Published on October 4th, 2010 | by Staff 12-131
Islamic cultural center affirms American values
When I first heard about it, the idea of building a Muslim mosque near Ground Zero rubbed me the wrong way. But after I calmed down, took the initiative to listen to what American Muslims were saying and further researched the issue, it became apparent that allowing the Muslim center to exist in lower Manhattan is exactly the kind of thing that makes us a free country. We are a democracy founded on freedom of religion. We build synagogues next to cathedrals and Mormon temples next to Buddhist temples.
This is America!
Contrary to popular belief, the proposed mosque is not on top of Ground Zero. The location is by no means even next to Ground Zero. It is a good three blocks away (which is a good three miles in New York). Also, the proposed mosque is not even a mosque, exactly. It’s a recreational center open to everyone, regardless of if they’re Muslim or not.
Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the leader of the congregation behind the building’s proposal, said he didn’t realize that the construction would be controversial because it is to be a religious and cultural center, much like the YMCA. The Imam said he wouldn’t have made plans to build it three blocks from Ground Zero (in a space that used to be a Burlington Coat Factory) had he known it would have caused such a furor.
But people have also criticized the Imam for using the controversy as a threat. He said that if the mosque doesn’t get built at this point, radical Muslims outside of the United States might be incited and it could result in a terrorist attack. He even said that if the mosque isn’t built, Islamic newspapers would write that “Islam is under attack in America.”
I understand the angry response of many Americans to this presumed blackmail. But I think the Iman was simply stating a reality: this is the way extremists respond.
But we can’t go around being frightened and sheltered, either by building mosques or not building mosques. We are a democracy founded on freedom of religion. This is America.