Newsweek columnist (and Newsweek International editor) and CNN host Fareed Zakaria announced he would return a prize from the Anti-Defamation League because he was upset by the group's decision to oppose the mosque proposed for Lower Manhattan. Zakaria said last night on his CNN show, "I have to say I was personally and deeply saddened by the ADL’s stand because five years ago, the organization honored me with its Hubert Humphrey Award for First Amendment Freedoms. Given the position that they have taken on a core issue of religious freedom in America, I cannot in good conscience keep that award."
The mosque, whose planned location two blocks from the World Trade Center site has ignited a national debate ripe for election year posturing and maybe even a discussion of religious tolerance. Zakaria elaborated in his Newsweek column in which he called the ADL's decision to criticize the mosque's location as "bizarre":
The ADL’s mission statement says it seeks “to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens.” But Abraham Foxman, the head of the ADL, explained that we must all respect the feelings of the 9/11 families, even if they are prejudiced feelings. “Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted,” he said. First, the 9/11 families have mixed views on this mosque. There were, after all, dozens of Muslims killed at the World Trade Center. Do their feelings count? But more important, does Foxman believe that bigotry is OK if people think they’re victims? Does the anguish of Palestinians, then, entitle them to be anti-Semitic?
Five years ago, the ADL honored me with its Hubert H. Humphrey First Amendment Freedoms Prize. I was thrilled to get the award from an organization that I had long admired. But I cannot in good conscience keep it anymore. I have returned both the handsome plaque and the $10,000 honorarium that came with it. I urge the ADL to reverse its decision. Admitting an error is a small price to pay to regain a reputation.
The ADL's Abraham Foxman responded in a letter posted on its website, "We did not oppose the right for an Islamic Center or a mosque to be built. What we did was to make an appeal based solely on the issues of location and sensitivity."
Foxman also told the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, "If you want to heal us, don't do it in our cemetery." We wonder what Foxman would say about the organization behind the Museum of Tolerance (which also opposes the mosque two blocks from Ground Zero) building a Museum of Tolerance location in Jerusalem atop a Palestinian cemetery.