It’s too late for Islamic center, now that it’s a flashpoint

Once again, I’m late to something.

But, since this one has assumed a life of its own and is not likely to go away any time soon, I’ll go ahead and add my two-cents worth.

Not that doing so will change anything — especially opinions.

Still, for what it’s worth, here are my thoughts on the proposed Islamic Community Center near Ground Zero — a.k.a. “The Ground Zero Mosque.”

Let’s get the easy one out of the way since it’s already been answered in about every way possible.

Can Muslims build their recreation/community center/mosque near ground zero?


If they secure the financing. If they get the proper permits. If they adhere to local laws. If they follow all pertinent codes, then they can build it. This isn’t even questionable. It’s a legal slam dunk. This is America and private property rights, the last time I checked, are still a big part of what we’re all about.

That said, do I think it’s a good idea to build it there? Nope. Not even close and, certainly, not now. Here’s why:

It’s too late.

In the current atmosphere of Right versus Left, Liberal versus Conservative, You versus Me, Good (Us) versus Bad (Them) or (depending on your point of view) Good (Them) versus Bad (Us), the proposed facility has now become another flashpoint — a noisy battle in our ongoing political war — that overrides whatever may or may not have been its original intent.

Could it have been built without all of the uproar?

Maybe in another time and at another place, it wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow. Unfortunately, in this time and at that place, at the very best, it’s going to be a tough sell.

Maybe the whole situation could’ve been avoided had someone on the planning committee for the facility (and, there must have been a planning committee of some sort) piped up and said, “Hey, we’re in the middle of an election year here. Things could get unpleasant. Maybe we should hold off until that’s out of the way.”

Maybe that same committee (again, assuming one had been formed) could’ve first run the idea by some local community and religious leaders. Maybe they could’ve talked with some people associated with the 9/11 Memorial. Maybe they could’ve met with and considered the opinions of some of the families who lost relatives and loved ones on that day.

Maybe all of the talk would’ve done n o good. Maybe it would’ve produced agreement to build. Maybe it would’ve led to the choice of another site. Maybe, maybe, maybe.

Too late now, though.

Too late to point out, yet again, that the fundamentalist loons who brought down the Twin Towers do not represent all Muslims and that there are differences between Muslims.

Too late to point out that there are differences between Christians of differing faiths and that some “Christians” hold beliefs that make rational people shudder.

Too late to try and determine whether the individuals leading the charge to build this facility are honest brokers for tolerance and understanding or clever “plants” trying to do their part in “bringing down the west.”

Too late to see if the whole controversy has been “ginned up” for political purposes or if the issue of “sensitivity” simply — and, indeed, honestly — came to the fore once plans for the facility were brought to light.

So, if you ask me whether I think the community center/recreation facility/prayer chapel/mosque/whatever should be built at the proposed site, I’d say “no.” “No,” because it’s too late for it to be anything other than a magnet for protest and friction. No because it will likely cause only more argument and mistrust.

Instead, it might be better if the individuals seeking to build the facility would take the high road, turn the other cheek, set an example, and build it elsewhere.

Because doing so would be the mannerly — as well as the (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, etc.) — thing to do and might show that it really was intended to be a place whose purpose was to foster tolerance and understanding.

And that, gentle reader, might be the best that could come from this goat rope now in front of us.

Larry Simoneaux lives in Edmonds. Send comments to

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