Taliban officials know it’s sacrilegious to hope a mosque will not be built, but that’s exactly what they’re wishing for: the success of the fiery campaign to block the proposed Islamic cultural center and prayer room near the site of the Twin Towers in lower Manhattan. “By preventing this mosque from being built, America is doing us a big favor,” Taliban operative Zabihullah tells Newsweek. (Like many Afghans, he uses a single name.) “It’s providing us with more recruits, donations, and popular support.”
America’s enemies in Afghanistan are delighted by the vehement public opposition to the proposed “Ground Zero mosque.” The backlash against the project has drawn the heaviest e-mail response ever on jihadi Web sites, Zabihullah claims — far bigger even than France’s ban on burqas earlier this year. (That was big, he recalls: “We received many e-mails asking for advice on how Muslims should react to the hijab ban, and how they can punish France.”) This time the target is America itself. “We are getting even more messages of support and solidarity on the mosque issue and questions about how to fight back against this outrage.”
Zabihullah also claims that the issue is such a propaganda windfall — so tailor-made to show how “anti-Islamic” America is — that it now heads the list of talking points in Taliban meetings with fighters, villagers, and potential recruits. “We talk about how America tortures with waterboarding, about the cruel confinement of Muslims in wire cages in Guantánamo, about the killing of innocent women and children in air attacks — and now America gives us another gift with its street protests to prevent a mosque from being built in New York,” Zabihullah says. “Showing reality always makes the best propaganda.”
Meanwhile, at Salon, Justin Elliot reports:
A bigoted pastor who has assailed gays and Muslims is launching the “9-11 Christian Center at Ground Zero” a mere two blocks from the World Trade Center site this Sunday, but so far the project hasn’t drawn a peep of protest from those who are outraged by the “ground zero mosque.”
Pastor Bill Keller of Florida said today he will begin preaching Sunday at the Marriott at 85 West Street (see proximity to ground zero here). A weekly service is planned at the hotel until the $8 million 9/11 Christian Center finds a permanent space. (Fundraising is going well, Keller told Salon today.)
To get a sense of where Keller is coming from, consider his project’s website, which calls Islam a religion of “hate and death” whose adherents will go to hell.