Tonight I watched a bit of Anderson Cooper and saw Eliot Spitzer remind us that we are a nation of tolerance. It's one of the great things about America, the country that we (my parents) sought refuge in after we escaped the horrors of Saddam's regime in 1982. We came to America for the freedom, which may be America's most important asset. We have freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Sometimes we must deal with contentious issues, like allowing the building of mosques. Spitzer pointed out that 200 years ago George Washington had to step in and convince a country of Christians to allow the building of a Synagogue.
Also on CNN I saw part of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's interview with Soledad O'Brien. The Imam said that if they move from that location in lower Manhattan, the message in Muslim countries will be that Islam is under attack. Really? I don't think so. National security may be compromised? How so? Should we be afraid of how Islamic extremists react? I don't think so. I don't care how they react. But I think we should convey to the world that America truly is a tolerant nation. We should show the world we really do have freedom of religion in America, unlike in Saudi Arabia. We Americans will not conflate Islam with terrorism.
I understand why a relative of a 9/11 victim would not want to see a mosque near Ground Zero, and I think the Imam should consider those feelings and try to accommodate the people who lost loved ones on 9/11. Can it be a multi-faith community center? The Imam says "There will be separate prayer spaces for Muslims, Christians, Jews and men and women of other faiths. The center will also include a multifaith memorial dedicated to victims of the Sept. 11 attacks."
Abdul Rauf seems to be seeking compromise, and that is what he should be doing. He should be talking to as many New Yorkers as possible, and if a majority of New Yorkers don't want a mosque near Ground Zero, the Imam should be prepared to change his plans and do something else with the building. But that may tarnish the image of American tolerance, of freedom of religion. And that's not a good thing for America, I believe. Allowing Cordoba House to be built near Ground Zero would show the world that we truly are a tolerant nation, and it would show the Wahhabis and Salafis and Al Qaeda that we Americans are so much better humans than they are.