To the Editor:
We disagree with "A Monument to Tolerance" (editorial, Aug. 4) in what it said and what it did not say about the Anti-Defamation League.
We did not "eagerly pile on" with the bigots. Indeed, we have publicly taken on those who criticized the mosque in ways that reflected anti-Muslim bigotry or used the controversy for that purpose.
Yes, the ADL has been fighting bigotry since the days of the Ku Klux Klan, but we have also been specifically combating Islamophobia, sometimes alone, since 9/11. It was the ADL that took out a major advertisement in this newspaper after 9/11, with the headline "Let Us Not Fight Hatred With Hatred," to combat stereotyping and violence against Muslims after the terrorist attack.
It was the ADL that spoke out on behalf of a Muslim congressman when some assailed his wish to take the oath of office on the Koran. It was the ADL that condemned an Ohio decision barring a Muslim woman from wearing a religious facial garment in court. And there are many other such examples of our leadership in this area.
In this case, as when Carmelite nuns in the 1980s sought to build a convent by Auschwitz, we took the position that the impact of such a construction on or near a site of such pain and tragedy was not the path to reconciliation. Then, Pope John Paul II agreed and the chapel was built a mile away.
We have not denied the right to build the mosque on the site. We simply appealed to the initiators to consider the sensitivities of the victims and find another location. It is this issue, not religious freedom and surely not bigotry against Muslims, that led us to our statement.
In the final analysis, well-meaning people can disagree on this matter without castigating the intentions or actions of an organization like ours that actively fights bigotry, including that against Muslims.
Robert G. Sugarman