Editors Note: It’s easy to see why New Yorkers might be upset by the idea of Muslims building a mosque near the site of the World Trade Center disaster. As I see it, the urge to do so shows either a sincere desire to make amends, coupled with an incredibly tin ear toward Americans’ sensibilities, or it shows some triumphalist Islamic militancy about putting a shrine on the site of a victory (like the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and countless other mosques that have been built on the holy sites of defeated infidels throughout the world). Either way, they shouldn’t have decided to build it there, but that doesn’t change the fact that we can’t stop them and we shouldn’t try ... because that would compromise our values, and preserving our values should trump any urge to behave as our enemies behave. The Golden Rule does not say, “Do unto others as others have done to you.”

Do Unto Others ... To Show We’re Not Like Others


One picture of George W. Bush making the rounds on the Net sports the caption, “Miss me yet?” Recent Muslim bashing from conservatives like Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin and Rep. Peter King (R-NY) makes me a bit nostalgic for the former president’s judicious handling of relations with the Islamic world.

Say what you will about Mr. Bush, he once rebuked an American general for saying “my god is bigger than his god,” and he consistently resisted defining the war on terror as a war against Islam. Instead, he cited the “hijacking of a great religion.” One may disagree with his assessment, but, with more than a billion Muslims worldwide, a crusade against Islam would be a monumentally stupid and dangerous course.

These days, Newt is demagoguing the specter of Sharia law supplanting American justice. Sharia is a brutal, sexist legal system best-suited to primitive societies, so his fear mongering might, at first glance, appear valid. However, he’s actually just rabble rousing, since no one anywhere is advocating Sharia for the U.S.

Muslim bashing is 2010’s “wedge issue” for riling the sheep. An addendum to the GOP’s traditional triumvirate of “god, guns and gays,” it also helps tarnish Mr. Obama, whom the wingnuts suspect of being a closet Muslim radical.

At its heart, terrorism’s aim is to frighten us into abandoning our values. They can’t kill us all, but militant Islamists fantasize about global Muslim domination, which they call “the Caliphate.” The goal of fanatics of any faith is to force their beliefs on unbelievers, and to compel the infidels to adopt their outlook.

Congressman King’s attacks on the proposed Ground Zero mosque reflect the progress the fanatics have made. To use a phrase heard often in the aftermath of 9/11, “the terrorists win” when they scare us into abandoning our values and behaving like they do.

It’s understandable that many Americans see a mosque at Ground Zero as a slap in the face. Many blame — and not without some reason — Islam itself for this tragedy. After all, the one thing all 19 terrorists shared was a militant devotion to Allah.

However, you can’t discriminate against an entire religion for the actions of one group. Would we prevent Catholics from building churches near grammar schools, because priests have a history of molesting children? The First Amendment requires that each religion be treated equally. And this is a free country where you can’t stop people from building on land they legally own.

I have no way to judge the sincerity of Faisal Abdul Rauf’s professed desire to build bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims. The Imam condemned the 9/11 attack in 2001, and Mr. Bush later sent him to the Arab world to build bridges there. Nonetheless, it’s apparent that the prospect of a mosque being erected near Ground Zero has not improved relations. Rauf should concede he miscalculated and voluntarily abandon the project, which would show his sensitivity toward those who find it hurtful.

For their part, New Yorkers have every right to protest construction at this site, but they can’t expect their government to block it without legal justification. Polls show two-thirds of Americans consider the mosque inappropriate, but two-thirds also believe the Muslims have the right to build it. This innate sense of fair play demonstrates how little Americans have in common with the Jihadists who destroyed the World Trade Center.

One sign waved by a protester read, “You can build a mosque at Ground Zero, when there’s a church in Mecca.” That’s the point. If Methodists tried to build a Sunday school in the Islamic hellhole of theocratic Saudi Arabia, they’d surely be arrested, but the Golden Rule ends with, “as you would have others do unto you.”

We permit mosques in lower Manhattan, because we’re better than the fundamentalists who rule Iran, Saudi Arabia and much of that godforsaken part of the world. We should strive to be as different as possible from nations controlled by the worst representatives of their creeds — the Taliban, Hamas, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards and the Saudi mutaween clerical police — who combine religion with intolerance and brutality.

We should take pride in our support for the freedom of all religions, including those we find distasteful, because we believe in our Constitution. It’s not jingoistic for Americans to say to the rest of the world that democracy is superior to theocracy and tolerance is better than religious bigotry and sectarian tyranny.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Jewish Republican, has spoken out in favor of permitting the mosque. Everyone should read the transcript of his eloquent plea for tolerance. President Obama, who initially avoided this controversy, has recently expressed support for the Mayor. And it would be inspiring if President Bush would hold his own party accountable for their demagoguery.

It would also be inspiring if we demonstrated that, at the ground zero of religious hatred, we Americans haven’t been infected by it, because we’re better than that, and we have confidence in our own values. It would be nice to think the terrorists aren’t winning.

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