The proposed Muslim community center near Ground Zero has stirred up a lot of controversy. Most of that controversy is entirely without merit. It's not at Ground Zero (it's nearby, only a block closer than a mosque that's been there for decades). It's not led by a "radical" Imam (at least no more radical than all the other people, including myself, who think America's own foreign policy contributed to the motivation behind the 9/11 attacks). The only argument that even comes close to being a valid reason to oppose this community center is that it is somehow disrespectful to the families of 9/11 victims. Even that argument fails.
There is a difference between causing someone discomfort and being disrespectful. The reason people are uncomfortable is because they have become prejudiced. The families of 9/11 victims have every reason to be angry, and it's very human to focus that anger on some identifiable group which they perceive to have done them harm. The problem is that their anger is focused on much too broad a group. They have become prejudiced against all Muslims. The majority of America has become prejudiced against all Muslims. That needs to stop. It's bad for this country, just like every other mainstream prejudice we've gone through and overcome.
Not only do I not think that this community center plan is a bad idea, but I think this controversy shows us just how much we need it. The whole point of this community center is to challenge the prejudiced beliefs of mainstream Americans who think all Muslims are our enemy. The whole point is to show people that Islam is not inherently violent, and in fact there are a huge number of Muslims who are pro-peace, pro-tolerance, anti-violence, anti-terrorism. If this center gets built and people actually take the time to visit it and see what their message is then maybe they will wake up and realize that Muslims in general are not our enemy. Maybe they will see that Muslims are the victims of terrorism too.
Not only did Muslims die on 9/11 (and not just the guys flying the plane), but far more Muslims have died worldwide as a result of terrorism than non-Muslims. They have every reason to oppose radical Islam, and here they are attempting to build a community center explicitly opposed to radical Islam. This is exactly what people have been demanding that moderate Muslims do: stand up against the extremists. So why are we fighting them? Why are we making the Muslims who agree with us our enemies?
It makes no sense to blame all Muslims for these acts of terror. If anything this controversy has shown us just how much we desperately need this community center to be built so that we can open people's eyes and show them the hate that has consumed us for what it is: destructive, counter-productive, and ill-placed. In my mind the Muslims building a center promoting tolerance are far more American than those who are opposing it out of misguided hatred. Maybe we can relearn from these people what it really means to be an American.