Fareed Zakaria felt the need to return an award presented by the Anti-Defamation League to protest ADL’s opposition to a proposed mosque near Ground Zero.
But ADL’s position also is regrettable.
The ADL presented Zakaria with its Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize in 2005, but Zakaria last week returned the prize and the honorariaum that went with it, to drive home how troubled he was by ADL’s opposition.
ADL has decried the bigotry surrounding the proposed construction of a Muslim center near the former World Trade Center in New York, yet it opposes the construction out of sensitivity to the families of those killed on 9/11.
Zakaria wasn’t buying.
“I cannot in good conscience hold onto the award or the honorarium that came with it and am returning both,” he wrote in an open letter to the ADL. “I hope that it might add to the many voices that have urged you to reconsider and reverse your position on this issue. This decision will haunt the ADL for years if not decades to come.”
We wish Zakaria could have found another way. In today’s hostile climate toward Jews and Israel, his stance, however focused, can, and probably will be, distorted by anti-Israel activists. His message could be used against the Jewish world in ways he never intended.
Having said all that, ADL would be well advised to reconsider its position. Sept. 11 did not signal the start of a war against Islam. From the beginning, then-President George W. Bush said the same thing, clearly delineating in his speeches between Muslims who were just as shocked by the attack as the rest of the world, and the terrorists who launched it.
And let us not forget that innocent Muslims also died on 9/11 — not just Jews and Christians.
To now say that a mosque can’t be built near Ground Zero because the perpetrators of the attack were Muslim, runs counter to all the good fights ADL has fought.
Apparently, New York officials believe the same way. The New York City Landmarks Commission voted unanimously on Aug. 3 to deny landmark status to the existing building at the site, clearing the way for construction of the combination Muslim cultural center-mosque.
Even New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a Jew, has come out in support of the mosque.
ADL Director Abraham Foxman continues to defend the position. He’s making the news show rounds to explain his reasoning, and continues to say the ADL acted appropriately.
While he does that, we hope Foxman listens to the growing chorus of people, many of whom admire ADL’s long track record on fighting hatred, as they urge him to recant a position inconsistent with its ideals. This is the wrong fight for ADL.