The rise of Islamophobia across Europe in recent years has filled me with a kind a foreboding I haven’t felt since the early 90s and the Nationalism in Former Yugoslavia. So I salute your President for taking on Palin, the TeaPartyers and Islamophobes over the Mosque Prayer Room in Downtown Manhattan as he celebrated the beginning of Ramadan at the White House last night.
The most important passage is transcribed below:
..as a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as anyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable. The principle that people of all faiths are welcome in this country, and will not be treated differently by their government, is essential to who we are. The writ of our Founders must endure.
I’m not alone in thinking this is one of the most important speeches of Obama’s Presidency. It could be a defining moment, like his Philadelphia Speech.
According to Glenn Greenwald
The White House originally indicated it would refrain from involving itself in the dispute, and there was little pressure or controversy over that decision. There was little anger over the President’s silence even among liberal critics. And given the standard attacks directed at Obama — everything from being “soft on Terror” to being a hidden Muslim — choosing this issue on which to take a very politically unpopular and controversial stand is commendable in the extreme.
The campaign against this mosque is one of the ugliest and most odious controversies in some time. It’s based purely on appeals to base fear and bigotry. There are no reasonable arguments against it, and the precedent that would be set if its construction were prevented — equating Islam with Terrorism, implying 9/11 guilt for Muslims generally, imposing serious restrictions on core religious liberty — are quite serious.
It was Michael Bloomberg who first stood up and eloquently condemned this anti-mosque campaign for what it is, but Obama’s choice to lend his voice to a vital and noble cause is a rare demonstration of principled, politically risky leadership. It’s not merely a symbolic gesture, but also an important substantive stand against something quite ugly and wrong. This is an act that deserves pure praise.
Many of you might wonder why this is such an important issue to me. But over the last few years I’ve developed a growing belief that Islamophobia – if left unchecked – could be as catastrophic for this century as Anti-semitism was in the last century.
The signs are everywhere to be seen. You have Palin’s 9/11 Mosque and the threat of Koran burning. We have the French assembly voting to ban Niqab, Switzerland banning minarets, the Dutch racist Islamophobe Geert Wilders getting 33 per cent of the vote, and the rise of the English Defence League here in the UK, deliberately targeting Muslim communities with violence…
Demagogues everywhere are whipping up a frenzy of hatred, rupturing centuries of religious tolerance, slyly supported by Neocons who’ve read ‘Clash of Civilisations’.
And it’s not just the innocent Muslim victims targeted by Islamophobes. They are also, because of it, more likely to be victimised, conscripted or otherwise tyrannised by their radical Salafist extremes.
I salute your President for taking this head on. Like the commentators say – it is one of the most important moments of his Presidency.