Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain--unnecessarily--and that is not right.
This has caused Marc Tracy to write, perceptively: "Founded in 1913, the ADL, in its words, 'fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.' Except when it does the precise opposite."
I have explained my support for the Lower Manhattan mosque project before, but let me restate two points:
1) The organization behind the project, the Cordoba Initiative, is a moderate group interested in advancing cross-cultural understanding. It is very far from being a Wahhabist organization;
2) This is a strange war we're fighting against Islamist terrorism. We must fight the terrorists with alacrity, but at the same time we must understand that what the terrorists seek is a clash of civilizations. We must do everything possible to avoid giving them propaganda victories in their attempt to create a cosmic war between Judeo-Christian civilization and Muslim civilization. The fight is not between the West and Islam; it is between modernists of all monotheist faiths, on the one hand, and the advocates of a specific strain of medievalist Islam, on the other. If we as a society punish Muslims of good faith, Muslims of good faith will join the other side. It's not that hard to understand. I'm disappointed that the ADL doesn't understand this.
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