NYC Mosque Reaction Example of Islamophobia?

A woman holds up a sign as she attends a protest against a proposed mosque near Nashville, Tenn.
A woman holds up a sign as she attends a protest against a proposed mosque near Nashville, Tenn.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly quoted New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly. The correct quote was added at 10:45 p.m. ET.

Plans to build an Islamic center, including a mosque, two blocks from Ground Zero have become the subject of a red-hot national debate.

A CBS News poll released Wednesday night finds seven of 10 Americans oppose building a mosque there. The poll also found that only 24 percent of Americans have a favorable impression of Islam while 39 percent have an unfavorable view.

Poll: Most Say "Ground Zero Mosque" Is Inappropriate

Supporters of the Islamic center gathered near ground zero again Wednesday, but in a different part of Manhattan last night, police say anti-Islamic sentiment turned violent, CBS News Correspondent Jeff Glor reports.

A 21-year-old man was in police custody Wednesday night charged with attempted murder. New York police say he attacked a cab driver after asking if he was a Muslim.

"He "He said 'Asalaam Alaikum' and stabbed the driver," police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

That alleged hate crime took place in the shadow of a heated and divisive debate over whether a mosque should be built near Ground Zero.

But it's not just the protesting near Ground Zero.

The sentiment against building new mosques has reached from New York's Staten Island, 15 miles away from where the World Trade Center towers stood, to Tennessee, where a nasty debate over a proposed mosque near Nashville has raged all summer.

"It is not about religion," one unnamed female protester said. "It is about stopping Tennessee homegrown terrorists."

Other controversies over new mosques in Wisconsin and Kentucky have led some to question is America becoming Islamophobic?

"It's beyond Islamophobia," Daisy Khan, a co-founder of the group planning the center, said on ABC's "This Week." "It's hate of Muslims, and we are deeply concerned."

A recent Time magazine poll found that 43 percent of Americans hold unfavorable views of Muslims and 46 percent believe that the Islamic religion is more likely than other religions to encourage violence against nonbelievers.

"Incidents like the Times Square bomber or the Fort Hood gunman should be expected to amplify people's anxieties," professor Richard Lloyd of Vanderbilt University said.

In this election season, politics is driving the argument as well.

"Nazis don't have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum," former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said on Fox News.

It's become a wedge issue in campaigns from North Carolina to New York.

But with nearly 7 million Muslims and more than 1,200 mosques already in America, Muslim leaders say that fear is unnecessary.

"I'm very sad because we know that America is the most tolerant country in the world," said Mohammad Shamsi Ali of the proposed center in Lower Manhattan.

In New York, families of 9/11 victims insist their opposition doesn't make them islamaphobic. Instead, they're just trying to heal.

"I feel strongly about it, the mosque," said Ken Fairben, whose child died on 9/11. "I understand their religious beliefs. I understand that they should have a place to pray, an educational center. I have no problems with that whatsoever. But not there, definitely not there."

A city commission gave final approval to the Islamic center earlier this month. Opponents vow to continue their fight in court.