Here's a brief video about the controversy discussed in this post.
I have no conception of the suffering experienced by the friends and families of those who were murdered when the twin towers were destroyed. If I was in their position, the thought of a Muslim community center near Ground Zero might also strike a nerve. Still, I cannot help but give a simple and some would say insensitive analysis of the situation. By turning this into a major issue, the opponents of this construction project are sending a terrible and dangerous message to the Muslim world.
The “War on Terror” is supposed to be a battle against a behavior. It is not a war against a particular country, ethnicity, or religion. The behavior of the United States over the last nine years, however, has convinced many in the Muslim world that this is actually a war against Islam, the exact message promoted by Islamic extremist groups. Protests against this building project further create this impression. If Americans are angry about a mosque near Ground Zero, it indicates that they hold Muslims in general responsible for the September 11 attacks. So the only logical conclusion for Muslims is that many Americans actually consider themselves to be at war with Islam itself.
Some Americans who are angry about this project will deny this simple fact, and I admit that their motives for protesting against it may vary. Their various arguments and justifications, however, are irrelevant. The only thing that really matters is the perception that this controversy creates around the world. To limit the threat of terrorism, the only effective strategies are to find and neutralize current, potential terrorists and reduce the number of future terrorist recruits. Even more than the Cold War, this is at heart an ideological struggle. Potentially alienating hundreds of millions of Muslims and creating the impression that Americans are at war with Islam, therefore, is the most dangerous thing that can be done. Unfortunately, nine years into this “war,” many Americans still have much to learn. It’s bad enough that so many people still believe that conventional military operations are the best way to eliminate a non-military threat. But what is even more disheartening is that so many Americans have yet to even properly identify the enemy.