As plans for an Islamic community center and mosque near ground zero move forward, the arguments for and against is getting more and more contentious. On the one end of the debate, Sarah Palin, Rev. Pat Robertson, Newt Gingrich and others are outraged that radical Islam can be allowed to exist so close to “sacred ground.” On the other end, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others claim that the United States is a country of laws that tolerate all or no religion and that the Islamic community center has a right to exist where it wants.
But both sides are wrong and are wagging the dog.
If I speak, I am condemned.
If I stay silent, I am damned!
At the end of the song, Jean Valjean decides that the punishment of eternal damnation was far worse than any punishment the state and Javert could inflict on him and declared loudly that he was 24601!* Without going too deeply into a character analysis, Jean Valjean’s faith eventually overwhelmed his need for corporal survival. One could argue all day long that it wasn’t really his faith in God and his fear of eternal damnation, but his place in the community, etc, etc. But they would be wrong. It was his faith or his “bargain” with God.
It is not about religion, the rule of law, public sensibilities or tolerance. It is all about the individual’s relationship with their God. In the end, each player in this act believes he or she will be standing naked before their God and defend his or her actions. Muslims will defend they did all they could to expand Islam and Christians will defend they did all they could to be tolerant of others.
Eventually, the rule of law in the United States will say that there is no legal basis for denying the group from building a mosque, regardless of how close it is to Ground Zero. For Muslims, expansion into a Judeo-Christian stronghold like the United States is a victory. For Christians who believe in forgiveness, accepting Muslims into the fold is a victory. Both sides will win the tussle because they define victory differently. In the end, however, the “State” known as the United States of America will cease. It may take a hundred years, it may take a thousand, but the path of tolerance will eventually doom us. Time is an irrelevant metric for God.
And for many, that will be ok because by then, the concept of a state existing without a religion will be as foreign a concept as a body without a soul, like a bulldozer without a driver, like a dog without a master.
*If you really, really want to go deeper into this, start thinking about the cry to Allah that each of the 9/11 hijackers shrieked as they crashed into the buildings. The parallels here are frightening.