The story details the ignorance and fear that is driving efforts in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Temecula, California, and Sheboygan, Wisconsin, to block the building or extension of mosques or Islamic community centers.

The local skirmishes seem to be spreading like Tea Parties with about the same fear-mongering mentality. Goodstein reports that the opponents "argue that even the most Americanized Muslim secretly wants to replace the Constitution with Islamic Shariah law."

The highest-profile battle surrounds plans for a mosque near the Lower Manhattan site of Ground Zero. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in the spirit of our man Roger, courageously spoke up in support of religious liberty. In contrast, Republican heroes like Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich did their best to stir up hate and divisiveness by urging on the ignoramuses and bigots.

The article notes that a two-year study by professors with Duke's Sanford School of Public Policy and the University of North Carolina concluded that "contemporary mosques are actually a deterrent to the spread of militant Islam and terrorism." The notion is that the youth who participate in activities in mainline mosques are not likely to become the alienated types who are vulnerable to radicalization. But right-wing protesters, driven by fear and xenophobia, don't need no stinking studies or logic to make their argument.

The words of Roger Williams (who after all, hung with those dusky Injuns) may not be the ones to persuade the irate and fearful residents of Murfreesboro, Sheybogan, Temecula, or other communities who "don't get it" about religious liberty, so instead we offer this perspective on what we think the United States of America is all about:

"It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily, the government of the United States, which gives bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support."

That's George Washington, writing to the congregation of the Touro Synagogue in Newport. It is read every year at the synagogue and it would really be nice if those all stirred up about mosque-building could hear it.


PRIORITIES

If you were unaware of the power of ego in television news, may we point you to the example of NBC's one-minute-plus coverage (a lifetime in TV) of the death of Gordon Williams on August 9. Who's he, you say? Well, he's the father of the chief talking hairdo on NBC Nightly News, Brian Williams, who is as shallow as they come and looks like a mommy's boy who has been slicked up to go to church with his little spit-part and suit.

The self-absorption of this piece was mind-boggling. Giving the father of some second-rate TV "journalist" more time than the network would have devoted to the passing of Roger Williams, Tennessee Williams, or Ted Williams was not only clueless in the extreme but obscene, given that we are losing our finest young men and women in senseless wars abroad. Especially since all the Big Three TV news outlets pretend there are no wars going on.

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