This whole 'Ground Zero Mosque' controversy has me very conflicted. First of all, I am firmly and without reservation in favor of building the Ground Zero Mosque (even though it isn't being built, and it isn't at Ground Zero and it isn't even really a mosque). So I want to make that clear. There is also a very obvious legal and constitutional aspect to this: the local Manhattan Muslim community has every right to worship wherever they please. And on a personal level, I don't really care what American Muslims do or where they build their mosques, any more than I care where American Christians build their churches. In fact, the only thing that really offends me about some churches is that they are architecturally boring. Here in Raleigh, I get to see quite a number of very beautiful churches and, in my mind, that leaves no excuse for bland buildings.
At the same time, I am a little dismayed (although hardly surprised) by the response of the left. They have jumped all over this issue and defended the Muslims, which is good, but they have also implied that anyone who distrusts Muslims must have a lingering hatred for anyone who is not white. They have ignored the fact that Islam and Christianity are not identical religions. They are not equally benign. Here in America they may well be, but world-wide they most certainly are not. Each religion, at their purest form, has the potential to be equally vile and violent. I'm not too familiar with the Koran, but I know that the Bible is practically dripping with blood and tears and may actually be worse. But in their current cultural states, it seems obvious to me that Islam is far more dangerous. We need only think of the frightening and violent reaction to a series of cartoons to see that this is not the case of just a few dozen extremists but of thousands and thousands of Muslims all around the world. It's easy to forget that when we want to help them build a mosque.
I'm all for a future where Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Jews and Hindus can live side by side with nonbelievers. I'm for a future where religion is a less powerful cultural force. And, despite what Sam Harris says about religious moderates (that they provide cover for the truly dangerous extremists) I think that religious moderates are the key to a secular society. I believe that with science and truth and peace we can dilute religion - all religions - to the point that they are no longer dangerous.
The Park 51 Community Center (as the controversial mosque is actually known) is perfectly legal and will undoubtedly provide happiness, shelter and inspiration to a large number of New Yorkers. I hope it is built as planned. But in many ways it is a red herring, because it distracts us from any number of important related issues.