A mind-boggling campaign maneuver has been taken by Blue Dog Democrat Michael Arcuri, who represents a congressional district in Upstate New York, closer to Canada than it is to Manhattan. Arcuri has announced that he wants to create certain zones in New York State where certain religions cannot be practiced.
Congressman Arcuri cited “victims’ rights” in a statement declaring that a Muslim community center and mosque should not be built in Manhattan – “for the sake of the victims and their families”.
Victims’ rights? Where in the Constitution does it say that the relatives of crime victims get to have veto power over other people’s religious practices? Victims don’t have that right in the United States. Mike Arcuri is a lawyer. He ought to know that.
Representative Arcuri also ought to know that there were American Muslims in the World Trade Center when it was attacked on September 11, 2001. Muslims were among the victims of September 11, 2001. How is Arcuri protecting the rights of their families, by pushing to ban their free practice of religion?
What makes Arcuri’s decision to use his power as a member of Congress to try to prevent the free practice of religion in Manhattan is that his Republican opponent, Richard Hanna, had already declared opposition to efforts to ban the free practice of Islam in Manhattan. Hanna wrote, “This country was founded by people who were running away from religious persecution… So how can we become what we have beheld and found contemptible other places?” Arcuri didn’t need to support the effort to ban the new Muslim building in Manhattan. Hanna had removed it as a campaign issue – before Arcuri re-introduced it.
Residents of New York’s 24th congressional district are now faced with the bizarre prospect of a Democratic candidate arguing in favor of Sarah Palin’s extremist right wing position against freedom of religion, against a GOP rival who opposes Palin’s anti-mosque crusade.