Obama Religious Freedom Declaration Falls Short

President Barack Obama Mosque

President Obama’s well-intentioned-yet-utterly-politically-tone-deaf declaration of support for religious freedom could have been an incredible moment in contemporary American politics. Unfortunately it was an unmitigated disaster, that he could have and should have seen coming.

To quote Robert Redford, (as Bob Woodward) in “All The President’s Men”: “I don’t mind what you did. I mind the way you did it.” President Obama is fighting this fight with ideas, while the Republicans are fighting it with symbols. It’s like bringing a knife to a gunfight.

People hear “mosque at Ground Zero” and think one thing: Invasion, U.S.A.

Today’s electorate make snap judgments, based on incomplete data, generated by gut instinct reactions to hyperbolic headlines. There’s no room for nuance. No time to discover that this is not, in fact, an Al Qaeda training center replete with bunk beds and climbing walls. That a large and vibrant Muslim community already lives and worships in Downtown Manhattan. Or that a similar Muslim Cultural center has operated for decades only two blocks away from the proposed site.

People hear “mosque at Ground Zero” and think one thing: Invasion, U.S.A. Doing the right thing is to be praised, especially when it’s not politically expedient. However, doing it in the wrong way sometimes does more harm than good. The President could have brought Mayor Bloomberg, leaders of the Jewish Community, and like-minded 9/11 family members together in support of religious tolerance. Flags, freedom and firemen. Sadly, he didn’t. For a person already facing a cadre of conspiracy-minded detractors accusing him of being a closet Muslim, this announcement must have come across as the D.C. equivalent of Batman tearing off his mask. Or turban. True or not – it’s the symbolism that people remember.

Noel Eisenberg is a guest editorial journalist for Global Whisperer.

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