Soon there will be two important “mosque debates"—over the Cordoba House site near Ground Zero in New York and over the site in Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid once stood. The quandary facing the oldest and the largest modern democracies is: How does a state preserve the essence of liberal democracy when it is fearful of disruptions to public order? The solutions these countries find will prove interesting and emblematic of their maturity as societies. They may also provide templates for use elsewhere, for it is certain that this question will recur in today’s world.

Points of contention: The proposed site in Manhattan of Cordoba House (left), a community centre with, among other facilities, a controversial prayer room. Timothy A Clary / AFP; and Hashim Ansari, the petitioner in the title suit over the site of the erstwhile Babri Masjid, outside his residence in Ayodhya with a police officer. AFP