The Anti-Defamation League has betrayed itself and its own principles, by coming out against the Park 51 project (which is still being characterized incorrectly as the “ground zero mosque”). Their press release (in full below) is even worse than the denunciation of the project by Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich, because they explicitly concede that the muslim community has the right to build – but they then argue that rights don’t matter. This is an astonishing position for a civil rights organization to take, and one that undermines their own moral authority.

In response, Greg Sargent at the Washington Post notes,

The foes of this mosque whose opposition is rooted in bigotry are the ones who are trying to stoke victims’ pain here, for transparent political purposes. Their opposition to this mosque appears to be all about insidiously linking the mosque builders with the 9/11 attackers, and by extension, to revive passions surrounding 9/11. To oppose the mosque is to capitulate to — and validate — this program.

On this one, you’re either with the bigots or you’re against them. And ADL has in effect sided with them.

I’ve long argued that the muslim community should seek to build a working relationship and make strategic common cause with the Jewish community, because of our shared experiences and civil rights concerns. But I was bitterly disappointed in the decision by the Simon Wiesenthal Center (Los Angeles) to screen The Third Jihad, a grotesquely Islamophobic film created solely to disseminate hatred towards muslims. And now it’s clear that the ADL has no such interest in any universal application of their cause; they will only defend Jews from defamation and persecution. It’s truly depressing that the ADL should need to be reminded of the famous words by Pastor Martin Niemoller,

“THEY CAME FIRST for the Communists,

and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

THEN THEY CAME for the trade unionists,

and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

THEN THEY CAME for the Jews,

and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.


and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

We muslims should continue to speak up, in defense of ourselves and Jews and anyone else – in support of the very freedoms that drew us as immigrants to America, and which the terrorists sought to eradicate on 9-11.

Here’s the ADL press release:

We regard freedom of religion as a cornerstone of the American democracy, and that freedom must include the right of all Americans – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths – to build community centers and houses of worship.

We categorically reject appeals to bigotry on the basis of religion, and condemn those whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry.

However, there are understandably strong passions and keen sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center site. We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel – and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001.

The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process. Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.

In recommending that a different location be found for the Islamic Center, we are mindful that some legitimate questions have been raised about who is providing the funding to build it, and what connections, if any, its leaders might have with groups whose ideologies stand in contradiction to our shared values. These questions deserve a response, and we hope those backing the project will be transparent and forthcoming. But regardless of how they respond, the issue at stake is a broader one.

Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right.

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