Thursday, August 5, 2010

Mosque at Ground Zero

Photo courtesy of Flickr user amerune

If the traffic I've seen on Twitter is any indication, the Islamic cultural center being built near Ground Zero in New York City is what's on everyone's minds. Most of the comments I have seen have not been in support of this project, to say the least. Even the Anti-Defamation League opposes the construction.

At the risk of being seen as un-American (one of the milder epithets being hurled around with regard to this issue), I would like to come out in support of such a project. Or, maybe not support of it, but definitely not opposition to it. Quite frankly, I am a little confused by all the brouhaha surrounding the decision to let construction commence. As I see it, it was not Muslims who attacked us on 9/11. It was extremists who happened to be Muslim. Islam, like all the Abrahamic religions, is built on a foundation of kindness and service. Anyone could take some of the teachings literally or out-of-context to justify killing thousands of innocent people (Crusades, anyone?), but that has much to do with those individuals and nothing, really, to do with the religion in which they choose to cloak their misanthropy.

When the 9/11 attack occurred, I lived very close to Manhattan - so close, in fact, that I was able to see the towers fall from a nearby park. I was personally affected by the events of that day. Clearly, I sympathize with the people who have suffered the most from the 9/11 attacks, including those who lost loved ones, the survivors, and the workers who cleaned up the wreckage. I would never advocate any course of action that would cause them pain. The Anti-Defamation League uses that as their rationale for opposing the construction of a mosque near the site, stating that it insensitive to the families to build such a center in that location. They cite as precedent the fact that Pope John Paul II asked a convent to relocate away from Auschwitz in order to properly memorialize those who were killed in the concentration camp there during World War II. However, I think that is a pretty specious analogy. No one ever accused the Catholic Church of committing the Holocaust, and the move was therefore simply sign of general respect by the religious community to the memory of the lost.

In this case, however, the conversation is not about general respect. Because the people who committed the attacks were Muslim, other Muslims should not be able to worship near the site, but people of other faiths are welcome to build their houses of worship in the neighborhood if they wish - so the argument goes. Please...let's start building bridges of respect and understanding. Let's support the victims of the 9/11 attacks, including the Muslims who have suffered discrimination since that day. Let's worry less about where they are building their mosques and focus more on understanding what goes on inside them.

I am a scholar-turned-mother/activist who is interested in issues of personal balance and social justice. I have published a number of articles and given presentations internationally on the topics of voluntary simplicity and humane parenting. Learn more at my website

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