The organizers of the Ground Zero Mosque project have already won a big victory, in a way, and not just in New York’s city government rolling over and playing poodle.
By getting millions of Americans to divide into warring camps — those who say property rights and the First Amendment allow it, while others say 9/11 and the ongoing war do not — the Islamists have already won something important. They’ve set American against American, which — even if only in a small way and temporarily — means we’ve taken our eye off the enemy.
True, the controversy itself has brought renewed focus to the vital questions: “how should we respond to jihad and attempts to inject Sharia into American culture?” That, I suppose, is some consolation in this sorry affair.
With respect to allowing the center itself, there are valid arguments on both sides.
There’s no question that the very idea of the project is an outrage. To erect a 13-story building dedicated to Islam at that location is grotesque, especially given the builders’ alleged desires to promote religious harmony.
There are reasons to suspect their sincerity on that score. There are no plans in evidence to include a church, a synagogue, or a Buddhist or Hindu temple and New York has plenty of practitioners of all those religions. Worse, the desire to build the center at that particular location is itself evidence of bad faith. Insensitive is the kindest thing one could say about them.
Legally stopping it is not necessarily a violation of anyone’s rights, either. If the organizers are, in fact, planning to provide material support to jihadists, they are enemy forces who should be jailed. Andrew McCarthy presents evidence that may very well be their intention.
At the very least, Rauf and Khan should be subject to intense scrutiny and a full investigation before the project is allowed to proceed. It’s likely a threat to national security, albeit a relatively minor one, and there’s ample evidence that the builders have highly suspect associations with jihad-supporting groups.
It’s well within valid precedent for the government to halt the project, too. American forces would’ve been fully justified in shutting down Tokyo Rose broadcasts if they could have. The German-American Bund in the U.S. was not given free rein in 1942, and for good reason.
Still, there are valid concerns and good arguments on the other side of the question.
We certainly don’t need any further erosion of the Constitutional protections on property rights, even for those we have good reasons to despise. And the First Amendment certainly does protect offensive speech and the free exercise of religion, even when its ideas are revolting. Last, one must always be wary of making collective judgments, even in wartime when the temptation is especially high. All true enough.
Whether that should be the end of the matter is, of course, what the debate is all about.
The First Amendment doesn’t sanction all religious practices, especially when they result in things like genital mutilation and honor killings. Christian Scientists who deny life-saving medical aid to their sick child go to jail.
Moreover, there’s no legal license to use one’s property to provide aid and comfort to the enemy. That would be what was known in less politically correct times as treason. Whether Rauf, et al are supporting such things is, at bottom, the question. It bears looking in to before moving ahead.
At minimum, whether legal action is justified or not, the idea of individuals refusing to supply concrete, steel, labor, and other essentials to the project is a good one.
But, then, that would be a useful technique to combat all individuals who are attempting to destroy American culture and freedom, chiefly the Progressives. They and their philosophy are, in the final analysis, the major reasons the Islamists are a threat in the first place.
Their namby-pamby ideas were at the root of Carter’s decision to do nothing effective for over a year about the kidnapping of Americans in Tehran in 1979. That episode is one of the major forerunners of all our problems with the Middle East today. Progressives continue to react in horror at the idea of bombing Iran, ground zero of Islam-driven jihad.
Progressive ideas are the worms that have eaten the oak from American culture to the point where self-defense is now held to be inherently aggressive and illegitimate. Witness the unnecessary cost of American lives in Iraq as a result of counter-productive ROE. Observe the same hamstringing of troops in Afghanistan. (Diana West has done yeoman’s work for years documenting the harm done by COIN.)
Deweyites have spent generations making mush of the minds of American schoolchildren. As one result, Barack Obama can now, with minimal political consequences, run around the Middle East bowing and apologizing to sundry Muslim dictators, cheered on by the Progressive-leaning press (who remain employed at major news outlets).
If anyone wonders how we got to the point where there’s even a debate over the Ground Zero Mosque, that’s how. If we’re to be angry at someone, spare some for the organizers of that project, to be sure. But direct the larger share at the real enemy: the enemy within.