Tariq Ramadan, one of the most thoughtful contemporary Islamist modernist thinkers, offers some valuable thoughts on both the NY mosque issue and what it is to be Muslim in America:

Tariq Ramadan: Even now, Muslims must have faith in America

By Tariq Ramadan
Washington Post
Sunday, September 12, 2010

Just a short time ago, Europe seemed to be the part of the West where fears of Islam were most evident, with its bitter controversies over headscarf bans or the construction of mosques in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. Yet in recent weeks, America's relationship with Islam appears to have changed. The battle over a planned Islamic community center near Ground Zero in New York and the proposed burning of the Koran by a Florida pastor have revealed similar worries, and journalists and intellectuals (including, ironically, European ones) have been quick to describe the rise of Islamophobia in America.

Polls show that nearly half of Americans have unfavorable views of Islam, and the fear of this faith in America is undeniable. But is it as simple as xenophobia and racism? I do not believe so. Natural and understandable concerns can be transformed into active rejection and open racism when political discourse and media coverage fan the flames for ideological, religious or economic interests. That is what is happening in America today.

The great majority of Americans do not know much about Islam but nonetheless fear it as violent, expansionist and alien to their society. The problem to overcome is not hatred, but ignorance. The challenge for Muslims in America is to respect the fears of ordinary people while resisting the exploitation of those fears by political parties, lobbies and sectors of the media. To meet this challenge, Muslims must reassess their own involvement, behavior and contributions in American society....
Ironically, despite his very moderate views, Ramadan has been barred from the US. Of course he's hardly the only anomaly in that regard. One of my former students, himself now one of the leading experts on the deradicalization of jihadists, couldn't get into the US for several years because of information supplied by a his native country to the US. The irony in this case was that the "information" was provided not because he was an Islamist (he isn't), but because he was a pro-democracy advocate.

Earlier this year I was at a conference in DC where one of the guests, a UK university professor, was barred from boarding the plane in London by DHS. Frantic calls from the conference organizers were unable to resolve the problem. The organizers? The NIC...