Even as conservatives and progressives square off today over the significance of a mosque to be situated a few blocks from the site of the World Trade Center towers footprint in Manhattan -- the notorious Ground Zero Mosque -- Muslims have been worshipping publicly near the site of the 9/11 attacks without generating so much as a single tear of a bald eagle since 2002.
The Pentagon Memorial Chapel, which is maintained by the Pentagon Chaplain's Office, allows Muslims as well as Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Hindus and adherents of other denominations to worship just 80 feet or so from the site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in Washington.
Pentagon officials told the AP that no families of the victims of 9/11 or members of the military have ever protested the fact that Muslims worship near hallowed ground -- or that the Pentagon itself promotes the open, nondenominational use of the chapel.
It is possible to write off the blowup over the Manhattan mosque as any number of things. A summer media circus. Government officials of all levels revealing themselves as out of touch with the sentiments of the victims' families. A semantic debate over what it means to "support" something or a constitutional argument about property rights.
Yet the Pentagon worship center reveals one lasting truth that Peter Beinart gets at in a recent Daily Beast column: Things have changed. The attitude in 2010 is harder than it was in 2002, even as emotions are less raw.
Remember when George W. Bush and his neoconservative allies used to say that the “war on terror” was a struggle on behalf of Muslims, decent folks who wanted nothing more than to live free like you and me? Remember when Karen Hughes paid millions to produce glitzy videos of Muslim Americans testifying about how free they were to practice their religion in the USA? Remember Bush’s second inaugural, when he said “America's ideal of freedom” is “sustained in our national life by the truths of Sinai, the Sermon on the Mount, the words of the Koran?”
It would seem that the Pentagon Chaplain's Office remembers. Or rather, no one told the Christians, Muslims, Jews and others who worship there to forget.