Monday, August 16, 2010

August 16: Guts, Insensitivity and Racism In Mosque Debate

By Sylvia Gurinsky

It takes a gutsy president to stick his neck out and risk lots of political support.

President Barack Obama is gutsy.

Almost everyone will debate whether it was wise and proper of him to support the right of the decision to build Park 51/Cordoba House - otherwise known across the country as the "Ground Zero Mosque" - relatively close to the site of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City.

Constitutionally, unless a court says otherwise, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who runs the organization seeking to build the structure, has the right to build that structure. And it must be pointed out that Obama swore "to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States" when he took the oath of office last year.

Of course, the fact that Rauf is constitutionally able to build on the land doesn't mean he would be right to do so.

While it's true he's had his organization in the area for many years, two blocks is too close for emotional comfort. Rauf is not showing sensitivity either to those who lost their lives that horrible day or their family members. It would be like a Japanese company building a structure just a short way from the Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii.

New York Gov. David Patterson, who supports the project, is looking at a compromise of offering land to Rauf if he would agree to move the site away from this area. Rauf should consider it. He and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also supports the project, are asking for plenty of security and other headaches if this goes forward at the current proposed site.

Right-wingers, of course, are apoplectic about Obama's comments, and angrily waving their pitchforks - and showing their stripes of racism against all Muslims in this country.

Sadly, 9/11 not only showed the intolerance of too many Muslims against the West and Israel, but also opened the floodgates of intolerance by too many Americans against those who worship differently, speak different languages and don't quite look like them.

Today, predictably and depressingly, they don't judge Obama too well. History will judge him better. He lived up to his constitutional obligation. And he showed courage in doing so.

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