Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Star Parker’s “Ground Zero” Mosque is a Mistake

In her column for, Star Parker writes, “The ‘Ground Zero’ Mosque project should not go forward . . . .

She acknowledges it’s fine and well that its purpose is to improve freedom, tolerance, and Muslim-West relations, but, commenting further on a New York Times article that stated, opposition to the Mosque is being portrayed as abandoning “the principles of freedom and tolerance,” and, that “The attacks of September 11 were not a religious event,” she says emphatically, “Americans don’t need any lessons about freedom and tolerance,” as well as saying, in effect, that 9/11 was a religious event.

Parker is wrong. Americans do need lessons about freedom and tolerance. Just look at our history with ethnic bigotry against people of color, immigrants, and now Muslims. But to the point here, if our vision was authentically American then the majority in America would embrace freedom of religion and there would not be a predominance of opposition to a mosque at Ground Zero, or its divisive debate. Parker concludes that the extremist of 9/11 held the views of mainstream Islam. This is no truer than to say that all Catholics are essentially to blame for the Oklahoma City federal building bombing because Timothy McVeigh and his mom and dad were Catholics.

The director of the Anti Defamation League (ADL), Abraham Foxman, embraces the view that victims of 9/11 have feelings that need to be respected. The ADL is a foundation who declares that it is dedicated to combating anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry and yet has abandoned principles of freedom and tolerance as it pertains to the Islamic religion. As Newsweek and CNN's Fareed Zakaria expressed it, “First of all, there were many dozens of victims of 9/11 who were Muslim. Do their feelings count? More important, are irrational feelings, prejudices, hatreds OK because those expressing them are victims or see themselves as victims? Will the ADL defend the rights of Palestinian ‘victims’ to be anti-Semites?

“The debate over the proposed community center to be built a few blocks away from the World Trade Center has missed this fundamentally important point. The man behind it, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, has spent years trying to offer a liberal interpretation of Islam. His most recent book, ‘What's Right With Islam is What's Right With America,’ argues that America is actually what an ideal Islamic society would look like because it is peaceful, tolerant, and pluralistic. Now, there is of course the much more fundamental issue, freedom of religion in America, which is a founding principle of this country.”

Other than New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s articulate defense of which Parvez Ahmed calls, in “Any Common Ground in the Ground Zero Mosque' Debate? . . . a speech of the ages,” on Sunday, August 8th, the most significant stance was taken by Fareed Zakaria when he returned an award he had received from ADL in 2005. He said, “I have to say I was personally deeply saddened by the ADL's stand, because five years ago the organization honored me with its Hubert Humphrey Award for First Amendment freedoms. Given the position that they have taken on a core issue of religious freedom in America, I cannot in good conscience keep that award. So this week I'm going to return to the ADL the handsome medal and the generous honorarium that came with it. I hope this might spur them to see that they have made a mistake, and to return to their historic, robust defense of freedom of religion in America, something they have subscribed to for decades and which I honor them for.”

Mayor Bloomberg succinctly framed the issue by saying, “Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.”

Publications such as Townhall magazine and columnist such as Star Parker, media broadcast such as Fox News and their signature program hosts Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck, and republican party interlocutors such as Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich do nothing to add to a better understanding of this issue or to make this a better country; they only bring our country down.

Myth of Spanish history or not, Americans need to adopt the principle of La Convivencia ("the Coexistence"), embracing an interplay of cultural ideas and religious tolerance. Without it, there is no hope for world peace.