Mayor Bloomberg's latest defense of the Ground Zero mosque is passionate and detailed and, once again, completely unpersuasive. Worse, his recounting of old New York's history of religious intolerance comes off as a scurrilous attempt to tar mosque opponents with bigotry.
Reflexively accusing dissenters of prejudice is a tired and discredited trick, one especially unbecoming for any mayor of New York on this issue.
Calling the 9/11 attacks "an act of war" that left nearly 3,000 dead, including heroic first responders, Bloomberg declared, "We do not honor their lives by denying the very constitutional rights they died protecting."
Hooey and phooey. Nobody is denying anybody's constitutional rights, and hijacking 9/11 to defend a mosque turns reality on its head.
Muslims freely and openly practice their religion throughout the five boroughs, a point reinforced by the decision of the Landmarks Preservation Commission to allow demolition of the existing buildings on the site.
The mosque battle, as I have argued, is a simple matter of location, a land-use controversy writ in raw emotion. The question is not whether there should be another mosque in New York. It's whether one is appropriate on this site.
The mayor's stance recalls his initial support for putting the 9/11 mastermind on trial a few blocks away. "It is fitting that 9/11 suspects face justice near the World Trade Center site, where so many New Yorkers were murdered," he said before switching sides.
As the Anti-Defamation League argued in opposing the mosque, it is not "a question of rights, but a question of what is right."
"Building an Islamic center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain -- unnecessarily -- and that is not right," the ADL said.
The head of the Simon Wiesenthal Center took the same position Tuesday. In response to my question, founder and dean Rabbi Marvin Heir said in a statement, "The Simon Wiesenthal Center's position is that this mosque is the right idea, but at the wrong location. The area is the site of one of the greatest atrocities on American soil. Therefore, the feelings of the families of the victims of 9/11 must be paramount."
Heir, on a day when his famed organization is opening a Manhattan branch of its Museum of Tolerance, offered his own historic comparisons, saying, "A WTC-area mosque would be akin to an effort by West Germany, after the Second World War, flying flags across the way from Auschwitz. Such a move would have been denounced by the survivors of the Holocaust, and inappropriate. No religion should seek to claim ownership of this area."
Meanwhile, the mosque backers have already failed on their own terms. They talk of "healing" and "interfaith" dialogue, and now tell The Wall Street Journal they will put a 9/11 memorial in their $100 million project.
Yet the more they talk, the more it is obvious they are determined to force their presence against the wishes of the very people they say they want to help. The wounds of 9/11 cannot be healed by a unilateral action that instantly causes even more pain to survivors.
There also remain unanswered questions about the source of funding and the prospect of deeply unsettling images. Picture a swimming pool and a catering hall in the shadows of Ground Zero. Or Muslim calls to prayer wafting over the names of the dead.
If the backers really want to do something good for New York, the choice is clear. Move the mosque.
Michael Goodwin is a New York Post columnist and Fox News contributor. To continue reading his column, click here.
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Michael Goodwin is a Fox News contributor and New York Post columnist.