrationally at this time. So all Americans have the responsibility to stand with the Muslim Americans at this time and celebrate the development of this Site which seeks to promote peace and understanding among people of all faiths and beliefs.

*http://chattahbox.com/us/2010/08/18/cordoba-house-park51-center-staying-in-current-planned-location/

Posted by: Kristin2 | August 19, 2010 12:26 PM | Report abuse

make that fear or desire for political gain

Posted by: Kristin2 | August 19, 2010 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Yet another "unless we let the terrorists win, the terrorists will win" argument. NYC already has dozens of mosques.

Something tells me that if we let an imam who blamed the US for 9/11 build a mosque at ground zero, Osama Bin Laden is not going to come out with a tape that says "Nevermind, America, you are so tolerant and diverse I just give up." Call me crazy, but he might just call that a victory for Islam just like how Muslims have built mosques atop dozens of other sensitive sites (or at least were sensitive before Islam destroyed the opposing culture involved).

Posted by: zippyspeed | August 19, 2010 5:14 PM | Report abuse

This whole controversy is pretty ridiculous. I doubt there's many actual city-dwelling New Yorkers involved in it, either. The anti-mosque crowd is a bunch of outsiders coming in telling us how to use our own private property, which is ironic because they usually accuse "New York Liberals" of the same thing.

Even worse, this controversy has shown that, when convienent, the "states rights" crowd ignores their own rhetoric about Liberty and Freedom from interference with private property & local affairs. The local community board approved this. It's alowed by the zoning laws. It's private land. End of story.

Sarah, Newt, take your own advice and leave us alone to run our community as we see fit, within the law.

Posted by: Brian_Konash | August 19, 2010 5:47 PM | Report abuse

We're so glad to hear, Ali Soufan, that you're off America's payroll. (What government nitwit ever recruited you?)

Your comments would be amusing but the hour is growing late ...

Here are some suggestions for those of us who care to save our American republic:

1. Put Obama, Moochelle, Pelosi, Reid, and their sycophants on a permanent vacation. (Don't rule out incarceration.)

2. Hold your local officials, union bosses and religious leaders accountable.

3. Get sober before you vote again.

4. Put Islam, the race extortionists, and the gay caballeros on hold for the moment. (Kind of like the FAA instructions to place the oxygen mask on your face before attempting to help your children.)

5. Get active! Now is the time for all good men and women to come to the aid of their country.

6. Gather information while you still can, because censorship is coming.

7. Love your children and teach them that the truth can no longer be found in the media.

8. Don't be intimidated. We must hold our ground.

9. Be kind to your neighbors. We are under attack by our government and many people are suffering. We need to help each other get through this difficult time. Like WWII, victory is not assured.

10. Pray to your God, if you have one. Even if you don't believe in God, dedicate your life to defending our Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

We're not "The Greatest Generation," but this is our moment to be patriots.

Posted by: peterd | August 19, 2010 6:00 PM | Report abuse

This is not about religious freedom. These people can build their mosque anywhere else. How many muslims live in lower Manhatten? What community will this abomination serve. Stop with the apologies, listen to what the people of the nation are saying and work from that stand point. Ramming this down the Americans peoples throat will be a great stepping stone for "inter faith dialogue".

Posted by: svengerald | August 19, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

Maybe next Wapo could dig up a janitor for a synagogue who thinks the Mosque is a good idea.

Posted by: PennyWisetheClown | August 19, 2010 6:42 PM | Report abuse

It's private property and they can build, subject to zoning laws and building codes, whatever they want. Besides, we should be supporting moderate voices in Islam across America. USA big cities are one thing, but in many smaller American cities, saying you are Muslim is an invitation to being hassled, threatened, and even arrested. Complain about Saudi Arabia, but unless you are Christian or Jewish, religious freedom in America is in short supply! Build the Mosque!

Posted by: magnifco1000 | August 19, 2010 6:56 PM | Report abuse

I support the 1st Amendment right to build there, but what Mr. Soufan says is complete nonsense. Neither tolerance of other religions, nor democratic individual rights are important cultural values to Islam today. You cannot undermine America's standing by talking about what Muslims don't themselves value.

Mr. Soufan writes: “When demagogues appear to be equating Islam with terrorism, it's making young Muslims unsure about their place in the country,” he wrote. “It bolsters the message that radicalizers are selling: That the war is against Islam, and Muslims are not welcome in America.”

Demagogues have a Constitutional right to speak in this country, no matter how stupid their message. It is one of OUR cultural values, that Islam does not share. Young Muslims will get through this, the same way my Irish Catholic ancestors got past the fact that they were not welcome in this country, and so the Eastern European Jews, etc.

Our poor relationship with Islam is primarily related to the struggle in the Middle East. When and if the Israelis and Arabs are able to find a permanent peace, our standing will zoom markedly northward in the Islamic world, not until.

Posted by: 54465446 | August 19, 2010 7:02 PM | Report abuse

Peturd:
11. Move to another country and take your un-American paranoia with you. The real patriots will get along just fine without you.

Posted by: Donzinho | August 19, 2010 7:34 PM | Report abuse

So now 300 million people have to censure themselves for fear of offending Al Queda and Islam.

Absurd.

Posted by: cleancut77 | August 19, 2010 7:54 PM | Report abuse

Saying that Al Qaeda represents the Muslim faith is like saying that the Deutsche Christen (German Christians) of Nazi Germnany represented all Christians. There is as big a difference between the Muslims who want to build a community center in New York and fanatical terrorists today as there was between Deutsche Christens in Nazi Germany and, say, Episcopalians, Quakers, or Baptists then or today. But then, 1 of 5 Americans apparently believe President Obama is Muslim. Are we dumb, America, or what?

Posted by: shinton5551212 | August 19, 2010 7:57 PM | Report abuse

GOP and Right Wingers in particular are pushing American minorities of blacks, Hispanics and Muslims right smack into the arms of terrorists. These people are so incredibly arrogant as to the danger they are placing themselves and their wealth by ginning up their yahoo base. They may need the 2nd Amendment if every community becomes a free fire zone....You say it cannot happen here and I have two One Hundred story buildings to tell you about that would fall on September 10. We have got to stop putting people down because of their looks or the way they pray.....God forbid its going to bite us as a country.

Posted by: october30 | August 19, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

I feel the anti Muslim forces have been handed a huge propaganda victory by this Imam who may be their paid tool and creating this totally unnecessary controversy.
All the American Muslims are now worried and frightened. The Imam should immediately open up his books to reveal who is really funding him.

Posted by: qualquan | August 19, 2010 8:04 PM | Report abuse

peterd=peterdork

Posted by: RogerRamjet2 | August 19, 2010 8:18 PM | Report abuse

I'm tired of Moslems feigning their very arrogant expression of indignation whenever their belief system is criticized.

What they need ~ and now ~ is a serious period of introspection and qualitative review.

There's definitely something wrong with any religion that has as one of its primary standards the idea that people who don't accept it must be killed.

BTW october30, I really can't imagine that Hispanics are being pushed into the same trick bag as blacks and Moslems.

As I distinctly recall Spain fought a nearly 800 year war to kick the Imams out of the place. No doubt some of that attitude has trickled down to the broad masses, eh.

If all of that hurts your feelings imagine what it would be like to jump off a burning building.

What that means is I don't care.

Posted by: muawiyah | August 19, 2010 8:26 PM | Report abuse

15 islamic extremists executed a terrorist attack. more muslims than that were killed including an emt offering aid to victims. families of these victims cannot worship in a mosque or use a community center that is blocks away. muslim military personnel and civilian employees have scheduled services INSIDE the pentagon. if we allow catholic churches much closer than 5 blocks from where freedmen were attacked and lynched by irish mobs during the civil war why do we let the actions of 15 foreigners determine where american muslims can worship.

Posted by: george32 | August 19, 2010 9:24 PM | Report abuse

This fits right in with the GOP plan to destroy America.

Posted by: jakemehoffer | August 19, 2010 9:32 PM | Report abuse

Where are all the Right Wingers? This doesn't fit with their Muslim-hating agenda?

Posted by: jakemehoffer | August 19, 2010 9:47 PM | Report abuse

Hello, Righties? Where are you???

Posted by: jakemehoffer | August 19, 2010 9:53 PM | Report abuse

/crickets

Posted by: jakemehoffer | August 19, 2010 9:57 PM | Report abuse

This must be a fact that Fox News is omitting.

Posted by: jakemehoffer | August 19, 2010 10:06 PM | Report abuse

"Yet another "unless we let the terrorists win, the terrorists will win" argument. NYC already has dozens of mosques."

Yep, and I am so happy that Ali Soufan was handed his walking papers as a bad FBI hire that did more harm than good. In his brief "FBI Muslim expert agent" time period from the Cole Bombing up to his CYA squealing about how all the interrogators were messed up but him, and it wasn't his fault because he was never trained well...

His piece is more of the:

1. For any Islamoid enemy you whack, you only create 10 more!
2. Yes, we kill all our infidel prisoners - but when you let ours live but interrogate them...why...it makes all Muslims seethe and rage!
3. Talk of banning the hajib in school is exactly what Al Qaeda wants.
4. If you oppose Al Gore and Exciting Green Energy --- you only embolden bin Laden!!
5. People opposing a mosque in the wrong place "Only Plays Into the Hands of Al Qaeda!!"

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | August 19, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

"Yet another "unless we let the terrorists win, the terrorists will win" argument. NYC already has dozens of mosques."

Yep, and I am so happy that Ali Soufan was handed his walking papers as a bad FBI hire that did more harm than good. In his brief "FBI Muslim expert agent" time period from the Cole Bombing up to his CYA squealing about how all the interrogators were messed up but him, and it wasn't his fault because he was never trained well...

His piece is more of the:

1. For any Islamoid enemy you whack, you only create 10 more!
2. Yes, we kill all our infidel prisoners - but when you let ours live but interrogate them...why...it makes all Muslims seethe and rage!
3. Talk of banning the hajib in school is exactly what Al Qaeda wants.
4. If you oppose Al Gore and Exciting Green Energy --- you only embolden bin Laden!!
5. People opposing a mosque in the wrong place "Only Plays Into the Hands of Al Qaeda!!"

Posted by: ChrisFord1 | August 19, 2010 10:08 PM | Report abuse

So let me see...

Moderate Muslims will be upset IF we don't let them build a VICTORY mosque at Ground Zero... but IF we let them build it at Ground Zero.. radical Muslims will approve (like Hamas) and cheer !

So our choice is.. submit to the will of Islam... like good dhimmis.

Perhaps we should listen to moderate Muslims like Raheel Raza and Tarek Fatah:
"We Muslims know the Ground Zero mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation" and

"I fear it would become a symbol of victory for militant Muslims around the world.” – Neda Bolourchi, a Muslim who lost her mother in the 9/11 attack.

Posted by: Petras123 | August 19, 2010 10:10 PM | Report abuse

"Mosque fight helps al-Qaeda, says former FBI interrogator"

Horse hockey! No one buys this proproganda.

Posted by: gun313 | August 19, 2010 10:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure that all sorts of people with very strange ideas about religion and politics will want to use the area as a stage for their antics. This happens already with other places. It doesn't seem like this is a bad idea considering what really happened there. There was no victory that day.

Americans need to do a better job of understanding who their enemies are. They need to know why those people have enemies themselves, and who those people are. Most importantly they ought to know why. It's rather hard to understand how, or why they are the enemies of others if you're still too wound up about why they're your enemy.

Considering there's going to be no end of freaks who want to go to the site in the future, it would make some small amount of sense for there to be places that are about 'why blowing things up is bad' for people to go to.

Posted by: Nymous | August 19, 2010 11:02 PM | Report abuse

Are we being had on this? What is the possibility these people are yanking our chains and playing the liberals for the useful idiots they are and doing the same to the conservatives. Sometime it looks like the radical Islamists know much more about us than we think. They play the liberals like a fiddle and this time it could be that they are playing the conservatives, too. Is it possible they are proposing to build this mosque to provoke the predictable reaction that gives them a PR coup in the Muslim World? The whole project doesn't make sense. If it is supposed to be something promoted by moderate Muslims to find "common ground", they are sure ticking of a lot of people doing so. The fact they are uncompromising makes this whole thing sound like a set up. It doesn't stand to reason that people who are seeking "middle ground" would propose such a provocative plan. Are they baiting us to oppose it so they can show their ignorant, illiterate masses that the Great Satan is consistently evil? In the immortal words of Robert Bennett, I "smell a rat".

Posted by: beachbum09 | August 19, 2010 11:02 PM | Report abuse

This is a typical American donnybrook that just needs to play itself out; and, in the end, the Constitution and Bill of Rights will bring sanity and "save the day." Every thing we do affects someone, so if this fracas benefits Al Qaeda, so be it--they're not going away, and neither are we.

Posted by: dozas | August 19, 2010 11:02 PM | Report abuse

I don't think we should really worry about what Osama Bin Laden will think or do. The most he can do is to issue another audio or, at best, a video tape. I appreciate the services of Mr. Soufan but it is not healthy to look at everything through the lense of terrorism.

The mosque issue is basically an issue of constitution and whether all citizens are equal. The fact is that the Muslims of New York have no connection to the 9/11 terrorists, so their building a mosque 2-blocks (or 7 blocks from the closest tower) should not cause any pain to anyone who thinks logically. Asking them to compromise would be like asking Rosa Parks to 'compromise' and leave her seat. I understand that some families of 9/11 victims are against the mosque but some are in favour of it too, and some have no opinion. I can understand it may be an emotional issue for some, the project leaders need to explain to them that they have nothing to do with the 9/11 terrorists. But they do not need to change the location of the project.

Mosque is neither meant to be a provocation or a victory symbol of any sort, this is just what anti-Muslim propagandists are saying to confuse normal people. Muslims build Mosques wherever they go, just like Christians building Churches. There are Christian Churches all over the Muslim world.

Posted by: masmanz | August 20, 2010 6:11 PM | Report abuse

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