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Ground Zero on the Tolerance Issue

A Commentary by Debra J. Saunders

Friday, August 20, 2010

The mission of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf's Cordoba Initiative is not just to build a mosque and Islamic cultural center near ground zero, but also to build "interfaith tolerance and respect."

 The imam says he wants to bridge divides. Maybe he does, but first, he wants to poke a bunch of skeptics in their vulnerable body parts. Any imam who would put an Islamic center two blocks from where 2,605 people lost their lives in an attack led by Islamist terrorists -- at a location where the landing gear of one of the 9/11 airplanes crashed -- clearly is a poor ambassador for civility.

But he is also an American, and it's time Americans stopped expecting sensitivity -- and stopped talking as if not having their feelings hurt is practically a constitutional right.

I came to this conclusion even before President Obama lectured America on "the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances" -- remarks that the left touted as eloquent and courageous.

Until now, I've refrained from writing on the issue because the way the controversy has moved has been utterly predictable. First, the right opposes the mosque. Conservative figures like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich don't like a mosque near ground zero. They say as much.

Then, in a Pavlovian response, the left embraces the mosque and proclaims itself more tolerant of religious freedom. But the left is not more tolerant of religious freedom. Only the left, you see, has the sagacity to recognize that, as New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd put it, Rauf is "the moderate Muslim we have allegedly been yearning for."

 What you're seeing is the culture-war equivalent of "The enemy of my enemy is my friend." 

Quoth House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: "There is no question there is a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some." Translation: This issue is poison for Democrats.

And: "I join those who have called for looking into how is this opposition to the mosque being funded." That's Bay Area tolerance for you -- a well-placed Democratic politician wants an investigation into the funding of conservative dissenters.

Consider the track record of San Francisco. In 1993, the board of supervisors ousted a Christian minister from the Human Rights Commission because he said the Bible says homosexuality is a sin. In 2002, San Francisco Superior Court judges voted to ban judges from being members of the Boy Scouts because of the Scouts' refusal to admit gays. City Hall has leaned on Catholic Charities to renounce church doctrine in order to receive city funds to care for the sick.

The above stories aren't about private citizens trying to shame an individual or a congregation into changing course. They are about using the government as a club to muzzle certain views.

So it's more than ironic to watch the same folks who jump all over devout Christians now rush to Muslims' defense. This isn't about the left being more tolerant, as much as it is about the left disdaining the right.

Imagine if the Mormon Church tried to set up shop next to San Francisco's City Hall. But then, you can't.

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