the Mosque issue: a quicker, clearer summary

My last post on the mosque issue was, I think, very complex and not clearly explained, so I wanted to add this post to try and make things sharper.

When someone is opposing discrimination, there are short term and long term considerations. If you’re thinking about putting an African American community center somewhere and the KKK promises retaliation, then in the short term, the center does more harm than good. But in the long term, it’s better not to cave to racists. So, building the community center would be a good idea even if, on its own, it would do nothing to help black-white relations. The center would be good simply because it is opposed to discrimination. It needs no more than that to be a valuable political contribution.

However, the mosque issue is different I think. If I thought that genuine racism was the MAIN and PREVAILING reason for objections to the mosque, I would say put it near ground zero MERELY as a symbol of opposition to such discrimination and even if it accomplishes nothing else. But instead, I think the opposition to the mosque is borne of a not-very-sensible belief that its existence somehow threatens the integrity or inviolability of the WTC site.

So, I think the opposition to the mosque is not very cogent or well thought out, but I don’t think it is racist, and thus the short term harm of exacerbating anger at Muslims is NOT outweighed by any long term benefit, simply because there is no long term war to fight. Unlike pervasive racism in the 60s, the people supporting no-mosques-near-ground-zero are only making a mistake about a narrow issue at single location. There’s nothing to be gained by defying such people. Rather, there is more to gain by conceding the site to them, demonstrating Muslim grace, and defusing the conflict.


4 Responses to “the Mosque issue: a quicker, clearer summary”

  1. 1 alex
    August 26, 2010 at 1:15 am


    I think I agree with your conclusion but I’m not sure that I necessarily agree with every step along the way.

    Specifically I guess what I disagree with is the claim that there is no long term war to fight. I feel like America has a lot of battles left to win (racism still being among them, in addition to things like gay marriage rights and sexism and religion-ism and anything else where people are routinely denied rights based solely on some outdated exclusionary thought processes).

    While I feel like a lot of people who oppose the mosque do feel that it “threatens the integrity or inviolability of the WTC site” as you say, I feel like there exists a lot of opposition to it based solely on hating all Muslims and Islam in general.

    I feel like regardless of which side of the issue one wants to come down on here, it is important to keep in mind that there are a lot of people fighting for the right to peacefully coexist with others but do not yet have that ability, even in this country.

    (I could also be wrong about the seemingly drastic number of mosque-opposers who just seem to be angry hateful people – it seems like a lot to me, but it may be a vocal minority in which case my point is far less strong, though perhaps something to still mull over.)

    • 2 questionbeggar
      August 26, 2010 at 3:22 am

      Alex, thanks for this comment. I think you are absolutely right to note that everything turns on people’s motivations. If it’s really true that the opposition to the mosque is based on prejudice, then the argument falls apart. If racism is at work, then I support the Cordoba house MERELY to aggravate the racists, and merely to make a stand against poisonous thinking.

      I just think the cynicism is so immediate and corrosive. What happens when we try to take these people at their word: those who say that they just don’t like the site and don’t like the symbolism of it all. The optics (even though, like I said, I think these people are deceived and that their is no reason not to have the mosque there).

      But if you’re right that its racism behind this, then I think we are, actually, morally OBLIGATED to favor the building of the Cordoba house, because anything else is simply pandering to irrationality; catering to worst in our society

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