“We promised, ‘Never Forget.’ Is that just meaningless words on a bumper sticker faded by the sun?”
Those are the words of New York City firefighter Robert Reeg, who survived the September 11, 2001 attacks at the World Trade Center. Reeg, like many other Americans, is adamantly opposed to the construction of a mosque just two blocks away from where Islamic extremists felled the Twin Towers, which have come to symbolize the heart of American freedom and patriotism. His question about our current public psyche may be brief, but it certainly is powerful.
The project to build a mosque and community center, officially known as the “Cordoba Initiative,” is being spearheaded by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who wrote a book in 2004 titled What’s Right with Islam Is What’s Right with America, alternatively titled A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Da’wa in the Heart of America Post-9/11 in some other nations. Da’wa is essentially a call for conversion to Islam.
The book was reissued by an American branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was responsible for sending millions of dollars to Hamas, the terrorist organization of choice in Palestine. In fact, Feisal Abdul Rauf has declined to publicly classify Hamas as a terrorist organization. Contrary to Imam Rauf’s judgment (or lack thereof), The Council on Foreign Relations states on its website that Hamas has been responsible for the killing of over five hundred people in at least 350 terrorist attacks since 1993; many of those attacks were suicide bombings.
The project, as well as its figurehead, is clearly less than desirable for a location that is now considered by most Americans to be hallowed ground. Some of our friends on the left have invoked the Constitution, which they often choose to ignore (see McDonald v. Chicago, Gratz v. Bollinger, et al.), in defense of the mosque’s erection, and President Obama has insisted that Muslims have the same right to worship as Christians, Jews, and everyone else. He is absolutely correct, and we as a country must respect the right of all our people to worship freely, but the Cordoba Initiative must be put into proper context before activists cry bigotry.
There are currently, by all credible estimates, some 100 mosques in New York City, and there is ample space in the Big Apple for more. Muslims, just as much as any other religious devotees, are currently able to worship freely in this country – therefore this is not an issue of religious freedom, it is merely a matter of location. If the construction of all mosques was outright banned, then this would become a first amendment concern.
In addition to the ambiguity of the Constitutional abuse allegations that some liberals are making, there is an inherent hypocrisy in their citation of the first amendment as a defense for the mosque. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the greatest civil rights triumphs of the 20th century, should be illegal according to many proponents of the Ground Zero mosque. Before 1964, private property owners were allowed to blatantly discriminate against any race, religion, or ethnicity so long as it was not a matter of public property or government interest. Activists of the 1960s insisted that decency and respect should trump private property rights, but now that the shoe is on the other foot, supporters maintain that the private property rights of the Cordoba Initiative’s owners supercede the decency and respect that 9/11 victims and their families deserve.
The right to private property must be kept fully intact, but we as Americans should value our neighbors’ right to grieve just as much as our right to build on our land. The first amendment is not a mandate for inconsiderate construction.
America is great not just because of its remarkable freedoms and diversity, but more so because of its tolerance and respect for such freedoms and diversity. Muslim-Americans have every right to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero, but that does not mean they should act on that right as if it were a command to build. With the ninth anniversary of the September 11th attacks upon us, this is an appropriate moment for Feisal Abdul Rauf and the planners of the Cordoba Initiative to show that they have not forgotten about respect and tolerance by moving their mosque to a more considerate location.
To answer FDNY firefighter Robert Reeg’s question – no, “Never Forget” has not become a meaningless slogan to be faded away on bumper stickers, at least not to everyone. A CNN Poll released on August 11 shows that a solid seventy percent of Americans are opposed to the mosque’s current construction site. We as a nation may have become hasty to judge at times, and naive at certain junctures in the past, but when it comes to the day when three thousand innocent Americans were murdered in the name of radical Islam, I hope I speak for all my fellow students and citizens when I say we have not forgotten.