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Provocation and Constitutional Right at Ground Zero

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

What does the hoo-ha about the proposed Cordoba Mosque 600 feet from Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan say to you?

Several things, specifically three: 1) That American principle shouldn't be held hostage to provocation; 2) That in America, toleration is one thing and naivete something else; and 3) That leftism under siege -- liberalism, progressivism, call it what you like -- isn't pretty.

That's really not the answer I was expecting.

Just as, perhaps, imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has said he never expected the public reaction -- better than 2-1 against -- to his mosque where he insists it be built.

And you view building it there as a provocation?

Absolutely. In the Islamist view, a deliberate finger in the eye of the Western/Christian infidel. Islam builds mosques on the sites of its greatest triumphs. In 711, Muslims conquered Spain for Islam's first major victory in Western Europe. They planted their first European mosque in Cordoba, which became the seat of the Caliphate of Iberia and North Africa.

Now they want to put up a mosque near the site of their evisceration of more than 3,000 lives on 9/11 -- their first North American triumph. And they want it done by next year, the tenth anniversary of their 9/11 victory and (not coincidentally) the 1,300th anniversary of their conquest of Spain. The Cordoba name for their Ground Zero mosque was not just yanked out of a hat.

But imam Rauf isn't a jihadist. He's a moderate.

Maybe, and maybe he's a poseur -- a jihadist fellow traveler posing as a moderate. Certainly he deploys the moderate's vocabulary. Building the Cordoba mosque near Ground Zero, he says, would promote -- let's see: peace, collaboration, engagement, pluralism, healing, outreach, interdependence, toleration, cross-cultural understanding, interfaith dialogue, and respect for the Constitution.

You don't agree with that?

Those are feel-good pieties right out of the liberal lexicon. I do not agree that the two-thirds of Americans who see through them to a different Islamic purpose for this mosque on this site are yahoos, lunatics, or extremists. I do not agree that it makes any more sense to blame poll-respondents for their sentiments about the mosque's location than it does for supercilious Obamists to blame the voters for turning against the presidential brand of force-fed progressivism.

But the Constitution --

No one is arguing with the Constitution -- or about the constitutional and civil rights of Muslims. No one is saying Rauf and his Muslims have no right to put their Cordoba mosque near Ground Zero. Of course they have the right. What they lack is the wisdom, the sensitivity, the prudence. They know precisely what they're doing, and they obfuscate in clouds of a high-sounding and preening moralism their insensitivity to the feelings of Americans, New Yorkers, and family-members of those lost on 9/11.

Rauf the moderate is not a moralist?

Hard to say. Rauf won't disclose the lead financiers of his $100 million mosque, though they are rumored to be Saudi Arabia, a principal in the mosque-building (and madrassa-building) business, and Iran. (Interestingly, Nancy Pelosi, who has voiced few concerns about Rauf's financial backers, is adamant about learning who is financing the opponents of the Cordoba victory mosque.)

Yet Rauf has said a number of immoderate things atypical of your run-of-the-mill moralist. Such as: (a) 9/11 was a justifiable expression against American-caused Muslim grievance, and (b) moving the mosque to a different site would invite a barrage of negative press in Muslim countries (where contempt for America already runs deep). Also (c) Rauf has declined to term Hamas a terrorist group, contrary to the determination of the U.S. State Department.

So where does all this leave the discussion?

First, in opposing the Cordoba mosque at the Ground Zero location, two-thirds of the American people (as recorded by the pollsters) are not naive, never mind that Rauf and his leftist supporters want their sentiments over-ridden and the mosque built next year -- the year of those two very big Islamic anniversaries, 1,300th and 10th.

Second, Manhattan already boasts Muslim mosques, but the politicized (Johns Hopkins' Fouad Ajami uses the word weaponized) faith of Islam does not need yet another at Ground Zero. The American people are right to oppose it there, and the operative truth is that it likely won't ever be built there.

Won't be built there? Why?

Because, as The Wall Street Journal's Dorothy Rabinowitz has written, "Liberal piety may have met its match in the raw memory of 9/11, and in citizens who have come to know pure demagoguery when they hear it."

New York's first-responders, their ranks so ravaged on 9/11, and hard-hat laborers who spent so much time picking up the pieces, will exercise their own constitutional rights. Reflecting the overwhelming sentiment of the national populace, they'll put up picket lines. Any efforts to cross them could prove as unpretty as the collapsing leftism that encouraged the confrontations. The mosque won't happen.

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