Commentary: No place of government in ground zero 'mosque' issue

So Pat Robertson's law outfit is suddenly concerned about the minutiae of New York City's landmark preservation code?

The American Center for Law and Justice, which was founded by and answers to the religious broadcaster, has filed a lawsuit to protect an Italianate building in lower Manhattan from demolition. It's arguing that the city's Landmark Preservation violated administrative rules when it ruled the structure wasn't distinctive enough to warrant landmark status.

That's not the real issue, of course — just the best line of attack on a plan to build a Muslim cultural center two blocks away from the former site of the World Trade Center.

Critics, members of Congress among them, say the Cordoba House would be an affront to the memory of the people who died at Ground Zero on 9/11 at the hands of Muslim extremists.

Two kinds of opposition need sorting out here.

Some opponents, the Anti-Defamation League for example, aren't suggesting that government block the construction of the "mosque" (the center would contain space for Muslim services). They're more or less saying that the project's prime mover, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, is being insensitive and provocative in creating a major Islamic presence so close to Ground Zero.

Rauf replies that he's all about building bridges between Islam and America and means no insult to anyone. He does indeed have a record of arguing for moderation and trying to educate Muslims and non-Muslims about each other.

The imam touched some very raw nerves, though, when he said — just weeks after the destruction of the World Trade Center — that the United States was an "accessory" to the terrorism and that "Osama bin Laden is made in the USA."

His point was that American intervention in the Middle East had angered Muslims to the point of violence, but such nuances were lost in translation at that anguished moment.

Criticism of the Cordoba House's location and Rauf's world view: perfectly legitimate.

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