By Jennifer Lipman
August 23, 2010
Daisy Khan, the wife of the imam behind the "9/11 Mosque", has compared the opposition to the plan to antisemitism. She’s absolutely right.
When I visited Washington last year, what struck me was America’s passionate belief in the constitutionally-affirmed right to freedom of speech.
Americans everywhere talk proudly of an ideology of tolerance, or refer to President Franklin Roosevelt’s "Four Freedoms" speech in which freedom of religion was proposed as a fundamental right. Where is that freedom now?
The logic is that it is hugely insensitive to build a mosque at the site of the worst peacetime attack on America in decades. Essentially: the World Trade Centre terrorists were Muslim, ergo doing something good for Muslims is an insult to the victims.
Except "Muslims" like "Jews" or any other religious group are not one entity. We joke “Two Jews, three opinions” and so forth, but the same is true of Islam. Certainly, world events indicate there are Islamic extremists, but by no means that all Muslims subscribe to extremist views.
The couple behind the Cordoba Initiative – a community centre of which a mosque is just one aspect – certainly don’t seem to. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has spent his career working to improve dialogue and understanding between religions. That is something that we should welcome, not try to stifle on the grounds of sensitivity.
As Hal Goodman writes in the Jerusalem Post: “What if they opposed a synagogue?” What, indeed?
This newspaper, the Jewish blogosphere and anyone with an ounce of decency would be up in arms at the thought of a religious group being denied a place of worship. And rightly so; there is no such thing as freedom for all, except one.
The people who will be praying in the mosque are not the same as the terrorists who hijacked planes nearly nine years ago. While they may share a religion, they don’t necessarily share the interpretation.
Inscribed on the Statue of Liberty is this verse, written by Jewish immigrant Emma Lazarus in 1883: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
America has always held itself up as place where people who have not been able to elsewhere can breathe free. It is sad that so many feel this is no longer the case.