I’m ashamed of my fellow Americans this month, as allegedly intelligent and thoughtful people toss the Constitution (not to mention American values and common sense) in the garbage, and come out against the Islamic cultural center (abbreviated by everyone as “mosque”) on Park Place in Lower Manhattan.
This location is six blocks from my apartment, and I walk past it almost daily, so I think I have standing to have an opinion on the matter. The elected and appointed officials who have jurisdiction are, in large part, people whom I and my neighbors selected, who serve at our whim and whose salaries we pay. Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, on the other hand, live 4,300 miles away and 236 miles away, respectively. Would they kindly shut the hell up and go away?
There have been Muslim-Americans living in Lower Manhattan effectively forever, in planning terms; there were mosques in our neighborhood before the World Trade Center was here, and long before I lived here, and certainly before Sarah Palin ever came shopping here. Every day, hundreds of Muslim-American taxi drivers stop for lunch or dinner at one of the halal restaurants on Church Street around the corner from the proposed site. And last time I checked, neither the First Amendment nor RLUIPA had an asterisk leading to the disclaimer “except Muslims.” End of story.
Matt Yglesias’s Mosque Exclusion Zone posts are funny, and right on point, but this is a serious matter, which is why I was so disappointed to learn today that the Anti-Defamation League, one of America’s most important historical forces against intolerance and bigotry, has come down on the wrong side of this issue.
There are, to be sure, political issues in American social discourse that have two sides. But if you have any respect at all for equality, for freedom of religion, or for the founding principles of America, this isn’t one of them. And we do have plots of secular hallowed ground in America — but they’re not at “Ground Zero” (an embarrassing term that highlights all the wrong aspects of the events of the past decade). They’re in Montgomery, where Rosa Parks rode home from work on the bus. They’re in Little Rock, at Central High School. They’re at Tule Lake, in California, where my great-grandparents (I’ve been told) taught school during one of the most shameful failures of our constitutional system in our nation’s history. They’re at Gettysburg. They’re in Jackson Heights, Queens, home of some of the most diverse census tracts in the country.
I’m angry at Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, but at the end of the day, what can you expect from anti-intellectuals and opportunists? But the ADL? I’m ashamed of them, for losing sight of their mission, and for the implication that they are speaking in my name as a Jewish American. They emphatically are not, and I’m afraid they have done permanent damage to their credibility today.