Muslims have a right to build an Islamic Mosque / Center on or near the private property that is Ground Zero in Manhattan, just as they have the right to build it anywhere. The imam of the proposed mosque, Feisal Abdul Rauf, insists that this will lead to “dialogue,” “tolerance” and “understanding” as if Americans as a whole have refused, not listened to, or not partaken in at least somewhat previously. Muslim opinion in the U.S. and throughout the West is tolerated not just by law (which is mandatory) but through public acceptance
(which is not mandatory) to be left alone to practice and say what they believe. By acceptance
I mean the continued willingness to listen to and take you seriously and not at all suggesting harassment of Muslims by those who disagree with your points of view. This acceptance is earned
and cannot be provided for by legal means. Tolerance and understanding, however, towards
fellow Americans could have been made in building a mosque somewhere else possibly further away from the site – tolerance and understanding towards the heart-felt loss and devastation at the killing of 3,000 Americans and non-Americans on September 11, 2001 by 19 men claiming “jihad” on America in the name of a militant form of Islam. This new mosque does provide an opportunity towards even greater dialogue, tolerance, and understanding if the imam and worshippers at this mosque wish it to be so. When it is preached from and worshipped at it will be under the magnifying glass of media and public scrutiny like no other religious temple in America.
“Tolerance” does not mean “acceptance” or agreement. Imam Feisal is entitled to his opinion that in some way America brought the 9/11 attacks on itself, but wouldn’t it be more sensitive to espouse such beliefs from another location in Manhattan not at or near Ground Zero? Many Muslims and non-Muslims actually agree with your opinion, but that is not the point. The idea of “sensitivity” cuts both ways – not just from the majority toward the minority, but also from the minority towards the majority. Would it be proper for a German or Christian temple / center be built next to the remnants of a holocaust camp? A Japanese cultural center at Pearl Harbor? A speech by an American given at Hiroshima on how the dropping of the atomic bomb was the correct decision? Since 1945, Germany (for creating the Holocaust) and Christian churches (for not trying to prevent it) have apologized and made atones towards Jews, while the U.S. and Japan have been the closest of friends, but would such actions still be appropriate and sensitive? Of course not and most people recognize the inappropriateness of such actions. In the West today there is a debate over the idea of gay marriage. Regardless of where and how strongly one stands on the issue would it be appropriate for a supporter of gay marriage to barge in on the wedding of a heterosexual couple and say, “I object to the happiest day of your life because gays and lesbians cannot be married”? Or a heterosexual going up to a gay or lesbian couple and saying, “I don’t believe that you should be allowed to be married”? People are entitled to their beliefs and are free to argue them, but there are appropriate times and places for such things and insults do not tend to be considered “sensitive.”
Dialogue is always occurring, and encouraged, in free lands such as the U.S. and most of Europe and I’m not aware of any large organization or government trying to prevent that in the free world, except to stifle, at times, freedom of speech when criticizing Islam and this is particularly happening in Europe and Canada. Due to the great attention expected to be paid to what is said from the mosque, The “Ground Zero Mosque” could actually be a positive thing as you say if there is genuine tolerance and understanding towards others coming forth from the mosque. Non-Muslims in America have questions regarding tolerance themselves -- What is the state of tolerance towards non-Muslims, non-Arabs, women, homosexuals, and atheists in Muslim lands and in Islam itself? What tolerance towards freedom of speech when writers or artists choose to criticize Islam, Muslims, and even Muhammad? What are Muslims and Islamic leaders in the West doing and saying to positively change circumstances back in the Middle East to try to replicate the freedom and standard of living in their adopted, and accepting, new homes in the West? These can be painful, hurtful, and difficult topics for you to discuss, but welcome to world of tolerance.
If, however, what comes from the mosque is intolerance (in the name of Islamic sensitivity); conspiracy theories against the West, Jews, and Israel; and the continual blame put on others for the recent centuries of failures in the Muslim world, you will only hurt what you claim is your true cause. Most Americans, like myself worry that what will be espoused from this mosque will be the intolerant, conspiratorial, blame-gaming nonsense that is too often heard coming out of mosques and from Islamic religious leaders while, as par the course, saying that we non-Muslims just don’t understand you. Just like we’re told that we don’t understand the meaning of “jihad” while Islamic militants use the term to rally followers down a path of murder and destruction in the name of your religion. Tolerance of others, sensitivity towards your fellow man, and honesty is what will be expected by your fellow citizens to be espoused from this sensitive location in downtown Manhattan. You are not legally required to do so, but if you genuinely want non-Muslim Americans to take you seriously, then remember that respect is a two-way street. Respect is earned.
I have no faith that there are any good intentions here. I believe that what will be done is the equivalent of standing over a mass grave and criticizing the victims, and victims’ families, for bringing their own murder onto themselves – if not said outright then “between the lines.” I believe that what you want from non-Muslim Americans is to tolerate your own intolerance and excuse making which would be an even bigger slap in the face coming from the site of the deadliest attack on American soil in history. And to do it gleefully from behind the full, and rightful, protection of the law while claiming that we’re just not good at reading between your lines and to not believe our own ears. Hopefully I’m wrong, but for someone like myself who does pay attention to what is espoused by the most vocal Islamic religious leaders in the States, Europe, and the Middle East I think that I know exactly what to expect – Imam Feisal and guest speakers acting like taunting wiseasses, only this time atop the grave of thousands of slaughtered innocents. I say none of this out of any type of hatred towards Islam or fear of Muslims, but is based on what I read and hear espoused by Islamic leaders on a near daily basis, while sadly hardly ever hearing, at least loudly and consistently, otherwise. I sincerely hope that you prove me, and other Americans, wrong.