Monday, August 23, 2010

Mosques and Demogogues

The dispute over a mosque across the street from Ground Zero is an excellent example of how democracy can get steered into the Theater of the Absurd. (I am not sure what Theater of the Absurd is all about, but it sounds like an apt metaphor.)

The Imam in charge of the proposed mosque stated that he was seeking to serve as a bridge of understanding between Islam and the United States.

If that was his goal, he got off to a bad start. New Yorkers are super sensitive about the Twin Towers, and their pain has not subsided. Thus a highly predictable uproar erupted over the proposed facility. As best I can tell the local officials jumped in quickly seeking some solution that would be satisfactory to the Imam and would abate the criticism. I have not heard anyone claim that there was any genuine objection to some compromise effort. In fact it would be reasonable to assume that the support of the local authorities would in fact aide the effort of the Muslims to build bridges.

Under any circumstances, every politician who feels the need for publicity seems to be conscience stricken to step in and be of assistance.

One such politician was Congressmen Rick Lazio, who is engaged in a heated contest for governor of the state. He seem to be certain that the problem was caused by the ineffectiveness of the state attorney general, who happens to be his opponent. He suggested that the Imam may be using money from nefarious sources which needs to be investigated before the mosque is approved..

That is fine indeed, but, apparently, he did not think up this idea until the polls told him that the proposal was extremely unpopular with the electorate. Moreover, he has an Italian name. That makes him Italian, not American. He must have some connection with the Mafia - at least as much as does the Imam with the Al Qaeda. Why isn’t he taking his witch hunt to Manhattan to find out the source of funding of at least half of the finer Italian restaurants in the city?

Then the matter was ratcheted up again by our President, who has a disconcerting habit of opening his mouth before his brain is fully activated, entered the fray. He wrapped himself in the comforting arms of the Bill of Rights. He said that the Muslims have a constitutional right to build a mosque in accordance with local laws.

It is reassuring to know that the First Amendment has not been abrogated recently, but he injected a non-issue into the conversation.. No one claims to be denying the freedom of religion to the Muslims. Even he seems to recognize by implication that the issue of where the mosque might be located is a matter of local law. What the President did was mischaracterize the facts so that he could utter an inapplicable principle relating to a situation that does not exist.

The President’s position was not good politics, either, since about a fourth of the population believes that he is Muslim, himself.

Now the runaway train is totally out of control. Newt Gingrich equates the location of the mosque next ot Ground Zero with placing Nazi headquarters next to a holocaust memorial. The Democrats loved that. Now the Arab world has been encouraged by our President to believe that a substantial segment of our country is attempting to override the constitution in support of efforts to persecute the Muslims who live here.. People in all continents of every persuasion are now weighing in - all because our politicians stuck their nose into a matter that probably would have been handled best by the persons in the City of New York who have been entrusted with the responsibility of dealing with the situation.

Ain’t democracy great!

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