I really didn’t want to go anywhere near the topic of the so-called Ground Zero mosque. But after watching so many friends melt at Mayor Bloomberg’s speech in support of the mosque yesterday, well, here I go. First off, I don’t disagree with a few of Bloomberg’s points: The Cordoba House will be built on private property, and it’s not the government’s job to tell people what to do with private property. And I’m proud of that I live in a country that, unlike Saudi Arabia or Iran or Afghanistan, offers its citizens freedom of religion. So I don’t think any government body should block the mosque. But I don’t have to celebrate its presence, either.
I realize the Cordoba Initiative’s mission is to improve relations between the Muslim world and the West, and that it seeks to empower women. It’s quite clear it is guided by a more moderate brand of Islam. But I still have two big problems with this project. One, however noble the goals of the center are, the people behind it had to realize this was going to stir up trouble. However unintentionally, they are picking a fight: 54 percent of Americans oppose the construction of this mosque, and not all of them can be close-minded ignoramuses who think it’s going to be a terrorist haven or a sign that the Muslims are trying to take over our country. Putting a mosque so close the site where 3,000 Americans died understandably causes strong reactions in people: Even though we are coming up on the 10 th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, who can’t close their eyes and remember where they were or how they felt that day, as if it were yesterday? And yet if you speak of anything but peace, love, and understanding, you’re a frothing-at-the-mouth wing nut. Secondly, I’m sorry, but no, I’m not very tolerant of a religion that itself tolerates such abhorrent behavior, where women are maimed for fleeing their abusive husbands , threatened with stoning for adultery, where even a Westernized and presumably moderate young woman might have to flee her family to escape threats for dating a Hindu man. And that’s just news from the last month! (By the same token, I have been in absolutely no hurry to baptize our younger children because I am horrified by what has gone on in the Catholic Church.)
The Cordoba House will be built, and I hope it will not be subject to violence, threats, or other ugly actions. But when my kids are old enough to visit New York and go to Ground Zero so that we can explain to them what happened on that terrible day before they were born, we won’t be making a side trip to the neighboring mosque.
Photograph of protester by Timothy A. Clary/Getty Images.