The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission today approved a plan that will permit a Muslim fellowship center to be built a few blocks from Ground Zero.
Good for them.
While I can't know what it feels like to have lost a friend or loved one in the events of 9/11 and respect how those families feel, it's not those individuals who scare me. It's the politicians and isolationists who are using this issue to further their political ends while promoting hatred and fear of those of the Islamic faith. After I commented (in my own personal snarky fashion) about the bigotry on display over this issue, Will Saletan at Slate.com published a scathing, outstanding rebuke to the isolationists and the threat that they pose to the values that America was founded upon and that they supposedly uphold. And if there's any doubts about the views of our Founding Fathers, I encourage you to read Matthew Duss' recent post regarding George Washington's own words on the subject of religious tolerance.
Sadly, this groundswell of xenophobia is rearing its ugly head in so many places. The recent confirmation hearings for Elena Kagan, for example, showed us Republican senators like John Kyl who declared that he's troubled by the idea of examining how other countries are coping with the legalities of a rapidly changing world because "because it suggests that you could turn to foreign law to get good ideas."
Thankfully, people are willing to stand up in the face of ignorance and bigotry and veiled hatred. The Commission in New York was no doubt under a huge amount of pressure to quash the chances of the fellowship center as was Mayor Mike Bloomberg. I hope the commission members have unlisted phone numbers because I shudder to think about the hateful rants being left on their voice mails tonight. Even if they weren't directly taking a stand on the fellowship center itself, they knew what their decision meant and went ahead with it anyway.
And I'll leave you with one final link to a excellent editorial from today's New York Times, celebrating the powerful speech by Associate Justices of the Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsberg in favor of taking an international view of the law and our place in the world.