The proposed Ground Zero mosque is the latest flashpoint in a larger tragedy 

Beyond the Mosque

Although the debate over the proposed Ground Zero mosque has thus far been wrapped in religious, constitutional, and nationalistic rhetoric, whether or not a facility should be built should be a decision for New Yorkers, first and foremost.

If a majority of New Yorkers feel that a mosque is an inappropriate fit for the site of the 9/11 tragedy, this is not an affront to Islam anymore than forbidding the construction of a porn shop next to an elementary school is an affront to either pornography or primary education. Grown-ups recognize that some things are simply inappropriate, and those pushing for the construction of this mosque should grow up and show their neighbors a little respect. Even now, President Obama, who supports the supposed "right" to build a mosque near Ground Zero, questions the wisdom of doing so.

It should be noted the extent to which this story is largely a manufactured controversy. After all, the proposed mosque would be built two-and-a-half blocks from Ground Zero, which is farther away than another mosque just two blocks away and not too far from another mosque that has been in the same neighborhood for years.

Perhaps even more interesting is the role conservative talk radio has played in fueling this controversy, with certain hosts insisting that they have no problem with Islam per se, only what certain radical Islamists have done — like the murder of 3,000 innocent civilians on 9/11. I share their sentiment.

To feel indignation toward foreigners who would dare meddle in other nation's affairs or kill one's countrymen is quite natural, and yet so many Americans — particularly conservative talk radio hosts — still cannot comprehend that this understandable hatred is by no means exclusive to them. Did radical jihadists attack America on 9/11 for what we "are" or what we "do" on Muslim land and to Islamic people?

Taking credit for the attacks, 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden was very clear about his motivations: "Allah knows it did not cross our minds to attack the towers, but after the situation became unbearable and we witnessed the injustice and tyranny of the American-Israeli alliance against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, I thought about it. And the events that affected me directly were that of 1982 and the events that followed when America allowed the Israelis to invade Lebanon, helped by the U.S. Sixth Fleet. As I watched the destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me to punish the unjust the same way [and] to destroy towers in America so it could taste some of what we are tasting and to stop killing our children and women."

In addition to what many consider an unqualified support for Israel by the U.S., Bin Laden also cited the permanent presence of American troops on the Arabian peninsula after the Persian Gulf War and the sanctions placed on Iraq in the 1990s, during which over half a million children died. That's equal to 167 9/11s.

Most Americans don't hate Islam; they simply hate what certain radical Islamists did to us on 9/11. Likewise, most who subscribe to Islam don't hate America, but they do hate the multiple tragedies that have been visited upon them by the United States. There was a reason Iranians (who, if it wasn't for their leaders, would be perhaps the United State's best natural allies in the Middle East) marched in the streets, holding candlelight vigils for the victims of 9/11. There was also a reason Iraqis danced in the streets. Our "freedom" had absolutely nothing to do with either.

If Americans find the presence of a symbol of Islam near Ground Zero unseemly, imagine how Islamists view the permanent occupation of their own lands by a country they see as committing as many, if not more, tragedies? If this proposed mosque in N.Y.C. is ominous and insensitive, how do you think Iraqis feel about the Green Zone in Baghdad? Is their distaste not justified?

By and large, most Muslims are not jihadists, but polls have shown that many at least understand what motivates radical jihadists. And by and large, most Americans are not anti-Islam, but many still understand what motivates their countrymen to be angry about the proposed mosque, an anger that also energizes the support for endless and unlimited foreign intervention in the name of 9/11, worsening and widening an already vicious circle.

As Americans opposed to building the mosque at Ground Zero continue to insist that they don't hate Islam, only what some do in its name, they would do well to recall what our government has done and continues to do in America's name — fueling a needless hatred that will continue to cut both ways.

Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the "Morning Buzz with Richard Todd" on 1250 AM WTMA.


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