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Argument: Opposing ground zero mosque alienates/radicalizes American Muslims

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"Build that mosque." The Economist. August 5th 2010: "WHAT makes a Muslim in Britain or America wake up and decide that he is no longer a Briton or American but an Islamic “soldier” fighting a holy war against the infidel? Part of it must be pull: the lure of jihadism. Part is presumably push: a feeling that he no longer belongs to the place where he lives. Either way, the results can be lethal. A chilling feature of the suicide video left by Mohammad Sidique Khan, the leader of the band that killed more than 50 people in London in July, 2005, was the homely Yorkshire accent in which he told his countrymen that “your” government is at war with “my people”.

For a while America seemed less vulnerable than Europe to home-grown jihadism. The Pew Research Centre reported three years ago that most Muslim Americans were “largely assimilated, happy with their lives… and decidedly American in their outlook, values and attitudes.” Since then it has become clear that American Muslims can be converted to terrorism too. Nidal Malik Hassan, born in America and an army major, killed 13 of his comrades in a shooting spree at Fort Hood. Faisal Shahzad, a legal immigrant, tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square. But something about America—the fact that it is a nation of immigrants, perhaps, or its greater religiosity, or the separation of church and state, or the opportunities to rise—still seems to make it an easier place than Europe for Muslims to feel accepted and at home.

It was in part to preserve this feeling that George Bush repeated like a scratched gramophone record that Americans were at war with the terrorists who had attacked them on 9/11, not at war with Islam. Barack Obama has followed suit: the White House national security strategy published in May says that one way to guard against radicalisation at home is to stress that “diversity is part of our strength—not a source of division or insecurity.” This is hardly rocket science. America is plainly safer if its Muslims feel part of “us” and not, like Mohammad Sidique Khan, part of “them”. And that means reminding Americans of the difference—a real one, by the way, not one fabricated for the purposes of political correctness—between Islam, a religion with a billion adherents, and al-Qaeda, a terrorist outfit that claims to speak in Islam’s name but has absolutely no right or mandate to do so.

Why would any responsible American politician want to erase that vital distinction? Good question. Ask Sarah Palin, or Newt Gingrich, or the many others who have lately clambered aboard the offensive campaign to stop Cordoba House, a proposed community centre and mosque, from being built in New York two blocks from the site of the twin towers. Every single argument put forward for blocking this project leans in some way on the misconceived notion that all Muslims, and Islam itself, share the responsibility for, or are tainted by, the atrocities of 9/11."

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