I can't get away from this issue. Its on the daily show, its on the front page of google news, its on the news every other day. So lets think about it some.
There seems to be a two groups of people talking past each other, and then there's President Obama. One group, wants to emphasize that this is insensitive to New Yorkers, Americans, and survivors of the 9/11 attack. The other group wants to emphasize that there is a right to freedom of religion, and that to deny the building of the Mosque/cultural center would be in violation of the Constitution, which New Yorkers, Americans, and the survivors of 9/11 attack think make America so great in the first place.
President Obama recently came out and said... well... Both. In one press conference he said that he supports the legal right to build the cultural center/mosque, but in another interview, he said that it wasn't terribly well thought out.
Now this might sound like political double-talk to save face, minimize the impact it might have on future elections for Democrats, etc. but I actually think it may encapsulate the issue quite nicely.
Neither group are holding a position that is mutually exclusive. I can believe that group X has a right Y, but the exercise of right Y in instance Z would be offensive. A right doesn't mean that the exercise of the right wouldn't be offensive.
I might have every right to speak my mind, but doing so may offend some people that I care about very dearly. So I might hold my tongue, and doing so, doesn't destroy my right, or weaken my right to free speech, but rather emphasizes my care and sensitivity towards others.
I think there is a secondary concern here. Islam and Muslim culture in general has already been demonized in American culture, since 9/11. Generally, Muslims are treated with suspicion and caution, or at least it seems like it. They're the new Communist. Undeservedly, of course, since this is a broad generalization of a particular group, based upon the most extreme members of that group. Every group is filled with lunatics, but to paint all Christians as abortion clinic bombers or invading crusaders, would be unfair.
Marginalized groups in a sense, need to work extra hard to be accepted. This isn't fair, but its the way it is. We've seen this before with racially oppressed groups, particularly African Americans. For an African American to participate in the normal walks of life, initially, they had to be head and shoulders better than everyone else. They needed to be Jackie Robinson, instead of some very good baseball player. They had to go above and beyond the "minimum qualifications" to be able to participate. Fair? No.
So either we can change the culture of America (unlikely), and make it more fair for Muslim and those of the Islamic faith, or they have to tread more carefully than others. Personally, I wish we could change the culture of America. Reiterate equality, tolerance, and understanding. But I also have a practical side of me too. I think the Mosque should be built, and nobody would complain about it at all. Of course, that won't happen.
I think Feisal Abdul Rauf should really think carefully about how this would impact how Americans view Muslim and Islamic culture. There is a risk that they may become more marginalized because of the perceived insensitivity of the act of building the Mosque/cultural center, which wouldn't be beneficial for anyone really. But on the other hand, it may bring to the forefront the real Muslim and Islamic culture. It may force people to reconsider their prejudices. But I have a feeling that would be wishful thinking. Those who are vehemently against the project, are unlikely to visit the Mosque/cultural center with an open mind, trying to learn about the those that they have already made a private demonizing judgment.