Though he and I have never met in person, Muhammed Saleem is someone I feel like I know, if as nothing else than as a sort of peer in this swamp of social media and journalistic professionalism. If you don’t know him, he’s probably best known for making his bones as a top Digg user, and parlaying his expertise into a broader role in educating would-be social media power-players.

In general, he and I get along. We often fall on different sides of the political fence, but he’s well reasoned and in general tries to present his viewpoint without vitriol or polemics.

I use this preface so that it’s clear I’m not here to badmouth Mr. Saleem. I respect him, but I disagree with the premise of something he tweeted out today…

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The tweet linked to a post on Slate that talked about the hypocritical Republicans, and how they’re so racist (or religionist? something) against Muslims for being against their desire to build a mosque at the site of the Twin Tower collapse in New York City.

I don’t hate Muslims. Many of my friends and acquaintances are Muslim. I don’t buy into the theory that their religion is inherently evil or violent, though I know several otherwise intelligent people that know how to make a compelling case to the contrary.image

The easy answer to “Why Not?” is that it’s just too soon. 

– Yes, I understand that the attack on the Twin Towers wasn’t an official act of a monolithic sect of a religion. The Muslim faith isn’t like the Catholic church with a singular religious leader setting mandates for all followers to execute or adhere to.

– Yes, I understand that while there may be a legitimate debate as to the existence of a “moderate Muslim,” (or if those that call themselves moderate Muslims might be analogous to typical suburban Christians that just read the parts of their holy books that they like).

– Yes, I understand that religious tolerance is fundamental to American ideals.

Intellectually, I’m able to understand these arguments and agree with them on a logical basis.

As a human being, susceptible to nationalism, patriotism and emotion, I look at what a symbol that gaping hole in the middle of New York City has come to be, and the idea that before the re-building has even commenced a symbol that our attackers held dear should rise above the ashes is offensive at a base level.

Does this make me a bad person? Perhaps it does. 

It’s a raw emotion, not a logical thought process.

Either way, that’s a subjective call that you’ll have to make.

Emotion is What These Conservative Politicians are Playing On

Is it a cynical moment on their part or do they genuinely share that emotional reaction? Only they could answer that question, but given my growing personal political apathy and disaffection, when I feel strongly enough about something to form some words publicly on the topic, that might say something about the rest of America’s thoughts on the topic.

Assume, though, our roles were reversed.

Assume that during the ape-shit fervor our country got sent into post 9/11 we decided to nuke Mecca, or something equally irrational.

How would people of Muslim faith worldwide feel about a US corporation building a three story McDonald’s with an indoor theme park dedicated to “uniting people of various geographical persuasions with Western ideals” a couple blocks from the Masjid al-Haram? How would citizens of Saudi Arabia or Mecca feel? What if we did it ten years after the initial attack?

Would it matter to you, on a guttural and emotional level, that McDonald’s rebuttal would be “Is it our fault it’s taken ten years to rebuild your holy site and symbol of your people?” Would it matter to Muslims that McDonald’s could honestly say that they were in no way responsible for the nuclear destruction of a Muslim holy city?

Ground Zero was not a holy site for most Americans prior to 9/11.  After 9/11, it became a continual reminder that our age of innocence had ended, that we, as a nation, were far more vulnerable than we had ever imagined, and that there indeed was a thread central to all of us who lived inside the borders of the United States that connected us on a level we didn’t know existed; a thread that touched every one of our souls.