President Obama’s affirmation of the Ground Zero mosque as a First Amendment religious liberty issue misses the point while selling the American people short.
Allowing the people behind the Park 51/Ground Zero mosque to build under the former shadow of the World Trade Center is akin to allowing the Westboro Baptist Church to build a campus next to Arlington National Cemetery: both might be exercises in religious freedom, but neither make proper use of liberty.
The American people understand this, in spite of what President Obama and his fellow elites think. Almost 70 percent of Americans oppose the Ground Zero mosque, but 61 percent of Americans also believe that a mosque can be built there. This seeming contradiction isn’t. In fact, it shows the American people know the difference between the right to do something versus its propriety.
Sadly, Obama isn’t the only politician who has no faith in the American people. Mayor Bloomberg, in the wake of the botched Times Square car bombing, preemptively denounced violence directed at New Yorkers of Pakistani descent. None happened. Even George W. Bush felt compelled to give his “Islam is Peace” speech at the Saudi-funded Islamic Center of Washington, D.C. only six days after 9/11–even though America hadn’t been convulsed with a wave of anti-Muslim violence.
While the elites view the public as benighted, they are completely ignorant about the people and motivations behind the proposed Ground Zero mosque. The Cordoba mosque at Park 51 is the brainchild of Feisal Abdul Rauf. Rauf, born in Kuwait of Egyptian parents, was a student at Columbia University during the riotous years of 1968 and 69. Rauf lives in Malaysia, away from his wife, Daisy Kahn, spending much of his time in the Middle East trying to raise the $100 million needed to build the 13-story Islamic center some 500 feet from Ground Zero. Imam Rauf once said of 9/11, “I wouldn’t say that the United States deserved what happened, but the United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.”
Rauf and his followers are clearly looking to make a statement about the strength and self-confidence of Islam in the face of Western timidity and lack of self-confidence. Take the very name of the proposed Islamic center — Cordoba. For over 500 years, from 711 to 1236, the Spanish city was an important outpost of Islam. A common strand of Islam believes that once a land has been conquered for Islam, Muslims must always work to keep it or to recapture it, if lost. Rauf’s Cordoba website even sports the phrase “Ground Zero” in its metatags, further evidence that Rauf is looking to confront, not merely preach to the faithful.
Rauf may have come of age in the narcissistic, leftwing-fueled ethos of late 1960s Ivy League American campus, but his actions also reflect a larger problem within much of Islam itself. In an insightful Arizona Republic column by M. Zuhdi Jasser, the president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy decries the “narcissistic spirituality” of many American Muslim groups, observing that, “Many major Muslim groups deny any responsibility for the reforms needed to stop radicals. Instead, they obsess on victimization, make belligerent demands, and wrap themselves in the First Amendment.” He criticizes these groups as “…indifferent to the feelings and needs of the majority of America, Muslim or non-Muslim…” while calling out the President for “parroting” these sentiments of victimization, rather than leading. Jasser closes his column by showing the obvious — that being a good American and an observant Muslim is not an inherent contradiction.
Rather than offer blanket support for a mosque less than two football fields away from where almost 3,000 Americans were killed by terrorists shouting “Allahu-Akbar,” President Obama should have maintained his silence. Instead of lecturing the American people on a local land use decision, the President should be directing the FBI, CIA and the Department of the Treasury to ensure that none of the $100 million being raised by Feisal Abdul Rauf is coming from sources linked to terror. America has been burned before by foreign funding of Islamist ventures in the U.S. The First Amendment is one thing, abandoning common sense in the middle of two wars against Islamist terrorism is quite another.