My brother, Capt. William F. Burke Jr. of the New York Fire Department, gave his life to help others on Sept. 11, 2001, at the World Trade Center. The proponents of the Ground Zero Mosque have used the "freedom of religion" argument to defend the developer's right to build just 600 feet from the spot where my brother and nearly 3,000 others were murdered by a worldwide fundamentalist Islamic terrorist network. It is evident, however, that the purpose of this Islamic center is political, not merely religious.
Though the Muslims behind this mosque do not separate politics from religion, America does, and we are not required to dissolve the dividing line we have always recognized. The imam of the proposed mosque, Feisal Abdul Rauf, absolves Islam of all responsibility for Sept. 11 - and terrorism in general. According to him, if an act of terrorism is committed by somebody who yells "Allah Akbar," that person is not a "true Muslim" and Islam is exonerated. In contrast, Mr. Rauf tells us, ultimately the people who jumped out of the Twin Towers are responsible for their own deaths because, as he has said, "Osama bin Laden was made in the USA."
So, when he speaks of his Islamic center providing reconciliation and understanding, this is what he means: America must reconcile itself to its own culpability in Sept. 11, and it must understand that the sin and crime of terrorism is its own. There is no better place than Ground Zero, he believes, for Americans to come to this reconciliation and understanding.
Despite Mr. Rauf's Shariah-based beliefs, this is not religious speech but political. In this country, we separate the two. While he is entitled to freedom of speech, there are many venues where he can spout his garbage. He is not entitled to do it here at Ground Zero.
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