So far too many people have asked me to do a post about the “ground zero mosque” controversy, and using that phrase just makes me feel irritated because it’s not at ground zero and it’s not a mosque, but using the phrase at least means everybody knows what you’re talking about.
Here’s my problem: I don’t know what there is left to write about. The right people have already pretty much covered every inch of this issue and why it’s a non-troversy. People have talked about how the “mosque” is in fact a community centre with a prayer room, and how if you want to call it a mosque then by the same logic the Pentagon is a mosque. People have talked about how Feisal Abdul Rauf really isn’t anything but a moderate, peaceful scholar and how his “ties” to radical Islamic movements have been overdramatized or fictionalized. People have talked about how this wasn’t a big deal to anybody until the usual right-wing media suspects decided to gin it up into a big deal months after the fact. People have talked about how other people who should frankly know better (I’m looking at you, Howard Dean) are acting as apologists for bigots. And of course, people have talked about how this is a basic issue of civil rights, and how suggesting that all Muslims have to be “sensitive” post-9/11 is the worst kind of assigning of collective guilt, something that should generally be anathema to anybody living in a modern liberal democracy.
And none of it really matters, because “Muslim” is the new “nigger.” Except in a way it’s kind of worse, because the (almost entirely white) people screaming about Muslims nowadays are the ones who either still use the word or who are the ones who never really understood why it was bad in the first place. Everybody knows at least one white person who doesn’t understand why black people get to use the N-word and why white people can’t; to them, the word being bad is completely understandable. Taboo behaviour is nothing new, after all, and they can understand a new type of taboo behaviour, but what they don’t understand is that the reason for the taboo isn’t because the word itself is bad; after all, it’s just a word. “Nigger” is taboo because when someone who isn’t black uses it, it’s one-word shorthand for “you are less human than me based on the colour of your skin.” Which is why black people can use it, because when one black person says it to another, they’re both black and that shorthand doesn’t apply.
If you don’t understand that – or if you don’t care – then you’re not really going to be concerned about the fact that there are many different types of Muslims and the gigantic majority of them just want to live in peace like everybody else, because the idea of living post-racially (as best anybody can; we all have our inherent biases to overcome) is one that requires introspection and an inquisitive mind. Neither of these traits has been terribly evident in the mosque protesters.