By GARY BAUMGARTEN
Paltalk News Network
Former New York Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Ed Koch didn't agree on much. Koch even wrote a book about it, Giuliani: Nasty Man. So, I suppose it shouldn't be such a big surprise that they are at odds over the so-called Ground Zero mosque.
Koch backs President Obama's public support of the mosque. He likens it to President George Washington's support of the establishment of a Jewish synagogue in Rhode Island.
Giulani, on the other hand, opposes it - on the grounds that the mosque will spread hatred. He believes the organizers aren't interested in healing - but want to use the mosque as a wedge to divide.
And all along, I thought the post-9/11 war was not a battle with Islam but with terrorists. Apparently, Giuliani doesn't make that distinction.
He's not alone.
Many Americans believe that terrorism is a code word for Islam. "Not every Muslim is a terrorist," they'll say. "But every terrorist is a Muslim."
I guess that whenever a Muslim, then, commits a violent crime, he is a terrorist. When a non-Muslim commits a violent crime, then he is - well - a criminal.
All of this is indicative of a crossroads in society. In a nation, which was founded on the premise of religious freedom, we are making an exception when it comes to the freedoms of Muslims.
Of course, there are counterarguments to this assertion as well. "Islam isn't a religion" is one oft-heard phrase. "Islam is a religion, but it's also a political ideology" is another.
So, does that mean Muslims should be exempted from the constitutional guarantees of religious freedom?
It seems a bit odd to me that Giuliani would argue that the motivation of the mosque's developers is to be divisive. Its imam is involved in interfaith movements in New York City. He has spoken out against terrorism and in favor of interdenominational dialogue. Both Presidents George W. Bush and Obama have used him as an emissary to the Muslim world.
If it were not for this mosque and it's proximity to Ground Zero, he would be the poster boy for how all Muslim leaders should comport themselves. Now, suddenly, he's divisive.
The current New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg, supports the mosque. Were Giuliani still mayor, he would oppose it. And likely use the power of his office to block the legal establishment of a religious institution two blocks from Ground Zero. Sort of like he tried to stop an art exhibition at the Brooklyn Art Museum he found offensive to his religion when he was mayor.
I wonder which approach, Bloomberg's or Giuliani's, would be judged the most divisive.
Ed Koch responds:
Dear Mr. Baumgarten:
You don't have my position exactly right. I believe the Muslim supporters of the mosque are insensitive for going forward on that site. However, they have an absolute Constitutional right to do so, and government should take no measures to impede them. Those opposing the site of the mosque have an absolute right to express their views. Rudy Giuliani supports the Muslims' Constitutional right to build and, at the same time, expresses his opposition to their building on that site. While our language is different in expressing our views, it would be incorrect to describe us as being at odds.
All the best,
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