Last November, it was announced that the Park51 project, which wants to build an Islamic cultural center two blocks from New York's Ground Zero, had applied for a $5 million grant from the Lower Manhattan Development Corp., which is funded in part by federal money. This set off yet another right-wing Muslim-bashing freakout over the project.
Dick Morris has been among the more vocal freakout-mongers about Park51. He has asserted that the center would "train and recruit Sharia law advocates, which -- who become terrorists" and that it would be one of the "command centers for terrorism."
Apropos of nothing, it seems, Morris has felt the need to bring up the Park51 grant application again. On his website, Morris wrote about the grant as if Park51 had just applied for it, repeating his old Islamophobic smears:
The ground zero mosque, called Park 51, has applied for a $5 million grant of federal funds from the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation. The Corporation, set up to rebuild lower Manhattan after 9-11 is actively considering the grant request. Imagine! A federal entity set up to rebuild lower Manhattan giving tax money to a mosque designed to celebrate the attacks that killed 3,000 Americans!
The ground zero mosque will offer courses in Shariah Law and will doubtless spawn hundreds of new terrorists eager to pick up where the 9-11 hijackers left off.
Officially, the federal funds would not go to religious activities, but to "fund social service programs for all the residents of Lower Manhattan such as domestic violence prevention, Arabic and other foreign language classes, programs and services for homeless veterans, two multi-cultural art exhibits and immigration services," according to its grant application.
[T]he sponsors of the mosque have no business rubbing the noses of the victims' families in the dirt by building the mosque right next to the site of 9-11. But there is especially no justification for using our tax money to make it possible.
Morris has also set up a petition to oppose federal money going to Park51, which states: "The mosque will teach Shariah law, and its location is an insult to all Americans - especially those who lost loved ones on 9-11. To use our tax dollars to subsidize this insult just compounds the affront to our sensibilities."
Morris also appeared on Fox to promote his petition and bash Muslims. On the August 29 edition of Fox Business' Lou Dobbs Tonight, Morris repeated his old attack by claiming that Park51 will "train the same kind of terrorists" that carried out the 9-11 attacks and begged people to sign his petition:
Later, on Fox News' Hannity, Morris made a similar appeal, right down to repeating his complaint that today "may as well be" April 1 -- even though Park51 applied for the grant months ago:
But as WNYC blogger Colby Hamilton pointed out last week, there's nothing happening on the grant front right now -- except for a candidate who's bringing it up as part of his campaign:
As LMDC has not official announced who will be receiving the funds, there isn't any specific, recent event that might trigger renewed interest in the subject. Except. of course, for Republican Bob Turner's congressional race out in Queens.
Turner's been reviving the specter of the "ground zero mosque" with television advertisements and regular press releases hammering his opponent, Democratic Assemblyman David Weprin, for supporting the project in the past. Last week Turner's campaign seized on the dormant issue of the Federal funds. "Not one penny of taxpayer money should be spent building that Mosque," Mr. Turner said in a statement last week.
The protest announced yesterday drew just three attendees. Not even Tim Brown, one of Park51′s biggest opponents, was reportedly there but did not join the group.
It is certainly arguable that Park51′s as-of-yet undetermined application for Lower Manhattan redevelopment funds would not be something being discussed right now if it weren't for the Turner campaign. Request for a statement from Park51 weren't returned, but a spokesperson with the group confirmed they were not aware that a decision had been made either way about the funds.