The Mosque at Ground Zero11:19 AM
Though I know that this issue is very controversial, it's also something that I think is important to face. The proposed community center (which would include a mosque), blocks away from where the World Trade Center stood, has become a flashpoint of debate around the nation. The president has been criticized by many for saying, "As a citizen, and as president, I believe that Muslims have the right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country. That includes the right to build a place of worship and community center on private property in Lower Manhattan in accordance with local laws and ordinances."
As a citizen, I, too, agree that they have every right to practice their religion freely--whether or not it is blocks from Ground Zero. After all, the first amendment in the United States Constitution's Bill of Rights includes the line: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." Why should we treat a mosque any differently from a syngagogue, church, or temple? If we simply decide to treat certain religions in a standard way, but not others, we slide into the hypocrisy--and unjustness--that characterizes dictatorships, not democracies.
What's more, the general outrage over the proposed center is only fueling the fire of anti-Americanism abroad. The most effective way to fight terrorism is to show openness and goodwill, not hate or discrimination, toward Muslims both here at home and in foreign countries. When we treat the Islamic population of New York City in a discriminatory way, it only confirms anti-American suspicions in other countries. By antagonizing a moderate group of Muslims, whose only goal is to bring awareness of other cultures to a community center (in the hopes of fighting extremism), we are ultimately helping the terrorists, and their message that America hates Islam.
However, the ultimate point of controversy that has shaped the debate is the fact that it is an Islamic place of worship near the place where Islamic extremists killed thousands of people. I have read arguments from the families of those who were killed on 9/11, and I understand that it touches a place that is still raw in the hearts of many. But truly, the terrorists who crashed the planes into the Twin Towers were hardly more Muslim than they were any other religion. They killed Muslims, Christians, Jews, men, women, children--and the murder of innocents is condemned by every religion I know of. Their league of extremism is nowhere near the moderation we have seen from the Muslim group that plans on building the center. When we say that there should not be a mosque near Ground Zero, we imply that all Muslims are responsible, and we condemn their religion. The sign of one woman protesting the planned center read: "Islam builds mosques at the sites of their conquests and victories." I would easily understand outrage over a proposed Al-Qaeda headquarters at Ground Zero. They were the ones who were responsible. Moderate Muslims were not.
The community center and mosque planned near Ground Zero would help raise cultural awareness and provide a swimming pool, theater, and performing arts center that no doubt all New Yorkers--not just Muslims--could benefit from. It would show that the religious tolerance we put forth in our Constitution is proved by action, not just a sentence of empty words. It would take away fuel for extremist fire and show Muslims around the world that America does not hate Islam. And yet, 68% of Americans believe that allowing the Cordoba House (the proposed community center's name) to go on, is the wrong thing to do. Does this sway my opinion? No. Remember what Albert Einstein said: "What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right."
Denying the Cordoba House, and the moderate Muslim group planning to build it the right to do so, is popular.
Is it right?