Russell Simmons speaks out in support of 'Ground Zero mosque'

Russell Simmons has taken a public stand in support of Park51, the Muslim community center whose planned construction in lower Manhattan has become a national controversy. The Associated Press reports that the hip-hop mogul, who lives across the street from the site of the World Trade Center, adorned several of his top-floor apartment windows with messages of tolerance regarding the so-called “Ground Zero mosque.”

Six of Simmons’ window displays spell out the word “COEXIST” using religious symbols drawn from traditions including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and Hinduism. Another cites Mark 12:31, the New Testament passage instructing Christians to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Two more window displays read “USA = FREE” and “IT’S THE LAW.”

“The fact that it is a public discussion, that there’s so many against it is what I think is disappointing to me, that so many people don’t know that we founded our country on the First Amendment,” Simmons told the AP. “It’s for Jews, it’s for Christians, it’s for African-Americans and other non-Muslims to stand up and protect the rights of the Muslims involved in this debate…. It’s an American principle, it should offend every American.”

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Comments (59 total) Add your comment
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  • Rocky

    I have a new respect for him. It makes me sad that so many Americans are protesting. They’ve forgotten what it means to be American. They’ve got freedom of speech down, but freedom to exercise religion needs a little work. I just don’t understand it.

    • Lorie

      ITA.

    • joblo

      I think the mistake that Simmons and folks like him are making is that no one is saying they don’t have the RIGHT to build it. They do, clearly. It’s whether they SHOULD build it. The US Army could go buy land and build a base right on or next to an old indian burial ground. They have that RIGHT. But should they? No. It’d be unwise for a multitude of reasons. Similarly, they have the RIGHT to build Park51 there, but because of the same kind of reasons they should be sensitive and build if further away. It’s not about the RIGHT. It’s about exercising wisdom and discretion, and choosing to not exercise that right. Just because we have the right to do something doesn’t mean we should always demand to exercise that right.

      • Fridge

        I totally agree with you. The arguement is NOT about freedom of religion. It’s about decency. Why do they feel the need to build a mosque on that site? Is there nowhere else they could build? They’re poking at a still festering wound. The people of NYC and the rest of the US have worked hard to deal with 9/11 and it’s consequences. Building a mosque there seems so disprespectul. What would the Muslims say if the Catholic church or the Jews wanted to build a church or synagogue on a bomb site in Afghanastan?

      • MarcoPolo

        And what are the “unwise” reasons here, besides “I don’t like it”? Your wisdom and discretion would have had me limited to the back of the bus not too long ago. I see no difference with this.

      • Oven

        I mean, you don’t see Christians eager to build a church in a gay community or near an abortion clinic.

      • Chaz Winterbottom

        @Fridge, Decency? That neighborhood is also home to strip clubs and off track betting so give me a break. Besides, once the new trade center is completed what do you think is going to occupy that space? It’s going to be office space for a bunch of faceless corporations that don’t give a crap about anything other than making money. Nothing decent about that.

      • jack

        So talk to your government to make another law: if we have a right, should we take the privilage of having it, or just enjoy having a right without implicating the law? That doesn’t make any sense expect for a mentally retarted person.

      • jack

        It is about freedom of religion, cause if they didn’t built that center where they planned, or moved it away, that simply means that all Muslims are terrorists which is offensive to Muslims as well. So you should also consider the emotions of people wanna gain a benefit from the center, and they don’t have anything to do with the 9/11 attacks. It is unfair to judge them based on the action of minority. Look at what Jim Jones did he murdered about 900 people claiming he is Jesus and made them to drink a poison. He did it in the name of religion, though Muslims don’t claim all Christians are the same based on the action of one. Think about it objectively and don’t let the blind emotions and media take over you.

      • concerned

        What you guys aren’t understanding is that Islam is not the enemy. Islam did not preach the 9/11 attack. It was a group of sickos. Pick up a Qur’an. There are billions of Muslims around the world. And a few psychos like every religion has. They did no wrong. So why be sensitive. Muslims died as well on 9/11 in that flight, in the buildings. This is a rec center where kids are gonna play bball. A culinary school where people will learn to cook and a prayer toom where they will worship and pray for their families.
        Why should they feel guilty for this?

      • raniaghani@att.net

        Just because a group of terrorists that caused the 9/11 attacks were musilim does not mean they represent musilims in gerneral. If they were to oppose to the building of the mosque on the grounds that it is unappropriate, why are the other, less respectable buildings such as strip clubs, bars, and drug deal houses, allowed to be of existance near ground zero. Aren’t those the places we should be protesting against? Drug houses and strip joints are considered american and places of worship are not? People keep saying it is disrespectful for the muslims to want to build a mosque there, but they don’t think it is disrespectful and hurtful to the muslims to post signs in their rallies saying, ” ISLAM KILLS”. They don’t think it is disrespectful to blame all of Islam for a few muslim’s sins. Someone posted that it is a “win, win” situation for the muslims’ since if they were told they could not build the mosque, they could claim the americans’ are anti-islam, and if they were allowed to build the mosque they had a recruiting ground where it took place. RECRUITING GROUND, recruiting ground for what?! That same person also stated there would be bloodshed if it is allowed to be built, unfortunaly there already has been innocent bloodshed. Is that what is considered american? Is that what is considered freedom?

    • Jeff

      What an IDIOT!

      • B

        They do not want to build the mosque ON the site…it’s BLOCKS AWAY!!! Are we forgetting that Muslims died on 9/11 too???

  • The Middle

    I have no respect for him Rocky. While it is certainly “legal”, is it appropriate? The dirty secret here is the Muslims have been given some wonderful alternatives,a dn they have stuck to thier guns on this. WHY! Because it is a win/win for them, if it isn’t allowed, they say “see Americans are anti Islam”, if it is allowed to be build, they have a recuiting ground where it all took place, if it gets built and there is bloodshed (which unfortunately I think there will be) then again they have yet another reason to issue a fatwah or other blood revenge threat to arrose the masses back home, or here. We can’t be stupid on this.

    • Anthony

      So The Middle, your essentially implying all or most Muslims are extremist? Because if so, this proves Russell Simmons point perfectly

    • Kat

      Yikes. First of all, there is zero evidence that this will be anything but a harmless community center. Given that, it is completely illegal to NOT allow them to build it, and it’s also just really un-American. Anthony is right – people who fear and protest any Muslim simply because he or she is a Muslim is most definitely proving Russell Simmons point. I certainly gained some respect for Mr. Simmons because of this – the man is 100% right.

      • Kat

        LOL sorry for the “people is” subject/verb mix-up there. I ain’t that bad at grammar…

  • Zombie jesus

    I’d like to protest Catholic Churches from being built anywhere near children’s playgrounds and elementary school.

    I mean if we are going to react to a small group of people comitting harm that do it in the name of religion by condemning ALL people belonging to that religion then perhaps we should be excluding Catholics from building anything anywhere near the children that their PRIESTS so love to molest and abuse.

    Oh wait, we understand Catholics so it’s ok, but muslims are inferior. Ahhh, history repeating itself. Just have to google 1800′s + Native Americans to see what todays America stand for…..again.

    • DJ

      ditto!

    • Sarah

      This!!

    • Chaz Winterbottom

      I hear that!

    • Kat

      Well, Catholic priests weren’t abusing boys in the name of Catholicism…but yes, I get your point and agree.

    • Iris

      Priests aren’t all like that, why doesn’t anyone ever mention the similar abuse in Judaism?

      • Sarah

        That is ZJ’s point.

  • Chappel

    While it’s a fact that many Mosques and Muslim schools are recruiting grounds for extremists and terrorists, there is no reason to believe that one located at “ground zero” will be any more likely than one located anywhere else to be used for those purposes. In fact, it might be the “safest” one of all because it’s sure to be infiltrated by the FBI, CIA, NSA, PTA and who knows how many other acronyms. Besides, you know the old saying… “keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”.

    • concerned

      Are you a moron??? Lol so stupid. A mosque is where people PRAY genius. Nothing more. You can’t let a small group of people steer your opinion on a group of over a billion.
      It’s really sad to see such ignorant people in 2010

      • Jay

        Wow, how naive can someone be, Concerned? You just made the top 10 list.

  • Buffy Freak

    If the location is the issue with folks against the mosque being built down near the WTC site, then how do you explain the protests against mosques being built in places like Tennessee, California and Wisconsin? Watch the interview from the Daily Show last night with the woman who is heading up the protest against the prposed mosque in Mufreesboro, Tennessee.

    And of those who’ve been interviewed about how far is far enough, nobody can agree. Is 10 blocks far enough? 20? What happened to the theory that if we cower in fear and make decisions based on that fear then the terrorists win?

    • leo

      agreed. That is not acceptable.

      Plus, to be perfectly frank, aren’t the terrorist cells usually hiding out somewhere in Canada?!! They just broke one up in Montreal.
      Peace loving muslims should have the right to build anywhere. Just not sure they’ve chosen the best location in New York.

      • Anna

        Terrorist cells are embedded world wide – Germany, England, Spain, Indonesia, The Philippines, The Netherlands, Belgium, and yes, Canada and the United States as well. Montreal is old news, by the way. The latest suspected terrorists were rounded up in Ottawa – yesterday. Apparently there are more arrests to follow.

      • Anna

        And in follow up news….
        A 28 year old doctor, originally from Montreal, was arrested in London, Ontario today. He is believed to be connected to the two arrests made in Ottawa yesterday. For those interested, there are apparently clips of him trying out for Canadian Idol a few years ago flying around on the internet. Seized by the police from the home in Ottawa were over 50 circuit boards – used for setting off bombs by remote control, recruitment literature and fund raising literature. It is alledged that the funds being raised were for the construction of IEDs by the insurgents in Afghanistan.

    • Jay

      The other protests are buy people who aren’t liberal appeasers who realize that Islam is an evil religion. That’s not bigoted, it’s fact.

  • leo

    They do have the right and i have several peace loving muslim friends. We live out of the US so its been interesting to observe and discuss what has been happening. The simple fact that New York is not ready for ANYTHING to be built over the twin towers, sends the message that so many are still grieving. I think there is actually an over-reaction here due to that grief, however, it could have been a really wonderful thing if the muslim community made a statement that out of wisdom and sensitivity, they will build elsewere. That would have given the American people a really lovely image of muslims who want to be respected and given equal respect in the US.
    I just think even though they have the right, some mad group of haters are going to seek to destroy it. I don’t believe they will be able to worship there safely. It’s troubling for sure and i hope it can be resolved peaceably.

    • concerned

      It’s not being built over the twin towers..

  • paul (CANADA)

    hello to all, i m a canadian and firm usa supporter, i m not against multiculturalism at all, however to have a mosque built in favor of islamic “victims” of 9/11, but what these ppl are not seeing is the big picture what about the families of non islamic backgrounds did anyone ask them for a split second if its ok or atleast have their view point on it. not saying be ignorant and oppose but u can build a mosque in any place of nyc but why across world trade centre, to be truthful muslims sometimes enjoy being controversial and this is another way to attract attention from the world… please usa and nyc authorities do not make this mistake by building it right there , if this is a way to show the islamic world that we accept u , trust me they could careless they’d still hate our side of the world no matter what

    • Buffy Freak

      There’s already another mosque in the area that has been there since before the WTC was even built. So should that one move ?

      • Grace

        To be fair, this one isn’t a mosque.

    • mansur

      hello mr canadian
      ur language are most likely poet but not in actual. How do yo find that muslim people enjoy controversy?comment which r positive and acceptable.

  • Jay

    You know, when you’re too stupid to know when someone is urinating in your face….

    Build the mosque somewhere else.

  • Ramo

    Way to go EW. How thoughtful of you, just like your media bretheren, to reiterate the misleading expression “ground zero mosque.” Putting it in a quote doesn’t absolve you. Most media by now are now referring to it more accurately as: Islamic community center in lower Manhattan. That misleading phrasing is what helped stoke the flames of ignorant Islamophobes to begin with.

    • Jay

      Most “Islamophobes” know more about Islam than the liberal appeasers do.

      • Terence Nunis

        I’m from Singapore, which is on the other side of the world. We watch the news too and I’ve seen what your ‘experts’ on Fox know about Islam.

        It used to be a stereotype we have here that most Americans are ignorant at best. You can’t even pronounce ‘Iraq’ properly, let alone quote the Qur’an.

        And quoting a few lines here and there of a translation out of context does not make the case. If we were to follow that logic, we should ban Christianity (the Inquisition for example), or Judaism (read up on the Zealots) or Buddhism (Sinhalese extremists) or Hinduism (Shiv Sena).

        The world does not revolve around American tragedies. The bigger tragedy is a lot more people have died due to American bad policy decisions.

        You have an electoral college. We vote directly for our head of state. Your representatives are cozy with lobbyists and vested interests. We ban that here.

        The only thing I see is prejudice, bigotry and hypocrisy.

        And I’ve been there several times.

      • GinaBallerina

        Terence, “the world does not revolve around American tragedies”?

        What kind of spiteful hate is that? That’s the most insensitive crap I’ve heard spewed about this mosque. We are not asking the world to revolve around our tragedies, but we are certainly allowed to respect them when we make decisions. As Americans we didn’t ask for 9-11 to happen to us. Show some respect.

      • Anna

        Oddly enough, Terrence, the prejudice, bigotry and hypocrisy I’m seeing right now is all coming directly from you. It’s a shame that you never took the time or effort during your several visits to really get to know the true spirit of the American people.

  • paddy

    As anyone with any intellectual depth will tell you, there is no constitutional issue here. No one is preventing anyone from praying or practicing any religion, including voodoo, in this country. If one of the provocateurs associated with this so-called cultural center wanted to fall down on his knees right at the site of the World Trade Center and pray, no one would be legally able to stop him. There are only two issues here — (a) land use and (b) the more subjective issue of sensitivity. The land use issue really is settled. These people have been authorized to build on a site two blocks from Ground Zero. Settled, ok? However, there is the sensitivity issue, in the same way sensitivity was a factor a few years ago in the outrage against a confederate flag flying over the South Carolina statehouse. We toast Americans who protest or make their voices heard. We don’t condemn them as trying to subvert people’s freedom of religion. That’s preposterous. If Muslims want to teach that Jews are evil and homosexuality should result in a death sentence, let these Muslims build their “cultural center” in the Castro District of San Francisco. You won’t see too many knee-jerk liberals defending construction there.

    • Jay

      Paddy is dead on 100% correct.

      There is a reason we do not let strip clubs build in the center of a residential neighborhood. It’s called DECENCY, of which these Muslims and ALL of the victory mosque supporters LACK.

      They’re still free to go build a mosque somewhere else.

      The reason they want to build there is because they historically build mosques at the sites of their military conquests. Only imbeciles ignore this fact.

      Again, the liberal whiners who are supporting the Mosque are simply too stupid to see that the Muslims are rubbing in 9-11, INTENTIONALLY.

      If Islam was TRULY the religion of peace, they’d build their mosque somewhere else. But then it wouldn’t be a “victory mosque”, would it?

      The Imam is most assuredly laughing at all of the silly liberal supporters.

      • Gordion

        Can you prove any of that?

        Let’s not forget some passages from the Bible, here.

        “When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations…then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy.”

  • Maria

    They don’t even like America. So, why are they here?

    • newray

      They want to conquer America. Send them back to their own countries!

  • Rust Shackleford

    What are we debating???? Its plain wrong! If they put it there the good people should get together and run them out of town!

  • mark smith

    Are you kidding me??? who do ya think its behind all this?? RITEEE al qaeda!

  • susan

    I think it is totally inappropriate to build a Mosque there. It is just going to infuse pain for those who lost loved ones. People who are grieving need someone to blame and this, if it is built will have to harbour that blame. BAD BAD idea. It is just going to cause more conflict.

  • newman

    Not only mosque must not be built at Ground Zero but also all across the the lands of USA.

    Islam promotes Sharia Law which is the antithesis of the Constitution of the USA.

    By denying the mosques at Ground Zero and the lands across the USA, the Americans are defending the Constitution of the USA.

    Islam is destroys the American values and Sharia Law destroys the Constitution of the USA.

    Any American who supports the construction of mosque in the USA is supporting Sharia Law attacking the Constitution of the USA and is a traitor to the USA and a shame to our forefathers who built America as a freedom land for all.

    No mosque at Ground Zero and no Sharia Law in the USA, period.

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