Amid a maelstrom of manufactured outrage by the radical Right, President Obama took one of the most courageous steps of his presidency Friday, reminding us that “Islam is not the enemy, al Qaida is”. The occasion of the President’s remarks was a White House dinner held to celebrate Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of prayer and fasting.
While the usual collection of Right Wing hacks cried foul, the President Obama called on Americans to embrace the constitutional protections accorded all religions. Wading further into the storm, President Obama articulated his position on the proposed mosque and community center in Lower Manhattan saying that “…as a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes 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".
Even before the President spoke, noted Constitutional scholar and defender of religious freedom Sarah Palin wondered if Obama would disavow the First Amendment, tweeting "Will Obama express US lingering pain & ask Muslims for tolerance by discouraging 9/11 mosque while he celebrates Islamic holy month tonight?".
Sorry Sarah, there is no such thing as a 9/11 mosque and, as the President so aptly put it "This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable”.
Palin's fellow tea party traveler Mark Williams stirred the pot of hate by declaring that the community center would be used for "terrorists to worship their monkey god."
In the wake of the President’s remarks, in what can only be described as a fit of knee-jerk jingoism, the heroes of the Right Wing lined up to express their outrage. Declaring that "President Obama is wrong," Rep. Peter King (R-NY) attempted to put lipstick on the pig of anti-Muslim hysteria by claiming that Muslims in Lower Manhattan are “abusing” their freedom to worship when and where they choose. “While the Muslim community has the right to build the mosque they are abusing that right by needlessly offending so many people who have suffered so much”.
Does King really believe that Muslims, many of whom are his constituents, are not offended by the, misguided, anti-Muslim rhetoric of the American Right? Has Rep. King forgotten the suffering of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan after almost 10 years of war and occupation? Is not the blood of thousands of Americans and Muslims lost to the horrors of armed conflict enough to satisfy King’s quest for endless revenge?
In face of an unprecedented campaign by the radical Right Wing to paint President Obama as everything from a “secret Muslim” to an undocumented immigrant, Obama has held true to his core strengths. True courage has become a rare commodity in politics today. By embracing American values and defying the hate and paranoia, the President has shown courage not seen since the days of the civil rights movement.