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Home arrow Opinion arrow Editorials arrow Make friends, not foes

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Make friends, not foes

The question has crept into conversations across America for more than a month:

Is it appropriate for Muslims to construct a building — described almost invariably as a mosque, although it also includes a community center — two blocks from ground zero in Manhattan?

The problem with this question is that it’s the wrong question.

Here’s what we ought to be asking ourselves:

Is it appropriate for any group that condemns Islamic terrorists in general, and the Sept. 11 attacks in particular, to construct a building two blocks from the site of the deadliest of that day’s atrocities?

We suspect a significant number of people would give a different answer to the latter question than to the former.

Opposing the infamous mosque/community center solely because the people who want to build it are Muslims seems to us to violate one of the sacred tenets on which this country was founded — the notion that America tolerates all religious faiths.

Religious antipathy isn’t the only factor motivating mosque critics, but it’s certainly high on the list.

We would join the ranks of those who dislike the mosque’s proposed location were there evidence that the promoters had implied, however obliquely, that they had anything but disgust for the Sept. 11 terrorists.

But we have seen nothing of the sort.

In fact, Feisal Abdul Rauf, the imam who is the chief promoter of the proposed building, once advised the FBI and the Bush Administration on fighting the Muslim terrorists who pervert the very religion they claim they serve.

And recall that President Bush emphasized during his tenure that America’s enemy is not Islam per se, but rather a tiny minority of its sociopathic practitioners.

Americans should work with Muslims who agree that the Sept. 11 attacks were evil, and the very antithesis of any religion which purports to promote peace.

A claim, by the way, made by Christianity and by Islam, and one practiced by the vast majority of both Christians and Muslims.

Sadly, the controversy and the anger it has spawned have been inflamed rather than tempered by specious comparisons from influential commentators, among them Newt Gingrich.

Gingrich: “ Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust museum in Washington.”

His analogy is silly.

It would make sense only if al-Quaida were proposing to build the mosque.

But Feisal Abdul Rauf is no Osama bin Laden.

Rather than rely on tired canards such as the Nazis, we’ll edit Gingrich’s analogy and pose this question in its place: Should the German government, which has strived for 60 years to prove that Hitler’s murderous regime was an anomaly and an affront to the country he led, be allowed to fly its swastika-less flag within sight of the Holocaust museum?

One of President Bush’s more famous, and controversial, statements, made less than two months after Sept. 11, was his “you’re either with us or against us in the fight against terror” pronouncement.

Most Muslims in America, we believe, are with us.

And we ought to treat them as our allies.

To do otherwise risks creating more of something we don’t need: enemies.

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