Let’s get our facts straight.
On September 11, 2001, the United States was attacked by Islamic jihadists, specifically Al-Qaeda, and even more specifically, Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda. Unfortunately, they were successful. As a result, nobody in our country has the pleasure of forgetting what happened on that day. That said, there’s no point in droning on about that day, with all its miserable confusion, feelings of anger and vulnerability, and bloodshed (save it for the anniversary in a couple of weeks).
But I, for one, thought that we’d learned something in the long aftermath of that day. I thought, at the very least, we knew who made us angry. We knew who the enemy was. We knew from whom to seek revenge. But I was completely wrong to jump to such an assumption. We still haven’t learned a thing.
I know this because of the recent hot button issue regarding a mosque being built two blocks from Ground Zero. And, as usual, the general public has spoken. In a CNN poll, 68% of Americans are opposed to the proposed mosque being built, leaving 29% in favor. And even though that same poll states that most Americans support it being built on the constitutional grounds of freedom of religion; still, what does that say about us?
It says that most Americans are still directing most (if not all) of their anger on the entire Islamic faith for what happened on that day, as if Al-Qaeda itself was building a house of worship. Instead of keeping our focus on the small group of terrorists—the ones who rightfully deserve to be punished— we’re absurdly pointing the finger at one billion Muslims around the world, putting them all in the same traitorous category, whether we know it or not. I didn’t think I’d ever have to, but the last time I checked, we were fighting the War on Terror and NOT the War on Islam. Shame on us for being so narrow-minded, so prejudice, so downright childish.
Last Friday, President Obama said what should’ve gone without saying. He said, “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 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. This is America. And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country and that they will not be treated differently by their government is essential to who we are. The writ of the Founders must endure.”
Unsurprisingly, the GOP chimed soon after. “This is not about freedom of religion, because we all respect the right of anyone to worship according to the dictates of their conscience,” Republican Senator John Cornyn said on Fox News Sunday. “But I do think it’s unwise… to build a mosque at the site where 3,000 Americans lost their lives as a result of a terrorist attack. And I think to me it demonstrates that Washington, the White House, the administration, the president himself seems to be disconnected from the mainstream of America.”
Senator Cornyn is both right and very wrong. The right for Muslims to build a mosque, to practice the free exercise of their religion, clearly IS a First Amendment issue. In fact, I can’t comprehend how this isn’t a case of freedom or religion by definition. However, as most Americans disagree with the president, according to the CNN poll, Cornyn is right that the President doesn’t see eye-to-eye with the American mainstream. Then again, it’s not like the mainstream is right all the time (Vietnam, Roe v. Wade, etc.)
And then there’s Joe Six-Pack. Blogger Pamela Geller, of Atlas Shrugs, said of Obama’s comments, “Is the president incapable of common decency? … He has, in effect, sided with the Islamic jihadists.” Also, the ever-lovable Sarah Palin said via twitter, “We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they? This is not above your pay grade.”
Frustrated is the best way to describe how I feel. If Obama has sided with Islamic jihadists, then why are there more American troops in Afghanistan than ever before? After all, it’s not like we’re searching for Bin Laden to give him a handshake. And as for Sarah, yes, they absolutely should….especially if you think they shouldn’t.
So how’s this thing going to play out? If I had to take a stab at it, for starters I’d say that this whole event will probably hurt President Obama more than help him. More than likely, the number of Americans who believe that Obama is a Muslim (which is, according to a Harris Poll, 32% of Americans and 57% of Republicans) will rise, along with Rush Limbaugh’s and Fox News’ ratings.
But at the end of the day, I’ll have to smile, and do you know why? Because, someday soon, that brilliant $100 million, 13-storey mosque will be much more than a blueprint. And it’s going to be built for the same reason that keeps Roe v. Wade from being overturned and why the American flag can still be burned in protest without fear of prosecution (even though 99.999999999% loathe the very thought of such an act). It’s all because of freedom.
Freedom, in the purest sense of the principle, is love. Freedom is the love of self, but in its best representation, it is the love of everyone. Perhaps, if we can’t forget what happened on 9/11, we can at least remember that…or finally learn it.