Tolerance and the Ground Zero mosque

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I am fascinated that the same people who have been able to find a constitutional right to government control of education, health care, and the energy industry are unable to divine from that same document any rational basis for the government to prevent a mosque from being built on Ground Zero.

Of course, the issue is not whether the American Society for Muslim Advancement has a constitutional right to build a 13-story, mosque, and community center within 600 feet of Ground Zero. There are a number of things citizens have a right to do—things that the constitutional protection of speech protects—that people of good conscience choose not to do and that others might view as offensive or insulting.

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It is important to point out that there have been no pronouncements from opponents of the mosque that the American Society for Muslim Advancement does not have a right to build the mosque wherever they wish. Opponents have simply asked that the building not be built in that location. What remains unclear and unanswered is why the supporters of this mosque are choosing to move forward in spite of its offense and emotional injury to others.

Spokesman and chief fundraiser for the mosque, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, maintains that the project is about “promoting integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion through arts and culture.” The complex “will provide a place where individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, will find a center of learning, art and culture; and most importantly, a center guided by Islamic values in their truest form—compassion, generosity and respect for all.”

Tolerance, compassion and a respect for the feelings of others might lead the builders of the mosque to issue a statement, saying something along the lines of: “While we strongly disagree with the sentiments of those opposed to the location of this center, we understand and are sympathetic to the deep emotions fueling those sentiments. Moreover, we are respectful of those feelings and, so, in the name of love, we are going to move our mosque a few blocks up the street. It is our sincere hope that this gesture will be the beginning of a healing process that will put us all on the path to a victory of our common humanity over the ideals that fueled the horrible events of 9/11/01. We are dedicated to making this center a beacon of hope, learning, and compassion not only for the city of New York, but for the entire nation.”

Alas, there have been no statements approaching that kind of generous tone. Instead, what opponents have heard are accusations of bigotry and ignorance, lectures on American values, and a conviction that the medicine of this insult is good for America no matter how bitter it tastes.

So much for tolerance, compassion and community cohesion.

What could possibly account for the disconnect between the elites and the 70 percent of Americans who oppose the building of the mosque at Ground Zero?

There is a small segment of the left that simply hates America. There is no other way to describe it. These hard-core leftists do not respect America’s traditions or institutions, so they are comrades-in-arms with any force that seeks to undermine or insult those institutions and they rush to stand in opposition to anything that smacks of patriotism or national pride.

A much larger segment of the political left has chosen to wrap its patriotism in the brown-paper wrap of multi-culturalism. For these soft leftists, America’s great strength is its diversity, (as opposed to the founding belief in certain objective truths to which all men must be bound). For them, American values must be malleable enough to fit into the larger context of world citizenry. Thus, everything is American! And yet, in truth, nothing is American because America is so many different things and all of them of equal value, none more sacred than any of the others!

The over-riding motivator, however, is guilt. Leftist—both hard and soft—are still seeking to atone for the sins of our nation’s past. They are hesitant to stand in defense of Western civilization and American ideals and culture lest they be seen as defending Whiteness, and by extension, to be standing in opposition to non-Whiteness. It is only through national humility and apologetic, cultural indulgence that we can absolve ourselves of the nation’s original sin and win the hearts of our enemies.

Most Americans, however, seem to understand that we are engaged in a battle for the soul of America. No amount of genuflection toward our enemies will make us safer. And each accommodation we make in the name of political correctness brings us one step closer to ruin. It is both fascinating and infuriating that the mosque’s supporters do not understand this simple truth. Perhaps they do understand, but simply choose to ignore it.

(Joseph C. Phillips is author of “He Talk Like a White Boy,” available where ever books are sold.)

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