At an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan at the White House, Mr. Obama told Muslim-Americans that he supports the building of an Islamic community center and mosque just two blocks away from where the Twin Towers were destroyed and nearly 3,000 Americans were murdered on Sept. 11, 2001. He later tried to back away from those comments. Mr. Obama said he was defending the right of religious freedom but not the "wisdom" of erecting the mosque.
Nonetheless, Mr. Obama has been clear: In his view, the Ground Zero Mosque should be built. There was no good practical reason even to comment on the issue. He had been silent for weeks as the controversy gathered steam. The overwhelming majority of the American people oppose the mosque — especially the families of the Sept. 11 victims. Politically, it is a loser — for him and his party. Yet he could not keep his mouth shut. Why?
Answer: For Mr. Obama, defending Islam has been a key priority of his presidency. In his famous speech in Cairo, Mr. Obama apologized to the Muslim world for the alleged "sins" and "mistakes" of America — even though no country has done more to liberate Islamic peoples than the United States, including campaigns in Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq. His aim was to engage the Islamic world on its terms and norms rather than defend America's values and national interests.
Mr. Obama openly bragged about his "Muslim background" and that his family had "followers of Islam." He spoke of his youth in Indonesia, his study of the Koran and the call to Islamic prayer. In short, he discovered his inner Muslim in an attempt to ingratiate himself with the Arab street. The message was: I understand you, and I will usher in a new era of Islamic-American relations.
This Mr. Obama has done with a vengeance. He is the most Muslim-friendly president in the nation's history. He wants the detention center at Guantanamo Bay closed. He demands that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, be tried in civilian court — with the full legal and constitutional protections given to U.S. citizens — several blocks from the World Trade Center site. He has ordered that the words "Muslim extremist," "Islamic terrorist" and "jihad" be cleansed from national security documents. He is openly anti-Israel. And he is prematurely withdrawing combat troops from Iraq, threatening to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Israeli military and intelligence officials concede that the administration — through diplomatic back channels — has told Jerusalem that Washington will not bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. The Jews are on their own in confronting the Holocaust-denying dictator President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Mr. Obama's tepid sanctions have failed to curb Iran's relentless march toward acquiring the nuclear bomb. This weekend, the Iranian nuclear power plant at Bushehr will begin fueling with enriched uranium. Thus, theocratic Iran is on the cusp of becoming a nuclear power. It is only a matter of time before radical Islam also has the bomb.
Mr. Obama has done everything possible to appease the Muslim world — including, now, backing the Ground Zero Mosque. The debate about the mosque has little to do with religious freedom or tolerance. There are more than 1,200 mosques in America and dozens of them in New York City. The debate is about the meaning and memory of the Sept. 11 attacks. Those on the left — led by Mr. Obama — have been determined to alter the nature of that event. For them, it was simply a criminal act by several deranged individuals linked to a little tiny group called al Qaeda.
Instead, the Sept. 11 attacks were acts of war in which 19 Muslim hijackers in the name of radical Islam brought global jihad here on American soil. This is why the Ground Zero Mosque is so offensive: It will be a symbol of radical Islam's conquest of America. If Islamists can erect a monument of victory that will permanently loom over our most hallowed ground, what can't they do? It will signify the surrender of liberal multiculturalism to the forces of political Islam. That is why so many Americans are passionately opposed to the mosque. They realize what is at stake.
This, however, is too much for some politically correct conservatives to swallow. Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online, taking a break from writing on Hollywood, complained in a blog posting that one of my recent columns making this very point struck him as "nonsense." For Mr. Goldberg, the mosque issue is not "as big a deal as some are making it." Yes, it's an "offensive and ill-advised mistake that might make things harder in a long, complicated struggle," but really all of this heat and friction could have been avoided with a few phone calls by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. My advice to Mr. Goldberg: Stick to writing about Michael Douglas and Paris Hilton.
A more probing analysis reveals the dangers we are courting. It is remarkable that our liberal ruling elites refuse to demand an investigation into Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the cleric spearheading the Cordoba House initiative, or his dubious and murky sources of funding. Even in Obama nation, $100 million for a mosque is not chump change. Mr. Rauf is not a moderate. He is not some Muslim Gandhi, preaching the virtues of multireligious tolerance. Rather, he demands that America adopt Shariah law. He has said that U.S. policies were an "accessory" to the Sept. 11 attacks — in other words, we brought it upon ourselves. He openly defends Hamas. Now, he is on a State Department-sponsored trip across the Middle East, likely raising money for the mosque from rich Persian Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia.
Mr. Obama has much to say when it comes to defending the rights of Muslims in America — even if this means supporting a project that deeply offends the values of Americans, disgraces the honor and memory of those who died on Sept. 11 and bolsters a pro-Shariah militant imam. But he is strangely silent about the rampant persecution of Christians and Jews in Muslim-majority nations — especially Saudi Arabia, which likely will provide the bulk of the financing for the Ground Zero Mosque, where churches and synagogues are banned.
Across Europe and Canada, a stealth jihad is taking place. Radical Muslim groups have learned to use the West's freedoms and secular tolerance to advance their Islamist agenda. Shariah law tribunals now exist in Canada, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands. Slowly but surely, political Islam is establishing itself as a potent force across the West. In the vacuum of progressive multiculturalism — with its moral relativism, radical secularism, hatred for the Judeo-Christian heritage and loathing of Western civilization — Islamism is filling the void.
The great irony is that the First Amendment was aimed at preventing the state establishment of religion. The Saudis have turned it upon its head: Riyadh, by financing mosques like the one at Ground Zero, is erecting radical Muslim sects here on U.S. soil that ultimately may threaten our most cherished freedoms. For the Saudi regime, there is no separation of mosque and state. And it is gradually imposing its theocratic will — its Islamist agenda based on Shariah law — upon the West. In light of this, Mr. Obama is a self-conscious radical, who is now putting the interests of Islam ahead of his own country. The debate over the Ground Zero Mosque has unmasked him as a president who favors Muslim interests over those of the American people.
Jeffrey T. Kuhner is a radio talk show host (570 am WTNT, 5 to 7 pm daily) and a columnist at The Washington Times and WorldTribune.com.