According to a new Time Magazine poll, 61% of Americans oppose building an Islamic community center near Ground Zero and that more than 70% think that doing so is an insult to the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. What the opponents of the project do not realize is that their opposition actually gives aid and comfort to terrorists. Opposition the Islamic community center aids and comforts the terrorists in some very significant ways.
Such opposition elevates the terrorist thinking and actions over all of the moderate Muslims who oppose both the thinking and actions of the terrorists. Opponents of the project are really saying they agree with the terrorists’ interpretations of Islam. Public demonstrations against Islam also provide a tool that aids the terrorists in their recruitment propaganda, which they can use to show that Osama bin Laden is correct in claiming that “Islam is in mortal danger from the hostile West led by the United States.” (Sparago, Terrorist Recruitment, 6). Agreeing with terrorist interpretations and giving them material that they need for recruitment both comforts them and aids them by confirming what they think and claim about Islam and about the United States.
Moreover, opposition to the Islamic community center in Manhattan on the grounds that it insults the victims of 9/11 is based on faulty premises. One is the presumption of collective guilt. In the case of the Islamic center, the collective guilt is assigned by its opponents to Muslims. Al-Qaeda, its supporters and affiliates also base their thoughts and actions on the premise of collective guilt, assigning collective guilt to the United States and its allies. Just as all Americans and their allies do not bear guilt for the suffering of Muslims, all Muslims do not bear the guilt for the suffering of victims of the 9/11 attacks. Guilt is borne only by those who committed the crimes. Engaging in the same thinking as the terrorists, by assigning collective guilt as they do, is another way in which opponents of the incorrectly labeled “Ground Zero mosque” unwittingly provide aid and comfort to terrorists.
Building further on the basis of collective guilt, opponents of the Islamic community center argue that while Muslims have the right to build it, it is wrong to exercise that right because of the sensitivities of the 9/11 victims. To those who suggest that this thinking is bigoted, Abraham Foxman, the head of the ADL, has responded: “Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted (Zakaria, 2). One problem with this rationale is that it subordinates our highest principles to irrational bigotry. Once again, this mirrors the mindset of the terrorists. They justify their irrational bigotry against all Americans because of the anguish they believe Muslims have suffered due to the actions of the US and its allies, They then subordinate the highest principles of the Quran, particularly the principle that killing a single person who is not guilty of murder or heinous crimes (Quran 5:32), to their irrational bigotry. Subordinating the highest principles of Islam to irrational bigotry against Americans led first to Osama bin Laden’s declaration that all Americans are the enemy, in early 1998. It took more than three years, but the subordination of principles to irrational bigotry turned from words to actions in the murder of nearly 3000 people on September 11, 2001.
America’s highest principles are laid out in the Constitution. According to those principles, Muslims have every right to build the community center in Manhattan. If they do so, moderate, peace loving Muslims and all other Americans will triumph over the militant terrorists, However, if Americans allow irrational bigotry to stop the building or move it elsewhere, then the militant terrorists will triumph have triumphed over moderate, peace loving Muslims and all other Americans. As New York Mayor, Michael Bloomberg so eloquently said: “We would betray our values – and play into our enemies’ hands – if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists – and we should not stand for that.”
Mayor Bloomberg is right, we must not subordinate our highest principles to irrational bigotry. Doing so will give not only aid and comfort, but also victory, to our enemies. The Islamic community center can and must be built exactly where it is has been planned in lower Manhattan. Otherwise, the militant terrorists win, and all Americans lose.