First it was Sarah Palin referring to the Islamic cultural center that was proposed near Ground Zero as the “9/11 mosque”. Then it morphed into a Newt Gingrich and others accusing President Obama of pandering to radicalists by reaffirming this country’s dedication to its constitutional principles. Then even some Democrats like Nevada Senator Harry Reid started to pile on, insisting that the project was simply a bad idea. And each one simply looking to score cheap political points, regardless of the long-term damage.
Thankfully though some voices of reason from the right have started to emerge. One such voice is former Bush administration Solicitor General Ted Olson. Olson’s wife, conservative author and activist Barbara Olson, died on 9/11. She was on board the hijacked plane that was flown into the Pentagon, making Olson’s support for the center all the more poignant.
Olson’s support went beyond recognizing the obvious constitutional right to build the center. Instead, he attacked the politicking of the issue with a cool and composure that is sorely lacking from those attacking the project. As Olson told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell:
“Well, it may not make me popular with some people, but I think probably the president was right about this. I do believe that people of all religions have a right to build edifices, or structures, or places of religious worship or study, where the community allows them to do it under zoning laws and that sort of thing, and that we don’t want to turn an act of hate against us by extremists into an act of intolerance for people of religious faith. And I don’t think it should be a political issue.”
Like the conservative Muslims who have come out in opposition to the GOP’s use of the community center as a wedge issue, Olson’s statement brings some hope that the politics of fear and divisiveness that have driven the Republican platform over the past year are finally being challenged from within the party rank and file.
photo courtesy of David Shankbone via Flickr