The Fiction of the "Ground Zero Mosque" - and the facts around the Community Center


*edited to add discussion of Karen Hughes' article.

The debate surrounding the "Ground Zero Mosque" has some attacking its presence as insensitive and divisive, and others begging for religious tolerance, going so far as the Economist did to say the US Constitution demands we allow the Community Center to remain.  While it's a sensitive issue for both sides of the debate, the Economist and Keith Olbermann do an excellent job of synthesizing what it is to be American, and the protections we have in situations such as these.  Karen Hughes acknowledges these Constitutional protections, while also suggesting the community center be relocated as a gesture of goodwill and recognition of American sensitivities.

The Economist's piece on sense and sensitivity describes just how the provisions of our constitution come in to govern disputes of religion and tolerance in this country - on the side of religious freedom and tolerance.
Moreover, the call for sensitivity cuts both ways. Muslims, both inside and outside America, have worried since 9/11 that the attacks would spark widespread reprisals and discrimination. For some, the fuss about the mosque confirms their fears. It is impossible to be sensitive both to those who see the mosque as an affront and those who see opposition to it as proof of prejudice, which is why America has a constitution to adjudicate such disputes. And in this instance, the constitution comes down squarely on the side of the mosque-builders.
While The Economist uses terms such as "mosque-builders", Keith Olbermann made a special comment on August 16 explaining the details of the Community Center, how it is not a Mosque, that it is in no way visible from Ground Zero, and Ground Zero cannot be seen from the Community Center.  Before clarifying the facts surrounding the Center's existence, he begins his comment with the following Pastor Martin Neimollier quotation:
"They came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for me and by that time no one was left to speak up."
And he concludes with mention of the Muslim Worship Center that has in fact existed just outside Ground Zero since before the World Trade Center was built - and implores us to see the situation for what it is and speak up:
The actual place that is the real-life equivalent of the paranoid dream contained in the phrase "Ground Zero Mosque," has been up and running, since before there was a World Trade Center, and for nine years since there has been a World Trade Center. 
Running, without controversy, without incident, without terrorism, without protest. Because this is America, dammit. 
And in America, when somebody comes for your neighbor, or his bible, or his torah, or his Atheists' Manifesto, or his Koran, you and I do what our fathers did, and our grandmothers did, and our founders did - you speak up. 
Karen Hughes seems to navigate artfully the sensitivities on both sides of the debate, but when she implores Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his congregation to relocate "the mosque" - her argument begins to sound uninformed and her sensitivity towards the Muslim side of the argument is diminished.  She nonetheless makes a compelling argument that Rauf and his congregation be the bigger person.
I recognize that I am asking the imam and his congregation to show a respect that has not always been accorded to them. But what a powerful example that decision would be. Many people worry that this debate threatens to deepen resentments and divisions in America; by choosing a different course, Rauf could provide a path toward the peaceful relationships that he and his fellow Muslims strive to achieve. And this gesture of goodwill could lead us to a more thoughtful conversation to address some of the ugliness this controversy has engendered. 
I wish the next sentence discussed the flip side, however - that this gesture of goodwill could be interpreted as an admission that all the criticism of insensitivity and terroristic insult is well founded; that the anger and resentment might only intensify when directed at Muslims unrelated to the attacks, Muslims who lost people in the 9/11 attacks (either in the towers, or the support staff who gave their lives in attempts to save those in the towers).

It seems like quite the gamble for Rauf - and an unfair forced choice when actual mosques exist in close proximity to Ground Zero, with no objection or controversy.