The Anti-Defamation League caused a firestorm when it came out in opposition to the Islamic Center near Ground Zero. It claimed, with a rationale that has become common among critics, that while the developers had the right to build there, it was not right to build there. Many people in the interfaith community felt ADL had betrayed its core values.
Last week, the ADL surprised a few more people by announcing creation of an Interfaith Coalition on Mosques. From the release:
From Florida to California, ugly rhetoric has replaced civil dialogue at local government planning meetings and community debates over proposals by Muslims citizens to exercise the rights guaranteed to everyone in America. "The level of hostility, fear mongering and hate speech is unacceptable and un-American," the coalition stated.
Working under the sponsorship of the Anti-Defamation League, which initiated the concept, ICOM will carefully monitor incidents of mosque discrimination around the country, gather facts and analyze the information, and speak out when appropriate to help Muslim communities who are encountering prejudice. "We will not take political sides. We will not make decisions based on ideology," the coalition said in its statement.
Eboo Patel, a Muslim activist and prominent supporter of the project, wrote in HuffPo about being courted by ADL's Abe Foxman, before signing on to the new coalition:
So when I got a phone call from Abe Foxman inviting me to join a new committee that the ADL has put together to fight protests against mosques in America, I could barely suppress the urge to say "take a hike." But, in the Ramadan spirit of patience and forbearance, I decided to have a conversation instead of hang up the phone.
I told him I disagreed with his position on Cordoba House, and then I asked him a few questions. "I see the anti-mosque protests as a symptom of a far larger issue, the problem of an increasingly mainstream anti-Muslim bigotry. Are you willing to talk about that?"
"This anti-Muslim bigotry didn't drop from the sky; it's been manufactured and advanced by what I call the industry of Islamophobia. Will you call them out?"
"The ADL has significant political capital, a century-long history of fighting bias and a staff of 350 people all over the country. Will fighting anti-Muslim bigotry become a real priority for your institution?"
He said yes.
In fact, he'd already started.