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Grace Under Fire

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The misunderstandings about the request to build the Park Place Islamic Cultural Center are "dangerous," but the deliberately misleading statements of politicians using the mosque as a wedge issue are more likely to cause permanent harm and peril.

Their inflammatory statements ignore the fact their own words give comfort and aid to the terrorists. For the goal of terrorists is not to win, but to break down a country's values and ideas, and turn it against itself by instilling fear.

Now American politicians are shamelessly encouraging and fanning those fears. They are framing the issue in emotions or as concern for safety, security, jobs, respect. They make American believers in Islam the country's newest whipping boys. They assign collective guilt for an act committed by the distorted, vile contempt of a blinded, hate-filled few.

Those who push this fear think they are being tough, but the opposite is true. They claim the presence of a mosque on Park Avenue is insensitive, demeaning, provocative, goading; but a prayer center for Islam already meets there. Where were the politicians before?

Those angered by the request to build the center on Park Place are asserting that proximity is policy. "Location is power; seize and preserve the ground at all costs" is the mantra. Strength and might are being equated as a "feel good" territorial imperative.

The fact is this creates a subjugated class of citizens and rights. The fact is, this is exactly what the terrorists have called for, the breakdown and abandonment of American values. 9/11 was a physical act in a psychological and cultural war: the goal of terrorists at this stage is not physical or political conquest, but to attack and cripple American values, making these guiding principles useless, deprived of their strength. The terrorist are no doubt laughing at what they see as a disheveled retreat from these bedrock values as politicians, in the best tradition of war propagandists, are calling for vigilance over the "real threat."

As New York's mayor said in his statement, "We do not honor their lives by denying the very Constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending those rights – and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked."

One Muslim woman writing yesterday, added an eloquent, personal voice: "Every day I watch . . . this country become . . . more hateful, and yet you tell American Muslims to become more moderate. You speak as if we have not assimilated, but we have, beautifully. American Muslims do not practice polygamy, we are educated, we speak English, our women are active and visible members of society. And through the past 10 years, through all the propaganda and hate and accusations, we have remained in this country and stood our ground, and we have refused to become involved in this so-called "global jihad" against America. We are a vision of moderation itself, even by American standards. . . And yet you give in to those who would use their own prejudice to attack us, as if we are the ones who are responsible for 9/11. American Muslims died that day in those towers. We were not the perpetrators, and we have not become the perpetrators. Americans have lost sight of who their real enemy is. . . .my family has been in this country for over 300 years. My ancestors fought in the American Revolution, the Civil War, WWI, my grandfather fought in Normandy, my father was in Vietnam. Yet you are telling me to be moderate and assimilate. Into this country which my family has helped to build! . . . I cannot fully express in words the frustration I feel."

Ignore the politicians partial measures of truth; ignore their manufactured fears. Ignore their feinted outrage, which is linked in unholy alliance with the stated goals of terrorists. Their's is not a wise or well served approach.

Despite their xenophobic outcries, cast in the protection of liberty, let us celebrate a longstanding American tradition: grace under fire.

Thanks for reading! /wr. Please stir the Perlo, add a comment. Images: 51 Park Place (right side of the street, with the arch window), proposed site of the cultural center. Crowd at the 44th Presidential Inauguration. American Revolutionary Patroit. Images in the public domain.

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