As the far right seems to relish a clash of civilizations, his op-ed strikes me as so transparently constructive, so evidently in the interests not only of domestic peace but of strategic victory against Jihadist terror that I'm again at a a loss to understand why so many have reacted so ferociously to this project. I can see only one way this multi-faith community center is offensive: if you regard the mass murderers of 9/11 to be the true heart of Islam and especially American Islam. I don't. I never have. In fact, the distinction is precisely what we are fighting for. Or have I just lost my mind? I read my old friend Marty Peretz essentially calling the imam's moderation a lie and just do not understand how this can lead anywhere but more religious violence.
Who, after all, can object to this?
The wonderful outpouring of support for our right to build this community center from across the social, religious and political spectrum seriously undermines the ability of anti-American radicals to recruit young, impressionable Muslims by falsely claiming that America persecutes Muslims for their faith. These efforts by radicals at distortion endanger our national security and the personal security of Americans worldwide. This is why Americans must not back away from completion of this project. If we do, we cede the discourse and, essentially, our future to radicals on both sides. The paradigm of a clash between the West and the Muslim world will continue, as it has in recent decades at terrible cost. It is a paradigm we must shift.
But it is increasingly a paradigm that some on the right - and not just the extremes - seem to have embraced. But this was a nice touch:
President Obama and Mayor Michael Bloomberg both spoke out in support of our project. As I traveled overseas, I saw firsthand how their words and actions made a tremendous impact on the Muslim street and on Muslim leaders. It was striking: a Christian president and a Jewish mayor of New York supporting the rights of Muslims. Their statements sent a powerful message about what America stands for, and will be remembered as a milestone in improving American-Muslim relations.
I don't think I've gotten soft. I despise Islamist terror and Islamist politics. But I do not believe that we defeat them by empowering them, by giving them noxious symbols of Western intolerance in order to justify their own far far worse bigotry. We defeat them by the example of our toleration and the precision of our military power. The rest is poison.
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