Given the interest that the topic of the “Ground Zero Mosque” has sparked on the blog, I figured it was time for me to finally write about it, rather than just responding to comments.
But it’s harder for me than usual to find the two sides to this debate equally worth discussing. As I note in my previous post, rhetoric has had to switch from whether they should be allowed to build a mosque (or as Jon rightly notes, the community center) to whether it is acceptable. But while I and several of my readers were convinced by the argument that Obama originally laid out – that of course they had the legal right to build the community center – more people disagree than agree with these remarks, which the GOP call “insensitive.”
Furthermore, the insensitivity argument seems flawed in so many ways: 1) as Jon points out in his comment, there are plenty of other buildings the same distance away that do not seem to match the “Hallowed Ground” nomenclature, 2) that these moderate Muslims had nothing to do with the attacks, and 3) my basic argument that nothing could be better to showcase America’s religious tolerance. However, many Americans are not convinced: a FoxNews poll (reported by the BBC) found that while 61% believed Muslims had the right to build there, 64% thought it was inappropriate (disclaimer: I’m not sure what questions Fox placed before these focal questions, which could have primed particular responses).
So what am I missing here? I’ll admit that I was fortunate and did not lose a loved one on 9/11, but I don’t believe I could think of a better memorial than this – that in the tragedy, we continued to support the values that they would have supported. Furthering my concern, of course, is this report that mosques are facing hardship and opposition away from New York.
I think that we have got to make what might be a tough sacrifice for some to preserve the spirit of the American constitution. I think the compromise is not that we should encourage Muslims to build their community center further from “Hallowed Ground,” but that we should encourage people of all religious persuasions to build their worship and community centers closer to the location of such national tragedy. In this, we can re-affirm our commitment to not only religious freedom but religious tolerance and make the ground truly “Hallowed” in the best of senses.
UPDATE: I just came across this great article in Salon. And even though it repeats and bolsters many of my arguments, I promise I didn’t read it before blogging! I wholeheartedly agree with the fundamental premise: this is an important issue that needs discussion.