Alex Constantine - May 22, 2010
By Bill Hutchinson | New York Daily News | May 19th 2010
A National Tea Party leader protesting a proposed mosque near Ground Zero set off a firestorm of anger Wednesday by saying that Muslims worship "the terrorists' monkey god."
Mark Williams, chairman of the Tea Party Express, blogged about the 13-story mosque and Islamic cultural center planned at Park Place and Broadway, calling it a monument to the 9/11 terrorists.
"The monument would consist of a Mosque for the worship of the terrorists' monkey-god," Williams, a frequent guest on CNN, wrote on his Web site.
His statements drew a sharp rebuke from City Hall and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a national Muslim civil rights and advocacy group.
"It's appalling," a spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg said of Williams' comments, adding that the land is private and is zoned for a number of uses including a religious facility.
"It would be shocking if such ignorant comments failed to elicit a strong response not only from Tea Party leaders, but from other parties throughout the political spectrum," said Corey Saylor, the Muslim rights group's national legislative director.
The downtown project is being spearheaded by the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement. Neither group had any immediate response to Williams' comments.
The glass-and-steel building - which would also include a 500-seat performing arts venue, a swimming pool and a basketball court - would be built two blocks from the World Trade Center site, in the old Burlington Coat Factory.
This month, Community Board 1's financial district committee unanimously approved the project.
In an e-mail to the Daily News, Williams was unapologetic - saying his comments were specifically aimed at the terrorists, which he described as "the animals of Allah."
"If CAIR equates terrorists with Muslims then they apparently have a little [political correctness] problem of their own now don't they?" Williams said.
The Tea Party Express headed by Williams has organized nationwide protests in recent months, drawing in angry voters who feel ignored by Washington. The Tea Party backed outside-the-Beltway candidates like Rand Paul of Kentucky, who won the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Muslim rights group, pointed out other offensive statements Williams has made about Muslims on his Web site, including calling Islam "a 7th Century Death Cult coughed up by a psychotic pedophile."
At the Community Board 1 committee meeting May 5, Daisy Khan, executive director of the American Society for Muslim Advancement, defended the project as a plus for the community.
"Whatever concerns anybody has, we have to make sure to educate them that we are an asset to the community," she said.
"Religious intolerance, demagoguery and fear-mongering have no place in the discussion about development on and around the World Trade Center site," State Sen.