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More on the GZM

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New York Times’ columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote more about the GZM on Sunday in a column titled “America’s History of Fear.”

The column begins:

A radio interviewer asked me the other day if I thought bigotry was the only reason why someone might oppose the Islamic center in Lower Manhattan. No, I don’t. Most of the opponents aren’t bigots but well-meaning worriers – and during earlier waves of intolerance in American history, it was just the same.

I believe the interview Kristof refers to is with me, and the transcript of the entire conversation is here. Sunday’s column by Kristof is a typically well-written and thoughtful piece by one of the center-left columnists conservatives should always read, but it has two major flaws, flaws which were pointed out in my conversation with Kristof, flaws which need to be addressed by every opponent of opponents of the GZM.

First, Kristof himself admits in my interview that he would be opposed to a mosque being built near Ground Zero that was controlled by radical Islamists, which puts him into the same camp as every other GZM opponent whose opposition is based upon the statements of Imam Rauf –even though Kristof disagrees with the characterization of Imam Rauf as a radical. Disagreement about the ideology of the specific proponent of the mosque doesn’t negate Kristof’s concession that opposition to some mosques at or near GZM would be appropriate. Kristof is not a “worrier” but allows that he would oppose some mosques. Thus all opposition is not from “worriers” but from rational, vigilant people. That concession is in fact the entire argument, a key repudiation of the column NK wrote Sunday.

The second, far more important problem with Kristof’s second column is that opposition to GZM is specific, not general, and that the manifest willingness of the vast majority of GZM opponents –including any “worriers”– to declare support for mosque building across the U.S. but not in the vicinity of the hallowed ground of Ground Zero is what makes the entire episode a very weak foundation on which to build any general assertion of a widespread climate of fear or Islamophobia.

The willingness of Mayor Bloomberg and many others to attribute such prejudice to their fellow citizens is not a reflection of a moral flaw on the part of the opponents of GZM but on those making the false charge.

Mr. Kristof invites comments on this column here. I encourage GZM opponents to respond but to do so with the civility and engagement that NK brings to my program when he appears. I will try and get him back this week or next to continue the conversation.

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