Sadly and surprisingly, the Anti-Defamation League–a Jewish organization that has some distinction as a bulwark for civil rights and against religious bigotry–came out against the construction of a mosque and Islamic community center struggling for permission to be built within sight of Lower Manhattan’s destroyed World Trade Center. Abe Foxman, the ADL’s often cantankerous head, pronounced against it on the grounds of respect for the “pain” of some victims’ families, who have opposed this project. (Some other victims’ families have declared support for the project.)
The gist of Foxman’s view is that victims of monstrous crimes are entitled to “irrational” and even “bigoted” feelings. He doesn’t actually argue that the Muslims don’t have the right to build there; he analogizes to the inappropriateness of the Carmelite nuns having their convent at Auschwitz—that it’s literally out of place there. I suggest a gander at a blog post by Hussein Ibish that eloquently rebuts this kind of reasoning.
You may be heartened to know that David Harris, head of the American Jewish Committee (the other remaining major Jewish defense organization in this country) has just endorsed this “Cordoba House” project. But before you feel better about the basic decency of the organized Jewish community, you should know that it’s a very tepid and anemic endorsement, and as such less than a profile in courage.
In another blog post, The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait approvingly quotes J Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami against the attack of Commentary writer Jennifer Rubin on this subject. He quotes Ben-Ami as follows:
What better ammunition to feed the Osama bin Ladens of the world and their claim of anti-Muslim bias in the United States as they seek to whip up global jihad than to hold this proposal for a Muslim religious center to a different and tougher standard than other religious institutions would be.
In the face of Rubin’s argument that this is a surrender to bin Laden and other Islamist terrorists, Chait sagely responds:
Rubin’s charge is that the group [J Street] is a front for “pro-Muslims.” Why? Because it favors religious freedom for American Muslims. Rubin does not charge the group with advance [of] some objectionable principle — Jihad, America-hatred, or whatnot. She accuses J Street of favoring an objectionable group, Muslims. In her mind, you are either for us or you are for them. The notion that certain principles — say, religious freedom — might be good for both us and for them is beyond the scope of her consideration. … Click to see Part 2.