The Cordoba House Initiative has become the summer’s defining political Rorschach test. Depending on whom you ask, the controversy surrounding Park 51 in downtown Manhattan, widely termed the ‘Ground Zero Mosque,’ is either a distraction or one of the most important issues facing the people of the United States, a matter of defending religious liberty or fighting supremacist triumphalism, defending rights or respecting sensibilities, Islamophobia or anti-fascism, and so on.
The bifurcation has already begun to define the contours of the New York gubernatorial race. But, at least one distinct side-benefit has resulted from the debate. It has demonstrated the absurdity of the demagoguery that so often passes for mainstream political discourse among Democrats and Republicans. For instance, some who are against the project have argued that if it is allowed to proceed, the terrorists will have won, while others who defend the project have argued that if the center is not built, the terrorists will have won, leaving us with the ridiculous conclusion that no matter what happens with respect to the Cordoba House, the terrorists will have won.
What we need and what we’re not getting, is a rational debate about the mosque. Our politicians and special interest groups have seen to that, demonizing the other side. That other side would be support for the mosque, but except for Mayor Bloomberg (the only adult discussing this on the national stage), virtually all media coverage and support has been on the anti-mosque side. The faux ‘discussion’ has been almost entirely one-sided, and shows the servility, cravenness, and barely concealed agendas of the mainstream media.
It’s also affecting the multi-party gubernatorial race in New York, with support and opposition cutting across traditional party lines.