If we allow 9/11 to make us abandon the First Amendment's declaration of religious freedom for all, then the terrorists have won. It shocks me that so many Americans are ready and willing to ditch their commitment to the Constitution, demanding the prohibition of the Cordoba House, an Islamic cultural center -- which many are calling a mosque -- from being built near Ground Zero. When Timothy McVeigh bombed Oklahoma City, did Oklahomans suddenly call for a ban on the congregation of Christian libertarians in the area? Islamic extremists, not all Muslims, bombed the World Trade Center. Hitler, not all Christians, committed genocide on the Jews. If we suddenly confuse the part for the whole, where does it end? Are all white people members of the KKK? Do all Catholic priests molest little boys?
President Obama was absolutely correct to reiterate the constitutional right of any religious group to build a place of worship and cultural exchange anywhere on American soil. There are churches and synagogues near Ground Zero. Why not a mosque or Islamic cultural center? It would be one thing if a Jihadist group wanted to build a center near the hallowed ground of the former World Trade Center -- a place especially dear to my heart, as I expressed in my blog post last week. However, from what I understand, the Islamic cultural center is intended as a locus of inter-faith dialogue and the promotion of peace.
On the other hand, some now condemn what they view as Obama's "backpedaling" on the matter of the Cordoba House, his shifting from strong support of it in his Ramadan speech to an ostensibly wishy-washy stance on it, with his statement that he supported the right of the Cordoba people to build their center, but would not comment on "the wisdom" of the decision. At first, I took offense at the President's seeming to disavow his initial courageous and constitutional position. However, musician, entrepreneur and Oprah Radio talk show host, Derrick Ashong, pointed out in a conversation we had this morning that it is a municipal matter, the specific merits of which are not for the President to debate. "He is a man of genuine nuance," said Derrick, "and the problem with that is that most people don't want to parse out that nuance."
Touché. I agree that it is not for the President to meddle in municipal politics. It was right for him to take a strong stand on behalf of the First Amendment, both nationally and internationally -- as he delivered his speech at an international Ramadan dinner, intended to win hearts and minds of Muslims worldwide, in great part to reinforce our national security.
Let us think and conduct dialogue in a more nuanced way as Americans. Let us analyze our President, our Constitution, our religious institutions, our domestic and international policies, our media, each other as individuals, in a manner befitting what is best and brightest in ourselves.