The zoning of the Mosque is an issue for the city. We may have an opinion, but it is a local zoning issue.
We either have religious tolerance or we do not. We either believe in freedom of religion or we do not. We cannot be just a little bit pregnant here. If that site was used to build a church or a synagogue would we have heard a peep? If the answer is no then we are being clearly discriminatory.
Either we hold all Muslims accountable for the action of the few on 9/11 or we do not. If we do not hold all Muslims accountable then the Mosque should present no dilemma. If the 9/11 terrorists were all Christian would we hold all Christians accountable? I hesitate to ask the same question if the terrorists were Jews, because I fear many would hold all Jews accountable.
Much of the language surrounding the Mosque controversy has crossed the bounds of prejudice. Many of us only hear of Muslims when the news involves terrorist attacks or acts of violence. Too many seem unaware that moderate Muslims even exist. Examples are Fareed Zakaria and Irshad Manji. We have allowed the news to feed our prejudices.
Newt Gingrich’s analogy is shameful. To compare building a Mosque in New York to Nazis building a memorial at Auschwitz is both morally and intellectually fraudulent. To suggest that we will allow the Mosque when the Saudis allow churches and synagogues is pure demagoguery. Are we to set our standards by the most repressive examples? Are we to lead by principle or follow by spite?
A far better analogy was when the Carmelite nuns wanted to build a monastery near Auschwitz and the Jews were offended that another religion would try to usurp what they now considered holy ground. The Pope deferred to the sensitivity of the Jews and pressured the nuns to relocate which they did. The difference is that no single religion is claiming ground zero to be theirs. Ground Zero is American.
George Bush chose to lead. When 9/11 hit he quickly cautioned America not to hold all Muslims accountable for the actions of a few. Republican New Jersey governor Chris Christie understands this. But clearly many other Republicans do not.
If this building goes forth the next act should be to clear the way for the rebuilding of the St. Nicolas Greek Orthodox Church that was destroyed on 9/11 across the street from the site.
Muslims have a PR problem and many would consider it deserved. Yes it would be wise to understand the funding sources for this undertaking, but once again we would never ask such from another religious group. The Muslim religion has a problem that only they can solve. We can either choose to be open and support the moderate elements or side against the entire religion.
While we are certainly sensitive to the feelings of the victims and their families, should this have priority over basic principles and local law?
Perhaps this situation should be defused by relocating, but the damage done by the extreme rhetoric on this issue will continue. It is amazing how many Muslims scholars I have found on Twitter with the #tcot (top conservative on Twitter) hash tag. I have learned that Muslims build churches where they have conquered. Haven’t all churches done this? I have yet to find a bible that could not be used to sanction violence or intolerance in a mind already so predisposed.
Muslims have a real problem confronting and delegitimizing their radical elements. We do not help them by trying to delegitimize their entire religion.