Amitava Kumar in Vanity Fair:
A few weeks after the attacks of September 11, I was sitting one night in a car on a street in Lahore. I was waiting to be contacted by a member of a jihadi group that, not long afterward would go on to murder the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. Outside, a row of bright lights lit up the stalls of flower-sellers. The driver of the car, Qasim, a slight man with a thin mustache, turned to ask me where I lived. On hearing my answer, he said, “The Americans are the true Muslims.” I didn’t understand this. He said, “They have read and really understood the message of the Qu’ran.” This was even more baffling. But Qasim went on to explain his point. He said, “The Americans treat their workers in the right way. They pay them overtime.”
Ah, overtime! Fair wages, just working conditions, true democracy. Where in this debate about the construction of a mosque in New York City, in the contrary assertions about militancy and peace, is there any evidence of Qasim’s plain sense of his religion and his appreciation for the American people?
Where, in other words, is common sense?
We were first told in the press that the mosque was going to be built on Ground Zero. Then we learned that it was actually more than two blocks away. It was clarified that it wasn’t even going to be simply a mosque, nor would its membership be limited to Muslims. In fact, the building was going to house a community center with a basketball court and a culinary school. Accuracy and truth lay buried deep under the routine invocations of hallowed ground.
What does this “hallowed ground” really look like?