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 Freedom of Expression
 
Two cheers for American tolerance
Forbes, United States Thursday, August 12, 2010

Shikha Dalmia
The mosque controversy shows that America manages its hatreds better than any other country. In India, a Sikh gurudwara could not be erected next to Gandhi's residence, where she was assassinated, against the will of the majority Hindu population. America is more tolerant than any nation and if other countries caught up to this tolerant attitude, it would be a huge leap for mankind, writes Shikha Sood Dalmia in Forbes.

...

It is painfully obvious that opposition to the Cordoba House, as this structure would be called, is motivated less by a desire to protect the memory of 9/11 victims and more by a knee-jerk suspicion of Muslims. If it were not, mosque-bashers wouldn't have so much difficulty processing some basic but crucial facts about the structure. The "mosque," for instance, is not really a mosque but an Islamic community center--complete with a swimming pool, auditorium, bookstores and restaurants--along the lines of the many YMCAs or Jewish community centers around the country.

...

None of this is preventing some opponents from bizarrely suggesting that the center represents a surreptitious attempt to glorify Islamic victory on American soil. But a victory statement communicated through esoteric means negates itself because such means signal weakness, not strength. What's more, it is one odd victory statement when its alleged authors are not claiming any moral high ground for their putative side. To the contrary, the couple, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan, who are spearheading the center, have "refudiated" the 9/11 attacks in particular and Islamic terrorism in general.

...

It is possible that the center is really an elaborate ruse for some sinister anti-American agenda--just as it is possible that America's next president could be a Manchurian candidate installed by the Chinese. But to suspect such an agenda in the face of massive evidence to the contrary testifies to just how deep-seated the suspicion against Muslims is in this country.

But this is precisely why it is all the more remarkable that this resentment hasn't boiled over into active persecution--something that would hardly be possible any place else in the world. To be sure, this controversy has triggered a backlash  against other proposed mosques in the country, with opponents holding protest rallies with dogs in tow to taunt Muslims who regard dogs as napaak, or impure. And Republicans in some races have turned this controversy into something of a rallying cry to energize their base.

... ... ...

It is out of question that a Sikh gurudwara could ever be erected next to Gandhi's residence, where she was assassinated, against the will of the majority Hindu population. And Indian Muslims have yet not been allowed to rebuild the mosque that Hindus led a national march to tear down with their bare hands in 1991--not even as recompense for the bloodletting they visited upon Muslims following the mosque razing.

The point is not to pick on any country. The point is that it is not easy, even for liberal democracies, to rein in the tyranny of the majority. That in America no majority can forcibly evict the imam and his family against his will is not nothing.

...

America, in short, represents not just how far humanity has yet to travel on the road to complete civility, but how far humanity has already traveled. For now, if the rest of the world just caught up with America, it would be a huge leap forward for the cause of toleration.

This article was published in the Forbes on Thursday, August 12, 2010. Please read the original article here.
Author : Ms Dalmia is a senior analyst at Reason Foundation, a think tank in USA.
Tags- Find more articles on - India | Islam | mosque | Muslim | Sikh | tolerance

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