More than a mosque, indeed

Those who support the building of a mosque at Ground Zero have offered a number of arguments in favor of doing so. The original rationale — that the mosque and related facilities would promote healing and interfaith cooperation – was always suspect. It collapsed entirely once it became clear that many Americans see the construction of a mosque at this location — where the landing gear from one of the 9/11 planes fell on a building — as rubbing salt in the wounds left by 9/11.
Recently, some proponents have tried to turn the “salt-in-the-wounds” nature of a Ground Zero mosque into an argument in favor of building it. Following the adage “no pain, no gain,” they claim that the hurtful nature of the mosque will make it a monument to our religious tolerance and help differentiate us from al Qaeda and its sympathizers. Not surprisingly, the appeal of this argument from masochism is not widespread.
Today, the Washington Post (via a news story by Krissah Thompson and Felicia Sonmez) presents a different reason for proceeding. Emphasizing that the facility is “more than a mosque,” the Post argues that it will provide recreational opportunities for Muslims, as well as others who are willing to put up with the religious-based restrictions imposed by the facility.
But the Post doesn’t explain why, assuming there is a need for special recreational opportunities for Muslims in New York, it must be met by a facility at this particular spot. Instead, it serves up a quotation from Ibrahaim Hooper of the Council on Islamic-American Relations (CAIR), an organization whose support for terror made it an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation criminal prosecution. Hooper claims that opposition to the mosque is based on “Islamophobic rhetoric.” And Time Magazine has echoed Hooper’s theme by running a cover story called “Is America Islamophobic?”
I doubt that America is Islamophobic. If it were, Muslims and mosques would be under sustained attack, and we wouldn’t be debating whether we should build a mosque and Islamic community center hard by Ground Zero or, instead, at some other location in Lower Manhattan.
But Americans are noticing how the Islamic community is behaving, just as they notice how virtually every other definable group (African-Americans, Jews, lawyers, Tea Party members, etc.) acts. This is the human condition.
In this case, Americans want to see whether Muslim-Americans conduct themselves with the same sensitivity they hope other Americans will display towards them. So far, some have and some haven’t.
If the thinking of those who haven’t prevails in this matter, Americans won’t start hating Muslims. But this affair will probably become an important point of reference in their view of Islam as it is practiced in this country.