Rick Lazio Tries To Make Ground Zero Islamic Center A Campaign Issue.

New York Republican gubernatorial candidate Rick Lazio is now demanding that his Democratic opponent, Andrew Cuomo, investigate the Cordoba Initiative, the organization headed by Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf that is building an Islamic Center near Ground Zero:

"We're asking the attorney general to exert his authority to investigate the sources of these donations ... to determine whether it is compliant, and whether the Cordoba Initiative ... is in fact a legitimate charity. And in fact, whether the sources of income are legitimate or if they pose a security risk to the people of New York and the people of America," Lazio said.

This is ostensibly because Rauf, during a recent radio show appearance, refused to call Hamas a terrorist organization, saying, "I am a peace builder. I will not allow anybody to put me in a position where I am seen by any party in the world as an adversary or as an enemy." This is the only evidence Lazio has in suggesting that Rauf is connected to terrorism.

I recently spoke to Rauf about his views and about the construction of the Islamic Center near Ground Zero, which you can read about here. But Lazio isn't so much concerned about national security as he is about turning the Islamic Center into a cultural wedge issue. Cuomo now has to either distance himself from Rauf or reveal himself as a terrorist sympathizer -- believing that people have the right to build their places of worship whether they please regardless of their personal views isn't an option. Liz Cheney's colleague at Keep America Safe, Debra Burlingame, who joined Lazio for the press conference, makes that quite clear:

"There are interests in creating an Islamic presence at the site of the worst atrocity in the history of the Republic. It's very important to the people who want to hurt this country," Burlingame said.

Lazio insists, "This is not a matter of religion," while at the same press conference Burlingame declares that any Muslim presence near Ground Zero means the terrorists win. Those are contradictory statements.

On the merits of the accusation, I've seen nothing to suggest that Rauf is in any way connected to terrorism. But if someone were connected to terrorism, they'd be pretty stupid to draw attention to themselves by not to acquiesce to whatever loyalty oath is demanded of them. And that's generally the point of these accusations -- once leveled, there's nothing one can say to dissuade one's accusers. If you deny the accusation and make the obligatory gesture of loyalty, you're just being cunning; if you admit to having opinions that the accuser deems unacceptable, then you're clearly a terrorist sympathizer. That's how McCarthyism works.

At any rate, these accusations, which initially began in the far edge of the conspiracy-minded Cheneyist right, are now working their way into the New York gubernatorial race.

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