The Anti-Defamation League describes itself as "fighting anti-Semitism, bigotry and extremism," but critics of the Jewish group's latest move say it has joined the ranks of some of the US's most bigoted organizations in its call to oppose the "Ground Zero mosque," a Muslim community center being built several blocks from the site of the World Trade Center.
In a statement released earlier this week, the ADL said:
The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process. Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.
Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain Ã¢â‚¬â€œ unnecessarily Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and that is not right.
M.J. Rosenberg at TalkingPointsMemo points out that the ADL has now sided with such groups as the white supremacist Storm Front in opposing the mosque. "The ADL has joined some of the worst bigots in America" in opposing the mosque, Rosenberg writes.
The Washington Post's Greg Sargent describes the ADL's move as "just amazing. This is basically a concession that some of the opposition to the mosque is grounded in bigotry, and that those arguing that the mosque builders harbor ill intent are misguided. Yet ADL is opposing the construction of the mosque anyway, on the grounds that it will cause 9/11 victims unnecessary 'pain.'"
Sargent concludes: "On this one, you're either with the bigots or you're against them. And ADL has in effect sided with them."
Writing at AlterNet, Joshua Holland argues that the ADL's seemingly mixed message is a sign the group is on a "journey to irrelevance."
Founded in 1913 by the B'nai Brith, the ADL was created in response to the conviction of Jewish businessman Leo Frank, who was found guilty in the murder of a 13-year-old girl in a case many said was a racially-motivated miscarriage of justice. Frank was kidnapped from prison and lynched by a mob in 1915.
The group today describes itself as "the nation's premier civil rights/human relations agency." The group "fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all."
In the wake of the controversy surrounding the Muslim center in lower Manhattan, there has been a growing tide of opposition among some groups to the construction of mosques across the United States. In one case, residents of Mufreesboro, Tennessee, came together to oppose the construction of a mosque there.
In another incident, an anonymous protest organizer urged followers to bring dogs to a protest outside a mosque in Riverside County, California, during Friday prayers because Muslims "hate dogs."