But This Particular Mosque?

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Masjid Sultan (Sultan Mosque)
Masjid Sultan (Sultan Mosque),
originally uploaded by judhi.

President Obama weighed in last night with his opinion that a Muslim group has the right to build a Mosque on the site of the 9/11 attack. He based his opinion on America’s principle of Freedom of Religion, and noted that in the past the building of Synagogues and Catholic Churches have sometimes met with similar opposition. “But time and again, the American people have demonstrated that we can work through these issues, stay true to our core values and emerge stronger for it,” he said. “So it must be and will be today.”

I couldn’t agree more…. As far as this goes. The President of the United States is given the responsibility to enforce the Constitution, and the Constitution clearly agrees with his statement that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. He would be defying his oath of office to say otherwise, or to take a stand against the legal right of this group to build this Mosque. You can’t fault the President for respecting his oath and honoring the Constitution – in return for which, he will of course receive the usual outpouring of Republican claptrap.

But the point here, it seems to me, is not the legal issue. The point here is the utter tastelessness, the blatant discourtesy, of a group of people attempting to do something that is so clearly, so hugely, and so understandably offensive to so many fellow Americans. Heaven knows, we have had a history of blithely building malls on top of Native American burial grounds, but at least there has finally been nearly-universal outrage about such things, and few Americans are still likely to defend such rude, crude, and offensive behavior. If a Christian group petitioned to build a church over the ashes of Auschwitz, I certainly hope their plan would be roundly condemned – regardless of whether such a construction project was “legal”.

Mr. Obama is right, “the American people have demonstrated that we can work through these issues.” The group of people who want to build this Mosque are American people, and it is time for them to demonstrate that they can, indeed, stay true to American core values – including the core values of reasonableness, thoughtfulness, and a decent respect and consideration for their fellow citizens.