- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2010

New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg says opponents of the Ground Zero Mosque are “un-American.” The liberal billionaire vows to nix any compromise that would move the proposed 13-story Islamic cultural center and mosque to another location - one farther away from the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks at the World Trade Center.

“We must do what is right, not what is easy,” he told Muslim-American guests at a dinner speech at Gracie Mansion, marking the breaking of the fast during the Islamic month of Ramadan.

Mr. Bloomberg has taken a dogmatic, absolutist position: There can be no middle ground because fundamental religious freedoms are at stake. Previously he has said mosque critics should be “ashamed of themselves” for even criticizing the project. In his iftar dinner speech, he went even further, claiming that the Ground Zero Mosque is the litmus test for “religious liberty.” For him and for much of the liberal ruling elite, our constitutional system rests on the mosque being built.

“There are people of every faith - including, perhaps, some in this room - who are hoping that a compromise will end the debate,” he said. “But it won’t.”

According to Mr. Bloomberg, the nearly 3,000 Americans who died on Sept. 11 - including the first responders, firemen, police officers and rescue workers who perished trying to save people in the burning Twin Towers - lost their lives for “freedom,” a precious birthright that would be denied Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and the other sponsors of the Ground Zero Mosque if it is relocated.

“If we say that a mosque and community center should not be built near the perimeter of the World Trade Center site … we would undercut the values and principles that so many heroes died protecting,” he said.

Brave Americans thus shed their blood that fateful day so that Mr. Rauf could build his mosque. Mr. Bloomberg is peddling a twisted logic. Rescue workers laid down their lives to help their neighbors and friends. They committed acts of compassion and self-sacrifice. They died on behalf of their fellow countrymen, not in the service of political correctness.

Mr. Bloomberg is an elitist liberal, a country-club Republican who believes most Americans are Islamophobic bigots - primitive hicks who need to be led toward a rationalist, secular progressive future. Patriotism, blood-and-soil nationalism, honoring the memory of our war dead - these are values he finds strange and repulsive.

This equation of patriotism with xenophobic bigotry lies at the heart of modern liberalism. It is why our political and media class despises Middle America. The belief in American exceptionalism and love of country must be smashed. Charges of racism and intolerance are the hammer and sickle of cultural liberalism. They are used to beat the rebellious heartland into submission.

Liberals have embraced a post-American, post-Christian globalist world. Mr. Bloomberg embodies the values - and utter disconnect - of the new ruling elite. He is a pampered, effete billionaire whose financial empire stretches all over the world - including lucrative new media deals in Persian Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

As mayor, he has transformed New York into a sanctuary city for illegal immigrants. His tax-and-spend policies are leading to economic ruin. Investment capital and jobs are fleeing. Crime is surging. Government dependency and social permissiveness are rising. The city is crumbling. In many ways, he is the opposite of former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani: pro-welfare, anti-capitalist and soft on Islamists.

Mr. Bloomberg is insulated by his vast wealth. His commercial interests are global. His chic progressivism and lavish lifestyle are foreign to most Americans - even to trendy, deracinated New Yorkers. Like many secular leftists, he long ago abandoned his commitment to America. His multicultural, post-national identity trumps patriotism. What really matters is that he ingratiates himself with the bien-pensants inside the Beltway and in New York. This he has done with his pseudo-Churchillian defense of the Ground Zero Mosque.

Mr. Bloomberg is expressing what most liberals really think about the opponents of the mosque: They are seeking to impose some kind of religious apartheid upon Muslim-Americans that will consign them to second-class citizenship. For Mr. Bloomberg and his ilk, the Ground Zero Mosque is all that separates America from a return to its segregationist past.

“We would send a signal around the world that Muslim-Americans may be equal in the eyes of the law but separate in the eyes of their countrymen,” he said. “There is nowhere in the five boroughs that is off-limits to any religion.”

Mr. Bloomberg argues that Muslims - like other newcomers to the United States before them, such as Catholics and Jews, are victims of “persecution.” This has been the standard liberal line since Sept. 11: Islam as victim.

The reality, however, is that no nation (with the possible exception of Canada) has been more accommodating of Muslims than America. Whether it is access to higher education, income, civil liberties or freedom to worship - most Muslim-Americans have assimilated into the national mainstream. There are no barriers - political, economic or cultural - to citizens of Islamic faith. They are not denied the right to vote. They do not drink from separate water fountains or go to separate, impoverished schools. They are not prevented from eating at public lunch counters. They are not routinely lynched. In fact, many of them have college degrees, earn above-average salaries and are free to practice their religion.

There are more than 1,200 mosques in America, about 100 in New York alone. Contrary to Mr. Bloomberg’s fantasy Islamophobia, there is nowhere in the five boroughs that is off-limits to them - except for one place.

This is because 19 Muslim hijackers in the name of radical Islam murdered nearly 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11. The atrocities were more than a crime. They were an act of war, the worst foreign attack on American soil. Ground Zero is sacred, hallowed ground. It is the place where innocent American blood was spilled by Islamic fascists as the global jihad was brought to our shores.

To construct a mosque - led by a militant imam who boasts that “the United States has more Muslim blood on its hands than al Qaeda has on its hands of innocent non-Muslims,” defends Hamas, demands we adopt Shariah law and claims U.S. policies were an “accessory” to the Sept. 11 attacks - is not only insensitive and provocative, but blasphemous. It denigrates and defiles the dead.

The issue is not - and never has been - America’s acceptance of Islam. That has long been settled. To suggest otherwise is cheap demagoguery.

The real issue is whether Muslim-Americans - and moderate Muslims all over the world - will speak out against their co-religionist extremists. Radical Islamists have murdered more fellow Muslims than Christians or Jews. Instead of condemning them, however, moderate Muslims in alliance with the secular left insist on turning a blind eye. The construction of the Ground Zero Mosque would represent the ultimate symbol of appeasement. Mr. Bloomberg is not the liberal Churchill of our time. Rather, he is a second-rate Neville Chamberlain - a craven appeaser masquerading as a multicultural hawk.

It is no secret Mr. Bloomberg has presidential ambitions. He toyed with throwing his hat in the ring in 2008. Facing a weak and damaged President Obama in 2012, along with a conservative Republican opponent, Mr. Bloomberg may think his chances at a third-party bid would be fairly good. He could emerge as the progressives’ dark-horse candidate. He could tout his business background and executive experience as the mayor of America’s best-known city.

More important, his staunch defense of the mosque has solidified his credentials with the liberal elite - especially the establishment media. Many liberals would be tempted to ditch a terminally wounded Democratic incumbent in favor of a mosque-hugging, pro-environmentalist, pro-choice insurgent.

This is clearly what Mr. Bloomberg has in mind - and it wasn’t lost on many at the Ramadan dinner. Sheikh Moussa Drammeh said he and other guests “went crazy” over Mr. Bloomberg’s speech.

“He’s someone … who deserves to be president,” Mr. Drammeh said.

No, he does not. Mr. Bloomberg thinks that by defending the mosque, he is paving the way for a potential 2012 presidential run - a real profile in courage. Instead, he is an example of liberal self-indulgence and national self-abnegation. Rather than standing for American ideals, he is capitulating to our enemies and trampling on sacred ground.

Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a columnist for The Washington Times and president of the Edmund Burke Institute, a Washington think tank. He is the daily host of “The Kuhner Show” on WTNT 570-AM (www.talk570.com) from 5 to 7 p.m.