Muslim leaders critical of Quinn's mosque comments

August 20, 2010 (CHICAGO)

At the state fair this week where politicians do a lot of politicking, some say the governor went too far. Some local Muslim Americans say the governor's comments feed into anti-Islamic hysteria.

A group of local Muslim leaders stood together Friday saying they are disappointed by recent comments by Governor Quinn.

"We are strongly alarmed and concerned about these statements that are totally un-American and a violation even of the Constitution," said Oussama Jammal, Mosque Foundation.

"The state of Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama should lead the way in terms of inclusion, religious tolerance, respect and dignity for all," said Alie Kabba, Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights.

On Wednesday, Governor Quinn commented on a proposed Islamic center in New York City near Ground Zero. The community center at Park51 would have several facilitates, including a mosque.

Governor Quinn, currently running for re-election, reportedly said: "I would strongly urge those who are thinking of putting a mosque within that zone to rethink their position.

"I think we should be sensitive to people on Planet Earth in these special places whether its Auschwitz, Pearl Harbor or Ground Zero, that they not be subject to political controversy that could cause great harm."

On Friday, some Chicagoans who supported Governor Quinn on other issues questioned the timing and the purpose of the governor's comments.

"For Governor Quinn to make a statement that implies collective guilt, he is on the wrong side of the Constitution, and for us the Constitution is sacred," said Christina Abraham of C.A.I.R.

"The implication that there is a collective guilt, a connection between our religion -- ourselves -- and these terrorists who we condemn and who we loath," said Ahmed Rehab of C.A.I.R.

"We ask all public officials to pledge to avoid using inflammatory or hateful remarks against Muslims, or any other religious or ethnic minority, in the return for a perceived cheap gain in the upcoming election," said Mohammed Sahloul of the Council of Islamic Organizations.

Late Friday afternoon, Governor Quinn clarified his comments.

At a press conference on another topic, the governor took questions about the proposed Islamic center and his comments earlier this week.

"I think it's very important that all of us at this sensitive time with the national discussion on an issue understand that every citizen of our country -- patriotic citizen -- deserves our respect. Even if we disagree with them politically, we honor each and every person and their right to practice their form of worship and faith," Quinn said Friday.

"I've said what I've said. I think the sponsors of this center should reconsider their location. I think there are, given the circumstances, that is the best way to promote harmony and inter-faith understanding," said Quinn.

Some local families affected by terrorism on Sept. 11 say they understood how hard it must be for New York relatives to be reminded of their loss.

And some say the most American thing to do is to honor all faiths. Some also say the issue had been blown out of proportion, and it's up to New Yorkers to decide what is built or not.

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