Republicans have found a new bone to chew on in–their shiny-object effort to distract the American public from issues of policy that make them look like stubborn children with their heels dug in against passing any positive legislation to help the president move the country forward.
They have pushed immigration reform aside and have seized upon plans to build a Muslim community center in lower Manhattan. They have made it their latest hot-button rhetorical dogma to rail against people, who support the Muslim’s constitutional right to freedom of religion.
Newt Gingrich was quick to fan the flames of collective hysteria with this short-sighted comparison:
“Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the holocaust museum in Washington,” Gingrich insisted, “we would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor.”
But Mr. Gingrich is simply wrong. People have the right under the constitution to post offensive signs or carry them around in public. Tea partiers have been doing it for over a year. People have the right to burn the U.S. flag.
Also, there has been a Japanese Cultural center in Honolulu for decades without a single protest.
Furthermore, the difference is, the United States was at war with Germany and Japan, but the country is not at war with Islamic beliefs. We are at war with Al Qaeda. They are the ones who bombed the twin towers killing 3000 people, including Muslim Americans, some of whom were first responders. It is wrong to paint every Muslim with a broad brush of guilt-by-religious-association. Al Qaeda practices a radical perversion of the Muslim faith. They are the terrorists and their goal is to kill Americans and make Americans afraid and paranoid.
After the manic reaction to building this Muslim facility on private property, by private investors, Osama Bin Laden is probably sitting in a cave somewhere, with a big smile on his face, because it is just the kind of challenge to the U.S constitution he wants to see happening in America. It plays right into his hands.
Joshua Holland wrote on Alternet: On one extreme end of the spectrum are the followers of Osama bin Laden and his fellow travelers. On the other extreme are the people behind Park 51 (formerly known as Cordoba House). The Park 51 people are as different from bin Laden’s crowd as a Christian extremist, who blows up an abortion clinic is distinct from a good Unitarian. That’s what makes the contrived outrage over the project especially crazy.
There are other mosques in New York, but the outrage comes, because opponents say it is “too close to hallowed ground.” In actuality, it will be two blocks away, in an old Burlington Northern retail store, which won’t be visible from ground zero. It will be founded by Imam Feisel, who is a Muslim leader known for his work with the Bush administration after 9/11. The community center will have a monument to the people who died that day. The aim is to educate and increase religious tolerance and understanding. It will have a swimming pool, a culinary school, gymnasium, a theater, restaurants, mosque, and spaces open to the community.
What is the fear? Do people really think there will be a Mecca of home grown terrorists in their back yards? Do they think instead of playing basketball, teaching culinary cooking, and religious tolerance–there will be dark, covert training and brain-washing to compel innocent Muslims to do harm to Americans?
The fact is Muslims are the ones being targeted by ignorance and bigotry.
Change.org: In the wake of the controversy in New York City, Islamic centers and mosques have been subjected to protests and harassment by right-wing groups across the country. Protestors have shouted that “Jesus hates Muslims” and called Muslim children entering day care centers “murderers.” The Christian Dove World Outreach Center has renamed 9/11 “International Burn a Koran Day,” and Bryan Fischer of the right-wing American Family Association says that we should not allow “even one more mosque in the United States of America.”
The organizations and conservative opponents, who call themselves patriots, do not have the support of the Mayor of New York, because he doesn’t agree that blocking religious freedom is the right thing to do.
“The ability to practice your religion was one of the real reasons America was founded,” said Michael Bloomberg. “I believe that this is as important a test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetime, and it is critically important that we get it right.”
Michael Daly, New York Daily News columnist said Tuesday, “rights don’t come with a ‘but’. You can’t say you have the right to vote, ‘but’.” Daly said whether we agree with it or not, we should, “honor the constitution.”
There are many people, who lost loved ones on 9/11, who have no objection to the mosque or its location. But the right-wing misinformation juggernaut, fueled by Fox News cronies, makes the kind of noise that drowns out any voice of reason.
As always, Sarah Palin was at the forefront frothing up the controversy, with another one of her uninformed sound bites: “it is a slap to innocent victims that were murdered on 9/11. It is a knife in the heart of Americans.”
Republicans and Christian conservatives have constantly shouted for freedom of religion to be unfettered by the government and the constitution. Just not in this case, because it has no political advantage.
***Jean Williams 2010