2010-09-17 / Columnists

The Rockaway Beat

Commentary By Howard Schwach

I am one of those 73 percent of New York City residents who do not believe that an Islamic Mosque or community center should be built within two blocks of Ground Zero in Manhattan.

For that belief, Mayor Michael Bloomberg calls me a bigot and says that I “should be ashamed of myself.”

For that belief, I have been called “Islamophobic” by left-wing pundits.

I have been told that I just don’t understand the U.S. Constitution.

I have been told that I have a bias against Muslims because I am Jewish.

I have even been called an idiot for that belief.

As far as I know, none of those things is true.

If I am Islamophobic, a bigot, an idiot or a Muslim-hater, then so are the great majority of New Yorkers, and I just don’t believe that is the case.

To be Islamophobic means that I have an irrational fear of Muslims. There is nothing irrational about fearing a radical group that wants to die and wants to take you with them when they go.

The irrationality is on the part of those who don’t seem to understand that fact.

I do understand the Constitution. I have even penned a series of textbooks that explained the Constitution to middle and high school students. It turned out that the textbook became popular with programs teaching immigrants who were planning to take the citizenship test.

I also wrote a series of books for kids on their rights and obligations under the law.

I know the Constitution.

And, I understand that the developers of the Mosque have a Constitutional right to build it wherever they want.

That does not mean, however, that they should build it blocks from what is considered to be sacred ground by those who lost loved ones to a terrorist attack by Muslim fundamentalists who want to destroy our nation and our values.

The developers should have some consideration for those people. Instead, they stand on their fundamental right to build something that the great majority of residents believes is anathema.

The Muslim developers say they want to “build bridges from the Muslim community to other communities.”

Building at nearby Ground Zero is not the way to build bridges. It is the way to burn down whatever bridges already exist.

I deeply resent the mayor’s comments and I deeply resent being called Islamophobic simply because I do not believe that the Mosque should be built so close to Ground Zero.

Abdur-Rahman Muhammad, a Washington D.C. based writer, was once the Imam of a mosque. He calls that term as used against those who oppose the Ground Zero Mosque a “canard.”

“This loathsome term is nothing more than a thought-terminating cliché conceived in the bowels of Muslim think tanks for the purpose of beating down critics,” he says. “Muslims are everywhere in this country, doing practically everything. There are Muslim doctors, lawyers and businessmen – like Park51 developer Sharif El-Gamal, who went from waiting tables just a few years ago to being a millionaire. There are Muslim soldiers and CIA agents. Could this be possible if America were Islamophobic?”

I agree.

Just because you have a Constitutional right to do something, that does not mean that you should do it.

And, those who oppose the mosque should not be called names by those who approve of it – like our own mayor, who seems sometimes to be at odds with himself.

How can you call those who oppose the mosque names while saying that the Florida preacher who planned to burn a Quran on September 11 had a First Amendment right to do so – that burning the religious book was protected comment.

Well, if the preacher’s actions are protected comment, am I a bigot for commenting on the same issue? Why don’t I have a Constitutional right to call the development plan for the mosque wrong without being told by my mayor that I should be ashamed of myself?

I am not ashamed of myself – especially when I’m taking a stand that honors the Constitution and that is supported by the vast majority of city residents.

There are other issues that need to be addressed, however.

Are the funds for the mosque coming from terrorist groups abroad? Is the mosque being built by pro-terrorist backers who see it as a victory symbol for 9-11? Are the backers of the mosque the same people who blame America for 9-11 and not the Muslim terrorists who actually hijacked four planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 people who were only trying to go about their everyday business, earning a living to support their families?

I understand fully the religious freedoms provided by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

In light of what is happening in Iran, however, I wonder how far those absolute religious freedoms actually go.

Would the mayor approve a Muslim court in Manhattan that sentenced a woman who had committed adultery to being stoned to death? Would he say it’s OK to stone the woman to death because of the Muslim’s Constitutional right to religious freedom? Obviously not. Or, at least I hope not.

Even the New York Times, which continually vilifies the Jewish state of Israel, while finding no fault with Muslim terrorism, sees the problem.

In a recent front page headline, the newspaper of record reported without blinking that support for the Muslim site was “tepid,” adding that twothirds of New Yorkers want the mosque moved “farther from Ground Zero.”

Tepid indeed.

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