A Terrible Decision by the Anti-Defamation League

By Jeffrey Goldberg

The ADL has criticized the idea of building a mosque and community center near the site of Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. If I read the press release correctly, the ADL is opposing the building of the mosque because bigots also oppose it:

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.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/07/a-terrible-decision-by-the-anti-defamation-league/60687/