Suppose the American Nazi party proposed building a cultural center outside the Holocaust Memorial in New York City. Would the high-minded politicians and columnists, many of them Jewish (Mayor Bloomberg, Richard Cohen, et al) defend their First Amendment rights to do so, as they are now doing on behalf of the proposed Islamic Center two blocks from Ground Zero?
Constitutional evangelists would likely spurn such a question. Cohen calls such comparisons (a Japanese aeronautical center at Pearl Harbor, a KKK headquarters in Selma, a Wagner opera house outside Auschwitz) “demagogic buffoonery” and a “pornography of analogy.”
But if such parallels are really “demagogic,” take another point of view. Would any Islamic government allow an American center to be built at one of our own bombing sites in Iraq or Afghanistan?
Presumably our First Amendment champions would say no. But they would hasten to invoke American exceptionalism: as the leader of the free world, we as a nation are morally obligated to set the gold standard of freedom and human rights. In short, we must extend freedoms to those who would not only deny them to us, but wage holy war on America as a colonialist, apostate, morally corrupt society.
In rationalizing current Islamic terrorism, political progressives insist that holy warriors, jihadists, are a radical fringe group not at all indicative of the Muslim community at large. To this day, however, entire nations — Iran, Somalia, Indonesia and many other Islamic theocracies – sanction beheadings, stonings, floggings, and amputations not merely for western “infidels,” but alleged journalist “spies,” homosexuals, and adulteresses.
According to Islamic scholar Nonie Darwish, no fewer than 35,200 verses in the Koran encourage such practices. Above all, in the “Sword Verses,” Mohammad preaches: “Those who reject Islam must be killed. If they turn back, take them and kill them wherever you find them” (4:89). Furthermore: “I will terrorize the unbelievers…. Strike off their heads and cut off each of their fingers and toes” (8:12). (Also see: 8:39, 8:59, 9:5, 47:4, etc. etc.)
Have the jihadists, as their moderate brethren insist, truly misinterpreted their holy text? And are their sympathizers really so few? According to the UK Sunday Times poll after 9/11, 40% of British Muslims supported bin Laden’s attack. In 2004, a Pew survey reported that 65% of Pakistanis viewed bin Laden favorably, as did 55% of Jordanians, and 45% of Moroccans.
And what of our progressive Constitutional purists who defend the right of such a religion to freely import its dogma to the very site of a slaughter? Does it occur to Mayor Bloomberg that in an Islamic theocracy he would more likely be a Zionist prisoner than a billionaire politician? Does Mr. Cohen consider that he, like Daniel Pearl, would more likely be relieved of his head than be allowed to pen admirably high-minded, humanitarian columns? Does Rachel Maddow realize she would more likely be stoned as gay journalist spy, rather than have her own TV show?
These commentators and their colleagues continue to decry those who oppose a Ground Zero mosque as ignorant, prejudiced, Islamophobic. In fact, theirs is more a fear of terrorism itself and of the religious intolerance that feeds it. Most Americans would fear medieval Christianity no less, and would be equally troubled if Torquemada or Savonarola came back and petitioned for a cultural center.
The great irony is this: Our forefathers wrote the First Amendment in order to outlaw Old World religious intolerance and persecution. It ushered in a modern society where church and state are separate, and where all faiths are respected just long as they respect others.
It is no mistake that Islam, which literally and zealously clings to its seventh century dogma, and which claims a monopoly on truth and God’s affection, has flowered in the form of tyrannical theocracies. How, then, might our democratic Washington or Jefferson have felt about extending constitutional freedoms to a faith which self-righteously demands its freedoms on foreign soil but, historically, has warred against the freedom of others?
Before flying into the Twin Towers and incinerating 3,000 innocents of every religion, including their own, the jihadists cried “God is Great!” What sort of “religion” would inspire such a cry?
Religion is defined in many different ways, but surely most would agree that, in modern practice, it is a deist belief which – in spite of historic atrocities – promotes tolerance, peace, and understanding.
Feisal Abdul Rauf, the sponsor and spokesman of Cordoba House, pledges to foster these very virtues. But, he refuses to acknowledge Hamas as a terrorist organization. “Look, I’m not a politician,” he says. “The issue of terrorism is a very complex question.” Yet there is no complexity about Hamas’s body count much less its commitment to destroy Israel. Nor will Rauf say if Hamas, the Saudis, Iranians or other groups or nations which cheered 9/11 are behind its funding.
In spite of implicitly pleading the Fifth on these questions, Rauf has disclosed his belief that 9/11 was largely caused by American foreign policy. But of the civilians killed, none were responsible for that policy. Moreover, ninety nationalities were on the casualty list.
Many conflicted First Amendment champions bring up the “sensitivity” issue. Manhattan has more than a hundred other mosques, they say, but why must this one be built where thousands lost their lives to holy warriors? Wrote Muslim Canadian Congress members, Raheel Raza and Tarek Fatah:“We Muslims know the … mosque is meant to be a deliberate provocation, to thumb our noses at the infidel.”
In spite of all this, we remain a country of freedom for all. Intolerance has never been defeated by counter-intolerance or discrimination. Let Cordoba House be built and let it flourish, but only under reasonable conditions:
First, that Rauf openly identify Hamas, Hezbollah, and el-Qaeda as Islamic terrorist organizations and pledge that his mosque will divorce itself from them entirely. Second, that he reveal all its investors and show that they have no links with jihadist groups or nations. And third, that Cordoba House will identify and dismiss any visitors, worshippers, or staffers found to have terrorist ties.
In the tragic wake of 9/11, is this not a small price to pay for freedom, not to mention the life and well-being, of others?