Oh my God. What an unimaginable mess this Ground Zero Mosque has become. Let us just get a few things straight:
1) Thousands of Americans were butchered at the Twin Towers by Muslim terrorists. Any opinion not recognizing this fact as being very salient today should be rejected out of hand. The vast majority of Americans remember that day vividly; anything resembling a victory monument is going to go over badly.
2) This mosque looks like a victory monument. The history of Islamic conquests show prominent places in the Western World being converted into mosques (Hagia Sophia was a former church; the Al Aqsa Mosque is built on the ruins of the Jewish Second Temple). The Twin Towers were prominent symbols of America's wealth and prosperity; they most certainly were not attacked at random. No, this mosque is not literally at the site of the Towers, but it is as close to it as possible and at a site destroyed by that terrorist attack. The complete lack of willingness to negotiate on this point by the mosque builders lead me to believe that it is intentionally built close to the terrorist site. It does not matter what the actual intent is, mostly because it is not possible to know; the point is, the optics are horrible.
3) Americans do not hate Muslims. Given everything, the remarkably low rate of violence against Muslims shows we do not blame all Muslims for 9/11 or our current War on Terror. President Bush made great efforts to separate terrorists from peaceful Muslims, both on the battlefield and in our minds. Yes, isolated incidents of hatred can be found, but just as many against whites, protestants, males, the wealthy, Latinos, or any other grouping can be found, and such anecdotes are not proof of widespread hatred among the populace.
4) Opposing this mosque is neither a violation of 1st Amendment rights or proof of hatred. The vast majority of those who oppose a mosque being built at that site have made the caveat that Muslims have the right to do so. The principle is that Americans must allow such things legally; it has never meant that Americans must like what other people do or that they should not apply social pressure to change that offending behavior.
5) This mosque is not about bridging divides and establishing community healing. The community has made it clear that building a mosque at this spot sticks in their craw; a religious leader truly dedicated towards peace and community would not become adamant that the community just deal with it, sticking it to that community again.
6) Americans are tired of being accused of hatred. Christmas cards given out by teachers can land a person in trouble for not being sensitive to other cultures, but asking (asking! not attacking, asking!) another religion not to build on what is basically a graveyard of Americans killed in the name of that very religion is proof of hatred? Regardless of where you stand in this cultural battle, the optics are pretty clear that Christians must be sensitive to any potential sore point (real or imagined) of other cultures but at no point are other religions required to return the favor. People are sick of that arrangement and this mosque is where a line has been drawn.
7) Despite that, Americans will not support blatant acts of hatred. This Qu'ran burning fool in Florida garnished roughly 0% of Americans to his side. People on all sides of the political spectrum and vast majorities of Churches, Mosques, Temples, and other religious institutions have condemned this act.
This situation is getting out of control quickly. The perception alone that Muslims do not care about a very sensitive issue to most Americans, or perhaps worse that they are intentionally jabbing at it, is going to breed more prejudice against American Muslims than 9/11 itself did. The terrorist attack was a clear example of lunatics; this mosque is supposedly being built by "moderates." After decades of being prodded to be more sensitive towards others, Americans expect the favor to be returned.
As for the Qu'ran burning: stupid, but it proves my point. The American government burns a bunch of Bibles last year; George Bush is shown defecating on Jesus in South Park (an episode that drives the censorship point home); Dogma. Do Christians respond with violence? No! But draw a picture of Muhammad and people end up dead. A group burning Bibles wouldn't even get notice in the news, but a very few lunatics in Gainesville decide to burn a few Qu'rans and the entire world goes into a hissy fit.
In short, the Ground Zero Mosque is doing irreparable damage to our society. Opposition is based on very raw feelings concerning this area and Islam, not on an outright hatred of the religion. In the name of peace, sensitivity, and community, the leaders of this mosque project should accept one of the multiple offers to build the mosque elsewhere in an effort to show they do indeed respect the opinions and mores of the American nation.