ALLISON REILLY: Anthony Weiner is known to be outspoken on a lot of issues, but the Ground Zero Mosque isn’t one of them. Many are criticizing him on it, especially since he’s now married to a Muslim woman from Saudi Arabia. Some say that this should be a big reason to speak out. Stick up for your wife! Stick up for supporting those who practice Islam! I argue that a Muslim wife could be a reason for Weiner’s silence. Maybe his wife has advised Weiner against speaking out, or thinks the marriage speaks for itself and that he doesn’t need to say anything. Maybe Weiner wants to make sure the marriage and the in-laws are all settled it in before speaking out. The last thing any newlywed needs is to say the wrong things in public and anger the in-laws who may not yet like you and trust you.
Weiner’s silence could also be due to his vigorous support of the 9/11 health bill. Part of the Ground Zero mosque discussion pits the two sides as Islam vs. 9/11 victims and I think if Weiner spoke out it would be interpreted as trying to be on both sides of the issue. I understand all logical people see that those wanting the Ground Zero mosque aren’t trying to defame 9/11, but Weiner already made it perfectly clear he’s on the side of 9/11 victims and survivors. It’s rumored that he wants to run for New York City mayor, so it might work against him to “supposedly” be on both sides of this dichotomy if Weiner does intend to run.
I think it’s ironic that there’s much hullabaloo over an new mosque by Ground Zero when a fully-functioning one exists right inside the Pentagon and no one knows. The Pentagon was attacked on 9/11 too. It deserves equal ridiculousness.
JESSICA BADER: Anthony Weiner, like many elected Democrats, hasn’t exactly covered himself in glory with his statements on Cordoba House, the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” (which isn’t located within Ground Zero and is more of a Muslim version of the YMCA that includes a prayer space within the building). But that really shouldn’t matter. In this country, what allows a religious group to purchase land and build a prayer facility on that land is not public opinion polls or arguments offered by politicians seeking to please their constituents. The Bill of Rights does not get suspended because Sarah Palin Tweeted a call for refudiation.
The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” This – however anyone feels personally about any particular religion, or about religion in general – is why those who want the government to prevent Cordoba House from being built via eminent domain or some other procedure after it was approved by the local community board (a bigger accomplishment than most realize – NYC community boards are legendary for their toughness, especially towards bars and restaurants looking to expand their hours or renew their liquor licenses) and the Landmarks Preservation Committee so wrong. It’s also why Governor David Paterson’s offer of state land to entice Cordoba House to move further away from Ground Zero was such a profoundly stupid idea and why Cordoba House was right to reject it.
It should be clear by now that, while some of the opposition to Cordoba House stems from its close proximity to Ground Zero, there has been harsh opposition to the construction of mosques all across the country, much of it motivated by xenophobia. Fortunately, the Constitution does not leave an unpopular minority at the mercy of majority opinion, leaving all of us free to believe (or not) as we see fit. While I am proud of Mayor Bloomberg for delivering such a passionate and eloquent defense of religious freedom, what I really wish for is the day when that speech doesn’t need to be made, when we realize that freedom of religion doesn’t just mean freedom for whichever one we practice, when nobody feels the need to ask Anthony Weiner what he thinks of a construction project outside of his district.