You know the story by know. Muslim developers, including an Imam, are attempting to build a 13 story Islamic Cultural Center, including a large mosque, 2 blocks from the crater left by the fall of the World Trade Center towers from the attack of September 11, 2001, an attack carried out by 19 Muslim extremists. President Obama weighed in on the matter last night.
“I understand the emotions that this issue engenders. Ground zero is, indeed, hallowed ground,” the president said in remarks prepared for the annual White House iftar, the sunset meal breaking the day’s fast.
But, he continued: “This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are.”...
Aides to Mr. Obama say privately that he has always felt strongly about the proposed community center and mosque, but the White House did not want to weigh in until local authorities made a decision on the proposal, planned for two blocks from the site of the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.
I have a question. How many mosques - in New York or elsewhere - have been closed down or their plans halted due to religious intolerance, such that building this mosque to make a stand for religious freedom and tolerance justifies poking a finger in the eyes of New Yorkers, families of the victims, and other Americans still hurting from those attacks?
This isn't about religious freedom or tolerance. I'm quite certain that this would be a non-story if the plans were to build in Hoboken, Queens, or Washington Heights. The President wants America to demonstrate that "our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable." How about expecting that the Muslim developers would show their understanding of the pain felt by all Americans following that attack by not building it there.
Americans' commitment to religious freedom is unshakable. That's not what this is about. This is about logistics and decency. What should the President have said? How about this:
"This is America, and we have an unshakable commitment to religious freedom, tolerance, equality of opportunity and equal treatment in the eyes of the government. It's written in the words of our Constitution, and lived in the actions of Americans every day. It's not that the developers cannot build their Center so close to Ground Zero. I would hope, however, that they would not. In sensitivity to the loss of nearly 3000 American lives they should choose to build elsewhere. Doing so would build a sturdier cultural bridge, show humility about the terrorism of 19 men acting falsely in the name of Islam, and demonstrate a profound understanding of America and Americans."
Or is Mr. Obama really, in Dorothy Rabinowitz' construct, the "Alien in the White House?"
8/14/10 1130: Looks like I'm on exactly the same page as Scott Johnson.
If it is another mosque that is wanted, as Obama suggests, ordinary Americans desire only that it be built somewhere else in New York. Obama's invocation of the First Amendment right of the free exercise of religion is not on point.
In the good old USA, citizens have a right to do many wrongs. One such wrong would be the establishment of a Muslim shrine at Ground Zero. Obama simply does not engage the point. He does not argue that the establishment of a Muslim shrine at Ground Zero would be right.