New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg is some sort of bigot. In a speech about the Ground Zero mosque and religious freedom, Bloomberg stipulated that “it is fair to ask the organizers of the mosque to show some special sensitivity to the situation.”
Why do they, of all the sects represented in New York, have to show “special sensitivity”? Does the mayor demand “special sensitivity” of St. Paul’s Church, the Episcopal parish a few blocks from Ground Zero? And who appointed him arbiter of “special sensitivity”? Where in the First Amendment does it give mayors the power to enjoin builders of churches, synagogues, or mosques to show sensitivity, special or otherwise?
It must be that the mayor harbors a subtle animus toward Muslims that impels him to impinge on their constitutional rights in violation of all that this country holds dear. Or so one would conclude if Mayor Bloomberg’s obtuse hostility to opponents of the Ground Zero mosque were turned against him.
The mayor unloosed a self-righteous oration about how critics of the project are disgracing the memory of firefighters who died in 9/11, among other offenses against truth, justice, and the American way. But even he had to admit that there’s something different about building a mosque so close to the site of a horrific, history-changing act of Islamic terrorism. What Bloomberg refuses to see is that those who want to block the mosque are demanding a truly meaningful gesture in “special sensitivity.”
Namely, moving it elsewhere. If the founders of the project are as serious about interfaith bridge-building as they say, they’ll be delighted to find a less controversial location. Rubbing hurt feelings raw is not an act of understanding. Stoking a religiously charged debate at Ground Zero is not a blow for tolerance. They are provocations, by people who either are witless or understand exactly what they are doing.
It is true that Islam as such is not responsible for 9/11, but symbolism and the sensibilities of New Yorkers and victims of 9/11 can’t be discounted. When the Anti-Defamation League bravely bucked elite opinion to oppose the project, its national director, Abe Foxman, made an illuminating comparison with a Carmelite convent established outside Auschwitz in the 1980s.
Carmelites were not a cog in Adolf Hitler’s death machine. Survivors of the Holocaust and Jewish groups nonetheless found the Catholic outpost offensive, which was enough for Pope John Paul II to ask the nuns to move. True interfaith bridge-building is made of such forbearance.
The organizers of the mosque, in contrast, relish their hot-button address. Feisal Abdul Rauf, the project’s imam, wrote a book called What’s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America. But as former prosecutor Andy McCarthy points out, it was published in Malaysia under the more pungent title A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Dawa in the Heart of America Post-9/11 (dawa is Islamic proselytism). A noncommercial edition was published by two organizations that have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and promote Hamas.
Rauf himself won’t condemn the Palestinian terror group. Asked about Hamas in a recent radio interview, he said, “Terrorism is a very complex question,” the stock answer of anyone excusing terrorism. “I am a peace builder,” he explained — so long as peace-building doesn’t require saying a discouraging word about the Palestinian murderers of innocent Jews.
Even if Rauf has the best of intentions, a $100 million mosque is an open invitation to Saudi funding. Nina Shea of the Hudson Institute has documented how Saudi educational materials at American mosques exhort Muslims to spill the blood of infidels and Jews, in interfaith bridge-building, Wahhabi-style. If the Ground Zero project relies on Saudi money, the desert monarchy will have pulled a perverse twofer — funding the radical version of Islam that created Ground Zero, then funding the mosque that outraged the families of the victims.
No thanks. Good taste and common sense should prevail, or what Mayor Bloomberg, in his surpassing wisdom, calls “special sensitivity.”
– Rich Lowry is editor of National Review. He can be reached via e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2010 by King Features Syndicate.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This piece has been amended since its original posting.