The building of a mosque at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan is a difficult subject to take a side on. Political wisdom would have dictated a neutral stance on the issue for President Obama, but either principle or political naiveté required him to make a statement on the matter. I tend to believe it was principle. At least I hope it was.
Frankly, Obama’s statement in “support” of the mosque is correct. Muslims have a right to build a mosque at Ground Zero in accordance with the laws of New York City. There’s no doubt about that, but is it the wisest and most sensitive move on the part of the Muslim community? Probably not.
If I were to build a Honey-Baked Ham store next to a synagogue in Tel Aviv, or a mosque in Mecca for that matter, would it be a poor idea? Probably. Why? Because according to their respective religions, Jews and Muslims are opposed to the consumption of pork. In fact, protesting a pork market next to one of their houses of worship might actually create a rare moment of harmony between the two communities, but would it be legal for such an establishment to exist in that type of location? As far as I know, yes.
The apostle Paul once said in 1st Corinthians 6 that “everything is permissible for me, but not everything is beneficial” (NIV). That’s the way I personally view this situation. Now I know a New Testament reference may not mean much to the Muslim community, but I like to think that the principle is universal. Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s wise or right.
But beyond my personal views on the matter, I still have to question the support for the mosque on the grounds of consistency. On 9/11, a four-story Greek Orthodox church was destroyed near the base of the World Trade Center towers. But in spite of the fact that such a building was actually destroyed (by radical Islamic extremists), the Port Authority will not allow it to be rebuilt at its original location, or even at a spot 100 yards away from it.
Even if the Cordoba House mosque is to be built at the proposed location, would it be unreasonable for the Port Authority to allow the Greek Orthodox church to be rebuilt first? It seems only fair considering that the Greek Orthodox church actually lost their church on 9/11.
At this point, it appears that the developers of the mosque are adamant about the location. They have rejected a meeting with New York Governor David Patterson concerning the possibility of moving the mosque to state-owned land, an unusually generous offer which I doubt would be extended to any church or synagogue. So I have to question why these developers insist on this specific location. There are already over 100 mosques in New York City. Why does there need to be one more at Ground Zero?
The prevailing reason from supporters of the mosque is that it would be a symbol of tolerance and acceptance of religious diversity, but if the Muslim community is so earnest about proving their ability to peacefully coexist with Americans, why would they jeopardize that by insisting on locating the mosque in a place that most Americans would consider to be offensive?
However, it’s possible that David Frum could be right and that this is all a publicity stunt for the developers of the Mosque. For once, I hope he’s right. As for Obama, however ambiguous he wants to appear on this topic, he may want to consider that 24% of Americans believe he’s a Muslim. Even though I personally don’t believe that to be the case, I’m sure his recent statements won’t do much to bring that number down.