Ground Zero Mosque Haters Go Dutch

Intolerance—imported and domestic—invades a 9/11 anniversary

At the rally, not far from where the fracas over the horn broke out, a Pakistani man wearing a Nehru jacket was debating all comers. Syed Haider was holding a sheaf of leaflets with tiny print headed, "What is Islam?" His wife and small daughter stood nearby as he argued with a man in a porkpie hat with a long braid down his back. Alongside him was a woman wearing a cowboy hat and a low-cut bright orange dress, with an "Elvis" tattoo on her shoulder. What would Elvis have said about the mosque? "I honestly think Elvis would've said, 'Live and let live,' " answered the woman, Susan Atkinson. "Of course, Elvis was a patriot. He served his country, so he would've said something about it."

As she spoke, her friend was trying to get in the last word in the debate. "So what do you tell your nine-year-old daughter here about the fact that the Koran says you should marry her off at her age?" he asked. Haider stared at the man: "She's 10, and the Koran doesn't say that," he answered.

"Believe it or not," Haider said after the couple moved away, "I didn't even plan on coming to this. We drove in from New Jersey for lunch. We were headed to a very nice Pakistani tea house right up the street here. I saw this old man in religious dress with these leaflets, and people were giving him a very hard time. I said, 'I'll help you out,' and took some of his papers. I felt I had to tell these people the truth about how Muslims hate terrorism, how there are more of us getting killed in Pakistan by terrorists than anywhere else."

Morgan Schweitzer
Geert Wilders: "Openness can never be open-ended."
Geert Wilders: "Openness can never be open-ended."

His daughter looked up and said something about being ready to eat. Haider smiled and patted her head. "Yes, we'll go," he said. A few minutes later, he was spotted deep in another debate huddle, defending his faith the old-fashioned way: with words.

trobbins@villagevoice.com

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