The controversy over building an Islamic cultural center at 51 Park Avenue in lower Manhattan rages. How different that description sounds than the much-ballyhooed appellation of "a mosque at Ground Zero." Or, should I say (as does Fox News) MOSQUE AT GROUND ZERO! I confess that I am appalled at the attention this issue is garnering.
I had not formulated what it was that so bothers me about this "debate"--that is, until I read Frank Rich's excellent editorial in the Sunday New York Times. To get the full effect of his logic, you have to read the whole piece, but in brief what he argues is that by whipping up an atmosphere of "Islamophobia" the opponents of the proposed building have sapped what little support may have remained for the protracted war in Afghanistan.
What incredible irony. George W. Bush, as president, committed this country to a war in Afghanistan for the presumed purpose of helping a beleaguered country free itself from the Taliban tyranny. You would think that, if anything, the people who think the Taliban should be defeated would support the building of a center that promotes a peaceful more moderate view of Islam. That irony is what is captured in the title of the Frank Rich piece: How Fox Betrayed Petraeus.
Rich also points out that the New York Times ran a substantial piece back in December, 2009, and no one screamed "MOSQUE AT GROUND ZERO."
It is extremely troubling that one of our great freedoms--freedom of speech--became the vehicle for the story that threatens another of our great freedoms--freedom of religion.
Slate did a wonderful piece that traces the timeline for how this controversy was generated--one might even say manufactured. What a sad commentary this article is on how one or two people have manipulated and exaggerated information, and in the process have whipped a great many people in the United States into full-throated war cries to undo a bedrock foundation of our nation.
So, on September 11, 2001, terrorists attacked the United States. Their intent was to bring down this country. And what is our response? To do to ourselves what the terrorists could not do.
We have met the enemy. . .and he is us.
Image is one of the Four Freedoms series Norman Rockwell painted--Freedom of Speech; Freedom to Worship; Freedom from Want; Freedom from Fear. The background story one the paintings and the "freedoms" is here.