I think that I understand both sides of this issue. For those who oppose the building of an Islamic community center near ground zero (it’s closer to being a YMCA than it is to being a mosque), their most vivid memory of Muslims is the attack on 9/11. They feel that it is insensitive of the builders of the community center to remind them (and families of those who were murdered on 9/11) of this attack on the World Trade Center by building the community center so close to ground zero.
For Muslims, they are sensitive to being conflated with those who destroyed the World Trade Center on 9/11. They are also sensitive to the many lies that are being told by those who oppose the community center. (Contrary to the false claims, it is not a mosque. It is not on ground zero; it is two blocks from ground zero and not even visible from it. Imam Rauf, who has advocated the building of the community center, is a moderate Muslim who traveled with members of the Bush administration to improve relations between the Muslim world and the US. ) They are also sensitive to the anti-Muslim hatred that is being revealed in so many different parts of the U.S.
So, on one side, there are the sensitivities of those who have so little personal knowledge of the Muslim religion that they automatically think of 9/11 when they think of Muslims. They don’t even think of the 10s of millions of Iraqis or Afghanis for whom we are fighting, let alone the Muslims who were among those murdered on 9/11. On the other side, there are the Muslims (especially, moderate Muslims) who are sensitive to being constantly compared to terrorists.
I think that the Muslims have a much better case on this one.
The solution is not to treat both types of sensitivities as morally equivalent. Rather, Americans should try to understand their Muslim neighbors better and overcome any misinformed associations that they may have. With 1 billion Muslims in the world, it is possible (and preferable) for Americans to have a much more nuanced position than to think that all Muslims believe the same thing. We especially should not associate Muslims with Al Qaeda, which is hated by a majority of Muslims around the world.
As for politicians who have deliberately inflamed this situation for narrow personal or political interests (Newt Gingrich, I am especially referring to you), they provide support to those radical Islamists who want to convince others that Americans hate Muslims; and they have made this world a more dangerous place. They bring dishonor and shame to themselves and to the United States.