I’ll be honest: President Obama and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg are far from my favorite politicians when it comes to their views, especially in social policy. Yet I absolutely agree with them when it comes to the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque“.
Obama is absolutely correct to say that “Muslims have the right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country”. In fact, much of the first half of his speech excerpt posted on the above BBC page made me curious how he got this Constitutional issue so right, yet so thoroughly ignore the document when he and Congress rammed health care down our throats and continued the bailout debacle of the previous administration.
Conservatives love to consider themselves as defenders of the Constitution (unless, of course, it’s their guy ignoring the hell out of it). Yet nearly right-wing politician and pundit I’ve heard thinks building an Islamic cultural center near the site of the New York terrorist attacks is “a slap in the face” to the victims or somehow “giving a victory to the enemy”.
The subtlety in noticing, recognizing and understanding the multitude of differences between peaceful practicing Muslims, the Islamists and perhaps especially those who fall dangerous close to the extremist part of the spectrum is very important, and it’s something most conservatives consistently fail to do.
Consider this: Even if there are a million Islamist terrorists in the world — which is an absurdly high estimate, mind — there are over a billion people who consider themselves Muslims. In any other case, considering one out of (many more than) a thousand indicative of all others is definitely prejudicial, if not bigoted. Hence, if the reasoning for being against the construction of the center is based in terrorism, that is little different than considering all Muslims terrorists.
I’m a bit more sympathetic to the leeriness New Yorkers might have to something labeled “Islamic” being constructed next to a site attacked by those who claimed to be Muslims, but only because of their proximity to it all. That does not stop their point of view from being any less horrendously shortsighted.
Quoting Obama once more: “This is America. Our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths must be welcome in this country, and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are.”
If we as Americans are as committed to freedom as the politicos, our Constitution and we ourselves claim we are, then we must defend freedom in all forms, even when we might find it uncomfortable or unsavory.
Furthermore, it is not building the Islamic center that’s a victory for Islamist terror groups, it’s disallowing its construction. Much of the rhetoric the terroists use to stir up anger against the United States is based on what they see as anti-Islamic/pro-Israeli policy. Your average Muslim is not an idiot. If New York and the United States allowed an Islamic cultural center to be built so close to what so many consider “hallowed ground”, wouldn’t that improve the opinion of America in the Muslim world? How could that not make more than a few individuals on the fence in supporting extremism think again?
Is there a chance that the right-wingers turn out to be correct, and this is some sort of potential front for an Islamist cause? Yes, of course there is. But an essential part of freedom is trust. Unless we’re going to shred the Constitution and deny rights to our fellow Americans because of the fear they might want to cause harm, there is no acceptable reason not to allow that cultural center to be built.