On September 11, 2001, Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network of radicalized Islamic extremists delivered a diabolical attack on several “major targets” along the US eastern seaboard. The strategic effectiveness of this particularly heinous brand of terrorism far exceeded its stated goals of murdering Americans, drawing the U.S. into an unending war of attrition in Afghanistan; leaving thousands more dead and billions of borrowed dollars spent. Recovering from an initial stock-market drop, the long-term effects of unpaid wars served as the “pre-existing conditions” which led to today’s economic downturn. But perhaps the most insidious, lasting remnants of bin Laden’s sociopathic message was the “Islamophobia” which now turn America’s diversified free-worshipping religions against one another.
With protests of the so-called Ground Zero Mosque and its peace-teaching Imam gaining momentum, this ideological hate speech aims for American Muslims that have consistently denounced radical extremism within Islam; those that would help steer the “westernization” of Islamic teaching into a 21st century terrorist-free version of itself.
The overtly political tactic of targeting the Cordoba Initiative for moving Manhattan’s Masjid Al-Farah mosque into what would be known as the Cordoba House Islamic community center is continuously fed nationally by fear-baiting rhetoric. The sensitivities surrounding the deceased victims of the 9/11 suicide attacks, particularly their bereaved relatives, have been repeatedly used as nation-dividing currency by politicians seizing upon each opportunity to do so since 2001; this situation is no different.
Mosques throughout the United States have been targets of Judeo-Christian faith-based organizations in nearly every state of the Union. These social conservative groups increasingly find their endeavors bleeding into Tea Party activism, as is the case with the mosque being proposed in Temecula, California; a mere 3,000 miles from Ground Zero, and still not far enough away for reactionary critics.
According to a Marist poll, a (filibuster-proof) 69% of Manhattan residents refrain from opposing plans for Cordoba House. The New York City Landmarks Commission unanimously declined to issue “historic landmark” status to the former Burlington Coat Factory building; vacant since being struck by landing gear of an exploding jetliner during the 9/11 massacre.
Many Americans find self-justifiable solace in a collective desire to seek retribution for the 9/11 suicide attacks over U.S. soil; particularly the victims’ families. It is with this in mind that the Cordoba House plans to build, within the community center itself, an on-site 9/11 “memorial and contemplation space”.
The move remains democratically welcome throughout Lower Manhattan primarily due to the moderate, “Americanized” Islamic world view of Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf. An early, vociferous critic of radicalized Islamists before and after 9/11, Rauf has been a persistent beacon of peace throughout New York’s Muslim community. After being heralded by the Bush administration for best exemplifying the “unifying themes” of Islam, Rauf was then tapped for the US-Muslim Engagement Initiative along with Bush’s Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, and former President Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright.
This Bush-supported Initiative’s stated goals were two-fold: First, to “create a coherent, broad-based and bipartisan strategy and set of recommendations to improve relations between the U.S. and the Muslim world”; and second, to “communicate and advocate this strategy in ways that shift U.S. public opinion and contribute to changes in U.S. policies, and public and private action”.
The post-9/11 era was frequently guided by the Bush administration’s “new strategic understanding”, purposefully supporting moderate factions within the US Islamic community as the most practical, pragmatic defense against the future development of “al-Qaida-style” terror networks. The inherent successes of this program, launched in January 2007, helped lead to the recent swelling of mosque membership, which in turn led to the expansion efforts that sought out the new location; a controversial eight block adjustment.
President Obama initially kept his distance from the issue, but gently waded into the shark-infested waters, attempting to quell the rising tide of rabble-rousers with constitutional remarks on “religious freedom”, complimented with “private property” inferences.
Obama felt compelled to clarify these remarks the following day regarding “the wisdom to make a decision to put a mosque there.” Instead, the President says he “was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding.”
Evidently, in the hearts and minds of many Americans, our commitment to religious freedom is subject to case-by-case approval, and Obama has been lambasted accordingly.
Social Conservative Bryan Fischer, of the American Family Association, recommends that “permits should not be granted to build even one more mosque in the United States of America”. Fischer’s radio program, while ironically utilizing First Amendment-protected speech, offers a predominantly Christian listening audience a plethora of reasoning as to why “Muslims cannot claim religious freedom protections under the First Amendment”. His recent column goes on to explain: “We are sowing the seeds of our own destruction by allowing these improvised explosive devices to be established in community after community”.
More than two centuries ago, Thomas Jefferson defended Americans’ right “of liberty to worship our Creator in the way we think most agreeable to His will”.
This contention was echoed this month by the Center for American Progress: “The biggest threat to bin Laden is precisely the kind of Islam that is embodied in the Cordoba Initiative mosque and community center. Muslim Americans practicing their religion in freedom, rejecting the perversion of the faith that drives al-Qaida, and preaching against radicalism and violence is exactly what bin Laden fears. Building this facility will strengthen America’s fight against al-Qaida.”
With the sensibilities of the 9/11 victims’ families in full consideration, Americans must defy attempts to politicize anti-Islamic sentiments. Rather, We the People must adhere to our constitutional foundations, including the separation of “church” and “state” and laws upholding religious freedom. President Obama secures this allegiance to these distinctly American beliefs with his unwillingness to illegally intervene with the situation. This perceived inaction is both sound and righteous, opting to govern our collective efforts against global jihadists “that hate us for our freedom”, but refusing to abolish the Constitution in the process.