MARTY RUSSELL: Builders of mosque are playing us like a fiddle

Unless they’re planning on scrapping the First Amendment along with the 14th, I don’t think Republicans should dwell too long on the whole mosque next to Ground Zero thing or it could come back to bite them.
The GOP in particular seems to view the plans to build a Muslim center two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center as some sort of liberal, un-American, probably Democratic plot to undermine the very foundations of this country and turn us all into Koran-thumping jihadists. Truth is, they’re the ones ignoring one of the very fundamental foundations of this country, religious freedom.
This country came about in large part as a result of religious persecution, namely the Church of England, so the Founding Fathers wanted to ensure that it didn’t happen here and spelled it out clearly in the very first amendment to the Constitution.
“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”
Sounds to me like those opposed to the New York mosque want to interfere with the group’s right to exercise their freedom of religion despite having cleared all the local legal hurdles.
That’s not what the First Amendment says. It says we’re all free to worship – or not worship – as we please whether we’re Baptists, Jews, Buddhists, Wiccans, Muslims or somebody who adheres to a fried chicken-based religion that believes Col. Sanders is god.
Just because somebody wants to build a Popeye’s next to the colonel’s grave doesn’t give anyone the right to interfere as long as all other legal requirements have been met.
Is the planned Muslim center offensive to many of us? Yes, it is, myself included. Was it sited at that location for that purpose? Probably so. At least it has the appearance of being an in-your-face taunt to most Americans which makes it that much more important that we don’t take the bait.
Protesting the mosque is probably exactly what the radical Islamic factions of the world wanted, an opportunity to show the world that, despite all our high-minded principles and idealism, America doesn’t practice what it preaches. As if Abu Ghraib wasn’t enough.
I expect we’ll be hearing a lot more in the coming months from politicians seeking office who are opposed to the mosque because they know a lot of their constituents agree with them and it will garner them votes. But those who do should be dismissed as just playing politics and, quite frankly, as being un-American.
The only rational response to the mosque situation, in my opinion, is to ignore it and quit giving those who are behind it apparently what they wanted, a show of American intolerance. Or, as someone else once said, to turn the other cheek, as infuriating as that might be.

Marty Russell writes a Wednesday column for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at 222 Farley Hall, University MS 38677 or by e-mail at marusse1@olemiss.edu

Marty Russell