The Mayan Calendar prediction of the End of the World in 2012 was off by just a few months, since the real End of the World will be Sept. 11, 2011, if I properly interpret the signals I'm getting from talk radio. That's when a Muslim mosque (the "victory mosque") will be opened near the site of the 9/11 tragedy.

Yes, I understand the arguments that building this mosque seems insensitive to the victims of 9/11 and that it might look like a stick in the eye of America rather an effort to reach out to America. Initially I nodded my head to some of those arguments. But this is an issue for New York to settle, not us, and if the mosque supporters have the proper approvals then I think American energy or outrage could better be focused elsewhere. In fact, I'm quite concerned about the outrage part. Why is this such a big deal to so many shouters? And why the anger towards an entire religion? I've heard way too much talk linking Islam per se to terrorism and violence. Yes, I'm aware that there are Muslim terrorists and rogue governments, and that the Koran has some troubling passages that can be interpreted to support violence and religious intolerance--just like the Old Testament. But Islam itself is not the problem. I've taken some heat for sharing the thought that Islam is a religion of peace and deserves respect, in spite of some very violent practitioners. But the vast majority of Muslims I know (OK, these are generally college-educated people living in the States) are men and women of peace, compassion, and tolerance, and good family-oriented people who share many basic values with conservative Christians. Even if you think it's a terrible religion, it deserves the freedom of religion that our Constitution affords.

The very positive thing from this Ground Zero Mosque controversy is that some forces who, in my opinion, were once enemies of religion and seemed only interested in eradicating the influence of religion from this country have now become ardent supporters or religious liberty. This is great news. I hope all those who are now speaking of freedom, diversity, and tolerance will be equally supportive of us Mormons next time extremists want to shut down a Mormon temple or belittle a prominent Mormon figure for his religious beliefs. Let's welcome this new era of religious tolerance! And may we actually have more tolerance for each other, including tolerance for our many Muslim friends (any actual enemies we don't need to tolerate as much).

9/11/2011 will probably not be the end of the world, even for many who feel troubled and insulted by the new mosque. The real end of the world won't occur at least until the next housing market report from the government, or perhaps the November elections. But 9/11 could be the start of more respectful religious dialog, and perhaps an era where we can build more LDS temples and have the suddenly-more-tolerant media go all out to encourage encourage respect for a religion that, like Islam, is still highly misunderstood.
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