"Because Muslims Killed Us On 9/11!"

Pete Wehner takes on Bill O'Reilly's inflammatory generalizations about the Park51 project. When asked why he opposed building Park51 on The View, O'Reilly spluttered the above quote. Wehner:

O’Reilly’s claim is unfair – and O’Reilly should understand why. Here’s an illustration that might help clarify things. Assume that Sam Harris went on The O’Reilly Factor and, based on the child-abuse scandals that tarnished the reputation of the Catholic Church, made the sweeping claim that “Catholics are child molesters.” My guess is that O’Reilly would (rightly) respond, “No. Some priests molested children, and it was a horrific thing. But you can’t indict an entire faith based on the sins of a relatively few number of priests.”

Wehner nonetheless exonerates O'Reilly from bigotry. But if indicting all Muslims, including American Muslims, with al Qaeda is not bigotry, what would be? Wouldn't Pete's analogy hypothetically make Sam Harris an anti-Catholic bigot? Even allowing for the heat of the moment, O'Reilly hasn't backed down since, and indeed dug in. But I would like to endorse Pete's rather beautiful sentiments here:

To be an American means, at least in part, to avoid creating unnecessary divisions over matters of faith. This view was central to America’s founding. Comity, tolerance, and respect for people who hold views different from your own is a sign of civility, not weakness.

In his letter to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, President Washington wrote these beautiful words:

"May the Children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants, while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid."