Pragmatism over politics: Why building the mosque makes sense

I am not going to get into politicians and pundits waving their wet fingers in the air to get a sense of the wind on this one. Forget the vagaries of the silly season — three months before an election, as important as one might think that is. I am not going to get into local vs. national responsibility, where it should or should not be built — two blocks, 10 blocks, in another state. I am not even going to get into religious freedom or the First Amendment or the history of building churches and synagogues in this country.

I want to make one very simple point. This is a very wise decision by a group of very wise Muslims to show the world that the United States stands united against terrorism but also united in acknowledging that people of all religious faiths can live peacefully and with mutual respect.

Sounds a bit “holier than thou,” doesn't it?

But think about the fact that according to the Pew Research Center there are 1.57 billion Muslims in the world. This is 23 percent of the population on the planet. Islam is the second largest religion, next to Christianity. There are 50 nations with a majority of the population who are Muslim.

We have 1,500 mosques in the United States, 300 more than we did in 2000.

The trend is to do what President George W. Bush did after 9/11 and President Obama is doing now — support the 99 percent of Muslims who are not engaged in terrorism, who want to live in peace and who want to be increasingly a part of a diverse world.

What message does it send when we appear to oppose Islam, when the screaming talk-show hosts demean the world's second largest religion, when politicians appear to reject the good efforts of imams who want to contribute to America, not tear it down? Why not embrace this in a positive way? Why not recognize what a gesture like this means to the nearly 1.6 billion Muslims around the world?

If you want to strike at the heart of terrorist fanatics, what better way than not to be afraid of a mosque in Manhattan?