For a few minutes on Friday night (and before the PR debacle on Saturday) it seemed like a grownup had weighed in on the Ground Zero mosque mess, but not for long. President Obama had the nerve - the temerity - to say that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. Including on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. Gosh. This mild observation caused veins to pop, minds to boggle and political self preservation, bigotry, prejudice, venom, fear and hatred to spurt all over the media.
Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich are hyperventilating to outdo each other in over-reacting to the President's remarks at the Iftar Dinner he hosted at the White House.
Sarah Palin wants Obama to get the "Muslim mosque" developers to take up New York Governor Paterson's offer to find state land and move it away from GoundZero . She doesn't seem to think it unseemly or odd that a President would pressure a religious group to take state land that they don't want for a private religious building. She doesn't seem to think that there might be a church state conflict. Mind you, she doesn't think there is much of a separation of church and state, and she's OK with America being a Christian nation. Remember when she spoke to the Women of Joy?
Newt Gingrich, an intelligent man who should know better, says "There is nothing surprising in the President's continued pandering to radical Islam. What he said last night is untrue and inaccurate. The fact is, this is not about religious liberty." The fact is that this is. Islam's just not a "popular" religion with non Muslims in America. Newt's idea of freedom of religion in America is be as restrictive towards Muslims as the Saudis are to Christians and Jews.
Dana Perino, former White House Press Secretary, says on Fox on Sunday "Of course, everybody's for religious freedom." I'm sure she is. However, quite apart from Lt. Gov Ron Ramsey ® Tennessee, who suggests that freedom of speech might not apply to Islam because it might be a cult, and Muslims might be invading the US, quite a few people feel that religious freedom should apply to everyone except Muslims, because just maybe they might be up to something.
Florida Democratic Senate candidate Jeff Greene has jumped in, showing some political acumen ( if not cynicism). With a constituency containing many retired New Yorkers, he says "President Obama has this all wrong".
Senator John Cornyn ® Texas says the building of a mosque near Ground Zero is not about religious liberty. Yes, it is. It's about a religion that many people don't understand and are not comfortable with. He also predicts it will become an issue in the fall midterm elections. He's right, it will. It's why Democrats are silently (and some not so silently) fuming - did the President have to drop this into the middle of the summer recess, when cable news is itching for an issue?
Rep Peter King (R) New York, is having some trouble with his memory. Now he says "I support mosques, obviously. I visited many mosques before September 11, and I was one of the first to defend the Muslim community after September 11. He seems to have forgotten that three years ago he'd had enough. "Unfortunately, we have too many mosques in this country."
Do we really need another mosque in New York? New York GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio thinks not, in his latest statement condemning Obama's mosque speech. He's set the limit at 100. Well, do we really need another church? I used to live in Nashville, we had one on almost every corner, and they were still building them when I left. And why not? Mind you, there's a bit of a problem in Murfreesboro - not far away - with an Islamic Center. Some citizens are apparently concerned that Sharia law will be imposed there.
A recent study by Duke and the University of North Carolina concluded that "contemporary mosques are actually a deterrent to the spread of militant Islam and terrorism".
Let's be clear on a couple of things. Do a few people attend mosques with ill intent towards America, have people hatched plots in mosques, and will it happen again? Yes. That has happened and it will happen again. People have genuine concerns that Cordoba House will be used to foment terror. But this idea that Muslims should be out of sight, out of mind, invisible, untouchables, doesn't address that. Generally speaking, making people welcome and including them in the life of the community discourages them from wishing you harm.
Someone still can, and someone might, foment terror in an Islamic center somewhere north of Canal Street or east of Broadway, instead of at 45 Park Place. However, moving Cordoba House makes 19 dead losers larger than life, it says we're still impacted by you. This is New York we're talking about. The city stands up for itself.
This is about demonizing all Muslims because some of the worst men we can imagine defiled Islam by calling themselves Muslims, murdered 3,000 human beings, and devastated their families. It ignores the fact that Muslims died as victims on September 11, it ignores the fact that Muslims serve in the US military, it ignores the fact that Muslims contribute to the good of our country, it ignores the fact that al Qaeda has killed more Muslims than anyone else.
This isn't who we are. This is sad.
Follow Victoria Jones on Twitter: www.twitter.com/victoriajones1