For the past few weeks, I have been among those fascinated by the growing Islamophobia surrounding the Cordoba House (a.k.a. the Ground Zero Mosque). I have been disheartened by the hate being spewed by those who want the Cordoba House to be moved elsewhere. We can't escape the constant barrage of media updates on what Imam Rauf has said or what Terry Jones is up to as riots stemming from his plan to burn Qur'ans have ruffled a few feathers overseas.
But Terry Jones is not the issue here. And burning Qur'ans is not the issue here. Even the Cordoba House is not the issue here. The issue is the fact that these are even issues to begin with. Think about what would happen if media outlets decided not to give Terry Jones a soapbox. Fifty followers of the Dove World Outreach Center would have burned a bunch of cheap Qur'ans down in Florida and no one would have cared. Instead, we have important members of Obama's Cabinet personally calling Jones.
And think what would happen if we had reacted the same way to plans of the Cordoba House when they were first announced, when it was too early for politicians to turn it into a campaign issue? Nobody cared that Muslims would be peacefully worshiping blocks from Ground Zero until national figures like Newt Gingrich claimed that Imam Rauf was trying to "make a case about supremacy" by building the community center. It might have shifted the national conversation in the months preceding important midterm elections towards the two wars America is fighting or the stagnant economy rather than what, at the end of the day, a private property owner has every right to do.
Which is why I am going to do my best to ignore anti-Muslim hysteria. America just has too many bigger fish to fry, and those are the subjects that actually affect the population as a whole. Because in reality, whether a community center like Cordoba House is built at its currently proposed site has no effect on my daily life or those of most Americans, other than people currently living in Lower Manhattan. The vast majority of Muslims who do not wish death to America have nothing for which to apologize -- as I have previously stated, only 0.0043% of Muslims belong to a violent religious sect. The same way that the overwhelming majority of Baptists do not have to apologize for the Westboro Baptist Church.
People like Terry Jones are cranks, and cranks have their proper places in society. That place is not the evening news; that place is not the agenda of presidential administrations. That place is the fringe of intelligent discussion. It's clear when someone is acting out like a spoiled child just to get attention. And there are two ways to deal with these types of folks: we can give them what they want -- for the child it is a candy or toy, for the crank it is media coverage and a soapbox -- and wait for the next tantrum, or we can ignore them and wait until they tire themselves out. The former may be more satisfying in the short term, as it allows us to engage with the crank and dispel their ridiculous ideas, but it also serves to legitimize their psuedo-arguments. Ignoring them requires more discipline and patience, but it also pushes the crank and his ideas further outside the realm of national discussion, where they can do less harm, allowing the rest of us to focus on the real issues.