(I've written a partial retraction of this piece which can be read here.)
I have never before used this blog to endorse a specific public policy in this manner, but there's a first time for everything. I'm writing to express my support for the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" or "World Trade Center Mosque", although those terms and what they imply miss the mark. The mosque (actually a cultural center called Cordoba House) is planned for a building which is two blocks north of the World Trade Center site, and has been in operation at another site farther north in the neighborhood for 29 years. I worked in that neighborhood from 1985-1986 and 1989-2002 and know it very well. I have known people who were members of the congregation. I have heard the imam and other members of the congregation speak. These are good people who pose a threat to no one. They promote a sane and compassionate form of Islam entirely counter to the hatred engendered by extremists whether jihadi or anti-jihadi. They are Sufi by religious orientation, modernist in philosophy and believe strongly in interfaith outreach and participation in the broader community. The imam heads a group with the promotion of precisely this outreach and participation as its mission. (Read here.)
I can think of no better Muslim congregation to welcome into a community, although welcoming is the wrong term considering how long they've already operated there in complete peace and brotherhood with their neighbors. I whole-heartedly support their building of Cordoba House and look forward to attending public events there when they do. Regardless of my feelings about Cordoba House, there's a little matter of the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion to everyone in this country. The idea that anyone would deny someone else the right to worship as they see fit shows an utter misunderstanding of what this country's all about. Above and beyond supporting this mosque, I support everyone's freedom of religion.
By the way, in an interview this morning with Brian Lehrer of New York's public radio station (available here), the congregation's imam and his wife cited Manhattan's Jewish Community Center as the inspiration for their project.
I am not going to bother to link to the opponents of the Cordoba Center project. If you want to bother, Google them. My understanding is that the disgraceful campaign of opposition to the project is being led by Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs. If she has nothing more threatening or offensive than this to fight, the world must be in better shape than I thought. She should be ashamed of herself for demonizing innocent people in this manner.