ADL’S MOST MISGUIDED MOMENT…. When I heard that the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) had issued a statement on the proposed Islamic Center near Ground Zero in Manhattan, I was relieved. Finally, I thought, a sensible, credible voice committed to combating bigotry and prejudice could remind the right-wing about the importance of respect, freedom, and how there are no second-class faith traditions here in the United States.
And then I read the statement, and my relief disappeared.
The ADL’s statement started off really well. It reiterated its commitment to religious liberty, “categorically” rejected the “appeals to bigotry,” and condemned those “whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry.”
But then the ADL went badly off course.
“The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process. Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.”
What? That doesn’t make any sense. The right manufactures a controversy, motivated by nothing but bigotry, so the facility should be built elsewhere? Why, to reward the bigots? And how many blocks away would be necessary to satisfy these demands?
“Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain — unnecessarily — and that is not right.”
This is genuinely incoherent, and a statement I suspect the ADL will one day look back on with regret and embarrassment.
What the Anti-Defamation League is arguing is that the sensitivities of bigots are more important than the religious liberty of American Muslims. The ADL believes faith communities should be free to build buildings, unless it might bother those who hate those faith communities.
The ADL seems to acknowledge and fully appreciate the fact that opponents of the Cordoba House are motivated by bigotry, but inexplicably calls for the accommodation of that bigotry.
Let’s be clear. This is not about the proposed Islamic Center. There is already a masjid in the neighborhood, and it’s been there for decades. This is about giving political cover to right-wing politicians using anti-Muslim bigotry as a political weapon and a fundraising tool. By doing this, the ADL is increasingly eroding its already weakened credibility as a nonpartisan organization.
I learned a very important lesson in Hebrew School that I have retained my entire life. If they can deny freedom to a single individual because of who they are, they can do it to anyone. Someone at the ADL needs to go back to Hebrew School.