In the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, the State Dept. spent millions in public diplomacy dollars throughout the Muslim World to promote this country as a beacon of freedom and a home of tolerance toward people of all religions.
As furor builds over the proposed World Trade Center mosque, it’s obvious that a big chunk of the money would have been better spent here.
The proposed mosque is fronted by the same guy whom the State Dept. held up as its "model moderate Muslim." He could be successor to America's Muslim, Muhammad Ali. The feds dispatched Feisal Abdul Rauf overseas to preach the message of American tolerance. Former propaganda czar Karen Hughes enlisted FAR to participate in the U.S.-Islamic World Forum in Doha, Qatar.
The FBI turned to him to host a New York forum designed to ease tensions with the Arab-American community upset with the increased crackdown in the war on terror. An irony: the FBI's New York headquarters is located near the WTC site, a stone’s throw from where FAR's Park51 Muslim center will probably never be built.
The August political silly season has got to do with much of the heat focused on the mosque. Supported by Fox TV, the GOP is stirring the pot and hoping to cook Democrats with cheap shots about the mosque. It’s 2010’s version of last year’s “death panel” fun.
Anti-mosque groups such as the ADL don't exactly cover themselves with glory with their opposition. The ADL’s piously praises "freedom of religion as a cornerstone of the American democracy, and that freedom must include the right of all Americans – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths – to build community centers and houses of worship."
It also "categorically rejects appeals to bigotry on the basis of religion, and condemn those whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry."
There is much double-talk from the ADL, which is following the style of John Kerry who famously voted for the President Bush's $87B emergency war funding before he voted against it. The ADL is for the mosque, but not where its propoents want it built. [Man of the hour: New York’s clueless Governor David Paterson has offered state land for the mosque. He probably has some spot in Elmira in mind.]
The ADL concedes that "proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right.
In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right."
Note to ADL: how far away is suitable for you? Will you support the Islamic Center being built at the site of Masjid Manhattan. That mosque is four blocks from Ground Zero, and has been there since 1970. Or do should Masjid Manhattan now be moved? How about Masjid al-Farah mosque on West Broadway, which is 12 blocks from Ground Zero?
Anti-mosque opponents also talk about being offended by Park51's proximity to WTC's "hallowed ground," while developers of the WTC hawk retail space on that same hallowed ground. The real estate people got it right. Capitalism is the American way just as freedom of religion is supposed to be.