As a part of their vitriolic campaign against the Park 51 Islamic community center and mosque being planned two blocks from Ground Zero in New York City, leading conservatives have argued that while Muslims have a right to build a mosque on property they own, it would be unwise or insensitive to do so.
Former Bush adviser Karl Rove was the latest conservative to make this argument, and in doing so took it to new levels, during an appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s show last night. Explaining to the Fox host that the first amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and freedom of speech, Rove said that there “are rights everyone has” that we think it’d be “prudent to not exercise them at certain times.” He then cited the examples of skinheads demonstrating at an African-American sorority convention and Neo-Nazis attending a Jewish hotel for a meeting, apparently equating those examples with the building of a mosque near Ground Zero:
ROVE: The vast majority of the American people believe there is freedom of religion in our Constitution and that right of freedom of expression would be best exercised by not building it here. Look, in that same first amendment there’s a right to freedom of speech. Who believes that skinheads should show up at a Black sorority convention and scream bigoted remarks? Who believes there’s a right of freedom of assembly. Who believes Neo-Nazis should show up at the B’nai B’rith hotel and have their meeting in the next meeting room? There are rights everyone has that we think it’d be prudent to not exercise them at certain times.
Equating the building of a mosque near Ground Zero with a demonstration by racist skinheads or a Neo-Nazi meeting at a Jewish hotel is extremely insensitive to ordinary Muslims like those building Park 51. Unlike Nazis or skinheads, the founders of Park 51 are Sufis with no history of advocating hate or taking part in violence. In fact, the founder of the institution, Imam Abdul Rauf, has even advised the FBI and been a diplomatic envoy for the State Department as a part of the U.S. struggle against terrorism. Unfortunately, Rove isn’t the only leading Republican to endorse the Nazi analogy. Former GOP Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich recently compared the mosque to placing a “Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Museum.”