As Western Europe has already found to its cost, local Muslim leaders have a habit, once they feel strong enough, of making demands of the most intolerant kind. Sometimes it will be calls for censorship of anything "offensive" to Islam. Sometimes it will be demands for sexual segregation in schools and swimming pools. The script is becoming a very familiar one. And those who make such demands are of course usually quite careful to avoid any association with violence. They merely hint that, if their demands are not taken seriously, there just might be a teeny smidgeon of violence from some other unnamed quarter …It struck me from the beginning that the same Republican Party that frequently lambastes notions of "cultural sensitivity" should be crying out for such just now, especially in the particularly religious context of the current debate, which seems to suggest not so much an opposition to something being built, but simply to the religion associated with the thing being built.
But that isn't really my beef...
In fact, I understand where some opponents of the mosque are coming from -- I get why this could be considered offensive. I think the mosque's opponents are reading things wrong, not quite seeing the right angles, but I get where they're coming from.
My beef is this: opposition to this mosque helps to lower the boiling point on the melting pot of cultures that America prides itself on being.
You see, Europe does a pretty bad job assimilating immigrants. Not just Muslims -- Roma are just as poorly assimilated, and I wouldn't hesitate to guess that many others who come in have equally difficult times. Europe has built up an identity for itself based largely on race.
Jus sanguinis goes a long way toward that. Pushing for English as the official national language would go a long way toward that same end. These measures push -- although often meant to boil the pot faster and make "Americans" sooner -- really have the opposite effect. They shore up an us-versus-them dichotomy. They entrench differences, and dash hopes of assimilation. When immigrants come here, even if they don't speak much, or any, English, even if they weren't born here, they can still immediately grab on to the American dream -- and that's what makes them one of us. That, indeed, is what built this country.
And so does opposing the building of mosques. In a neighborhood with two existing mosques, where no locals have found another offensive, there is no good reason to claim offense. America's Muslims have been pretty well integrated -- far better than Europe's. Part of that is because they have the religious freedom to build mosques where they will. Opposing this mosque is a step -- a small step, but a step nonetheless -- toward lowering the boiling point on Muslims, making it harder to assimilate them. And that makes greater danger down the line.