By CALVIN SHERWOOD
Almost nine years ago, fanatical Islamic terrorists killed thousands of people when they crashed planes into the Pentagon in Washington D.C. and World Trade Centers in New York City.
The smoke and dust have cleared, and Americans have continued with their lives. However, our country is still dealing with the repercussions of the aftermath even after it seemed the wounds had healed.
For the last few weeks, this context for the proposed Islamic Community Center split America down cultural and ideological lines. Unless a compromise is reached, this issue will only deepen the scars of Muslim/American relations.
There is an Islamic Community Center being built for a growing Muslim neighborhood; so what? Building a Muslim community center at that location is perfectly within legal bounds.
While preventing its construction would dangerously border on infringing upon religious freedom, it is obvious that the commissioners of this project were seriously lacking in political acumen and foresight. 9/11 is possibly the most sensitive subject for Americans. Any serious discussion or brainstorming by the builders should have predicted potential backlash in their initial equations.
Such a strong reaction indicates that America is not ready to see the religious symbols they used against them in war near what is considered to be ‘sacred ground’.
This is not a tiny, angry minority either. Polls now show that 71 percent oppose the building of the center, and 46 percent of Americans hold an ‘unfavorable view’ of Islam in general.
Protests on both sides are growing. Political smearing and the traditional pointing-of-fingers as to who is ‘un-American’ will likely follow.
This is a pity, since no long-term solutions will come from the current radicalization of the masses. Everyone could suffer from the consequences.
Hate crimes against Muslims may increase. Homegrown terrorism could increase to conditions similar to Europe (where it is a terribly large threat to national security).
So far, this Islamic building project has been the spark that unleashed a wave of hysteria now affecting communities’ miles away from Ground Zero. This is a moment needing political acumen.
Relations are tense, and it requires attempts to soothe these heated tensions. Otherwise, building the community project would be a hollow and Pyrrhic victory that drives the wedge deeper between mainstream America and its Muslim community.
America should not strive for this outcome. I hope the builders of the Islamic Center, as well as the politicians who opposed it, realize that.
This is not just about the ‘mosque’, as many Americans think it is. The public outcry proves that. Both sides must address and condemn the deeper issue of distrust and lack of tolerance, and that will require reconciliation and compromise.
Maybe that means delaying the construction, potential relocation or maybe an inter-faith community center instead. We must do whatever we can do to dissuade hatred and radicalization in our country, regardless of the cost.
Therefore, while the Islamic Community Center has every right to continue building, I would urge them to seriously reconsider and possibly relocate it. Law and freedom do not require this action, but political sensitivity to the raw emotions in play demands it.