The ‘Ground Zero Mosque,’ as it has become known, has now dominated headlines for a number of weeks. Politicians and organizations have been quick to join the chorus of voices defending or opposing the 13 story, $ 100 million project that is being spearheaded by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his American Society for Muslim Advancement (ASMA).
Of course there is the issue of sensitivity to the victims of 9/11 terror, whatever the positions of the individuals involved in the mosque. After all, the attacks were carried out in the name of Islam. As Paul Sipos, a member of NYC Community Board 1, quite rightly said:
“If the Japanese decided to open a cultural centre across from Pearl Harbour, that would be insensitive. If the Germans opened a Bach choral society across from Auschwitz, even after all these years that would be an insensitive setting. I just think: Why there?”
Additionally Abraham Foxman of the Anti Defamation League asked in reference to the Mosque organizers; “If you were the spokesman of moderation and you want to heal, why do you insist on doing it contrary to the wishes of the people who have been hurt the most?”
But the topic of the Mosque is also of deeper significance, because it touches on some serious fundamentals that Americans and indeed much of western civilization has been battling with as of late. Particularly of concern, is what is to be done if two of our central tenets, freedom of religion and national security come into direct conflict with one another?
In yet another remarkable display of extreme intellectual dishonesty, president of anti- Israel group J-Street, Jeremy Ben-Ami, released a statement saying:
“The principle at stake … goes to the heart of American democracy, and the value we place on freedom of religion. Should one religious group in this country be treated differently than another? We believe the answer is no…. proposing a church or a synagogue for that site would raise no questions. The Muslim community has an equal right to build a community center wherever it is legal to do so.”
But the obvious truth is that of course the case of the Mosque is different. Islamic adherents have engaged in acts of unparalleled murderous barbarism against Americans in the name of Islam, and many others have expressed sympathy or justification. Mosques throughout the western world have been used as terrorist recruitment centers and hotbeds of incitement. We would be kidding ourselves if we were not concerned, cautious and questioning.
A New York Times headline on Sunday, entitled ‘Across Nation, Mosque Projects Meet Opposition,’ attempted to widen the issue further afield then Ground Zero. The piece removed the singular circumstances of this particular Mosque and its provocative location, and moved the story into one that depicts a general and growing prejudice against Muslims in America.
Is seems that the general accepted view is that while there is a small percentage of Islamic “extremists” who engage in acts of terror, the vast majority of Muslims are moderate and accepting of western culture. However the article in the Times highlights the sentiments of many Americans who question whether Islam is fundamentally compatible with western culture and suspect many American Islamic organizations of sympathizing with the enemy and having expansionist ambitions.
The suspicions stem from a number of troubling trends. These include the reluctance of many to condemn terror organizations, the excusing and explaining of the terrorist point of view, personal or organizational links to terror groups as well as the acceptance of sponsorships and donations for their organizations from rogue states. As long as this behavior is prevalent among American Muslims, people should indeed have cause for concern.
The’ Ground Zero Mosque’ and its organizers are guilty of all the above and the American public is acutely aware of this as opinion polls have shown. There are too many questions that are unanswered, too many dubious statements and justifications and too many links to the wrong people for this to be kosher. All this before we even talk about the insensitivity.
It is time that the elected leaders in New York acted on the will of the people and asked the questions that need to be asked, investigate what needs to be looked into, and make sure they know exactly who they are dealing with before giving a kneejerk stamp of approval.
Those that are quick to turn this into a freedom of religion issue, should keep in mind that this is also a matter of national security, and that the unique devastating experiences of recent history have taught us that the limits of freedom of religion start when that religion begins to threaten the freedom of others.
The Author is the director of the Algemeiner Journal and the GJCF and can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org