Those who oppose the Muslim establishment near Ground Zero protest that they are doing so merely because they are concerned about the feelings of the survivors of the relatives of those slain in the terror attack. On the PBS Newshour right wing Jew and supporter of conservative Christianity Michael Medved, for instance, went so far as to kindly offer to assist the Muslims – who oppose terrorism including Islamic -- building the center to find a more suitable location. He being a friend of Islam as long as it is of the proper sort. This is not true. He and they from the right to the left who oppose the Muslim center (it is not much of a mosque because the latter is predominantly a place of worship) while professing to not oppose the faith per se are genteel bigots against Islam. This is easy enough to demonstrate.
It is also easy to debunk the false analogies that some of the less genteel bigots such as Newt Gingerich (a man so dishonorable that he did not first contact the Iman heading the project while he was representing the USA abroad to talk to him before denouncing him and the project) and Sarah Palin have proffered. Park 51 is not like a Nazi sign near the Holocaust Museum because a main purpose of Hitlerism was to wipe out EuroJewry. It is not like a Japanese center near Pearl Harbor because the entire country under the same emperor based scheme attacked the US. It is not like placing a Catholic nunnery next to a concentration camp because the Church was instrumental to putting Hitler into power when the entire Catholic Centre party voted top make Hitler dictator, and then signed a concordat with the Fuhrer that bound all bishops to his Reich by oath. Nor is Park 51 like a Serbian Orthodox locating a church next to a Muslim killing ground because major elements of the faith have long had it in for Islam.
The key factors concering Park 51 is as far as is known those involved in the project – one of whom is a part owner of FoxNews whose pundits had no problem with the center until ranting against it became a ratings booster -- have done nothing wrong. They not only did not and do not support the 9/11 attack, like most of Islam they reject it. So the way to sort out what folks are really up to is to run a thought experiment in which a small minority of the other two major Abrahamic sects commits a mass atrocity. Assume, for the sake of discussion, that rather than Muslim extremists killing a few thousand in lower Manhattan, it was an extreme wing of Christianity in the form of Christoterrorists. There are such beings. It is not well publicized, but many of the vicious militias in Africa that have been committing unspeakable atrocities against children and women (including "witches") are avowed Christians. Christians have bombed abortion clinics and murdered abortion providers. Now assume that a Christian group, whether it be liberal or hard-line fundamentalist, were constructing a Christian center a couple of blocks from the site of the Christian terror attack. The Christian group has a history of condemning terrorism in all its forms. Would Medved and company kindly urge that the Christians consider the feelings of the victims of the prior Christian assault and move the church elsewhere? Would they patronizingly offer to help find a new location for the Christians? If you think they would do so then I have a bridge connecting lower Manhattan and Brooklyn I would like to sell you. Far from being seen as friends of Christianity with some helpful advice to offer, those who oppose the Christian establishment being positioned near the site of the terror attack would correctly be charged with discriminatory bigotry against the sect. It would be carefully explained that it is a form of collective guilt by false association to refuse those Christians who not only had nothing to do with the ghastly attack, but who oppose the crime.
Rerun the scenario with Jewish terrorists committing the mass felony and you get the same result. Who would dare suggest that a Judaic Center could not be located in lower Manhattan even when the Jews involved have a tradition of opposing terrorism? Those who opposed to center would be the ones accused – appropriately – with anti-Semitism. Medved himself would be among those accurately but hypocritically making the latter charge. Again it would be explained that regardless of understandable feelings, the problem ultimately lies not with the religious group concerned who, after all, have committed no wrong, but with those opposed to their project.
The reason that the religious and political right is enjoying a fair degree of socially perturbing, ethically disturbing, and legally inane political success in making the Muslim center a campaign issue when it is constitutionally impossible to reject the project is simply because it is Muslims being targeted rather than Jews or Christians. That’s because Americans can still get away with casually, cluelessly and obtusely slapping the face without cause the followers of a major global religion while professing friendship. To show how low this is, consider that Bush II would have done the same thing Obama has done -- and what any sane President who has sworn the defend the Constitution, must support common American decency and tolerance, and protect the American image and interests abroad – would have to do. Defend the constitutional right of the Muslim group to locate their establishment at any place that normal local regulations permit religious concerns to operate.
The degree to which political forces are gladly exploiting or fleeing in fear from the lower Manhattan Muslim facility nonissue is a sign of serious societal dysfunction. For religion where obsessive strife between believers of different wings of Abrahamism remains popular as people of spiritual faith prove as always willing and able to go after one another – atheists only involvement in this supernaturalistic mess is to look upon it with eye rolling irony at how the religious charge atheism with being the defective way of thinking. For those theoconservatives who loudly claim to be principled constitutionalists and defenders of religious freedom – especially when Judeo-Christians are the victims – are instead revealed as cynics when a convenient target for electoral demagoguery becomes available. And for a nation where a major portion of one of the two political parties can promote and gain benefit from the religious dispute. This when a country in crisis has far more important issues to address.