The Burning Is Canceled

It's a merciful escape from what could have been a horrifying dynamic. But a weird one as well:

Terry Jones said he was calling off the event after the group behind a planned Islamic centre near Ground Zero in New York agreed to relocate it. But the cultural centre's organisers said they had no plans to move it.

What's fascinating to me is the linkage this hateful nutjob tried to make between Park51 and the Koran-burning stunt. It's in his own head, apparently, and a way to save face, I suppose. But that he sees this as a way to save face, that he sees his disgusting bigotry as somehow equivalent to building a multi-faith community center with a mosque near Ground Zero is instructive of what has happened to the discourse in the last month or so.

I believe the legitimacy given by some leading Republicans to the attempts to make the Park51 complex a "provocation" have fueled the fire of religious bigotry in this country, and hurt the war of ideas against Jihadism and in favor of religious freedom. Mercifully, blessedly, this did not escalate to this degree this swiftly, and the pastor has climbed down. So we escaped what could have been a spark for a global wildfire.

But until conservative, evangelical, Republican and Christianist leaders make a clear and vital distinction between Jihadist terrorists and American Muslims, a distinction they helped erase by declaring a mainstream Muslim center near 9/11 as a "provocation", this will happen again.

In my view, president Bush should stand up and insist upon this distinction as he did after 9/11 and take on the zealots who want to erase it, and know not what they do. It is not enough, alas, for president Obama, whose legitimacy is denied by those who support this kind of bigotry. A statement by Bush would be extremely helpful. And in the interests of the country's unity, the troops and the war.