America—formidable bastion of freedom, glorious exemplar of religious tolerance, magnet to talent from across the world, bewildering salad bowl of people of different faiths, nationalities, ethnicities.... It’s this America that finds its cherished values threatened by a raging debate over a proposed Islamic centre in Lower Manhattan. The lines are sharply drawn, facts have been twisted, and dissimulation dominates. The biggest falsehood—which triggered the debate—has now been forgotten in the fury of impassioned speeches: that the proposed centre is to be built at the site where the World Trade Center stood till 9/11. The truth is different, definitely not provocative enough to have the entire nation agitated. The fact is, the proposed centre is to be built at least two blocks from Ground Zero, considered hallowed ground in the American consciousness, consecrated as it is by the blood of those killed in the attack on the twin towers. The centre won’t even overlook Ground Zero: the two are separated by a two- to five-minute walk. For critics, though, the centre is still two blocks too close, and reflects the insensitivity of its proponents towards the victims of 9/11. At the site of the proposed centre stands a decrepit building that once housed a Burlington Coat Factory, a clothing chain. It’s in a stripclub-pocked neighbourhood through which tourists amble to glimpse Ground Zero. The Islamic Centre, officially named Park 51, will house a mosque, a swimming pool, a basketball court, an auditorium, a library, a day-care facility and restaurants. The centre is the brainchild of Imam Feisal Rauf and his wife Daisy Khan of the New York-based Cordoba Initiative. They say the community centre will be based on the model of the Jewish Community Centre in Manhattan, serve the needs of a large community of Muslims in the neighbourhood, and promote inter-faith dialogue.