statement by the Anti-Defamation League, under the leadership of national director Abraham Foxman (left), opposing the proposed Islamic Center near ground zero is cause for dismay. The ADL, after all, is an influential Jewish organization that has led the fight for tolerance and equal rights. After stating that all faiths have the right "to build community centers and houses of worship" and condemning "those whose opposition...is a manifestation of...bigotry," the group comes to the crux of its argument:
Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right.
Isn't associating those Muslims who committed a crime against humanity on 9/11 with the proposed Islamic center an expression of bigotry? Regarding the causing of pain, Paul Krugman asked pointed questions:
So let’s try some comparable cases, OK? It causes some people pain to see Jews operating small businesses in non-Jewish neighborhoods; it causes some people pain to see Jews writing for national publications (as I learn from my mailbox most weeks); it causes some people pain to see Jews on the Supreme Court. So would ADL agree that we should ban Jews from these activities, so as to spare these people pain? No? What’s the difference?
It isn't just the ADL that is opposed; a number of Republicans have made demagogic statements. Sarah Palin has asked "peace-seeking Muslims" to come out against this "unnecessary provocation"; Newt Gingrich said, "It’s not about religion, and is clearly an aggressive act that is offensive.” There are others, though, who see this center as a statement of America's religious freedom and tolerance. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said, “What is great about America, and particularly New York, is we welcome everybody, and if we are so afraid of something like this, what does that say about us?” Rabbi Irwin Kula, president of the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, said, “The ADL should be ashamed of itself.” In reference to the imam behind the center, Feisal Abdul Rauf, Kula said, “Here, we ask the moderate leaders of the Muslim community to step forward, and when one of them does, he is treated with suspicion.”
Kula touches on a larger point: What is the effect of this suspicion on the Muslim-American community, particularly its youth? Do we want to send a message of intolerance that results in alienation or a message of tolerance that results in assimilation?