It’s election season, and like clockwork the wedge issue appears.  Pick an unpopular group and stir up potential voters with the prospect of their doing something dreadful.  Even Republicans are starting to shy away from using marriage between same-sex couples as the bogey–maybe the number of supporters, even within the party, is just rising too fast–so this year’s scapegoat is Muslims. 

The New York Times quotes Elliott Maynard (Republican candidate for Congress in West Virginia) as saying, “Ground zero is hallowed ground to Americans” (GOP Seizes Mosque Issue Ahead of Elections). And Newt Gingrich said on Fox, “We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor. There’s no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center.” Do you see the sneaky little move they’ve made there?  Muslims are equated with a foreign country at war with the United States. 

Which is exactly the bigotry being tapped: the myth that Muslims aren’t Americans.  Even the ones who live and worship in New York; even the ones killed at the World Trade Center because they worked there or were trying to rescue others who did.

Maynard again: “Do you think the Muslims would allow a Jewish temple or Christian church to be built in Mecca?” I don’t know whether there are synagogues or churches in Mecca; I doubt it, because the Saudi government, which, unlike Islam as a whole, controls what does and does not happen in Mecca, does not allow religious freedom.

Well, we do, despite our support for our ally Saudi Arabia being so knee-jerk that our response to its apparent sponsorship of the 9/11 attacks was to attack a different country. And to suggest, as Maynard has done, that the mass murder of 2000 Americans makes a spot ground sacred only to Jews and Christians is not only an offense against religious freedom, it’s an offense against Judaism and Christianity.

Some Americans feel that that spot has been hallowed by the tragedy that struck there; some don’t.  I’m one of the ones who do; I’m sure some of the New Yorkers who are Muslim do also.  What an insult to them to say that my worship is welcome near there but theirs is not.  When we play the “real Americans” game, real people get hurt.

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