Op-Ed Columnist - Islam and the Two Americas - NYTimes.com
In yesterday's Op-Ed, Ross Douthat offers more on the debate that I suspect will rage for some time. He begins: "There’s an America where it doesn’t matter what language you speak, what god you worship, or how deep your New World roots run. An America where allegiance to the Constitution trumps ethnic differences, language barriers and religious divides. An America where the newest arrival to our shores is no less American than the ever-so-great granddaughter of the Pilgrims. But there’s another America as well, one that understands itself as a distinctive culture, rather than just a set of political propositions. This America speaks English, not Spanish or Chinese or Arabic. It looks back to a particular religious heritage: Protestantism originally, and then a Judeo-Christian consensus that accommodated Jews and Catholics as well. It draws its social norms from the mores of the Anglo-Saxon diaspora — and it expects new arrivals to assimilate themselves to these norms, and quickly." And then concludes, "By global standards, Rauf may be the model of a 'moderate Muslim.' But global standards and American standards are different. For Muslim Americans to integrate fully into our national life, they’ll need leaders who don’t describe America as 'an accessory to the crime' of 9/11 (as Rauf did shortly after the 2001 attacks), or duck questions about whether groups like Hamas count as terrorist organizations (as Rauf did in a radio interview in June). And they’ll need leaders whose antennas are sensitive enough to recognize that the quest for inter-religious dialogue is ill served by throwing up a high-profile mosque two blocks from the site of a mass murder committed in the name of Islam. They’ll need leaders, in other words, who understand that while the ideals of the first America protect the e pluribus, it’s the demands the second America makes of new arrivals that help create the unum." That about sums up my mixed emotions! On the one hand I believe that what helped my great grandparents make a home here was the American insistence that all religions are free to worship as they please. On the other hand I recognize that what helped my grandparents succeed was their desire to become more American. 9-11 and this mosque may very well prove to be a fault line between these two impulses.