At a time when the civil and constitutional rights of Muslims are under attack throughout the United States, I celebrate the statement made by President Obama on August 13th, which affirmed the right of the American Muslim community to establish houses of worship, and expand current facilities when required by our community needs. This right of religious freedom is guaranteed by the First Amendment of United States Constitution.
According to polls, nearly seventy percent of Americans are against building a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. They instinctively understand that it’s offensive to build a mosque near the ground where radical Islamists perpetrated the worst domestic attack in American history. The majority of Americans believe in freedom of religion, but they know this issue is not about that.
Rather than debating whether or not Muslims should be allowed to build a mosque at Ground Zero (they have a Constitutional right to do so), we should be questioning why they insist on building it in that exact location. There is no significant Muslim population in lower Manhattan, much less one that requires a $100 million community center. Therefore, it stands to reason that the proposed center’s proximity to Ground Zero, where Muslims killed nearly 3,000 people, is the primary impetus for its construction.
Dear Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.),
After hearing your recent comments on a plethora of media outlets regarding the lack of “responsibility” in building a Mosque and Islamic cultural center (“the Cordoba House”) two blocks away from Ground Zero, I have grave concerns. While I appreciate that you fully recognize the Constitutional right, and more broadly the legal right, for the Cordoba House to be built in its Park 51 location, I feel that you are sorely misguided in your request that the proposed center be moved to a “more suitable” location for several reasons.
A recent CNN poll shows that 68% of Americans oppose the construction of the mosque and Islamic center planned near Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. Most Americans don’t know that the mosque’s proposed name is Cordoba House, nor do they realize that the first Cordoba Mosque was built by Muslims in Cordoba, Spain after they conquered the Spanish kingdom. Many historians see the mosque there as a symbol of the conquest of Spain by the forces of Islam.
Last Thursday evening hundreds of residents in my hometown of Murfreesboro, Tenn., attended the Rutherford County Commission meeting to express their outrage over a proposed Islamic center of worship in the community. This is just the latest in a string of incidents around the country threatening the constitutional rights of Americans just like you and I. A group of citizens recently blocked a proposed mosque in Brentwood, Tenn. There are a growing number of people who are opposed to a mosque planned near ground zero in Manhattan. The events of 9/11 and other actions taken by al Qaeda planted the seeds of dissent, intolerance, hatred and fear. Those seeds are growing. Al Qaeda's endgame is destroying our way of life, our American principles and values.
Last week, a coalition of 58 religious, civil liberties, and education organizations--including the American Humanist Association, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Baptist Joint Committee--sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to direct the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) to review and ultimately withdraw a 2007 legal memo that sets a dangerous precedent for religious liberty and civil rights.
The legal memo in question concerns the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). RFRA was enacted in 1993 in order to nullify a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that curtailed Free Exercise rights (Employment Div. v. Smith). RFRA aimed to restore free exercise protections by prohibiting the government from imposing a “substantial burden” on a person’s free exercise of religion unless they could demonstrate a compelling governmental interest, and in such a case that interest must be achieved by the least restrictive means.
In the past few months, as we have been out on the road, we have been struck by the real effects of the economic downturn on our constituents. Ordinary women and men are finding it tough to make ends meet. Many have lost their jobs, their houses and their dignity. Finding affordable ways to access sexual and reproductive healthcare services in the midst of this crisis has, for many, proven unfruitful and has fallen by the wayside.
In recent news articles, including one by the Nation Magazine, "FBI Blows It: Supposed Terror Plot Against NY Synagogues Is Bogus" (published May 23, 2009), the writer states that there is another narrative on what actually transpired between the FBI informant and the group of four people that were eventually charged with plans to carry out the attacks.
Regardless of how some may try and dismiss the accused as “degenerates”, “drug addicts”, or “criminals”, the more important teachable moment here is that the opium of the minds of these inmates was pure and simply a supremacist form of Islam which depends upon the medieval Wahhabi-Islamist interpretations of our Islamic scripture and tradition. To deflect the public from this reality is to shirk our responsibility as Muslims and more importantly as Americans.
This decision represents a resounding victory for government speech and gives government the right to speak for itself and the ability to communicate on behalf of its citizens. It also clears the way for government to express its views and its history through the selection of monuments – including religious monuments and displays.