A Mosque Points Out How We Hurt Ourselves
What bothers me about the debate over the mosque near the World Trade Center site in New York City is the objective facts that get lost in the fervor. It reminds me yet again that human decisions are never the unbiased, logical processes we like to think they are, and how our means can sabotage our ends.
According to an Associated Press story published August 18 on MSNBC.com, there is already a mosque near the site, and the proposed site already has Muslims praying there. It is an overflow site for an existing mosque roughly 10 blocks away. The site is six blocks from the nearest Twin Tower footprint. Meanwhile, at the Pentagon, Islamic services are regularly held 80 feet from where that building was hit. The chapel hosting those services is part of the Pentagon 9/11 memorial. According to Pentagon officials mentioned in the article, no one directly affected by the attacks has protested.
Whether you agree or disagree with President Barack Obama's statements on the matter, another fact is that he legally could not do a thing to stop it. He has no Constitutional power over the situation, and Congress would be hard pressed to pass a law against it that would also pass Supreme Court muster. By the same token, the New York City zoning commission legally cannot base its decision on religious issues.
In short, the only people who can really stop the mosque are its members. But those who wish to stop it do not take the logical step of engaging them in respectful dialog. I make this statement not from a standpoint of right and wrong, but simple pragmatism. If you want to change someone's mind, you have to start from their legitimate needs--and in America, the desire to gather and worship in the faith of your choice is a literally legitimate need. From that common agreement, perhaps a compromise could have been reached. But unrestrained emotion may have eliminated that hope.