Debate Over the Islamic Center in New York ~ Just What Republicans Need

Personally, I would have thought that this president was too astute of a politician to wade into this matter, especially now.

Believe it or not, according to an NPR news story Monday, lawmakers have actually set aside debate over the economy and other pressing national matters to argue over President Obama’s statement supporting the building of an Islamic center within walking distance from Ground Zero This will surely add to anti-Obama passion as mid-term elections in November draw near – just what Republicans need. Right?

This will confirm for some that Obama is a Muslim, for others that his real father was Malcom X, and for others that he wasn’t even born in the United States. So, a lesser president would have remained silent in the face of injustice at the hand of public opinion.

Representative Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” to talk about the upcoming election and was asked for his personal view on whether the mosque should be built in New York.

“It would be wrong to politicize the issue,” he said, adding that the decision should be “up to the people of New York” on where the Islamic center should be built. But the president, just by bringing it up, has already made it a political issue, has he not?

Personally, I would have thought that this president was too astute of a politician to wade into this matter, especially now. Notwithstanding, the president was correct in saying that we must respect the Constitution. We can’t tarnish people’s first amendment rights whether they are Muslim, Jewish, Christian or Mormon. Allowing the Islamic center to be built says to the rest of the world that America is truly the country established by our Constitution. And if two blocks away from Ground Zero isn’t far enough away for an Islamic place of worship and school, how far away is far enough? Or is there  no room for it anywhere in New York City?  How about in your city? Demonstrations against the building of mosques have broken out in many American cities

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie said, “It tells you that he (the president) has a very disdainful view of the American people. And I think that’s one of the reasons his favorability ratings have come down, not just his job approval rating.”

I disagree with Mr. Gillespie on his first point, but am in total agreement with him on the second. The president does not have a disdainful view of the American people, not based on anything that he has said. But I do. Frankly, I’m disappointed – perhaps “disgusted” would be a better word — with more than two-thirds of Americans who, as indicated by their view on this subject, are so filled with hate and fear of all Muslims that they would want them deprived of their First Amendment rights simply because those who attacked us on 9/11 were Muslims radicalized by extremist forces exploiting the faith. This is tantamount, I believe, to the hatred of all Japanese, even American citizens of Japanese extraction, that most Americans felt following the attack on Pearl Harbor

Writing in the Huffington Post yesterday, Michael Bard put it this way “I have been disgusted by the right’s decision to politicize the issue, using the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the proposed Islamic center as a way to turn fear of “the other” into votes. (Newt Gingrich, an avid practitioner of fear mongering, has, not surprisingly, staked out a far-right position, equating Islam and the Nazis.) With each appeal to our basest, most xenophobic selves, the Republicans are systematically eroding the great American traditions of tolerance and diversity that have been a large part of the growth of the nation. (Note to the GOP: The Statue of Liberty is not just a pretty sculpture. It actually stands for something.) Even the use of the term “Ground Zero mosque” to describe the project is incendiary, intended to alarm at the expense of accuracy (the proposal is not for a stand-alone mosque, and the building would not be at Ground Zero).

Most of all, I have found it depressing that the right has turned a truly nuanced and complicated issue into a mean-spirited, us-versus-them test of patriotism.”

My wife’s dad, a deceased Marine veteran of WWII, was fond of saying, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will fight to the death to defend your right to say it.” Now that’s true patriotism. I will expand on that in light of the current controversy by saying, “Although do not subscribe to your religious beliefs, I will fight to the death for your right to worship as you wish so long as your beliefs do not include the goal of overthrowing our democratic form of government.”

With over 3000 Muslims currently serving in our country’s military, having sworn to uphold this country against all enemies, foreign and domestic, I cannot… will not believe that Muslim citizens cannot be trusted to serve the greater good.

This controversy, started by a right-wing blogger named Pamela Geller, has turned out to be a most fortunate distraction for Republicans. Now, rather than weighing Democratic efforts to restore the economy and build a better future for Americans against Republican proposals, namely, to dismantle enacted reforms and return us to the economic policies that got us into the mess we found ourselves in at the end of the Bush/Cheney years, voters will be increasingly blinded by doubt fueled by passions on steroids. Unfortunately, passion trumps reason every time for most of us.

Please feel free to respond with your views on this subject by posting a comment whether you agree with me or not.

Published in: on August 17, 2010 at 10:18 am  Comments (10)  

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Opa, welcome back. I’ve missed your words of reasoning and your topic of today was of great enlightenment. Yes, I disagree with the idea of a mosque being so near the 9/11 site NOT because of fear but just out of respect for those lives lost. Personally I think those wanting to build this mosque are being really insensitive to those grieving for their loved ones. However, I still believe in the right of religious freedom. Somehow, we must not let the fanatics zealots win—whoever they are. We have so many other issues we should be tackling at this time. BTW, we still have lots of haters right here in America though they use another moniker.

  2. Yes, Nancy. I have heard this argument against building the mosque over and over, i.e., “because it is insensitive to those grieving for their loved ones.” That’s the original argument used by the right-wing blogger who started this hate campaign, Pamela Geller. Personally, I think the campaign itself is insensitive because it breeds complete ignorance. Associating Muslims who live their lives peacefully with an act of terror and violence like 9/11 is very wrong, wrong, wrong. Muslims did not attack us, terrorists did. And terrorists come in all forms, some have even done horrendous things to blacks, to Jews, and to women in the name of Christ.

  3. Well, one comment is that all of us should understand that the proposal to build a Islamic family center is NOT on the ground zero land. It is infact down the street aways. Thank you Kent for clarifying that fact.
    Secondly, would we be responding the same way if the Catholic church or the Jewish community wanted to build a building for their use? Absolutely not. This would not be thought to be insensitive, it would be thought to be honoring of those lost in 9/11. Don’t think for a moment there were not Muslims who lost their loved one that day. Kent is right–America stands for diversity and religious freedom yet we do not walk the talk.
    I am angry that time is wasted on this issue rahter than issues like poverty and joblessness. Truely, if I did my job like our Senators and Congressman do their jobs I would be fired!! Let’s stay on track here about what we are suppose to be about which is making our country a better place to live together in PEACE!!
    Thank you Kent for your blog; my only criticism is I had to get a dictionary out to understand some of the words used–plain language would appeal to more people, I think.
    Your other half, Natalie

  4. What words didn’t you understand?

  5. This I agree with,,“Although do not subscribe to your religious beliefs, I will fight to the death for your right to worship as you wish so long as your beliefs do not include the goal of overthrowing our democratic form of government.”
    But out of respect for the 9/11 families it should be built someplace other than the proposed site.
    Most of the Muslims in New York live in Brooklyn . They would have to travel to The City to use the Mosque. I say build it in Brooklyn near the concentrated population of Muslims.
    But No ! They are not going to budge an inch from the proposed site. I say Our Gov’t is kissing up too much. But thats easily explained. Obama is a Muslim by his own words . Speaking to a group of Muslims in Cario his words were “I am one of you,I am Muslim also” But thats ok with me. If he wants to be a Muslim I see nothing wrong with what faith he chooses.
    He should not Kiss up to them. I am offended when our president bows to Muslim foriegn leaders.
    All this can be explained in a simple statement,,
    He has no leadership skills. No matter his education,,he is not a leader. He’s a smooth talker not a leader. He’s our President but not a leader.
    So you see , I’m not hot under the coller about Obama,,I’m just disgusted with him.

  6. John, President Obama did not say in his speech to the Islamic World from Cairo that he was one of them. You can read the entire text of the speech and watch a video of it posted on Huffington Post at But I doubt you’ll take the time to educate yourself. Your mind is made up and you will believe any negative thing said about the president. Did he bow before the Saudi king? Yes, from video of their first meeting, it appears that he did. But so did President Bush on his first meeting with King Abdulah Presidents are heads of state for four years at a time. Kings rule for life. It’s protocol, man.

  7. Mr. Garry (wonderful to see your blog again).
    People for some reason seem to have the notion that a mosque a few (new york city) blocks built on private property somehow insults the memory of the Americans who died on 9/11. Note that I said Americans, not Christians or Jews or Buddhists or any other practitioners of any particular religion. Those who died that day were not of one culture, ethnicity, or religion. Their one commonality was where they were standing when the towers fell. The United States Bill of Rights up holds the right to freedom of religion. A key part of that right is the ability to build a place of worship, and worship there. The United States cannot forbid a religious institution from building on private property simply because an extremist sect of that religion has committed terrorist acts against the US. This Islam-phobia so many Americans seem to have adopted, this religious and ethnic profiling, is endanger of alienating over 1 billion people due to the rampant stupidity apparently present in the American people when it comes to other religions. We are so ready to believe ill of people and ideas we do not care to take the time to understand.

  8. A conservative friend responded to this posting, but did so by email — probably because he didn’t want his name associated with his sentiments in the public domain. He said:

    “Thank you for letting me have your two cents on this issue. Now here’s mine.

    You would think it would be appropriate to put a monument to Hitler at Auschwitz wouldn’t you? What is wrong with you? No one is denying the right to religious freedom to anyone. This is nothing more than a slap in the face perpetrated on the American people by an Imam who supports radical Islam. WAKE UP!

    I know NPR and CNN hasn’t mentioned this so you don’t know it, but there has already been a place of worship denied the right to build at ground zero. It is St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. This church was destroyed when the towers fell while Muslim terrorists were slaughtering thousands of Americans. This church was DESTROYED IN THE ATTACK AND DENIED THE RIGHT TO REBUILD! Link to this in your little blog so people can make a fair assessment of what is going on.”

    The following was my response:

    “News about the rebuilding of the church you mention, which is available from many other sources other than Fox, tell a different story, NAME WITHHELD. The church has not been denied permission to rebuild actually. Because they want to build a church many times bigger than the original and at a location that conflicts with memorial designs, they are at this time in negotiations with the New York City Port Authority and the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission for a land swap,%20Charles%20V.

    How is it, NAME WITHHELD, that you have concluded Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf supports “radical Islam?” No doubt because Glen Beck and/or Sarah Palin have said so, right? Actually he and his wife are the kind of Muslim leaders America needs: modernists and moderates who openly condemn the death cult of al-Qaeda and its adherents — ironically, just the kind of “peaceful Muslims” whom Sarah Palin, in her now infamous tweet, asked to “refudiate” the mosque. Rauf is a Sufi, which is Islam’s most mystical and accommodating denomination,8599,2008432,00.html.
    Read the article to which you referred more closely and WAKE UP yourself, sir.

  9. For all of you out there who believe that the Muslims have a right to build a mosque within two blocks of ground zero, because of our country’s freedom of religious expression as the basis for it, will certainly endorse the rights of a Florida’s church’s announced plans to burn Koran’s (however you choose to spell it) on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, on same grounds, right? If you say that the Florida church should NOT burn Koran’s because of disrespect to the Islam religion, why do you not also support the resistance to building the mosque within two blocks of ground zero? because it insults those persons who oppose it? You can’t have it both ways. Political correctness will be the death of this country. You can’t please all the people all of the time.

  10. The First Amendment protects both Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf ‘s right to build an “Interfaith”/Islamic center blocks away from ground zero and Pastor Jone’s right to burn copies of the Koran. However, both will not happen without consequences. However, opposition to the Islamic center and the pastor’s plans to burn Korans sends the wrong message to peaceful Islamic people all over the world. These acts confirm for millions that Americans really are their enemies, that we are not the country we say we are, where all may practice their faith without fear or prejudice. These acts will make the recruitment of terrorists easier for al Qaeda.

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