Today in Mosque Madness

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Team Gingrich gets both dumber and more offensive chatting with Salon’s Justin Elliot:

Newt Ginrich’s spokesman told Salon in a phone interview today that building a mosque at Ground Zero “would be like putting a statue of Mussolini or Marx at Arlington National Cemetery.”

Asked what the 19th century German philosopher had ever done to America, Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler said: “Well let’s go with Lenin then.” Tyler explained that he was talking about Lenin, who died in 1924, as representative of the Cold War and ideologies opposed to America.

And here we actually get to the nub of the problem. Joking about the exact scope of the proposed mosque exclusion zone the issue here is whether or not we should be defining Islam, as such, as an “ideolog[y] opposed to America” comparable to the ideology that powered the Soviet Union. I say “no,” Team Newt says yes. That’s both repugnant and strategically disastrous.

Meanwhile, the Anti-Defamation League embarrasses itself by abandoning the organization’s normal support for freedom of religion in a statement that condemns the anti-Muslim bigotry fueling the mosque’s opponents while endorsing their policy objectives. If the ADL wants to see Jewish/Muslim relations in America head down the toilet, this a sound strategy. Otherwise you might want to stick with J Street whose President, Jeremy Ben Ami, has his eye on the big picture:

The principle at stake in the Cordoba House controversy goes to the heart of American democracy and the value we place on freedom of religion. Should one religious group in this country be treated differently than another? We believe the answer is no.

As Mayor Bloomberg has said, proposing a church or a synagogue for that site would raise no questions. The Muslim community has an equal right to build a community center wherever it is legal to do so. We would hope the American Jewish community would be at the forefront of standing up for the freedom and equality of a religious minority looking to exercise its legal rights in the United States, rather than casting aspersions on its funders and giving in to the fear-mongerers and pandering politicians urging it to relocate.

American Jews have normally understood that minority groups in this country have an interest in sticking together. Today the right is going after mosques as un-American, but the principle of intolerance versus liberalism winds up implicating us all sooner or later.