Let me start with a few words written by Thomas Jefferson in 1779:
No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.
Then there is this dandy sentence from the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
How about the 1st Amendment? For those that are interested, and for those that thought that they could ignore it, it reads like this:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
What is my point? Why am I bringing this up? Well, because of the asinine backlash to the building of a mosque a couple of blocks away from Ground Zero. I thought first, instead of focusing on the fear, and thinly veiled racism behind the backlash, that I'd go straight to the legality of the issue. There is no legal, or Constitutional grounds for opposing the building of a mosque anywhere in the United States. Muslims, like Christians, Jews, and even Scientologists have the right to gather, and worship wherever they deem fit.
President Obama was correct in saying this; “As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country,” and following it up with this; “That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances.” (link)
It is the President's duty to uphold the tenets of the Constitution, optics be damned. Obama had no choice but to affirm the right of Faisal Abdul Rauf to build a mosque on private land, with private money, anywhere in the United States. It would go against the 1st Amendment if he did not.
Let's get to the ugly aspects of this story. First, to those that are claiming that the building of a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero is some how an affront to the memories of the victims of 9/11, please, it is not as if Faisal Abdul Rauf is building the Taj Mahal from the rubble of the Twin Towers. He is simply renovating, a nondescript, downtown building, where he hopes to build a place of worship and a community center. It is not going to stand out, there will be no neon lights mocking the memory of those (Muslims included) lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. This is just another building, amongst the many in the blocks in and around Ground Zero. The imam is not building an Al Qaeda themepark. This is nothing more than a private real estate development deal, and what is more American than that?
So where does that leave us? The rage is still there. Folks are still up and arms at the idea that a mosque could be built in the shadows of Ground Zero. Why? Thinly veiled racism. The repeated lies, mostly from the right, that there is an Islamofascist plot to take over the Western World. The lingering stench of the politics of fear, the ugly aftereffect of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Let's make one thing clear; Islam did not attack New York City on September 11 2001, Bin Laden and his motley crew of terrorists did. This was not an attack of Christianity by Islam. This was an attack by Al Qaeda on the United States, and its financial capital. Yes, Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are fundamentalist Muslims, and yes they used religious rhetoric as justification for the attack, but Bin Laden and Al Qaeda do not represent the whole of Muslim world. That is like saying that the Westboro Baptist Church (you know, those God hates fags nuts) represents the whole of Christianity. A week argument, one that proves nothing, other than the arguer's ignorance.
But what about the optics of this whole thing? Why can't the imam build his mosque somewhere else? I dunno, maybe he got a sweetheart deal on the building. Maybe he didn't think, that in the land of the free, in a country where religious freedom is protected and celebrated, that the building of a mosque, anywhere, would be a such a big deal. There is no wrong doing here. Muslims have every right to worship wherever they like, be it 2 blocks from Ground Zero or anywhere else in the United States. It's the Constitution, stupid!