Legal vs. right

Legal vs. right

August 25th, 2010 in Opinion

A simple comparison is a good way to show why Muslims should not build an Islamic center and mosque very close to the site in New York City where radical Muslims murdered thousands of Americans in the 9/11 attacks.

Here is the comparison (for which we do not claim original credit):

Suppose that Americans of Japanese descent decided to build a Japanese history center near Pearl Harbor, site of the surprise Japanese attack that killed thousands of U.S. servicemen and drew the United States into World War II. And suppose that those modern-day Japanese Americans had completely peaceful, inoffensive motives in building the center near Pearl Harbor.

Of course, that would still be totally inappropriate, whatever their motives. There is nothing wrong in principle with building in the United States a facility to highlight Japanese history. But it would be shockingly insensitive to do so near Pearl Harbor, no matter how innocent the motives of the planners and even though the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor took place almost seven decades ago.

As it happens, Americans of Japanese descent are not planning to build any such facility near Pearl Harbor, though there are Japanese cultural centers that exist without controversy in other, more reasonable locations in the United States.

Contrast that with the proposed mosque and Islamic center close to Ground Zero in New York. If its organizers had absolutely innocent motives, it would nevertheless be horribly insensitive to build the facility there. But serious questions have been raised about the leader of the effort, who has said the United States was an "accessory" to the 9/11 attacks. That makes the plans to build the mosque doubly offensive, and some of the relatives of those who were slaughtered on 9/11 have pleaded with the organizers to build the facility elsewhere.

Supporters of the plans for the mosque are hiding behind freedom of religion. That freedom is certainly vital under our Constitution, and if there are no legitimate legal barriers to building the mosque, it probably will be built.

But that does not make it a wise thing to do. Defenders of the construction plan should consider not only whether it is legal but whether it is right.

It clearly isn't.