I remember when people were responsible for their own actions. If you committed a violent crime, people weren't as willing as they are today to accept explanations, such as past traumatic experiences, designed to diminish your culpability. And you certainly couldn't get away with saying that a debate about the location of a mosque caused you to embrace violent extremism.
Something has gone very wrong.
In an Associated Press article by Rachel Zoll, NYC mosque debate will shape American Islam, graduate student Adnan Zulfiqar suggests that the debate over a proposed mosque at the site where nearly 3,000 Americans were massacred could "make" some American Muslims turn radical:
"They're already struggling to balance, 'I'm American, I'm Muslim,' and their ethnic heritage. It's very disconcerting," said Zulfiqar, 32, who worked for former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, a Georgia Democrat, and now serves Penn's campus ministry. "A controversy like this can make them radical or become more conservative in how they look at things or how they fit into the American picture."
Is this a plea for fairness or a threat?
Consider the facts. There are thousands of mosques in the U.S. Almost immediately after the 9/11 attacks, our leaders declared that "Islam is a religion of peace" and that the attackers represented a perversion of that religion. There have been very few attacks against Muslims in the U.S. since then. The American people are fair-minded and tend to judge people, as Martin Luther King implored, by the content of their character.
Opposition to the proposed Ground Zero mosque is perfectly legitimate. There are well over 100 mosques in New York City. Opponents urge the developers to build anywhere but the site of the World Trade Center attack. A number of Muslims have spoken out against the proposed mosque at Ground Zero.
Part of the problem is that radical Muslims do not accept individual rights as enshrined in the US Constitution. We adhere to the principle expressed in the saying "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." Radical Muslims have responded violently to books and even cartoons that disparage Islam. When Adnan Zulfiqar suggests the controversy surrounding the proposed Ground Zero mosque could "make" some Muslims embrace extremism, he is simply demonstrating that he is not comfortable living in a free society.
The US Constitution protects every citizen's right to practice his or her religion. But it's important to understand that the Founders believed that religion and the proper functions of the state are two distinct spheres. The US Constitution does not guarantee the right of Muslims—or anyone else—to impose their values on others or to threaten violence when they don't get their way.