Ed Koch Commentary: Citizens Recall and Be Guided by The Letter of President George Washington to The Jews of Rhode Island. It Applies to The Muslims of New York. BY Edward I. Koch

eHezi Archives 9 Comments

Koch_EdwardIrving-standing New York, NY, August 16, 2010

President Obama was right to express his views on constructing a mosque near Ground Zero, the site of the 9/11 catastrophe, “As a citizen and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country.  And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan in accordance with local laws and ordinances.”

The President is also right to oppose as he does the efforts by some to amend the 14thAmendment to the United States Constitution to bar babies born to illegal immigrants from becoming citizens.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was first to take up the fight to protect the legitimate rights of American Muslims to build a mosque near Ground Zero, was right and courageous to lead the way and point Americans in the right direction.

President Obama, according to The New York Times of August 15th is now “faced with withering Republican criticism of his defense of the right of Muslims to build a community center and mosque near Ground Zero.”  Those leading the charge against the President, according to The Times, “including Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, Representative John A.  Boehner, the House minority leader and Representative Peter King of New York, forcefully rejected the President’s stance.”

The President’s position will be remembered by later generations of Americans with the same high regard as President George Washington’s letter in 1790 to the Jews of Rhode Island who built the Touro Synagogue in that state.  Moses Seixas of the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island wrote to George Washington:  “Deprived as we heretofore have been of the invaluable rights of free Citizens, we now with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty disposer of all events behold a Government, erected by the Majesty of the People — a Government, which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance — but generously affording to all Liberty of conscience, and immunities of Citizenship: — deeming every one, of whatever Nation, tongue, or language equal parts of the great governmental Machine: — This so ample and extensive Federal Union whose basis is Philanthropy, Mutual confidence and Public Virtue, we cannot but acknowledge to be the work of the Great God, who ruleth in the Armies of Heaven, and among the Inhabitants of the Earth, doing whatever seemeth him good.”

President Washington responded as follows: “…The Citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy: a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent national gifts. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to 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.  It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my Administration, and fervent wishes for my felicity. May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.    G. Washington”

Let us not do again, albeit in different form and to a different group what we did to Japanese-Americans during World War II when we rounded them up without cause.  No Japanese-American was ever charged with treason, notwithstanding that they were placed in internment camps for the balance of the war.

I am a proud Jew.  Proud of my religion and my culture.  Columnist David Brooks, also Jewish and similarly proud, in a New York Times article of January 12, 2010, wrote of our people’s accomplishments:  “Jews are a famously accomplished group. They make up 0.2 percent of the world population, but 54 percent of the world chess champions, 27 percent of the Nobel physics laureates and 31 percent of the medicine laureates.  Jews make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, but 21 percent of the Ivy League student bodies, 26 percent of the Kennedy Center honorees, 37 percent of the Academy Award-winning directors, 38 percent of those on a recent Business Week list of leading philanthropists, 51 percent of the Pulitzer Prize winners for nonfiction.”

We Jews also have our share of thieves, predators, child molesters, Ponzi-schemers, traitors and profiteers.  Muslims have their share of great world accomplishments – the concept of zero, advancements in mathematics, medicine, chemistry, botany and astronomy.  They also have their share of crazies, tyrants, homophobes, those holding hostile and irrational attitudes towards women, vilification of Jews, Christians, Hindus and other so-called infidels.

Let’s be calm now and not need the passage of time to bring us to our senses and years later apologize.  Of course, those who suffered the loss of loved ones, and those exposed to the catastrophe of 9/11 have every right to hold opinions opposing the building of the mosque.  They are grieving and rightfully enraged at anyone associated in any way with the 19 Muslim terrorists who were responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans killed on 9/11, and all of us must sympathize with them and their feelings.

But Americans must never forget who we are and why our Founding Fathers and those who built the original 13 colonies came here.  It was primarily to find and create a new country in which they could practice religious freedom, denied them in England.  Jews found that freedom of religion in New Amsterdam, where the East India Company of Holland directed the first public anti-Semite in that city – its Governor, Peter Stuyvesant – to let them in, he first refusing to do so.

I believe we are locked in battle with fanatical Islam and will be for the foreseeable future.  I do not believe the vast majority of Muslims, and American Muslims in particular, are fanatics or enemies of the American people.

Government should neither favor nor hinder the efforts of religious institutions, other than to protect their rights to engage in carrying them out as permitted under the First Amendment of the Constitution.

A final word on those seeking to end the concept of American citizenship by virtue of birth, led by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC): Don’t they understand that the concept of citizenship by birth is one of the great American ideas of which we have been justly proud and which distinguishes us from many other countries and has served us well?  They should not fear the Know Nothings, whose voices are loud, but whose numbers are small.  They should not shame themselves by joining these violators of American values and traditions.

The Honorable Edward Irving Koch served New York City as its 105th Mayor from 1978  to  1989. His e-mail address is: eikoch@bryancave.com

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eHeziEd Koch Commentary: Citizens Recall and Be Guided by The Letter of President George Washington to The Jews of Rhode Island. It Applies to The Muslims of New York. BY Edward I. Koch

Comments 9

  1. WW111 has started with the Islamic Civilization waging a worldwide war against Western Civilization and all other civilizations.Islam allied itself for its own survival, during WW11 with the American led Allies versus the feared Germany led Fascists. At the end of WW11 stayed allied fearing a Soviet Union Communist takeover. With the collapse of the Soviet Empire Islam turned its attention to warring against Western Civilization.To think of Israel or America as the cause of Islamic aggression in India,Phillipines,Indonesia, Russia, China,Europe,Malaysia,Pakistan, Afghanistan and the continent of Africa is just a fools game.Saudi Arabia controlled by the Wahhabi religion spends 2 billion dollars a year promoting the radical Islam outside its borders.Islam operates not as a religion but much the same as the political movement Communism where non-believers are subjugated,imprisoned or killed.The practice of Islam should be banned throughout the non-Islamic world.

  2. jack needs to stop speaking as if no one but
    right wing republicans have the answers..and in
    fact george w bush was the first to say that the islamic religion was not the problem..this is not
    a democrat republican issue..those who perished in
    the trade center on 9/11 were members of all faiths
    all ethnicities and all political parties..this issue
    has everything to do with whether the islamic community
    recognizes that a mosque that near ground zero is an
    affront to the entire population of the US since the
    attack was made by a sect of the islamic community
    ie this is about their empathy not ours

  3. Opposition to living near crime-ridden low income public housing is common sense not racism.Its the leftist Democratic Party that drove out the law abiding low income population in low income projects with its policies of no behavioral qualifications and no evictions.The only good Democrat is a defeated Democrat.

  4. This is the same Jack Treacy who was going back to Ireland if we obeyed the Constitution and desegegated Yonkers a couple of decades ago. Personally a kind giving Christian, Jack has problems with empathy, sensitivity, and downright logical response when it comes to the multi-cultural, inter-religious, multi ethnic differences that make America special. The constitution supported by the cathechism Jack grew up with suggests justice and charity towards all is an essential focus. God bless America . It gives Jack the right to be wrong.

  5. No religion should be allowed to practice in this country that not only forbids, but annihilates other religions in the countries they control.What next under freedom of religion, women being stoned to death in Manhattan?Illegal immigrants are having children in America so they as adult parents will not be sent back over the border. The only good Democrat is a defeated Democrat.

  6. this has nothing to do with freedom of religion..
    this has everything to do with sticking ones thumb
    in the eye of a democracy..Muslims are free to practice
    their religion wherever they want..when george washington wrote to the jews there were no jewish sects
    attempting to destroy democracy..only jews who wanted
    the freedom to practice their religion..now we have a
    branch of islam that is bent on destroying western
    democracies…and we have experienced an atttack carried out by a branch of radical islam on the US
    in the heart of new york city..if muslims desire to
    demonstrate that they are good americans who value
    freedom and respect the sanctity of life..they should
    voluntarily choose to locate their community center
    that can not be intrepreted as claiming a muslim victory over the infidels which this mosque or whatever
    it is will surely stand for if it is built..we should
    not confuse the constitutional right to practice religion from the political ramification of allowing
    a religion, a large portion of which wants to destroy
    our way of life..let americans who practice islam send
    a message of respect to their muslim brothers that
    they too abore the attacks on the trade center and
    that they will not allow their peaceful brand of
    islam to be used as a symbol of conquest

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