Let me finish tonight with something good that came of this book-burning craziness and the now-related issue of the New York Islamic center. This Saturday, I stood facing Philadelphia’s Independence Hall as a group of Islamic, Jewish and Christian leaders prayed from their religious texts in a spirit of inter-religious tolerance. Governor Ed Rendell, who hosted the event, spoke of the great irony that circles around the New York Islamic center to be built two blocks from the World Trade Center. He said that the people of the World Trade Towers itself had set aside a stairwell between the 106th and 107th floors for the Muslims who worked there to say their daily prayers. He said that the space was made available because people working in the Trade Towers would otherwise have to go down a hundred floors and walk four blocks to the nearest Mosque. Rendell said it was ironic that he would be so comfortable leading what was essentially a demonstration of interfaith respect for all their holy texts, of the three great religions, emphatically including the Quran. As he pointed out, the governor of Pennsylvania “happens to be Jewish.” The people who spoke in front of Independence Hall were, they must have known, a small counter-point to the vast global publicity earned by the pastor who threatened to burn the Quran. But they were there anyway, proud to remind if only those who heard about it that this country was founded on religious freedom, that every person who came to this country freely came for more freedom to think and worship freely. Newt Gingrich said something awful this weekend. He said that the president of the United States represents “Kenyan, anti-colonial” thinking. There is one purpose to that statement: to de-Americanize Barack Obama. It plays into the thinking of those who say that the President is not an American. Wierdly, Gingrich goes further. He declares Barack Obama to be some zombie walking about under the guidance of his African father. Who better honors the values of our country, those who stood at Independence Hall this weekend or the former Speaker who takes upon himself the role of Ellis Island gatekeeper, decreeing who is American, depending on the dictates of the next election.
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