The controversy over the mosque to be built near Ground Zero has exposed an old divide in America, says Ross Douthat in The New York Times. On one side, there's an America that welcomes people from all cultures. On the other is an America that "expects new arrivals to assimilate themselves" quickly, and adopt American social norms as their own. That's the America that sees the mosque as "an affront to the memory of 9/11." And Muslims have only stoked the opposition by entangling themselves with ideas the "second America" finds "beyond the pale" — for example, the imam behind the mosque, Feisal Abdul Rauf, once described the U.S. as "an accessory to the crime" of 9/11. Do American Muslims need to try harder to assimilate? (Watch a Russia Today discussion about Republicans' views on Muslims)
Of course they do. The mosque plan is proof of that: The people who oppose the mosque aren't "racist rubes," says Jennifer Rubin at Commentary. They merely believe its wrong to desecrate what President Obama himself has declared to be "hallowed ground" by putting a mosque near the spot where terrorists killed Americans in the name of Islam. Showing a little respect for the dead wouldn't constitute complete assimilation into the American way of life, but it would be a nice start.
"Smearing 68 percent of America"
No, xenophobes should do more to make Muslims feel welcome: It's definitely best when immigrant populations become a part of everyday American life, says Alex Knapp at Outside the Beltway. But the loud and angry critics of the proposed Islamic cultural center in New York City apparently think integration is "built on fear and peer pressure." Wrong. The way to bring "new cultures into the rich tapestry of American life" is to show them tolerance.
"Swift assimilation' and history"
To the critics, Muslims will never be American enough: The critics of the Ground Zero Mosque don't "want Muslims to be 'more American,'" says Jamelle Bouie in The American Prospect. Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, and the mob think Islam itself is incompatible with this country's ideals. "To those demagogues, America simply doesn't have room for Muslims."
"Nativists are great! Except when they aren't, at all"
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- How to be the most productive person in your office — and still get home by 5:30 p.m.
- 43 TV shows to watch in 2014
- The science of sex: 4 harsh truths about dating and mating
- How our botched understanding of 'science' ruins everything
- 6 things the happiest families all have in common
- How U2 became the new Nickelback
- The secret to handling pressure like astronauts, Navy SEALs, and samurai
- Russia is stealthily threatening America with nuclear war
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- 10 secrets of the Vatican exposed
Subscribe to the Week