Now it’s time for the Muslim leader planning the so-called “Ground Zero mosque” to take his own step back in a show of deference for the feelings of the people in his host city and country.
The Rev. Terry Jones, pastor of a tiny Pentecostal church in Gainesville, Fla., and Imam Faisal Rauf, leader of the effort to build an Islamic community center and mosque in lower Manhattan, have been centers around which firestorms of controversy have spun. Each has the legal right to go forward with his plans, but in both cases the plans offended many millions of people.
The outcry against Jones’ plan to burn the Quran was the most bipartisan response to any problem in recent memory.
President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Gen. David Petraeus all warned that the demonstration would antagonize Muslims worldwide and was likely to endanger U.S. troops in Afghanistan and other Americans living abroad.
Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin said it constituted an “insensitive and unnecessary provocation. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said the plan to burn the Quran was “profoundly wrong” and violated the beliefs of the founding fathers. Evangelist Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham, said it would be wrong to deface or destroy any religion’s holy writings, even those one disagrees with.
In announcing that he had changed his plans, Jones said he would instead fly to New York to speak with Rauf in a meeting arranged by Florida Imam Mohammad Musri, who opposes the Ground Zero mosque.
So far, Rauf has withstood all pleas to move his facility farther from the site of the twin towers that fell in the al Qaeda attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and he said Thursday that the plans would proceed. “We are not going to barter,” Rauf said.
This is not the time for Rauf to stand in defiance of public opinion. Americans are a tolerant people, but we expect fairness.
Jones bowed to public outcry and backed away from a plan that many millions saw as an affront. Rauf must do the same.