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Joan Z. Shore

Joan Z. Shore

Posted: August 24, 2010 11:59 AM

Ground Zero: Rights Gone Wrong

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The best news to emerge in the debate over the Ground Zero mosque is the opposition from some Muslim quarters: They are actually against the project!

While true-blue Americans continue to preach the First Amendment, and hoist themselves up as paragons of tolerance and camaraderie, a few clear-eyed Muslims see the dangerous implications of erecting this mosque at this particular site. They know there could well be a backlash of resentment, and inter-faith relations could actually worsen rather than improve.

And they know that the extremist elements that plotted and executed the 9/11 massacre would be cheering -- not in praise of American magnanimity but in sheer derision of American stupidity.

Are we trying to teach terrorists a lesson? Are we trying to be holier-than-thou? What folly!

The Ground Zero mosque project is an in-your-face challenge -- take it or leave it. At best, it is a public relations gambit; at worst, it is a huge piece of propaganda. The people who are falling for it ("intellectuals" and "liberals") are sanctimoniously quoting Constitutional rights -- as did President Obama. But there is a big difference between "rights" and "right".

Every American has the Constitutional right to bear arms, but it is not "right" to pack a pistol, or shoulder a rifle, as you go about your daily chores, or go to work, or go to school.

Every American has the Constitutional right to free speech, but it is not "right" (indeed, it is a criminal offense) to indulge in libel or life-threatening lies (such as shouting "Fire!" in a theater).

And while every American has the right to worship (or not) according to his beliefs, it is not "right" to impose one's religion on an entire community, appending the religious to the secular. Remember the commotion when a state judicial building in Montgomery, Alabama, erected a Ten Commandments monument? It was ordered to be removed. Would Mayor Bloomberg allow Catholics to erect a crucifix at Ground Zero? Could Jews put up a Star of David? How can he justify a mosque, albeit cosseted in the cloak of a "community center"?

Underlying every Constitutional right is the tacit recognition of "rightness" -- that which is appropriate, decent, respectful, and just. The Founding Fathers were not conferring laissez-faire and unbridled permissiveness on the fledgling nation: they were setting down guidelines for civilized and democratic behavior.

Americans today do not like guidelines, or limits, or restraints. It is a nation of "anything goes", all in the name of Freedom. But as the song reminds us, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose". And what we have lost, most of all, is our sense of "rightness".