Mosque Planners Should Show Restraint
In the 11th hour, thanks to a phone call from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Florida pastor Terry Jones, of the Dove World Outreach Center, has apparently decided not to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of 9/11. Good!
I write this on Friday, so I suppose Jones could once again change his mind and follow through with his plans. But for now, he seems to be showing some restraint. Our troops in Afghanistan can perhaps rest a little easier knowing that deadly Muslim protest around the world has, for the moment at least, been averted. So - what about Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf's plans to go forward in building a mosque near ground zero?
Will Muslim leaders now come forth and call for Rauf to also exercise restraint? At least one American has. He is M. Judhi Jasser, whose article, "Questions For Imam Rauf From an American Muslim," appeared in Friday morning's Wall Street Journal.
Dr. Jasser asks of Rauf, "Where is your sense of fairness and common decency? In relation to ground zero, I am an American first, a Muslim second, just as I would be at Concord, Gettysburg, Normandy Beach, Pearl Harbor or any other battlefield where my fellow countrymen lost their lives."
These are powerful words spoken from one American Muslim to another in an extremely potent article that should be required reading for everyone, of whatever faith or nationality. This part of it brings to the debate on the proposed mosque another piece of the argument for why it shouldn't be built.
The first part of the argument is: While it is Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf's constitutional right under the First Amendment to build a mosque near ground zero, he is wrong when he says it is the right thing to do. It shows a lack of good judgment, sympathy and prudence.
It is neither sensible, reasoned, wise nor considerate. The law of the land guarantees him the right to build, but pursuing a greater good often means setting aside the law in favor of what is the decent and honorable thing to do.
This idea of honor and the ability to police or restrain ourselves is uniquely American. It is at the heart of our founding principles and freedoms. Our founders knew, no matter what their personal religious beliefs were, that standing alone, freedom of speech and religion didn't amount to a hill of beans if we didn't understand how to properly exercise these "God-given rights."
The only way "we the people" could be responsible enough to deal with the type of liberty proposed for us was if our characters would be guided by a higher power. What faith or religion didn't matter. Our conduct and characters would be guided by "God" and short of that, our founders felt that the American experiment would be likely to fail.
So far, Imam Rauf has chosen to argue that religious freedom by itself satisfies his decision to build the mosque. Strength of character, honor and restraint do not seem as important to him.
Dr. Jasser brings up the other critical point, and it's one that has not garnered the public attention it deserves, from either the American government, the press or the American Muslim community. When it comes to ground zero, Jasser understands that we are at war with terrorists. He rightly views the World Trade Center bombings as an act of war. As such, he says his allegiance to his country comes first, his Muslim identity second.
Let's suppose that since 9/11, the American Muslim community had continually and loudly declared the same sentiment. One can almost hear the echo that would reverberate around the world. One can only imagine how much closer we might be to peace if American Muslims who identified themselves as Americans first had with constancy called on their wayward and radical brothers to stop the terrorism against innocents.
We owe a debt of gratitude and allegiance to American Muslims who have called for their radical brethren to stop jihad. Sadly, these voices are not as yet concerted or loud enough. As Americans first, this united voice would be more powerful than anything we can generate from a war on terror.
Geoff Cutler is owner of Cutler Tree LLC in Southern Pines. He writes for PineStraw magazine under the heading "Thoughts From the Manshed."
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