This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.
If one of the chief purposes of an Islamic center by Ground Zero was to promote interfaith understanding, its chief backer – Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf – might want to think about building it elsewhere.
But if the Cordoba House will be about making a defiant assertion of Muslim identity and constitutional rights, the location near the fallen World Trade Center will do just fine. Whatever Rauf originally had in mind, and whoever’s to blame, that site has become an incitement to Islamophobia, and the public now sees it as a stick in the eye.
Much as he’s been maligned for defending the project, President Obama actually got things right two weeks ago – if you combine both his original statement and the half-step back he quickly took.
As he said initially, Muslims have the same right as other Americans to “not be treated differently by their government.” Next day, he said he was talking about constitutional freedoms, not the “wisdom” of the project.
No one was questioning either the wisdom or foolishness of the Cordoba House until recently, when the usual crew of mega-mouthed media rabble-rousers – thank you, Fox News – began whipping up a furor about it. It might otherwise have quietly been built, opened and absorbed by the commercial din and ethnic cacophony of Lower Manhattan.
That possibility is long gone. The project has since become an epicenter of anti-Muslim sentiment, which has rippled out to other mosque projects elsewhere in the country. The Washington Post reported Monday, for example, that citizens in Murfreesboro, Tenn., are protesting plans for an Islamic center there with such signs as “Keep Tennessee Terror Free.”
Islam in America has taken a beating since the uproar metastasized across the nation. A recent Time magazine poll is particularly discouraging.
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