George W. Bush was right. [Never thought I would ever write that sentence.] The war on terror is not a war on Islam. So why are our political leaders like President Obama and the Anti-Defamation League so skittish about saying that it is perfectly OK for a religious institution to build whatever they want on private property? Would there be this kind of fuss if the Methodist Church decided to build a community center two blocks from Ground Zero? I think not.
I’ve been searching through a number of websites to see if there were an accurate number for the Muslims who were killed in the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11 without success. The numbers I’ve found range from 40 to as many as 200. It really doesn’t matter except that the survivors who think building an Islamic Community Center near Ground Zero seem to have forgotten the diversity of people who died.
According to Maureen Dowd in her column in today’s New York Times, there “…already are two mosques in the same neighborhood — one four blocks away and one 12 blocks away.”
[A worshiper enters Masjid Manhattan, which is sandwiched between two bars on Warren Street, about four blocks from the World Trade Center site. It was founded in 1970]
So what exactly is up with the President who made a strong, clear statement and then took at least a step back? Is it the political staff who worried that because of his name and the fact that some people still insist that he is Muslim it is bad for him to say there is a fundamental right to build an Islamic Community Center even if it is 2 blocks from Ground Zero?
Dowd points out
Let me be perfectly clear, Mr. Perfectly Unclear President: You cannot take such a stand on a matter of first principle and then take it back the next morning when, lo and behold, Harry Reid goes craven and the Republicans attack. What is so frightening about Fox News?
Some critics have said the ultimate victory for Osama and the 9/11 hijackers would be to allow a mosque to be built near ground zero.
Actually, the ultimate victory for Osama and the 9/11 hijackers is the moral timidity that would ban a mosque from that neighborhood.
A bit of advice from one of your supporters Mr. President: Do and say what you think is the right thing. Then don’t try to take it back. I believe that one of the reasons your popularity is falling is because you are seen as too calculating.
One bit of refreshing news is the open letter from six Muslim/Arab Republicans.
While some in our party have recently conceded the constitutional argument, they are now arguing that it is insensitive, intolerant and unacceptable to locate the center at the present location: “Just because they have the right to do so – does not make it the right thing to do” they say. Many of these individuals are objecting to the location as being too close to the Ground Zero site and voicing the understandable pain and anguish of the 9-11 families who lost loved ones in this horrible tragedy. In expressing compassion and understanding for these families, we are asking ourselves the following: if two blocks is too close, is four blocks acceptable? or six blocks? or eight blocks? Does our party believe that one can only practice his/her religion in certain places within defined boundaries and away from the disapproving glances of some citizens? Should our party not be standing up and taking a leadership role– just like President Bush did after 9-11 – by making a clear distinction between Islam, one of the great three monotheistic faiths along with Judaism and Christianity, versus the terrorists who committed the atrocities on 9-11 and who are not only the true enemies of America but of Islam as well? President Bush struck the right balance in expressing sympathy for the families of the 9-11 victims while making it absolutely clear that the acts committed on 9-11 were not in the name of Islam. We are hoping that our party leaders can do the same now – especially at a time when it is greatly needed.
Dowd cites two other Republicans
So look where we are. The progressive Democrat in the White House, the first president of the United States with Muslim roots, has been morally trumped by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, two moderate Republicans who have spoken bravely and lucidly about not demonizing and defaming an entire religion in the name of fighting its radicals.
I have just heard that New York Governor David Patterson, a Democrat, was trying to set up some negotiations which would result in the Community Center being built on an alternative site. The President can start to redeem himself by calling Patterson and urging him to stop any such effort.
I say boo to the cowardly Democrats and good for the reasonable Republicans striking a blow for religious freedom. Let’s not let our fear of terrorist attacks let the extremists win.