NEW YORK – Hundreds of protesters, singing to the tune of spiritual classic "We Shall Not Be Moved" as their theme, rallied Sunday morning against the construction of a "Sharia mosque" near ground zero.
Organized by The Coalition to Honor Ground Zero – a network opposing the growth of Sharia law, stealth jihad, and radical mosques worldwide – the rally attracted some 700 opponents shouting, "No Mosque," singing "God Bless America," and giving heated speeches in challenges to explore the purpose behind the planned mosque.
The public outcry took place on the corner of Park Place and West Broadway in the financial district, near the site where an Islamic community center and mosque will be built. The site, 45-51 Park Place, is located just blocks from where nearly 3,000 people died in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Numerous Christians were among the organizers of the event, emphasizing the importance of opposing the "Sharia mosque" and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf of Masjid al-Farah (a New York City mosque) who is spearheading the new mosque.
"I hate to disappoint the Imam, but we are not a Sharia state yet!" shouted event coordinator Beth Gilisky, head of Women United, from a street stage at the center of the event to crowds replying, "Never! Never!"
"We shall not comply [as a Sharia state]!" she protested.
Sharia-compliance refers to an issue countries worldwide have been dealing with as Islamic leaders propose the introduction of Sharia (Islamic) law into societies. Under Sharia law, Muslims have the right to rule their households and people in ways that go against the standard laws of the society in which they are living. Proposed laws have been seen as suppressing women's rights and other rights granted by governments.
"Should we give away the home of the brave?" went on Gilisky, to chants of "No! No! No!" from the crowd, "for Sharia beatings, torture, gang rapes, forced child marriages, throat cutting, mutilation of young girls, beheading, hanging, torture of gays, torture of dissidents, torture of women, torture of children, hanging of apostates and hanging and torture and slaughter of those who dare to raise up their heads and whisper, 'No?' For this we are going to trade over two centuries of liberty and opportunity and justice and charity and a sense of fair play and God's grace? No," said Gilisky, who is of Jewish faith.
"Imam [Rauf] said [the city] is Sharia compliant … We shall not comply," she asserted. "We shall not be moved!"
Not all Muslims are radical, the event's organizers acknowledged. But they are concerned that those who are trying to build the mosque near ground zero "preach against our [country's] founding principles."
During the event, the organizers put forth several challenges including "strong indications" that the building's financing is from Sharia supporters in Qatar, and could be part of an overall strategy to gain a Sharia base near ground zero.
"On June 2009, an organization that Imam Rauf founded, ASMA (American Society for Muslim Advancement), received $576,312 from Qatar, from Sharia compliant organizations in Qatar," said Tim Sumner, co-founder of 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America to The Christian Post.
The money came in just before a payment was made on the new mosque. Other funding, including $4.85 million in cash which came in a month later to pay for the Park Place property, could also be linked to Sharia compliant organizations, Sumner said. The funding sources are hard to track, however, and lack of transparency was one of the main protests from the event's organizers.
"They keep saying they are transparent, but three weeks ago they said that they are going to set up a foundation that will protect the identity of its donors. So please, don't tell me that they are trying to be transparent," said Sumner.
According to Sumner, the mosque "shouldn't be there – at least until the transparency surrounding the building's funding clears up and Americans know for certain that Sharia-compliant sources are not involved.
Middle East experts have said that Muslims have a mega-strategy and could be aiming to build the mosque strategically as a crowning victory symbol over America. Protesters adopted this view, holding signs that displayed, "They build mosques in places of victory."
Protesters rejected the claim that the $100 community center and mosque are being erected as a way of improving Muslim-West relations and promoting tolerance.
"When people talk about Islam as a religion of tolerance, give me a break," said a former slave under Islamic law as he took the stage.
"Show me where in the Quran, in the Hadith, where the tolerance is. Our elected officials mentions about tolerance. I know for a fact those same individuals, they would not be allowed to set foot in Mecca because they are infidels. They are not allowed to set foot in Mecca … Where is the tolerance? Where is the tolerance?" he said, suggesting that those campaigning for tolerance should take their suggestions to the soil of Mecca.
Sumner noted, "Far too many among Islam have radicalized. And what they do all too often, as history has showed, is that they will plant symbols of victory, and this will be a rally point and will be a danger to our country."
Protesters also challenged mosque supporters to show sensitivity to the families of those who died on 9/11.
"It's a direct insult to the memory of the folks that we lost that day," said Sumner.
Gilisky added, "It will really be sad if they are allowed to build a mosque here."
A final challenge urged Americans to hold onto the Judeo Christian roots of the country.
"Because I know I'm speaking to Americans, I know you understand even before today the need to reclaim the values of our Judeo-Christian civilization," stated Gilisky to the crowd's cheers.
Rally organizers said they do not view the event as a religious battle between the world's largest religions. They emphasized that they are not against Muslims but only against a mosque that will promote Sharia law in the U.S.
"Their loss was no less than anyone else's," Sumner told The Christian Post, referring to Muslim families that lost loved ones when the twin towers were destroyed by terrorists. "All of them were precious."
The protest lasted several hours from Sunday morning and into the afternoon. Numerous policemen were there controlling the scene.
One block away, another group had gathered in favor of building the mosque, setting the scene for the debate that is raging around the country, centered on what both sides agree is "sacred ground" at ground zero.
Shouting matches and small scuffles between the two groups of protesters at times broke out, and some tried to tear the other's signs.
Itala Rutter from Queens expressed support for the mosque's construction, stating that the group behind the project "has worked for religious tolerance and understanding for years now, and it would be a healing gesture rather than an attack."
Meanwhile, a minute's walk away, one World Trade Center tower is steadily growing taller, with about 25 or more floors worth of steel rising from the ground. The final building, called the "Freedom Tower," is to be 105 floors and will become the tallest building in America.
Throughout the event, the crowd shouted, cheered, and waved American flags. Numerous attendants wore apparel displaying firefighter badges and engine numbers. Others wore hardhats.
"Public outcry and some elected officials doing the right thing" will change the way government leaders view the mosques construction, remarked Gilisky to The Christian Post.
Sumner also commented, "[Americans] need to know about this and speak out to politicians, governors, elected officials and ask them where they stand on building a Sharia mosque in America."
"We will not be moved! We are not Sharia compliant! We shall not be moved!" rang the organizer's voice over the loudspeakers, before the crowd once again sang the old spiritual classic, "We Shall Not Be Moved."