Saturday, August 7, 2010

Build the Ground Zero Mosque

by Fareed Zakaria

August 06, 2010

Ever since 9/11, liberals and conservatives have agreed that the lasting solution to the problem of Islamic terror is to prevail in the battle of ideas and to discredit radical Islam, the ideology that motivates young men to kill and be killed. Victory in the war on terror will be won when a moderate, mainstream version of Islam—one that is compatible with modernity—fully triumphs over the world view of Osama bin Laden.

As the conservative Middle Eastern expert Daniel Pipes put it, “The U.S. role [in this struggle] is less to offer its own views than to help those Muslims with compatible views, especially on such issues as relations with non-Muslims, modernization, and the rights of women and minorities.” To that end, early in its tenure the Bush administration began a serious effort to seek out and support moderate Islam. Since then, Washington has funded mosques, schools, institutes, and community centers that are trying to modernize Islam around the world. Except, apparently, in New York City.

The debate over whether an Islamic center should be built a few blocks from the World Trade Center has ignored a fundamental point. If there is going to be a reformist movement in Islam, it is going to emerge from places like the proposed institute. We should be encouraging groups like the one behind this project, not demonizing them. Were this mosque being built in a foreign city, chances are that the U.S. government would be funding it.