When the members of Manhattan’s Community Board 1 voted 29–1 in favor of the “Ground Zero Mosque,” some members of the board urged that the religious references in the proposal be deleted because they were “uncomfortable” with such language — so eager were they to avoid any appearance of infringing on the First Amendment.
Early last week, after months of polarizing debate, New York governor David Paterson sought to placate both sides by offering to give the organizers state-owned property located some distance from Ground Zero (while being sure to mention that he had no problem with the originally planned location). Late last week, President Obama weighed in by defending on First Amendment grounds the group’s right to build the mosque in the name of religious tolerance.
But the issue here is not freedom of religion; the issue is the obligation to show appreciation for, and sensitivity to, the families and greater community that bore the full brunt of one of the worst attacks ever on U.S. soil. Muslim fanatics murdered thousands of innocent Americans on 9/11 just two blocks from the site of the proposed mosque.
No moderate, the leader of the Ground Zero mosque refuses to recognize Hamas as a terrorist organization. He has even called the United States an accessory to the massacre in Lower Manhattan. In what can only be labeled as surreal, imam Feisal Abdul Rauf claims to be a “bridge builder.” All he has done is incite fury and pour rock salt onto raw wounds.
The failure of local and state officials, as well as the president of the United States, to stand up for New Yorkers — and by extension all Americans who live with reminders of 9/11 every day — betrays cowardice and weakness. Many of Obama’s critics have dryly intoned that he apologizes to everyone except the people who elected him.
The president’s highly criticized tin ear on economic and domestic issues is particularly evident in the mosque debate. By following his instinct to lecture rather than listen, he has managed to insult even some of his supporters. New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica writes:
This debate isn’t about [political] correctness. Or freedom of religion. Or even the idea that if this mosque doesn’t get built, it will mean we are now deciding about religious freedom in this country one neighborhood at a time. It is about common sense.
More than that, it is about the constituency of Sept. 11.
All too often on any given issue, Mr. Obama either insults or completely ignores a key constituency that is adversely affected by his policies or his statements, such as small businesses on health care. By supporting this mosque, President Obama is taking a backhand to the collective faces of 9/11 families and other Americans as well.
If a terrorist attack had occurred on the same scale in my home state of Florida, if elected governor, I would do anything and everything in my power to prevent a project like this from moving forward near the site, because it is simply indefensible. The very notion of building what will be seen by radical Muslims as a victory monument to Mohammed Atta and the other 18 terrorists and their despicable act on 9/11 is unthinkable.
Muslims can, and do, worship freely in the United States — a freedom not extended to Jews, Christians, and people of other faiths in many Muslim countries. For politicians to act as if the First Amendment enjoins them to support this project is a pathetic cop-out.
While U.S. forces risk their lives and shed their blood in battling to defeat jihadists halfway around the world, their commander-in-chief cannot even make a clear stand for decency at Ground Zero. It is the shameful act of a cowardly politician.
– Rick Scott is a candidate for governor of Florida.