Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens said Thursday that Americans should be tolerant of plans to build an Islamic center and mosque near the site of the World Trade Center in New York. The 90-year-old Stevens said it is wrong to lump all Muslims with the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11 attacks that killed 3,000 people. “Guilt by association is unfair,” he told the National Japanese American Memorial Foundation in Washington.
Stevens, a World War II veteran, compared the criticism of the mosque to the emotion he said he initially felt when he saw Japanese tourists at Pearl Harbor. Among the thoughts that he said flashed through his mind during a 1994 visit to the memorial to the Japanese attack that brought the U.S. into World War II was, “These people don’t really belong here.”
He said many New Yorkers might have had a similar reaction to news about the mosque in lower Manhattan. But Stevens said he realized he was drawing conclusions about a group of people that did not necessarily fit any one of the tourists he saw at Pearl Harbor.