CBS's Smith: Did Opposition to Ground Zero Mosque Lead to Koran Burning?

 vspace=In an interview with Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison on Thursday's CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith implied a link between Ground Zero mosque opposition and a pastor's plan to burn the Koran: "...a line that can be drawn from the...anti-Muslim sentiment that seems to be growing in this country and seems to be festering in the Islamic cultural center....Do you see a line that connects here?"  

Ellison, the only Muslim member of Congress, defended the planned mosque: "...in my view, the cultural center in lower Manhattan, the purpose of it wasn't to offend or insult anyone. The purpose was to try to build bridges of understanding...there's no doubt that the people who pull this project together were not intending to insult anyone." The Congressman then agreed with Smith's characterization of the opposition: "...there does seem to be a certain wave of anti-Islamic sentiment."

In the 8AM ET hour, a news brief on the same topic featured a sound bite from an Islamic radical calling for a day of burning the American flag in retaliation. Correspondent Charlie D'Agata proclaimed: "The plan to burn the Koran has already sparked outrage among Muslims the world over....In Britain, a former leader of an Islamist hard line group told CBS News this morning, he plans to call on Muslims worldwide to make 9/11 a 'burn the Stars and Stripes day.'" A clip was played of radical Islamic leader Anjem Choudary: "The burning of the Koran has united the Muslims around the world and has made them very angry. And I think that the Americans are really digging their own grave."

D'Agata acted as if such radicalism was solely in response to the planned Koran burning and not commonplace among Muslim extremists. In an interview with controversial Florida pastor Terry Jones on Wednesday, Smith questioned whether or not radical Islam was even a threat to America.         

Here is a full transcript of Smith's September 9 segment on the controversy:
7:00AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: Koran outrage. Concern grows for U.S. citizens around the world as a Florida pastor continues his plan to burn the holy Muslim book this weekend. We'll have reaction from the only Muslim member of Congress.

7:06AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Now to the latest on the Florida pastor who says he will burn the Koran this Saturday, the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. His demonstration is now causing safety concerns for people in his hometown as well as Americans in other countries. CBS News correspondent Kelly Cobiella is in Gainesville, Florida, and has the latest. Kelly, good morning.

KELLY COBIELLA: Good morning, Harry. And this morning the President – President Obama – is stepping into this controversy, saying this protest would be a 'recruitment bonanza' for Al Qaeda. It is just one more in a chorus of voices warning about a possible violent backlash to this, but so far, the Florida pastor at the center of it all is standing firm.

TERRY JONES: We are not convinced that backing down is the right thing.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Koran Controversy; Pastor Remains Steadfast As Opposition Mounts]

COBIELLA: The protest of one man with less than 50 followers is having a ripple effect around the world. The State Department ordered U.S. embassies to assess their security and brace for possible protests. And the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan warned again that Jones could be putting U.S. lives in danger.

DAVID PETRAEUS: We're concerned that the images from the burning of a Koran would be used in the same way that extremists used images from Abu Ghraib.

COBIELLA: Jones claims he has silent support from people who sent copies of the Koran to burn and others too afraid to speak publicly. Yet even members of his former church in Germany are distancing themselves from him. On her Facebook page, Sarah Palin urged Jones to back off, calling the protest 'insensitive and an unnecessary provocation, much like the building of a mosque at Ground Zero.' The man behind that project said on CNN Wednesday night he never meant to offend the victims of 9/11.

FEISAL ABDUL RAUF [IMAM]: If I knew that this would happen, this would cause this kind of pain, I wouldn't have done it.

COBIELLA: In Florida, Jones' neighbors packed a church to pray with imams, priests, and rabbis as a show of tolerance.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN [IMAM]: I come in peace.

COBIELLA: Religious leaders are trying to convince Jones to change his plans.

MAN: I think the pastor as a Christian will follow in the footsteps of Christ and would do the right thing.

COBIELLA: Anger at this protest is clearly growing. At least 100 counterprotesters are expected here on Saturday, probably many more than that. And some fairly intensive security measures are being put in place, including Gainesville police officers, the S.W.A.T. team, and the FBI. Harry.

SMITH: Kelly Cobiella in Gainesville this morning, thank you. Joining us now from Minneapolis is Representative Keith Ellison, the first Muslim ever elected to Congress. And from Dallas, Dr. Richard Land, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention. Good morning to you both.

RICHARD LAND: Good morning.

KEITH ELLISON: Good morning. Thank you.

SMITH: Dr. Land, let me start with you. Numbers of ministers, evangelicals, pentecostals, you even have Billy Graham's son, Franklin Graham, who is no fan of Islam, trying to reach out to this pastor. Does this pastor have a theological leg to stand on?

RICHARD LAND: No, no. If you just ask the question, 'what would Jesus do?' Jesus would never do this. This is – this is odious. This is absolutely beyond the pale. It doesn't follow the Golden Rule. It doesn't follow the teachings of Jesus in any way, shape, or form. And he's being urged by Christians from all spectrums and other religious leaders not to do this, out of respect for our Muslim citizens and also out of respect for the serious danger that it's going to place American soldiers and American civilians in overseas. I mean, this is a – this is a needless, hurtful, and really, absolutely beyond-the-pale provocation.

SMITH: Congressman, let me ask you this because you have the President speaking out on this issue now, saying that this burning of Korans is going to work as a recruitment tool for Al Qaeda. 'A recruitment bonanza.' Who does this hurt most?

KEITH ELLISON: Well, I think it certainly has the potential to hurt Americans in uniform of our country. But I think it also damages our Constitution. It damages the fabric of our nation that is based on the idea of religious liberty, an ideal enshrined in our First Amendment. But the thing I'd like to say is that I urge people in congregations, Muslim and other, to urge restraint, to urge patience and to urge caution. You should not reward this provocation with a counterresponse, unless that is a loving response, unless that is an interfaith response. But I would ask religious leaders to speak to their congregations and say, 'he's trying to provoke you. Don't be provoked.'

SMITH: One of the things that's being talked about, Congressman, is that there is a line that can be drawn from the anti-Islamic – anti-Muslim sentiment that seems to be growing in this country  and seems to be festering in the Islamic cultural center that's being proposed to be built a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero. Do you see a line that connects here?

ELLISON: Well, the – in my view, the cultural center in lower Manhattan, the purpose of it wasn't to offend or insult anyone. The purpose was to try to build bridges of understanding. Now, people can have different interpretations as to what it means to them, but there's no doubt that the people who pull this project together were not intending to insult anyone because there's a mosque within four blocks and they've been in this place for a number of years before. This is a deliberate attempt to provoke people, so I think that there are real distinctions. Of course, the similarity is that there does seem to be a certain wave of anti-Islamic sentiment, but let me just add-

SMITH: Quickly.

ELLISON: While there is anti-Islamic sentiment, there are many, many more Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, who are standing in solidarity with their fellow Americans who are Muslim and I think that's a good sign. People are rising to the occasion.

SMITH: Very quickly, Dr. Land, what is the antidote for this?

LAND: Oh, I think the antidote for this is, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love your neighbor as yourself.

ELLISON: I agree.

LAND: Take into consideration your fellow citizens and your neighbors' feelings and let's act as – toward others as we would want to be treated ourselves.

SMITH: Dr. Land, Congressman Ellison, thank you both very much for taking the time to speak with us this morning. Do appreciate it.

ELLISON: Thank you.

SMITH: Alright.

ELLISON: Thank you, Dr. Land.

LAND: Thank you.

SMITH: Take care.         

ERICA HILL: It continues to be a fascinating story.
Here is a full transcript of D'Agata's report:
8:01AM SEGMENT:

JEFF GLOR: President Obama wants a Florida pastor to call off his plans to burn copies of the Koran on Saturday. Mr. Obama said this morning, quote, 'this is a recruitment bonanza for Al Qaeda' and that it might cause serious violence in Pakistan or Afghanistan.' He also says it might lure more individuals who would be willing to blow themselves up in American or European cities. CBS News correspondent Charlie D'Agata is in London this morning with more on this. Charlie, good morning.

CHARLIE D'AGATA: Good morning to you, Jeff. The U.S. State Department has issued a warning to American embassies in Muslim countries to brace for an anti-American backlash, demonstrations, and the possibility of violence.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Koran Buring; President Obama: "Recruitment Bonanza For Al Qaeda"]

The plan to burn the Koran has already sparked outrage among Muslims the world over. Protesters in India burned American flags this morning and chanted, 'down with America.' In Britain, a former leader of an Islamist hard line group told CBS News this morning, he plans to call on Muslims worldwide to make 9/11 a 'burn the Stars and Stripes day.'

ANJEM CHOUDARY [RADICAL ISLAMIC LEADER]: The burning of the Koran has united the Muslims around the world and has made them very angry. And I think that the Americans are really digging their own grave.

D'AGATA: In Afghanistan, Muslim leaders said the U.S. can't afford to let the burning go ahead.

[SPEAKING IN BACKGROUND, MULLAH HABIBULLAH, AFGHAN MUSLIM PREACHER]

D'AGATA: 'America must stop this,' he says. 'The Taliban will use it as proof they're here to destroy Islam.' During a trip to Pakistan, actress Angelina Jolie was appalled at the idea of burning the Koran.

ANGELINA JOLIE: I have hardly the words to – that somebody would do that to somebody's religious book.

D'AGATA: Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, has sent a letter to President Obama asking him to step in and forbid the bonfire from taking place. Jeff.

GLOR: Charlie D'Agata in London this morning. Charlie, thank you.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC