Fighting Words: “Ground Zero Mosque”

In 1978, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) defended the rights of the Illinois Nazis of the National Socialist Party of America to stage a march in Skokie, a heavily Jewish community, many of which were Holocaust survivors.

Today, as emotions reach white heat over the issue of building a “Mosque at Ground Zero,” Abraham Fishman, head of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), says of the bereaved, “Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would characterize as irrational.”

Really? Of course, the bereaved are entitled to whatever positions their emotions dictate—but should feelings trump the Constitution for everyone else? Free speech? Freedom to worship? The simple legality of erecting a within-code building on private property?

As Valerie Dixon—among others—pointed out in The Washington Post, “Islam did not attack the United States on September 11, 2001. Criminals attacked this nation.”

Just so, Christianity did not blow up the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City—rather, a criminal from a Christian background.

Citizens of some 90 countries were killed on 9/11, numbers of them Muslims. Despite ADL’s position on the superiority of survivor anguish, not all the bereaved agree.

In a moving August 16 Newsweek piece, two mothers who lost firefighter sons spoke out. One was adamantly against the center, while the other declared, “If we manage to get it built, and can avoid violence in the process, the world can see that we believe in and practice freedom of religion.”

And the center itself? After objections to the name “Cordoba House,” it became “Park51,” from its Park Place address. Planned for its 100,000 square feet are a large Islamic “prayer room” (the mosque?), classrooms, an auditorium, galleries, a restaurant, a swimming pool, a gym—and a memorial to 9/11 victims.

Never was it thought that Park51 would be on “Ground Zero.” It would not even be visible from the 16-acre site.

One of the founders, Feisal Abdul Rauf, for 30 years has been imam (pastor) of an existing mosque, a tiny storefront just 10 blocks north.

President Barack Obama remarked, “As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country.”

Obama added later that he wasn’t passing judgment on the wisdom of building at that location, but “on the right people have that dates back to our founding. That’s what our country is about.”

Waffling? No. The two are entirely different issues.

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