President Obama's fixation on all things Islamic tripped him up again this weekend when he seemed to give strong support to the Ground Zero Mosque project, then quickly "clarified" his way into yet more trouble. Mr. Obama gratuitously raised the mosque issue at an Iftar dinner with Muslim-American leaders, a double dose of symbolism that drew immediate fire. But just as Mr. Obama's defenders had settled on a "profile in courage" story line, the president backed off, lamely parsing his earlier statements. The president's stance on the issue is now fair game.
Mosque apologists have planted their flags on the First Amendment, claiming that the Constitution's guarantee of freedom of worship is absolute. But no constitutional rights can escape balancing tests, and in this case, the issue is not the freedom of Muslims to worship as they choose but the propriety of constructing a gigantic mosque so close to the greatest scene of Allah-inspired mass murder ever perpetrated in the country. It is not a constitutional test case so much as a puffed-up zoning dispute. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has maintained that the separation of church and state is at stake, though the fact that the $100 million project probably will be funded by sources closely linked to foreign governments raises the question of whether the constitutional prohibition on state establishment of religion only applies to the United States government. Apparently Muslim-majority countries are free to open their checkbooks to establish whatever sects they want on American soil, while simultaneously administering the death penalty to those who convert from Islam at home.
America's enemies clearly are delighted with the prospect of an Islamic center near the old World Trade Center site. The Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, whose cause Ground Zero Mosque mastermind Feisal Abdul Rauf has supported, has backed the project. There are high-fives being exchanged in terrorist chat rooms. One user at the Alfalojah site gloated about hitting the "U.S. infidels in their capital" and offered "congratulations to the Nation of Islam."
Other voices in the Muslim world are less triumphant. Seif Naseer, professor of religion and philosophy at University of Al-Azhar in Egypt, told the newspaper Al Masry Al Youm last week, "To build a mosque on the rubble [of ground zero] involves bad faith." In the same article, Bayoumi Abdel Muti of the Islamic Research Academy said, "I reject the construction of a mosque in this place, because it would link [the September 11, 2001 attacks] and Islam." Mr. Muti is simply pointing out the obvious - no matter what the proponents of the Cordoba House say, however they attempt to justify their hated project, it will always be perceived as the "Ground Zero Mosque."
Mr. Rauf, whose whereabouts are unknown after he set off on a State Department-financed mission to the Gulf states, claimed that his project's purpose was to heal the breach between Islam and America. It backfired. Even the clearly inflammatory projected opening date of Sept. 11, 2011, shows how out of touch the backers of the project are with the sentiments of the American people. Given that Mr. Rauf's stated mission is clearly failing, he should concede that this was a bad idea and build his mosque somewhere else. One report from the Israeli newspaper Haaretz said an announcement that the project is being abandoned is days away. If Mr. Rauf really wants to improve the image of Islam in America, that would be the best thing he could do.
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