This is a no-win situation. No matter who comes out on top in this confrontation our nation will be licking its wounds for years to come. Even the victors will have lost much ground when it comes to persuading others to their point of view.
There is one way to work this out that could have lasting positive consequences for all concerned. It might go something like this:
The people opposing the construction should concede their adversary’s point and allow the mosque to be built ( even though, as the mayor of New York and the President correctly pointed out, the people who want to build this mosque have every right to do so). They should accept the Muslim builder’s stated reasons for doing this – to foster the spirit of religious plurality and cooperation.
The Muslims who want to build the mosque, once they have gratefully accepted the concession, should then decide to build the mosque in another place, out of consideration for the sensitivities of others.
Mutual submission. Surrender. Lose/lose = win/win.
Of course neither side could negotiate this (at least not publicly) – it would defeat the purpose. Each side would/should have no idea that the other side would/should propose such a thing or react in such a way. In spite of the anti-democratic taste it may leave in people’s mouths, many of our nation’s greatest and most enduring compromises were brokered behind closed doors. If the mosque’s opponents are really only concerned about its sensitive location then they should be grateful for the Muslim’s offer to move. If the Mosque builders are serious about their stated motivation, then they should have no problem moving the location, especially since they are no longer being told to do so.
It would mean stepping out on faith. Or at least giving that impression.