Despite Keith Olbermann's stern pronouncement (is anything that he says not stern) that "[The] country has begun to run on a horrible fuel of hatred", I am quite sure that opposition to the mosque is not powered by hatred, but by the sense of common decency that most people instinctively recognize. As in, "you know Marge, sure those people have the right to build that dang 'ole mosque there by Ground Zero, but even though they have the right, it just ain't right. Know what I mean?" And don't lecture me about America and her citizens needing to live up to certain ideals as an example to the world of the inclusiveness and tolerance of American society. Why do people continue to insist that the United States must prove its assertions of liberty and tolerance. Why do so many refuse to give the United States the benefit of the doubt? Would people from around the world clamor to come here if the United States was systematically racist, xenophobic, homophobic, islamophobic? The U.S. is none of those things. The city I live in has a prominent, long-standing middle-Eastern population, a bunch of middle-Eastern college students, and many middle-Eastern restaurants. I have not yet detected any convulsions of hatred.
Supporting the GZ mosque on the basis of setting an example for the world is ridiculous. It would be as naive as destroying all of our atomic weapons as an example to the world, and then crossing our fingers and hoping that other countries would do the same and not take advantage of the situation. It would be as self-destructive as imposing harsh penalties on all forms of carbon dioxide emissions, as an example to the world of course, and then hoping that others would follow suit and not grab the jobs and the wealth and the carbon-emitting industry that would migrate, post-haste, to more business-friendly locales. Why? Because if the GZ mosque is built as planned it will serve not as an example of American tolerance, but of American decline. People around the world will look and say, "we would NEVER have allowed that in my country." Conversely, if it is not built, the vast majority of people will not see intolerance, but rather the common decency of a proper outcome. And why is everybody talking only about the GZ mosque? A similar "cultural center" was planned for central London, right next to the Olympic stadium that is being built for the 2012 Olympics. Pressure from the community has halted those plans, for now at least. What awful, xenophobic, racist islamophobes those Brits must be.
There is another reason to oppose. The Imam who is leading the charge to build is moderate, so we are told, and only seeks to build bridges of understanding between Islam and the rest of American society. This may be true, but I believe that Imam Rauf seeks to build bridges in order to condition people to aspects of the Islamic faith that they currently reject. The Islam that is spreading around the world--and I believe the GZ mosque is a part of this--is not just a religion, serving only to facilitate and support the relationship between human beings and their God(s), but a political and legal system as well. This system, Sharia, with its dictates on the status of women, homosexuality, finance, etc., is incompatible with enlightened western culture. The two cannot co-exist. Islam must modernize, reject Sharia, offer up to civil and government institutions the processes of politics and justice as other religions have done. If Islam will accept that more limited role in secular societies, then it will be welcomed as all other religions are welcomed (though contrary to the horrible fuel of hatred that is supposedly consuming us, it is largely welcomed despite its political and legal ambitions), and people may be more willing to follow the letter of the law, and honor explicitly the RIGHT of Imam Rauf to build his mosque. Until then, I stand with the majority.
7 hours ago