According to Slate's William Saletan, who is completely correct about this, by the way, "the threat to our values isn't coming from the mosque. It's coming from those who want to stop it."
Those opposed to the project argue that the mosque ought not to be built out of respect for and sensitivity to the feelings of those victimized by the events of 9/11. They argue that a mosque would be an Islamic symbol of victory over a conquered land. They argue that we have no obligation to allow the mosque to be built, since some Islamic nations do not recognize a similar right of Christians to build churches on their soil. And some argue that it would be disrespectful to allow murderers to build a mosque so close to Ground Zero.
All of these arguments fail miserably, yet so many Americans find them compelling. (Just read the comments made by readers of stories about the project on Yahoo! news.) Let's grant that the facts asserted in these arguments are true (and they may not be), and let's consider these arguments in reverse order. The Cordoba Initiative has no relation to the 9/11 hijackers, who died years ago. To say that murderers would be building it is to say that all Muslims are just like the 9/11 hijackers. That's like saying that your Lutheran neighbor is just like David Duke. And appealing to the worst behavior of other nations to justify exceptions to our own Constitutional principles is obviously dangerous and short-sighted. And what does it matter if some Muslims take mosques to be symbols of this or that? Christians conquered this land; in the process, they massacred who knows how many Native Americans and herded the rest into reservations. Now that land is littered with churches. Doesn't every religion erect their churches on conquered soil? Should we be more sensitive to and respectful of the feelings of Native Americans and demolish all of them? I'm sorry, victims of 9/11: our Constitutional principles are more important than your feelings. And your feelings are probably grounded in ignorance about Islam, so I don't have much respect for those particular feelings to begin with.
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's summarized the Constitutional issue beautifully:
Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.Unfortunately, many Americans have been rendered incapable of rational thinking by Republican politicians and responsibility-free talkers and bloggers who frighten them out of their wits and hope to benefit politically from all of this (like this coward). So they won't listen. But they should.
Certain Republicans want a religious war. Take that prick Newt Gingrich, who is considering running for President. Gingrich said,
Some radical Islamists use terrorism as a tactic to impose sharia but others use non-violent methods—a cultural, political, and legal jihad that seeks the same totalitarian goal even while claiming to repudiate violence. Thus, the term “war on terrorism” is far too narrow a framework in which to think about the war in which we are engaged against the radical Islamists.Gingrich fails to mention that Christians also use non-violent methods to achieve their totalitarian goals. Converting non-believers is a common religious practice. (I owe that point to my spouse.) Christians have also used violent methods: recall the bloodshed in Northern Ireland. And yet Gingrich targets only Islam. Gingrich has also said that the planned mosque is part of an "Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization." (Way to take it to the brink, Newt.) Newt also writes,
Those Islamists and their apologists who argue for "religious toleration" are arrogantly dishonest. They ignore the fact that more than 100 mosques already exist in New York City. Meanwhile, there are no churches or synagogues in all of Saudi Arabia. In fact no Christian or Jew can even enter Mecca. And they lecture us about tolerance.In his comment on Gingrich's note, Scott Crevier located the fundamental problem with Gingrich's approach. Cervier wrote, "I like you Newt, but can't say I fully agree with you on this one. I just don't think we can stoop to the level of behavior of the Saudis. We're bigger than that." Exactly. American tolerance in the form of freedom of religion is nothing to be ashamed of; neither is it mere political correctness, as some now charge. I can think of no better victory for American values and exceptionalism, and no better public relations nightmare for Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda than a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. (Some conservatives claim that President Obama doesn't believe in American exceptionalism, but it is actually conservatives who have trouble believing in it. The fact that a salute to American exceptionalism and Alexis de Tocqueville's experience of the "budding fruits of freedom, individual liberty, equality of opportunity and a people absolutely free to practice religion however they chose or not to practice any religion at all" appears on Breitbart's Big Government blog is hilarious when you think about it.)
And if you think it's alarmist to say that Gingrich wants a war, consider the fact that he's lamenting the fact that we're not at war with North Korea and Iran. No, I am not making this up.
But Newt's race to the bottom is exactly what Islamic extremists have wanted, and the Republican Party is doing everything it can to give it to them. As Saletan writes,
To rally Muslims against the United States, Bin Laden has repeatedly claimed we're at war with Islam. President Bush, recognizing Bin Laden's game, always exalted Islam as a peaceful religion and framed the U.S. response as a "war on terror," not on Islam. Gingrich says Bush is wrong and Bin Laden is right.So if you wondered if the Republican Party could get any more idiotic than George W. Bush, you now have your answer. And if you want to know who is with the terrorists, look no farther than those who would reject American freedom of religion in favor of fear, ignorance, and bigotry.
America, I am so disgusted with you right now, I could puke. Let's get it together and use our freaking heads.