There's a debate raging in New York City at the moment. It's regarding plans to build a Mosque just steps away from 'Ground Zero' - the site of the former World Trade Center that was obliterated by fundamentalist terrorists in 2001.
To be honest, I totally understand the uproar.
I remember arriving in New York for the first time in 2001 - finding a city utterly in shock. 9-11 was when the impact of terrorism was brought brutally home to Americans in a manner unprecedented before or since. It was difficult not to feel resentment and outrage towards Islam, especially when the news channels showed Palestinians dancing in the streets in celebration, and even 'moderate' Muslims arguing that "America has brought this on itself."
That's a quote from Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf by the way - the man slated to be the new Imam of the 'Ground Zero Mosque.'
Ultimately, though, there are several reasons I think the 'Ground Zero' mosque should go ahead.
Primarily, the fact that this mosque will not be built on 'Ground Zero.'
It will actually be located two blocks away, on the site of a building that was damaged by falling debris on 9-11, but not destroyed by it. It's uncomfortably close, I'll agree - but where exactly does the 'Ground Zero' perimeter end? What is an 'acceptable distance' from the site of the disaster to build a mosque? Manhattan's not a large island, so carving out an arbitrary 'no mosque' zone is difficult.
Secondly, because the building site is privately-owned and building the mosque is privately-funded.
I'm enough of a capitalist to argue that the 'outraged public' has no right to dictate what can and can't be built on private property. Sure, there are zoning laws - but a mosque isn't exactly the same as a strip-club or liquor store (and I don't think Joe Sixpack should be dictating where those can and can't be built, either.)
Thirdly, there's that little thing called the 'First Amendment.'
America was founded on the notion of freedom of religious expression - and it's unconscionably unconstitutional for the 'outraged public' to dictate which houses of worship get preference in their neighborhood. If they'd allow a church, but ban a mosque, then they violate everything the Founding Fathers fought for.
And finally, with the economy the way it is, I don't think New York City should turn down millions of dollars of private investment.
The mosque means revenue for the city and for the construction industry. Ultimately, that's why New York Major Michael Bloomberg approved the move - because he's a pragmatist and a businessman at heart (and runs New York like a private business.)
That all being said, I'll admit that I don't like the idea of this mosque one little bit.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf might be hailed as a 'moderate' Muslim, but he's made some very sketchy comments in the past regarding America and 9-11.
I also think the furor this has caused will reflect negatively across the world.
Because conservatives expressed so much outrage, Islamic extremists are undoubtedly going to view the mosque as a 'victory' against the 'evil America.' In their eyes, Rauf is building a testament to the Islamic faith just steps from where 3,000 people were murdered in that faith's name.
This is why I understand the outrage, and aren't as willing to dismiss the anti-mosque conservatives as 'bigoted' or 'ignorant' as many on the left-wing do. I completely understand why they're so opposed to this mosque - and while I'll stand up and defend its construction, part of me secretly wishes they'd succeeded in not letting it be built.