By Hal Goodman
There is no logical argument why peaceful, law abiding US Muslim citizens canâ€™t have a mosque near Ground Zero.
What if you opened up your e-mail and saw the following headline: â€œJoin us in our opposition to a planned synagogue near Wall Street.â€ Then, after reading further, the statement blamed the entire Jewish community for the depraved actions of a few.
Imagine if the letter spoke at length about Bernie Madoff, Andrew Fastow, Jack Abramov, Ivan Boesky and even Meyer Lansky and David Berkowitz to create a picture of Jews far removed from reality. Needless to say, the first words out of your mouth might be â€œantiâ€ and â€œSemitism.â€
In this imaginary world, however, most Americans are now open to this train of thought. Pundits on radio and television now echo the sentiment that the financial collapse we all experience is the work of Jewish elites whoâ€™ve lauded risky financial instruments.
Then, just as they reject the notion that a synagogue of all things could be built near the site where so many people had lost their American dream, these pundits donâ€™t forget to mention from the corner of their mouths (as quietly as possible) that most Jews are good people and that a synagogue built farther away from Wall Street might make more sense. â€œIt is insensitive to build a synagogue near Wall Street,â€ is a phrase heard countless number of times.
In addition, educated people of all backgrounds pontificate the potential dangers of allowing this synagogue to be built: â€œWhat if more Bernie Madoffs have their bar mitzva at this synagogue?â€ Reason and logic are as much anti- Semitismâ€™s kryptonite as falsely legitimized fear and justified bigotry are its spinach. We indict all Muslim Americans for the actions of 19 insane men by saying a mosque near Ground Zero should be prohibited.
MORE THAN 60 years ago, a man once made the following observation of human nature: â€œ…the best speaker is…the speaker who knows how to win the hearts of the masses.â€
Undoubtedly, this person knew very well that a wise person might at times dissect an argument and quickly disassemble the hollow building blocks of a bigoted vantage point. Therefore, this world leader preferred to pull on the heartstrings of the average personâ€™s fears and tribal allegiances.
That man was Adolf Hitler. The quote above, from Mein Kampf, highlights exactly what is at the heart of the debate over this mosque. There is no logical argument why peaceful and law abiding American citizens of the Muslim faith canâ€™t have a mosque near Ground Zero. After all, weâ€™re not talking about a Taliban memorial. The actions of a small number of radicals canâ€™t be the rationale for denying the vast majority of good citizens the right to pray.
Furthermore, our opinion regarding the tastefulness of building the mosque near Ground Zero does not overshadow the Bill of Rights that protects all Americans. Muslims can pray where they please, just like Jews and anyone else in this country. We are at a war with al-Qaida, not law abiding American citizens. We are also fighting a counterinsurgency war in two Muslim countries where recruiters of al- Qaida and insurgent groups feed off the intolerance displayed by the opposition to this mosque.
Muslim Americans are fighting in this war as well.
On August 6, 2007 Specialist Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan of the United States Army was killed along with three other American soldiers when a bomb detonated as they were checking abandoned houses for explosives in Baquba, Iraq.
If you have the chutzpah, try telling this American patriotâ€™s family that they donâ€™t have the right to pray at a mosque near Ground Zero.
The author is a Los Angeles-based writer.