Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What the Ground Zero Mosque Debate Really is About

I support the building of the “Ground Zero Mosque”. Opposing the building of the mosque damages relations with Muslims around the world. Plus, I don't believe in such a thing as “hallowed ground” (a theological conviction, not a political one). But even if I did, opponents have not put forth a reasonable explanation for why two blocks from Ground Zero is hallowed, but four blocks (the proposed relocation site) is not. Where is the dividing line between hallowed and non-hallowed, and why is it there?

Having said that, most of those who agree with me and support the building of the mosque have failed to understand the position of those who disagree with us. In public debates, supporters have consistently argued that the Imam who wishes to build the mosque has a right to do so because in the US we have rights to freedom of religion and private property. As long as they follow local ordinances and zoning laws, owners are free to build whatever they wish.

This argument, however, misses the point of the opponents. Opponents of the mosque are not arguing that Muslims have no right, or that it should be unlawful, to build a mosque. Rather, opponents argue it would be unwise to build the mosque. They want to convince the builders, through persuasion not legal action, to build somewhere else.

If we want to convince someone of an argument, we must first understand our opponents side. If we don't, we will simply be talking past them, and our arguments will go nowhere.

I accept the fact that there are others who disagree with me on the idea of a hallowed ground. I welcome those views in the public square and would like to see those on my side do a better job of listening to those who disagree with us. In public debates listening can be just as important as talking if we are to come to reasonable understandings and compromises with each other.

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