The Islamic center in New York: international implications

I am appalled by the crazed rhetoric coming from people who oppose the construction of that Islamic Cultural Center two blocks from Ground Zero in New York. It is ill-informed and often inflammatory. On the part of many candidates for office, it is nothing more than a blatant attempt to exploit ignorance and fear of Islam to get votes.

And although a lot of ink has been spilled on both sides of this controversy, there is one factor I have not heard mentioned. The United States -- as a result of an act of Congress -- has an official Commission on International Religious Freedom. Every year, its members assess and grade the state of religious freedom in other countries around the world, with severe criticism aimed at several every year. Many of those criticized annually are predominantly Muslim nations.

If we were to prevent construction of this Islamic Center, how could we dare to stand in judgment of the rest of the world when it comes to religious freedom? We would be hypocrites of the first order. And in one act, this would undermine all our efforts to build positive relations with the Muslim world.

We are a nation founded on religious freedom, and we cannot waver in that value. All of us, especially Catholics and Jews, who know what it is like to be mislabeled and vilified by the dominant religious group, need to do everything we can to reverse this current climate of uninformed negativity.

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