Tolerance and the Ground Zero Mosque

Townhall.comJoseph Phillips

I am fascinated that the same people who have been able to find a Constitutional right to government control of education, healthcare, and the energy industry are unable to divine from that same document any rational basis for the government to prevent a mosque from being built on Ground Zero.

Of course, the issue is not whether the American Society for Muslim Advancement has a constitutional right to build a 13-story, mosque, and community center within 600 feet of Ground Zero. There are a number of things citizens have a right to do—things that the constitutional protection of speech protects—that people of good conscience choose not to do and that others might view as offensive or insulting.

It is important to point out that there have been no pronouncements from opponents of the mosque that the American Society for Muslim Advancement does not have a right to build the mosque wherever they wish. Opponents have simply asked that the building not be built in that location. What remains unclear and unanswered is why the supporters of this mosque are choosing to move forward in spite of its offense and emotional injury to others.

Spokesman and chief fundraiser for the mosque, imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, maintains that the project is about “promoting integration, tolerance of difference and community cohesion through arts and culture.” The complex “will provide a place where individuals, regardless of their backgrounds, will find a center of learning, art, and culture; and most importantly, a center guided by Islamic values in their truest form—compassion, generosity, and respect for all.”

Tolerance, compassion, and a respect for the feelings of others might lead the builders of the mosque to issue a statement, saying something along the lines of: “While we strongly disagree with the sentiments of those opposed to the location of this center, we understand and are sympathetic to the deep emotions fueling those sentiments. Moreover, we are respectful of those feelings and, so, in the name of love, we are going to move our mosque a few blocks up the street. It is our sincere hope that this gesture will be the beginning of a healing process that will put us all on the path to a victory of our common humanity over the ideals that fueled the horrible events of 9/11/01. We are dedicated to making this center a beacon of hope, learning, and compassion not only for the city of New York, but for the entire nation.”

Alas, there have been no statements approaching that kind of generous tone. Instead, what opponents have heard are accusations of bigotry and ignorance, lectures on American values, and a conviction that the medicine of this insult is good for America no matter how bitter it tastes. More: