Embracing Rather Than Tolerating
In the end, how we treat the mosque proposal will define us. Anyone opposing the mosque project will lose the ability to oppose bigotry in the future. When the mosque is built, it will be a shining symbol of the religious freedom available in the United States as well as a vibrant example for non-Muslims of how valuable the Muslims community is in Manhattan as well as all over the our country.
Manhattan NEEDS a mosque at Ground Zero. Manhattan needs to rededicate itself to embracing all faiths, finding ways to love each other's differences, and building bridges of understanding between different groups of people and among people from different parts of the world.
We need to learn to embrace (rather than simply tolerate) our brothers and sisters whose life experiences, beliefs, and values differ from ours. Anyone who comes to Manhattan to establish a peaceful community center is trying to help make Manhattan better. We should have a strong bias in favor of supporting such efforts.
Disappointing Support For Bigotry
The ADL has stood against bigotry consistently throughout its history. Its stated mission is to fight all forms of bigotry, but, in this instance, admitted that is was supporting a position that it would typically consider bigoted. In opposing the building of a mosque near Ground Zero, the ADL stated that the pain of the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks justified the bigotry embedded in the ADL's position. That position is shameful, illogical, and disgusting.
The ADL and many other groups have proclaimed themselves to be defenders of minority groups. There is no more obvious minority group needing support in our country than believers in Islam. Islam remains a beautiful and peaceful religion, and Muslims remain under attack all over our country. The ADL's attack on the mosque project is backwards. The ADL should be leading the non-Muslim support for the mosque as part of their fierce opposition to bigotry. Instead they have sided against Manhattan and with the bigots.
In opposing the mosque project, the ADL has severely damaged its own credibility, but it has likely not harmed the mosque project's chances of success. New York City is better than the ADL. We believe in our own principals, and we truly love our fellow New Yorkers. Our opposition to bigotry is not a slogan. New Yorkers oppose bigotry every day as we offer subway directions, a helping hand crossing the street, aid in getting a stroller up or down subway stairs, and a word of encouragement to people we don't know and whose skin color, attire, and/or language suggest they are different from us in some way. We do not views these daily activities as political statements because we live in New York City. We practice what we preach.
NYC's Leaders Rise to the Occasion
Our Mayor, our Borough President, the local community Board (by a vote of 29 to 1), and all of the key elected officials have all expressed their support for the mosque project. In that regard, our elected officials and community leaders have shown more consistency, better morality, and superior common sense when compared to the ADL. Perhaps New York will lead the way, as it has so often, toward freedom and away from hatred and bigotry, even as it is opposed by the ADL.