The Ground Zero mosque project should not go forward – and let’s hope that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is behind this $100 million endeavor, gets this message and backs off.

But given what he is hearing from the liberals in New York, including the city’s mayor, the congressman in whose district Ground Zero sits and The New York Times, it’s hard to be optimistic that he will change his mind.

Opposition to the mosque is being portrayed, as The New York Times editorial page put it, as abandoning “the principles of freedom and tolerance.” But the Times makes its own tenuous grasp of reality clear as it goes on in its editorial embracing the mosque and Islamic center to say that “the attacks of Sept. 11 were not a religious event.”

We can only wonder what those at the Times think was motivating the young Muslims who, while embracing their Qurans and chanting to Allah, committed suicide, taking 3,000 innocent Americans to their deaths along with them.

A jaw-dropping expose on the six-month undercover operation that revealed the true terror-supporting nature of CAIR: “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America.” It’s also available in electronic form at reduced price through Scribd.

The website for the project, the Cordoba Initiative, advertises itself as “improving Muslim-West relations” and “steering the world back to the course of mutual recognition and respect and away from heightened tensions.”

But if Feisal Abdul Rauf is primarily motivated to “reduce heightened tensions,” why would he do something as obviously provocative as building a mosque and Islamic center a few feet away from Sept. 11 Ground Zero?

It’s fine and well that he wants to improve Muslim-West relations – but why must he choose the place where thousands of Americans were murdered by Muslim terrorists to do his outreach?

Critical to grasp here is the suggestion of the need for dialogue, that the existence of Islamic terrorism is the result of problems with us Americans as well as problems that may exist in Islam. And it all would be fixed if we understood each other better.

This is simply false.

Americans don’t need any lessons about freedom and tolerance.

Several million Muslim Americans live, prosper and practice their religion freely and without interference in our country. According to a Google search, there are about 2,000 mosques in the United States.

We have one Muslim American member of the United States Congress, who took his oath of office with his hand on the Quran.

Probably every major American university has programs where students can learn about Islam to their heart’s content – including universities, such as Columbia, that are in the heart of New York City.

In a Gallup poll earlier this year, only 9 percent of Americans said they feel a “great deal” of prejudice against Muslims. Given recent history, this is an astounding statement of the beauty of the character of the American people.

As we know, President Obama brought with him to the presidency a conviction that we Americans somehow bore some responsibility for the antipathy toward us in the Islamic world and that outreach would help.

But, of course, this is false. As Johns Hopkins University Middle East scholar Fouad Ajami pointed out in a Wall Street Journal column, President Obama’s outreach program has accomplished only diminished respect for us in the Islamic world. Antipathy continues to run high and unchanged, and it’s not because there is something wrong with us. It’s because, as Ajami points out, it’s a convenient “scapegoat” for nations and rulers that refuse to address their own real problems.

Of the 17 nations Freedom House rates the “worst of the worst” regarding their state of freedom, six are Islamic nations.

Feisal Abdul Rauf should spend his $100 million, wherever he is getting it from, to advance the cause of freedom in Islamic countries. That is where the problem is. It’s certainly not here.

The fact that he insists on provocatively erecting a mosque at Ground Zero raises legitimate suspicion that he is more a symptom of, rather than a solution to, this problem.

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