Karen Hughes, a former Bush 43 advisor, makes the following very strange claim.
First, the people who want to build the Park51 project (try calling it that from now on) are not extremists or terrorists, they don't hate America and its freedoms, etc.
The proposed site of Park51, an Islamic cultural center that will include a mosque, is especially contentious because it goes to the heart of who is to blame for the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. I stood in the Oval Office just two days after those horrific attacks as President George W. Bush spoke by telephone with New York Gov. George Pataki and New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He highlighted the importance of distinguishing between those who committed the acts of terror and the broader Muslim community. "Our nation must be mindful that there are thousands of Arab Americans who live in New York City, who love their flag just as much as the three of us do, and we must be mindful that as we seek to win the war that we treat Arab Americans and Muslims with the respect they deserve," the president said.
Hurray for Bush 43. But, second, many ignorant people, driven by incomprehension and contradiction (ok, she doesn't put it that way), wrongly associate them with the extremists who perpetrated 9/11.
At the same time, we cannot ignore the facts. As a Muslim American friend told me recently, "As much as I hate it, those hijackers called themselves Muslim."
This is what makes the location of the mosque such gritty salt in the still-open wound of Sept. 11, especially for those who lost loved ones that day. That same friend told me she could understand the feelings of those who believe that putting a mosque near the site where murderers calling themselves Muslims killed thousands of people is too much. That's what we need in this debate — more understanding and respect for other points of view.
Unfortunately, the conversation has become overheated, politicized and counterproductive. I believe that most Americans who oppose locating a mosque near Ground Zero are neither anti-freedom nor anti-Muslim; they just don't believe it's respectful, given what happened there. I say that as someone who strongly believes that the Sept. 11 attackers and other members of al-Qaeda do not represent any faith, but instead taint all faith with their acts of murder. I met many Muslims around the world who feel that, along with airplanes, the terrorists hijacked their religion.
Out of respect for these misguided people, they should move the park51 project somewheres else:
A mosque at the edge of Ground Zero would be much more than a house of worship; it would be a symbol, interpreted differently by different audiences. For some it would be the ultimate expression of the freedom of religion we enjoy in America; for others, a searing reminder of terrible deaths at the hands of murderers calling themselves Muslims. I suspect that the terrorists might celebrate its presence as a twisted victory over our society's freedoms. Rauf and his congregation are certainly free to locate their mosque near Ground Zero. But I hope and pray that they will show uncommon courtesy and decide not to.
As someone on the internet put it (don't remember where at the moment), "to be fair, we've been building ground zeros near mosques since 2003."