Upon news that plans were underway to build a mosque as part of a 15 story Islamic cultural center two blocks away from ground zero, Americans lost their collective heads.
Politicians and news outlets (often one and the same) have hijacked this relative non-issue into a whirlwind of fear-mongering and illogical disconnects.
This project is a relative non-issue. It is purely an emotional, symbolic and unsubstantive debate. What is telling are the immoderate reactions, emotionally charged conjectures and blatant hypocrisy offered by those who are adamant in their opposition.
Many dissenters acknowledge what is terribly clear: That constitutionally speaking—and for better or for worse—the Cordoba Initiative, led by Imam Feisel Abdul Rauf, are fully at liberty to pursue the approved project on private property.
Political posturing via media outlets often portray an exaggerated level of anxiety among the electorate, but polls have shown otherwise. Polls conducted by TIME, Rasmussen and NBC show the majority of both New Yorkers and Americans oppose the project. A recent statewide poll by Siena College in New York, as reported by the Associated Press, showed 63 percent of New York voters oppose the project, and 27 percent supporting it. For the respondents who oppose the project, only half of them believe the developers actually have a constitutional right to build it.
What we have here is a profound ignorance and solipsism—the extreme preoccupation with and indulgence of one’s feelings and desires; egoistic self-absorption—that fosters a disconnect which is unflattering and averse to a civil society.
Pervading blogs, editorials and the world of punditry is the delusion that allowing the construction of a mosque in close proximity to ground zero is insensitive and somehow dishonors America, the victims of 9/11 and those left to mourn them. To make this false connection takes a considerable dose of psychopathology and neuroses. It is like saying someone’s grandmother, who was murdered by a group of Hispanics, is dishonored when a Hispanic family buys a house to raise their family next to her gravesite. To say that a top-story Mosque overlooking ground zero dishonors anyone in anyway is to explicitly endorse the idea that Islamic institutions are “guilty by association,” a standard they do not hold when it pertains to the Inquisition and the Crusades with Christianity. Invoking the word “insensitive” by the boisterous chicken hawks—fervid supporters of military action that avoid combat themselves—should strike them as being quite pansy. Many on both ends of this dubious argument offer empathy for this view, but I offer nothing of the sort. A mosque at ground zero is no more “insensitive” to nationalistic Americans than it would be to all children when a Catholic Church decides to set up shop next to a playground. It also requires the same disconnect—that because many Catholic Churches have operated with relative impunity and have protected their army of pedophiles, all current and future Catholic Churches and clergymen are associated with doing the same.
We must ignore irrelevant arguments—what Imam Rauf’s beliefs are, for example—because it is far less complicated than this. It is the American way to acquire private property and do what one sees fit on that property within the confines of the law: Who cares how anyone feels about it? Dissenters on the right have, and should, revere such an enterprise. Freedom is not always convenient to what we believe, nor is it meant to affirm our world view or sense of self.
Ultimately, this debate has illuminated how insular many Americans are, and the double standard they hold, when it comes to religion. Islam, like Christianity, is a missionary religion—that is to say both are predicated on expanding in numbers, power and influence, much like nations.
I am not an Islamic apologist. But the fact remains, however repugnant the core claims of Islam and the texts of the Quran and the Hadith actually are, that if mosques were built on every block to the point where Christianity would no longer be the religious majority, it would not in the slightest way betray the integrity of this country’s religious freedom or demean any particular sect. American’s Christian majority is neither protected, nor guaranteed. Christianity does not have a monopoly on their religious majority. This is the price of religious freedom, for better or for worse.