by M. Junaid Levesque-Alam
American leaders are always trying to assess Osama bin Laden’s level of influence over Muslims.
They should look at his influence over their own countrymen.
The aversion to a proposed Muslim center near Ground Zero shows that it is Americans, not Muslims, whose thinking the terrorist leader has most successfully recast to his advantage.
The detractors strengthen and draw strength from bin Laden; their hot prejudice bolsters his assertion that America despises Islam and betrays an acceptance of his claim that he embodies the faith.
At first, the proposal to build the 12-story facility two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center aroused scant disapproval. It was even welcomed as an opportunity to reaffirm America as a land of tolerance and reclaim Islam as a religion of moderation.
The group behind the project, Cordoba House, pitched the facility (which would include restaurants, bookstores, art exhibits, a pool, an auditorium, and a prayer space) as a means of bridging divides between faiths. Its board of directors draws from various faiths, and its mission statement promotes intercivilizational understanding.