James Forsyth

The worrying opposition to the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’

Text settings

I’m a neo-conservative, a hawk in the war against Islamist extremism, which is why I’m so worried by the opposition to the building of a mosque near Ground Zero. A new poll shows that 61 percent of Americans oppose its construction and Howard Dean, the tribune of the Democratic wing of the Democratic party, and Harry Reid, the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, have joined many leading Republicans in arguing that the mosque should not be built there, several blocks from Ground Zero.


If the war on terror becomes a war on Islam, it is a war that we lose: George W. Bush may have had his faults but this is something that he understood. The way that this debate over the mosque is going is playing into the whole clash of civilizations narrative and strengthening the hand of those who seek to promote it.


The struggle to foster democratic, open societies in countries that have never known such freedom will last generations. It is a conflict that is more about ideas and moral suasion than military force, though force will obviously have a role. Our aim should be to boost the reformist elements in Islam, to offer what help we can to those who believe that Islam and liberal democracy can be compatible. If the West appears to be anti-Islam rather than just anti-Islamism, then we will not be able to do that.