There is a plan afoot to remodel an already existing structure in New
York City as a mosque and community center. It is two blocks from
ground zero. The opposition to it is loud, growing and misplaced.
The arguments go like this: its too close to ground zero, the
feelings are still too raw, it was Muslims who attacked the World
Trade Centers, blah, blah, blah.
Worse, the debate has now been fully politicized. Former New York Mayor
Rudolph Giuliani has weighed in, calling the decision to go forward
with the plans a desecration and wrongly accusing those involved in
the planning of being sympathetic to terrorists.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which should know
better, says it will open old wounds. New York Governor David
Paterson, while expressing some support, has offered state funding if
the proposed project is moved. And, of course, Sarah Palin, who has
become something of a scavenger of human misery, has decided that
vocally opposing the mosque is an excellent opportunity to make some
cynical political points.
On the other side, current New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has openly
supported the plans and watched his traditionally high approval ratings sag.
The man who planned this 13-story, $100 million development that will
include a community center, performing arts center and day care center
in addition to a mosque, is either the greatest con man weve
encountered in some time or exactly the kind of Muslim with whom weve
been trying to curry favor since 9/11. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf extols
the virtues of democracy and freedom and, in fact, has publicly said
the United States is the model on which his kind of Islam should be
It is more than ironic that our tax dollars have been used to support,
and in some cases build, these kinds of Islamic centers around the
world in an attempt to promulgate peaceful, mainstream Islam. There
are those insisting no such thing should be built in lower Manhattan,
a brief ferry ride from the Statue of Liberty. Apparently there will
be no yearning to be free going on in their neighborhood.
Our continued insistence on lumping all Muslims -- and there are more
than a billion of them around the world -- into the same group with
those who have bastardized the Quran for their own murderous ends is a
grotesque mistake that belittles us and the values in which we so
More to the point, it feeds the beast weve come to call radical Islam
more fuel for the hatred machines they continue to build America is
intolerant, America hates us, America is the enemy.
You would think this kind of religious bigotry would be part of our
past. Every major religion has had its violently extreme splinter
groups and their moments of inexplicable darkness. Murderous
megalomaniacs have infected Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism and even
Buddhism. Yet no one has suggested their houses of worship should move
Weve opted not to condemn or attempt to banish any of the great
religions based on the bad behavior of a relative handful of rogue,
murderous adherents. Weve accepted the quite correct notion that no
religious belief system should be condemned in its entirety because of
a few lunatics claiming to represent it. But we have excluded Islam
from this obvious truism.
Then theres the entire matter of the First Amendment. Our various
government agencies dont get to decide how we worship or where. The
first couple of layers of governmental regulators have made decisions
allowing the mosque to move forward. Even if roadblocks are erected,
as some on the New York City City Council and within the New York
Legislature have suggested, its quite likely the courts will remove
those hurdles. As they should.
Yes, it was Muslims of a sort who hijacked commercial jets and rained
horror down on New York City, Washington, D.C. and the rolling hills
of Pennsylvania on 9/11. But theirs is not the Islam practiced around
the world. In fact, the violence and hatred practiced by the Taliban,
al Qaida and other Islamic terrorists are not recognizable as any
religious belief system at all.
A mosque and community center in
New York, close to ground zero, is the perfect
location and the perfect opportunity for us to learn about real
Islamic practices, and for them to reach out to a community so badly
wounded by a handful who tried to steal a religion away from them and
quite literally destroy that which Allah asked them to
If radical Islam rears its ugly head in a new center in New York,
well know about it soon enough and can then take the necessary steps
to stop it. But it is past time we give those Muslims who want nothing
more than to peacefully coexist with their neighbors the chance to do
just that. Our politicians have plenty of other issues to soil with
their grubby quest for another handful of votes.
The mosque and community center should be built not because it will be
a symbol of Islamic tolerance, understanding and pluralism but because
it will be a symbol of ours.