New York governor David Paterson has been trying to get the Park51 project to change their plans to build a mosque in lower Manhattan. Like a true politician, his reasons involve no principle other than the avoidance of an unpalatable political debate. He is reportedly “trying to bring people together on the issue”.

In the wake of the stabbing of a Muslim cab driver, Paterson has suggested that the current “debate” over the mosque could be among the causes. His official statement:

In the wake of the alleged hate crime against a New York City taxi driver, I must take this opportunity to remind New Yorkers that we cannot and will not allow bias and ignorance to infect our communities and deny our hard working, innocent residents the respect they deserve.

The potential for this kind of violence is one of the reasons why I have called publicly for a respectful and unifying conversation about the Park51 project. I continue to offer my assistance for an open dialogue that I believe will help to bring New Yorkers together.

Additionally, I’d like to thank the New York Police Department and first responders for their quick response to the scene and speedy apprehension of the suspect.

I have two things to say about this:

  1. The conclusion that the stabbing is a consequence of the mosque plan is similar in many ways to the argument that 9/11 was a consequence of US policy in the Middle East. There’s probably a connection in both cases, but you’ve got to be careful about blaming people for promoting integration because of the resentment it may foster among parochial psychopaths.

  2. Calling for “unifying conversation” is misunderstanding the fundamental point of liberal societies: it’s not about unanimity. The American ideal is not a society in which everyone agrees; it’s a society which is able to function in spite of disagreement. That Paterson doesn’t understand this—that he seems to believe there is a solution to which nobody will object—demonstrates a very worrying grasp of political theory.