I think that the Muslim American community didn’t ask to be included in Park51′s project, but we have been dragged into it forcibly. In some ways it would be a relief if the issue went away. However, if they do decide to move, then I think that the message that will be sent is that bigotry and fear of Muslims is not just permitted, it is effective. This may result in short term relief for Muslim Americans, but surely longer term pain. To be honest I don’t know what I prefer in that regard.
It should be noted that if they did decide to move, then Republicans would claim victory, but would also be denied the issue’s urgency and impact in November. I suspect that a great many strategists are secretly ecstatic that Park51 is sticking to its guns. That’s another reason I personally am now ambivalent about the outcome. The main reason, however, is that I am not exactly pleased with Park51′s mishandling of the entire affair. Their PR has been incompetent (especially on Twitter) and the entire controversy might well have been avoided if they had shown a little restraint instead of trumpeting the proximity to Ground Zero at the outset. Also, the total absence of Feisal Rauf has a “Where’s Waldo” quality that is maddening in itself. I’m quite capable of defending Rauf against some of the accusations against him, but am not inclined to carry his water for him while he gallivants about the globe.
If the project is going to fail, maybe it is better it fail now than later. Certainly the Muslim American community will take a hit either way. If I sound cynical it’s only because I think that there’s a failure of leadership here and that has done as much damage to Muslim American aspirations as the most committed Islamophobes profiting from exploiting 9-11 passions.
Still, I subscribe to the view that the center’s existence would be a powerful symbol and repudiation of the ideology of Al Qaeda. So despite my misgivings about the cost to the Muslim American community, on a broader scale, I think it is good for America that the project succeed. This is why I still count myself a supporter of Park51.