Diary

Stopping Ground Zero mosque should be priority for Muslim-Americans

The ground zero mosque provides Muslim-Americans with an important test to show which side they are on. We frequently hear complaints by Muslims in this country that people unfairly regard them with suspicion, and that it is wrong to assume someone sides with the terrorists simply because they share the same religion. Or even that true Islam condemns such attacks.

Well here is an opportunity for them to prove it. While there are plenty of arguments why Americans and their governments should tolerate such a mosque based on property rights or religious freedom, it should be obvious to everyone that building it there is and should be deeply offensive. Regardless of whether the original motivation might have been something positive, it should be clear to the promoters of the mosque, American Muslims, and everyone else that it will be perceived as a celebration of the 9-11 attacks there.

To take an analogy, I’m a Lutheran of German descent, and my religious denomination has a disproportionate number of German-Americans. Let’s suppose that one of our congregations wanted to build a new church and “German-American cultural center.” No problem so far. But what if it’s a Washington, DC congregation and the site they pick is next door to the Holocaust museum. See the problem? Even though German-Americans had nothing to do with the Holocaust, celebrating German anything in that spot would be deeply offensive and would be perceived as an endorsement of the Holocaust. If the plan went ahead in that spot once the perception was pointed out, it would be fair to conclude that its supporters intended the offense, or at least didn’t mind that it. I’d be pretty confident that the outcry would be especially loud from Lutherans and other German-Americans because we would want to avoid the taint to our church and ethnicity that such a project would create. The pressure from within the congregation and the wider denomination would surely put a stop to such a project.

Muslim Americans ought to respond in a similar manner. If the mosque goes up, Americans have every reason to view it as a celebration of the attacks. If Muslim Americans begin to loudly protest and stop this mosque, it will be a good step in demonstrating that they are on our side in the war against bin Laden and his ilk. But if they remain silent or defend it, we will have very good reason to be suspicious of their motivations and allegiances.