Jack Miles, Senior Fellow for Religious Affairs with the Pacific Council on International Policy and Distinguished Professor of English and Religious Studies, University of California, Irvine.

Plans to build an Islamic centre near the site of the 9/11 bombing have become a flashpoint for debate over the nature of America and its relations with Islam. Eminent American religion scholar and journalist Jack Miles argues that the conservative critics of the “ground zero mosque” are Osama Bin Laden’s best friends. The indispensable premise of the master narrative of international takfiri extremism, he argues, has been that the United States is at war with Islam. If American conservatives prevail over the Mosque, the world's Ummah (Muslim community) will conclude that Americans really do blame them for the terrorist actions of a Muslim few. Osama bin Laden would win a major tactical victory without firing a shot. The goodwill generated by Barack Obama’s speeches in Ankara and Cairo would be undermined. American efforts to improve relations with the Islamic world would be set back for years. The global stakes over a small piece of ground in Manhattan could not be higher.

This event was held by the Centre for Arab & Islamic Studies at the Australian National University College of Arts & Social Sciences in Canberra.