Over the past few weeks, I’ve watched with interest the controversy surrounding the plans to build an Islamic center and mosque near ground zero in Manhattan. It’s clear Americans don’t like it. Even those who recognize the relevance of the First Amendment and argue for the right of Muslims to build a mosque there don’t like it.
As a result, the more nuanced opinion at this point in the debate has become, “They have a right to build a mosque there, but I think it’s sensitive for them to do so.”
I think American opposition to Muslim plans near ground zero is more visceral and less intellectual than people let on. In their gut, Americans recognize the brashness of Muslims building a proselytizing base just a few blocks from where Muslim terrorists killed 2700 Americans. They recognize it as a symbol of aggressive Islamic expansion, and that’s a symbol they find offensive.
The problem is an increasingly secularized America is impotent to respond to the spread of Islam. You don’t reply to Islam by extolling the virtues of pluralism and freedom of religion. Muslims don’t convert from Islam to Democratic Capitalism. Democratic Capitalism doesn’t offer meaning in life, instruction on how to treat my wife or raise my kids, or a comprehensive worldview.
Yes, Muslims have a right to build a mosque a few blocks from Ground Zero. And, yes, it’s insensitive that they are doing so, but so what? Making accusations of insensitivity against a faith that has, for 1,400 years, thrived on violent religious imperialism is like accusing Hitler of bad manners.
Islam, like paganism, will eventually burn out, but it won’t happen by merely offering Muslims American citizenship unless we also offer them citizenship in the kingdom of God. GS