Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Bigotry stalks the land

The uproar over the planned Cordoba (Islamic) Center in lower Manhattan may be dying back, although Republicans will undoubtedly try to keep the flames hot until the November election. Still, it is a story that needs more light shed on it.

President Obama has faced a storm of criticism for having pointed out that the proponents of the Center have every right to build it--although he gave the unfortunate appearance of dithering when he said the next day that he was not commenting on the wisdom of the location.

Apparently realizing that they could not win an argument over the First Amendment, opponents of what they mis-characterize as the "Mosque at Ground Zero" have receded to making a case that the Center should not be built, "there."

To begin with, where is "there?" If the proposed location--in a derelict Burlington Coat Factory--is too close to sacred ground (let's not forget that Muslims died in the attack on the World Trade Center, too), is 14th Street OK? How about 23rd Street, where I lived for a couple of years? Or 34th Street? No, that last won't work: it's too close to the site of Miracle on 34th Street.

Let's be honest: what is behind opposition to the siting of the Cordoba Center is bigotry. Anti-Islamic bias is the currently acceptable form of open or slightly-camouflaged prejudice in the United States. As Josh Marshall points out, George W. Bush held the outright bigots in his party in check by making inclusive remarks about Islam. Now that his is out of the picture, there seems to be no one on that side of the aisle ready to call out the extremists. That's right, the Republican Party has moved to the point where W looks like a moderate.

Time for all of us to stand up and make it clear that the First Amendment contains no clause excluding Muslims, or anyone else. We need to do that for our own freedom.

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