Mosque Controversy Isn’t About Legal Rights;
It’s About Moral Use Of Those Rights

If New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg would open his mind as wide as he has been opening his mouth, he might realize the damage he has done to the cause of interfaith religious relations in this country.

Bloomberg and like-minded liberals have tried to make a constitutional issue of the question of building a Muslim cultural center/mosque two blocks from the site of the 9/11 disaster in which followers of the Muslim faith killed nearly 3,000 people.

The controversy is not about legal rights but about the way that Muslims and others promoting construction of the building are proceeding without any consideration for the feelings of not only survivors of those who were murdered by the Muslim terrorists but also the concerns of a majority of the American people.

What is legal is not necessarily moral.  Failure to try to understand the feelings of those who disagree with you can be an insensitive, morally reprehensible abuse of a constitutional right.

The damage, I fear, has already been done.  Bloomberg and his like-minded ideologues and Muslim allies, by their total insensitivity to feelings of others, have harmed, not helped, Muslims in their already difficult task of convincing the American people that Islam is simply another faith—a faith which should be accepted into the company of other religious faiths which are practiced in this country.

Incidentally but importantly, the performance of Mayor Bloomberg and those who think like him hasn’t involved any explanation or rationalization of why Islam is the only major religion that on too frequent occasion allows its followers, under the doctrine of Jihad or “holy war,” to become killers of “infidel” non-Muslims.

What do Bloomberg and his Muslim allies think about Muslim performances like these:

Taliban Muslims earlier this month captured and killed, execution-style, nine humanitarian workers who had volunteered medical help and other humanitarian aid for Afghans.  Some of the murdered had devoted their adult lives to the cause.

In northern Afghanistan, a young couple was recently stoned to death for trying to elope.  And in Iran last month, a woman was sentenced to death by stoning on adultery charges.  In response to worldwide revulsion and protest, the Muslim-dominated Iranian government redefined the woman’s crime as murder in an apparent effort to justify the death-by-stoning judgment.

Then there is a report from Saudi Arabia that a judge has asked several hospitals whether they could damage a man’s spinal cord so as to paralyze him as punishment after he was convicted of attacking another man with a cleaver leaving him in a paralyzed state.

Saudi Arabia regularly doles out punishment based on the ancient legal code of an eye for an eye.  To his credit, King Abdullah has been trying to clamp down on extremist ideology, including eye-for-an-eye decrees issued by clerics.

We cannot rationally expect to hold the Muslim world to our legal and religious standards, no more than responsible Muslim leadership can expect us to condone jihad-inspired “holy war” terrorism.

But, as I see it, we should expect Muslim leaders to try very hard to keep Muslim extremists from using “holy war” religious doctrine to kill non-Muslims.

This presumably won’t include the imam who, with Bloomberg’s outspoken support, is promoting construction of a cultural center/mosque two blocks from the site where Muslims killed nearly three thousand people—slaughter to which, the imam has charged, the United States was “an accessory.”  Mayor Bloomberg should pick his allies more carefully.

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“Trim Our Goals In Afghanistan;”
Mexican Drug War “Made In USA”

Some international news snapshots, lifted from a recent newsletter to members from the Council on Foreign Relations:

–The headline read:  “Plan for Post-Taliban Afghanistan Failing; U.S. Should Narrow Its Goal to ‘Tolerable Stability.’”

Three authors with impressive credentials in analyzing foreign affairs conclude that the original plan for post-Taliban Afghanistan, which called for rapid nation-rebuilding, has proven to be “a failing experiment in centralized democracy, heading toward de facto partition, with Taliban control in some areas and unstable, ill-regulated strongman governments in many others.”

The authors call on the United States to redefine its goals to more closely match our country’s narrower interests in Afghanistan.

–There might be a surprising result—at least one that I had never heard predicted before—which could occur if relations between the United States and Cuba are normalized, according to Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow For Global Health Laurie Garrett.

Garrett writes that Cuba’s public health network “could be devastated by an exodus of thousands of well-trained Cuban physicians and nurses.”

Garrett reasons that the strategies that the Cuban government has developed to build its health care system into what she describes as a major success story “have rendered it ripe for the plucking by the U.S. medical industry.”

–There is a lesson for Mexico in the way Colombia dismantled drug cartels, according to Robert C. Bonner, former administrator of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

Bonner writes that Mexico’s battle against the drug cartels “will determine who controls the country’s law enforcement, judicial and political institutions.”

Colombia, faced with a similar situation in the 1990s, won its war against the drug cartels by limiting the campaign’s objectives to dismantling the cartels, not ending the drug traffic, Bonner writes.  Columbia targeted the kingpins and also reformed law enforcement and judicial institutions, Bonner says.

Who am I to argue with an expert on the subject, but I do wonder how you can keep ruthless, well-organized, well-financed criminal elements from continuing to battle security forces so long as there is a great deal of money to be made in the drug trade.

I also think that not nearly enough attention is paid to the fact that Mexico’s battle against the drug cartels, at great cost in money and in lives, would not be necessary if there were not such great numbers of American drug abusers.  Mexico’s war against the drug cartels has, in effect, a “Made in the USA” label.

* * *

Britain Serious About Cutting Spending;
Are You Listening, Obama And Friends?

I wonder if the president and a rubber-stamp Congress who are speeding us down the road to continuing multi-billion dollar deficits and an increasing national debt are paying any attention to what has been happening in Europe—from Greece, which nearly went bankrupt, to Great Britain and its traditional socialistic welfare state policies.

A recent story in The New York Times carried this headline:  “For Many Britons, Budget Cuts Prove to Be Quick and Painful.”

A subhead said that there is little doubt that the new British coalition government “takes austerity seriously.”  These examples were cited:

The British government has abolished the United Kingdom Film Council, the Health Protection Agency “and dozens of other groups that regulate, advise and distribute money in the arts, healthcare industry and other areas.”

“The government’s action would seem shockingly abrupt,” The Times story continued, “in mass execution without appeal.  But it was just a tiny taste of what was to come.”

The new coalition government is preparing “to shrink down to its bare bones as it cuts expenditures by $130 billion over the next five years and scales back its responsibilities,” The Times reported.

The result, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, a research group, will be “the longest, deepest sustained period of cuts to public services spending since World War II.”

Are you listening, Mr. President and your liberal (excuse me, I know that some of you would prefer to now be called “progressives”) followers?

* * *

Black Fraternity Deserves Praise
For Tackling An Important Job

A tip of this columnist’s cap to the historically black fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, whose Omaha members in a formal ceremony last week “adopted” Kellom elementary school.

The goal of the 30 members of the local chapter of the fraternity, which includes alumni as well as those currently in college, is to approve academic achievement among young African-American males.  The fraternity’s members will specifically mentor the school’s fifth-and-sixth grade boys but the relationship between the fraternity and the school at 24th & Paul Streets will include 100 of the students.

Student chapter president Jamal Jackson said that “essentially, we want to prepare them to be young men.  They will be aware of the different traps they can fall into.  We want to help them build a strong foundation so they’ll make the right choice.”

In an African-American population in which, nationwide, something like 50% of children grow up in families without a father present, the need for role model/mentors is obviously very great.

Congratulations and best wishes to the Omaha members of Kappa Alpha Psi as they pledge to do their part to address that huge national problem.

* * *

Piniella Leaves As Cubs Fail
12-Run 9th Inning Challenge

My roommate spent part of Sunday afternoon watching American baseball fans’ favorite object of sympathy, the Chicago Cubs, as they played their final game under the management of Lou Piniella, a likeable fellow who deserved a better fate than to wind up his career as manager of the hapless Cubs.

Piniella decided to resign after Sunday’s game rather than at the end of the season as he had previously announced because his ailing mother’s health had taken a turn for the worse.

As I was dictating this column Sunday afternoon, Marian stopped by on her way to the kitchen to report:  “The Braves are leading 16-5, but the Cubs are batting in the bottom of the 9th, so the issue is still in doubt.”

The Cubs subsequently removed all doubt, going scoreless in their last at bat.

All of which reminds me of a statement made by a long-suffering Cubs fan when I asked him, before the 2000 season, if he was optimistic about how the Cubs would fare in the new century.  He was, of course, hopeful if not necessarily optimistic.

Then I asked him how he felt about the Cubs’ performance in the past century.  His philosophical answer:  “Every team’s entitled to a bad century now and then.”

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