The objections to an Islamic centre near Ground Zero should give Muslims pause for thoughtby Aatish Taseer / October 20, 2010 / Leave a comment
Published in November 2010 issue of Prospect Magazine
When, in early September, the New York Times published a poll in which two-thirds of New Yorkers described themselves as uncomfortable with the location of a Muslim centre downtown, only a few blocks from where terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Centre, I thought the message was clear: even in the most diverse city on the planet, a place that has made room for every language, faith and ethnicity, people are uneasy about Islam.
I would have thought, given that New Yorkers need no lessons in tolerance, that this message, painful as it is, might give Muslims pause. Even as the whole affair has cooled—now that the imam behind the project, Feisal Abdul Rauf, appears to have agreed to shift his Cordoba centre a few blocks away—I would have thought that Muslims, and their allies on the left, might take time to reflect.
But I was wrong. Not only did the poll prompt a tide of screaming liberal criticism, citing freedom of worship and the peacefulness of Sufi Islam, but accompanying it was an unsigned New York Times editorial scolding New Yorkers for their squeamishness about a religion that, for all its claims to love and peace, has in modern times offered a basis for some spectacular displays of violence and rage.