To call Muslim worship in the same neighborhood as Ground Zero a “desecration of hallowed ground” makes a connection between the Islamic faith and an act of war that is at odds with the core beliefs America was built on.

In this country, we believe in individual responsibility and don’t believe in collective guilt. The Muslims of New York City should build their facility wherever the local zoning laws allow.

The people who planned and carried out the destruction of the World Trade Center may have been Muslims, but opponents of this project act as if all Muslims bear some responsibility for this crime. Why else would the mere presence of an Islamic center — not at Ground Zero but two blocks away in a busy city neighborhood — be considered an affront? This attitude smacks of religious scapegoating and something that should be intolerable to all Americans.

This is not a legal question but a moral one, and one that strikes at our basic founding principles. Those beliefs are why we put individual Nazi war criminals on trial at the end of World War II when it would have been much easier to punish all Germans.

We were operating under a concept of justice that holds individuals responsible for their actions — but only their own actions. This comes in sharp contrast to the Nazis, who condemned a whole people to the gas chamber.

Yes, 9/11 was perpetrated by al-Qaida, which bases its war on America on an idiosyncratic reading of the Koran.

But you don’t have to be an expert on religion to recognize that the goal of al-Qaida is less than spiritual and all about exerting power and control over others.

Osama bin Laden would probably like nothing better than to manipulate the United States into a war with Islam and its 1.5 billion believers, rather than with his tiny splinter group.

Hundreds of millions of Muslims all over the world practice their faith without ever feeling called to commit a violent act. Claiming that the entire faith of Islam bears some special responsibility for the actions of al-Qaida is as outrageous as it would be to blame all Christians for bombing abortion clinics, sexually abusing children or the financial excesses of a few televangelists.

Remember, the Godfather was a Christian, too.

This Islamic center plan has gone from a local zoning issue to a platform for talk-radio ranting because some politicians have irresponsibly used it as a wedge to leverage the still-tender wounds of many Americans into voting their way in November.

They should just stop before they cause more damage.

There were Muslims in the Twin Towers on Sept. 11, 2001, who were also victims of al-Qaida’s attack. Their families still grieve.

The perpetrators of 9/11 may have been Muslim, but all Muslims have nothing to apologize for.

This is America, where we don’t tell people how to worship. And we don’t hold a whole group responsible for the crimes of a few.


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