Monday, August 16, 2010

Obama and the Mosque

Bill Clinton had a "Sistah Souljah Moment", when he showed that there was a leftward limit to how far he would go. Now Barack Obama has a Mosque Moment, which shows that there is no limit on how far he believes his office reaches.

The U.S. presidency has long been described as the most powerful office in the world; POTUS is "the leader of the free world". But presidents have historically remained agnostic on local zoning disputes. But now that the Supreme Court has taken an activist role in empowering municipalities to (literally) bulldoze citizen concerns, it shouldn't be a shock that the Chief Executive wants to get involved.

Some Muslims want to build a tall building housing an Islamic center in downtown Manhattan. Some other Muslims destroyed a tall building housing some 3,000 office-workers in downtown Manhattan. They aren't the same Muslims. The Park51 crew claims to be "dedicated to pluralism, service, arts and culture, education and empowerment, appreciation for our city and a deep respect for our planet." They are showing this dedication to pluralism and appreciation by ignoring the concerns of those who disagree with them and building their center right near Ground Zero despite nationwide opposition.

The relevant levels of government have sided (rightly) with the Park51 Muslims. America is a place where you have the right to build a 13-story building celebrating your faith and (unironically) your conquest of a Christian city. Imagine if Christians tried to build a similar building in a Muslim country, celebrating the civilization of Outremer. Anyway, huzzah for America's religious freedoms, and for New York City's government going through all the proper processes and allowing the permits, etc.

What did Obama have to add to this discussion? Maybe he could have had some back-room talks with the Park51 leaders about how the medium is the message, and how they would get a lot further with cultural understanding if they moved to Midtown. Maybe he could have asked them to build a sister center in the Arab Gulf, with the same "multifaith", "pluralistic" message. Or maybe he could have kept his thoughts to himself.

But he didn't. And he deserves the firestorm of criticism on the web, radio shows and cable TV that he's getting. Mr President, how dare you tell us how to zone our neighborhoods? Do you recognize no bounds on the limit of Federal power? What makes you think you are more wise the Cambridge police force, the New York zoning board, or the employees of the State of Indiana?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Obama was foolish to comment publicly about the mosque siting. It's a no-win issue: either you're against the Constitution or you're for the terrorists, so the best thing to do is stay mum. But don't fault him for exercising the power of his office or interfering with zoning. He was stating that he would not use the power of government to stop the normal exercise of freedom, and scolding those who advocated government making a special exception against constitutional freedom for this case.