Controversy continues to rage over whether moderate Muslims should build, and should be allowed to build, a mosque or a community centre near Ground Zero in New York City. (Yes, they’re moderate: I have met the imam in question, Feisal Abdul Rauf, and his wife, Daisy Khan, who also leads the project. They are just what intelligent, sensible people would want in Muslim leaders: affable, well-informed, well-spoken, serious, convinced, and committed to good relationships with their neighbours of every stripe.) President Obama has recently opined publically on the matter, and the political storm has been whipping up higher and higher.
But it seems to me that this is not a difficult matter to understand or decide. In fact, it comes down to an utterly simple question. Either we think all Muslims are somehow implicated in the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or we don’t.
If all Muslims are thus implicated, then of course they shouldn’t be allowed to build near Ground Zero. Nor should they be allowed to build near anything else that matters to the rest of us. In fact, they should all be rounded up and exiled as the clear and present dangers that they are.
If we don’t think all Muslims are implicated in the attack, then of course they should be allowed to build a mosque or community centre or whatever the heck they want to build wherever the zoning and funding will allow—just like any other citizens.
I’m a Christian. In fact, I’m an evangelical Christian. Am I implicated in the shooting of abortion doctors? Am I implicated in the policies of the Harper government here or the Bush administration recently gone? Am I implicated in whatever James Dobson or Pat Robertson or Franklin Graham or Benny Hinn says? If so, then I’m a pretty dangerous guy. If not, then you’ll have to treat me like anyone else you hardly know: as a neighbour, a fellow citizen, who must be allowed the full exercise of his rights and liberties until I have manifestly proven myself unworthy of them.
Feisal and Daisy do not deserve this firestorm of enmity when they are trying, as they have for years, to make friends among non-Muslims. And they are quite right to press for a Muslim presence anywhere and everywhere in America, for they see nothing contradictory between being a loyal Muslim and being a loyal American and they must not act as if they do. Why not? Because if they lose their nerve and back away from this project, they will concede the whole game and imply that somehow all Muslims should be ashamed of what happened during 9/11.
If others of us do think all Muslims should be ashamed, then let’s say it out loud and press for the logical consequences of that opinion: All Muslims are categorically un-American, even anti-American, and should be treated as such.
Otherwise, let’s let our Muslim neighbours build their mosques, community centres, or whatever, and let’s all get back to work. The last time I looked, there were more important things—much, much more important things—for Christians, Muslims, and others to discuss, such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Nigeria . . . .
UPDATE: I have furthered this conversation in a post dated August 28.