Originally Published: August 21, 2010 10:01 p.m.
President Obama this past week defended the right of a Muslim community group to build a mosque and Islamic center two blocks north of Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan.
I fully understand his defense of all Americans' right to worship and their right to build places to worship on private property. It is fundamental to who we are as Americans. "Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country," he said at a White House dinner celebrating the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Obama said the next day he was merely commenting on the rights people have that date back to this country's founding.
I get that.
What concerns me, first, is many Americans' lack of understanding of what Muslims are about and who they are. More than one-quarter of the world's population calls themselves Muslim, most of whom denounce the 9/11 actions of 20 Islamic extremists.
At the same time, with that lack of understanding permeating the American population, we should not be surprised that some will see the mosque as a symbol of Muslim "triumphalism," as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich called it.
Moreover, when one sees the lack of understanding and lack of acceptance, we question the wisdom of our country's leader involving himself at all in such a local issue.
If we are to follow the idea of private property rights, the group can build its mosque there.
It can, but it should not.
The pain of 9/11 may have softened, but it is a wound that is easily reopened. Just because you can legally build a mosque near Ground Zero does not mean you should, especially if you know and respect the concerns of your neighbors or fellow Americans.
The president should have stayed out of it. What would matter more to me are the opinions of the Americans whose loved ones died in the 9/11 attacks and the locals who have to walk past the mosque after it is completed.
Do Muslims have a public-image problem? Yes. Is a mosque near Ground Zero the answer? I don't think so.
Further, the site has local zoning laws and those commissioners will have to make the decision.