"Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts," tweeted Sarah Palin last month, summing up the position that most Americans currently hold: that the Park51 Islamic Community Center, originally named the Cordoba House, should not be built two blocks from the site of the 9/11 attacks.
The arguments of the protesters sound familiar -- they're the same as those of Muslims who protested the Danish cartoons of Muhammad, or the recent South Park episode that featured Muhammad in a bear costume.
Since when did the argument, "This should be banned because it's offensive and hurts our feelings!" start earning a place in any kind of rational discourse? Is sensitivity a prerequisite for freedom of expression? The controversy over the mosque sounds a lot like the one over that South Park episode -- except this time, the whiny ones are on the non-Muslim side.
And how did Barack Obama "backtrack" by supporting a constitutional right to building the mosque, but not commenting on its wisdom? I don't personally believe there is much wisdom in any of Glenn Beck's unintentionally comedic paranoid rants, but do I support his right to broadcast them? Yes, absolutely. Is wisdom a prerequisite for freedom of expression?
I'm not the only one who thinks that the building of mosques, churches, and synagogues -- or any other institutions that perpetuate mythology and superstition at the expense of people's ignorance and vulnerability while rolling in money without having to pay taxes -- is unwise. But tiptoeing around a value as fundamental as freedom of religion is blatantly anti-democratic and unconstitutional.
How will Sarah Palin react to Israel's move to demolish a historic Islamic cemetery in Jerusalem in order to construct a number of buildings in its place, including, of all things, a "Museum of Tolerance"? And how will Muslim Park51 supporters react to it?
As predictable as all this is, at some point you just have to throw your hands up in the air, get some popcorn, and watch the reality show. If Al Qaeda wanted to start a clash of civilizations, it sure got one. Think about that the next time you're at a sushi restaurant near Pearl Harbor.
Follow Ali A. Rizvi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/aliamjadrizvi