I do not believe the xenophobia behind most opposition to Cordoba House. I don’t think it’s too soon, too close, or salt in the wound to build a mosque near Ground Zero. Even worse is American Muslims closing ranks automatically to support any project or organization that’s under siege by ignorance and misunderstanding. Instead, our community needs to debate the merits of the project in the mainstream media and in the blogosphere. A substantive back-and-forth amongst Muslim voices on both the economics and the impact of this building needs to happen.
The projected $100 million budget is massive. Could there be better ways to spend this money? Social services and educational support for Muslim communities could be expanded. Funds could support activities with Cordoba’s larger goal of giving Islam and American Muslims good PR, with more exposure than a localized project.
Furthermore, any debate highlights the plurality of voices in the American Muslim community. Just by engaging one another and openly airing differences of opinion on Cordoba House, efforts to malign the Muslim community are frustrated because of our visible internal diversity. Competing priorities and consensus-building paints a more accurate picture of the process this community continues to engage in creating a distinctly American Muslim identity that is far from monolithic and bound to be in flux as time goes on.
We’ve heard from both the organizers of the building campaign and a thousand protesters taking to the streets. There is a huge intra-community debate that is taking place with adequate exposure in the media that the organizers are not utilizing. American Muslims need to find the wherewithal to take these widespread local discussions to mass and online media publics.