The Mosque Debate
Having watched the very soft-spoken Imam being interviewed by the very earnest Soledad on CNN, a couple of observations come to mind.
First of all, the Imam seems very genuine, very sensitive, very intelligent - and very American (even has a niece in Iraq with the U.S. forces no less!)
Furthermore, having done business with and befriended a highly educated Muslim in recent years myself - a man whose word and handshake are his bond - I am acutely aware that educated Muslims are generally moderate, law-abiding, peace-loving people like you and I.
The key word here is "educated", because the problem as I see it is that the vast majority of Muslims worldwide are not educated, which renders them fodder for religious extremist movements. It probably bears observation here that the American education system also has considerable shortcomings - notably in science education, resulting in such bizarre phenomena as the wacko preacher in Gainesville who wants to burn the Koran this weekend.
As I see it, the ultimate test here is whether educated, moderate (perceived to be a minority by me) Muslims can ever exert enough influence over the much larger number of uneducated Muslims to avert an all-out religious war with the West. A good start would be informing on extremists in their neighborhood mosques. The other side of the equation is whether educated, moderate westerners (perceived to be a majority thereof) can ever control the lesser number of uneducated religious zealots among us.
All that having been said, I think the mosque should go ahead. (As an aside, if two blocks is too close to Ground Zero, what is the acceptable distance? Three blocks? Ten? By the way, exactly how close to Ground Zero is the closest mosque currently?) The scrutiny under which it will be financed, built and operated will be nothing short of excruciating.
This is not a position I take lightly as I am proud to be the right wing of Attila the Hun - and my sister escaped probable death in the very same World Trade Center by a mere two weeks.