Just about anyone with a website has already commented on this. There is no doubt the Christian right has responded as predictably and disturbingly as one might expect. I have only a few thoughts.
1. The Ground Zero ‘Mosque’ is probably a bridge too far at this point. In his fumbling way, I think Obama got it right. The community center should be permitted legally as an expression of religious freedom, but so many Americans, especially Christians, find it uncomfortable at minimum, terrifying at worst, that it is probably not a good idea at the moment. It is clear misstep in a country still trying to come to grips with 9/11, Iraq, the GWoT, etc. And the hysterical reaction from the US right over it should be an obvious red-flag to Islam generally that it desperately needs to conciliate the rest of the world rather than insist maximally on its rights – an obvious lesson that should have been learned in Europe, India, or after Durban II. To many Americans, Ground Zero is practically holy ground (rightly or wrongly), and it is indisputable that its perpetrators acted in Islam’s name. It is also clear that the US is spending a great deal of blood and treasure pushing back on radical Islam, and that many Americans want to see a pleasant, conciliatory face on Islam before they can swallow something like this. So long as global Islam’s image is dominated by this guy, Muslims in American should really be working bottom-up outreach, demonstrating on 9/11 in solidarity with the victims rather than openly testing the patience of the majority culture, by blaming it on a few bad apples and dismissing the rest of the discussion as islamophobia.
American Muslims need to pick their battles just like any minority; civil rights movements for blacks and homosexuals have showed us that Americans will accommodate. Acceptance will come, but not by pursuing CAIR-style grievance politics that sees racism everywhere. I think most Americans are still waiting for the debate inside Islam on what caused 9/11; this would really prove that Islam accepts pluralism in its heart, not just when some firestorm occurs on CNN. But you only get that from americanized Muslims like Foud Ajami or Fareed Zakaria who are effectively isolated from the discussion. It is outsiders like Olivier Roy, Bernard Lewis, R M Gerecht, Ann Applebaum, or Christopher Caldwell who have really exposed the pathologies behind 9/11 with no clear response from folks like Tariq Ramadan or Feisal Abdul Rauf, much less the reactionary clerical elites in Iran, Saudi Arabia, etc. Instead, the critiques are just ignored, as were the Arab Human Development reports earlier this decade. Just like Germany had to examine the Holocaust eventually, Islam needs to look inside 9/11 for a good house-cleaning before westerners will really be comfortable. Consider this counterfactual: if CAIR had organized a ‘Solidarity with America’ march on 9/11 every year or some analogously Oprah-style outreach, then I can’t imagine anyone would care now. But instead of introspection and an admission that pathologies deeply rooted in Islam created 9/11, the response of the US Muslim community has been quiescence or CAIR-style identity politics. I criticize America’s Christian right paranoia regularly on this site, but it is also willful ignorance to pretend the US is not a Christian-majority country, and as the Koran-burners show, they have learned identity politics too. How ‘bout everyone cool it on the religion for awhile?
2. The Koran-burning is the revenge of identity politics on the left. They are loopy and dangerous, but they also teach you just how dangerous stoking identity politics is. And for this you must blame the Left in the end. Starting in 1970s, civil rights-era equality was out, and identity politics was in. Non-white minorities in America were trained in multiculturalism by US universities and told to press group-fashioned political claims built around race or gender. The result was political correctness, in which free speech was assailed as permitting ‘disrespect.’ And no concept is more abused by ethnic ideologues than ‘respect.’ What better way to embarrass and delegitimize your critics than to easily cast them as ignorantly disrespectful of your culture, which you can casually invoke by just your last name. If they are racist, then you hardly need to listen to them, a tactic first rolled out against Daniel Moynihan’s famous DoL report 45 years ago. ‘Respect’ is wonderfully indefinable and elastic, its lack implies racist, vulgar stupidity, and it provides an easy out from the hard criticism liberal free speech permits. Pretty quickly, Israel’s defenders learned this; there is no better way to discredit Israel critics than anti-semitism charges. And Islam learned this too at Durban II. Now at last, white Christian Americans are learning this language as well. Regularly assailed as redneck racists, the easy answer is to adopt the pose of the opponent and ‘discover’ prejudice in the liberal anti-Christian media, e.g. This is why Fox News has such a siege mentality tone to its reporting, like the ‘war’ on Christmas. Here is a nice summary of how religious groups get trained to frame their demands as ‘rights’ they deserve as ‘victims’ of never-ending ‘prejudice’,’ i.e., free speech. But to be fair to the US right, it only went down this route after the ‘ethnicization’ of left-wing politics in the US in the last three decades. And for that blame the explosion of ethnic identity studies on US campuses.