THE BLOG
08/25/2010 10:58 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

The Case for the Mosque, Mohammed Cartoons, And Freedom...

Muslim-Americans should be free to build a mosque near Ground Zero or anywhere else in the United States. But while they enjoy this inalienable constitutional right, they should also work on promoting the very same freedom that they benefit from.

When Comedy Central censored images of Prophet Mohammed on TV cartoon show South Park, in April, those same Muslim-Americans should have spoken against such an act.

Like Germans today who, more than other peoples, go out of their way to denounce Nazi crimes and distance themselves from this frantic ideology, Muslims should take extraordinary measures to condemn terrorism. Muslim-Americans in particular are required to stand up for freedom as practiced in the United States, and perhaps lead the way in preaching its tenants among their coreligionists around the world.

By the same token, Muslim-Americans should have defended the right of Danish cartoonists to draw Prophet Mohammed, though not necessarily endorse the content of the cartoons. And while doing so, Muslim-Americans should have explained to their religionists, worldwide, how censorship is not rooted in Islam.

Mohammed came with a universal message. He does not belong to one ethnicity or one group, the East or the West. As such, peoples around the world have every right to endorse his teachings, or reject them. What might be divine for some Muslims, might not be for non-Muslims. As long as freedom of expression and religion is observed for all, divinity should remain in the eye of its beholder.

In Islam, Mohammed is a first among equals. Despite his elevated status among his followers, Mohammed taught that God had sent him as the last in a line of messengers including Moses, Jesus and others. Technically, Moses and Jesus have equal status as that of Mohammed. Yet, we don't see Muslims going insane over depictions of either one of them around the world.
For Muslim-Americans, it is also good to understand and promote the idea that Islam is a religion, not a nation state. Many mosque opponents tried to draw a similarity between the Manhattan debacle and what they described as erecting a WWII Japanese memorial in Pearl Harbor. There is no parallel here. Japan is a country whose people endorse different religious beliefs. Islam is a religion that is followed by people from different countries and nationalities.
However, terrorists try to promote Islam as a nationality in order to gain world reach. Anyone who buys into such idea would be merely rubberstamping Islamist terrorist thought.
The division resulting from the possibility of building a mosque near Ground Zero, or in Tennessee as reported in The Washington Post, is not about Islam or freedom within the United States.

The controversy rather belongs to "hate politics" as envisioned by radicals, whether Muslim, Christian or otherwise. When terrorists launched their attacks inside the US, they knew their act could not have shaken America's military or economic might.

Yet these Islamist terrorist might have calculated, and rightly so, that by directing their hate against Americans, on behalf of Islam, Muslim-Americans will risk an equal amount of hate from non-Muslim Americans on the rebound. Polarization will then create a cycle of violence, abuse and undermine freedom.

When Americans perceive the 9/11 attacks as acts of terrorism that do not represent 1.5 billion Muslims, or their ideology, they would be undermining the terrorists' scheme.

However when Americans, driven by unfounded fears from Islam, Sharia law or their compatriot Muslim-Americans, the 9/11 attacks would be going according to plan. In this case, terrorists could not have done more to divide Americans and make them doubt and try to censor each other, hoping this would undermine the foundations of the republic, in the mosque's case, the First Amendment.

Ignoring the First Amendment to observe "sensitivities" of the families of victim of 9/11, is the equivalent of ignoring the constitution in April and observing Muslim "sensitivities" by censoring the depiction of Mohammed in South Park and censoring free speech.

"Sensitivities" is an abstract word and represents emotions. A free country is never built on emotions but rather on a constitution. When Americans disregard these constitutional foundations of freedom, they would be doing the terrorists the biggest of favors.

On 9/11, Muslims died in the attack on the World Trade Center in Manhattan. Families of these victims might want to pray in memoriam of their loved ones in the nearby mosque to be constructed. And while doing so, they might be joined by other grieving families from different religions, a scene of American unity that the terrorists had certainly conspired to undermine.