The Great Debate

Unless you have been spending a lot of time on some remote desert island in the middle of the Pacific ocean, you must be aware of the debate that is going on over plans to build a mosque in New York City near Ground Zero.


Those opposed say that it dishonors the memories of those killed on 9/11 to have a building that supports Islam so close to where so many died in the horrendous attacks on the World Trade Center. Some have even gone so far as to imply that there is something nefarious going on with the plans to build the mosque.

In a recent column in the Dallas Morning News, Zulfi Ahmed, an American who practices the Muslim faith of Islam, asked people to stop, take a deep breath, and consider  this issue from another perspective – Freedom of Religion.

Like other people of his faith who have spoken out recently, Zulfi asks that we not appoint “guilt by association.” Just because the terrorists who blew up those buildings were of the Islam faith, that does not mean that all people who practice that religion are terrorists waiting for the next time to strike. It is a small group of extremists who support and propagate Jihad against the U.S. and other Western countries. Just like it is a small group of Catholic priests who abuse children, not every one that has a church next to a school playground.

Zulfi cites the numbers of mosques, temples, churches, and synagogues that are all “within a stone’s throw of each other” in the suburban town where he lives, making the point that religious freedom and tolerance is alive and well in some parts of the country.

He concludes by saying that “If as a nation we do not protect the legal rights of one minority, then all minorities will be at risk, eventually. What is being built in Manhattan is a cultural center, with a pool, community services facilities and outreach teams, not training grounds for suicidal al-Qaeda operatives of women-beating Taliban.”

So, what do you think? Is it insensitive to build the mosque so close to Ground Zero?

6 thoughts on “The Great Debate”

  1. The first thing I have to say is that I’m coming at this issue from a Christian point of view with very limited knowledge of the Islam faith. I also am an American who cherishes my constitutional right to freedom of religion.

    With those two things said here’s my take on building a mosque at Ground Zero. As an American, I am not opposed to a mosque being built near Ground Zero. If the muslims own the land they have the constitutional right to build whatever they like and need for their worship and to serve the community. I appreciate the fact that parts of the building would be open for use by the people in the community.

    As a Christian I think that it is insensitive to build an actual mosque in that particular spot. If the muslims who own that land want to build a community center as part of their outreach and service to the community I’m fine with that. Good for them. I think something like that builds bridges of understanding and goodwill that need to be built. However, to build an actual center for worship in the same place, even if this particular group are not extremists or involved in jihad against our nation in any way, I think an actual mosque would negate any good the community center would create.

    I think people are opposed to the mosque not so much because of a fear of Islam and muslims, but because it FEELS like all of Islam and Al Queda in particular is jeering at our pain. It FEELS like disrespect for those who died. It FEELS like a slap in the face and somehow it FEELS like another victory for terrorism.

    While feelings often are not based in reality, they wield great power. If I were the priest or leader of this group, I would be very conscious of what the people of New York City as well as the rest of the citizens of the United States FEEL about the use of that land. I would hopefully realize that sometimes rights should voluntarily be set aside for a greater cause and take the high road of generosity and benevolence over a shiny new place to worship. And THAT I believe would bring about a lot of healing between these two faiths at least here in the United States.

    This is a good post, Maryann. I do hope that YOU will post a comment later in the day and share with your readers your point of view and from your wisdom on this issue.

  2. The attack by Islamic terrorists on the Twin Towers and Pentagon was not against the Christian faith, but against the entire United States of America. Taking umbrage against the Muslims insults the memories of the Muslims, Jews, and other religious observers who were killed in the attack.

    The Christian religion also contains terrorist, but we don’t blame all Christians for the actions of a few. If we want to preserve our rights we need to defend them for everyone, not just for those who the majority thinks are correct, sensitive, good, etc.

    P.S. I believe there are already mosques closer to that area that predate the attack.

  3. Thanks for weighing in on the topic. Beth,you make some compelling arguments in regards to the feelings. I am not sure if the Muslim leaders who are behind the plans to build the mosque and community center really stopped and thought about that.

    A simple solution would be to take the NY governor up on his offer to give land elsewhere to build the project. Unless there is some compelling reason to build on the elected site, moving it might be a real gesture of understanding and solidarity.

  4. I’m not sure why it feels as though Muslims are dishonoring the people who died there. They are Americans and feel the pain of loss like other Americans. They pray for those lost and for healing. Yet it’s automatically assumed that they are terrorists and are mocking the deaths.

    Despite our foundation of freedom of religion, we still have a country of I-am-right, you-are-wrong. It is the same attitude that has infested our politics.

    I wish it wasn’t so. But it is. I believe the Muslims will be the ones to show their respect for other people and other religions and agree to build elsewhere.

  5. Good points, Helen. We have got to stop thinking in broad terms of “them’ and “us.”

    I just read a letter to the editor in the Dallas Morning News written by a Rabbi. He did some research and found that more than 60 Muslims were killed in the attacks on 9/11. So he posed this question, “Anybody ask how the families of those victims feel about having an Islamic Cultural Center in Lower Manhattan?”

    Another letter writer wrote, “I wonder if any Lakota Sioux were polled about their opinion of having Mount Rushmore carved in the Black Hills before the government approved that project.”

  6. Maryann – that writer to the Dallas Morning News brings up a very valid point regarding the Lakota. Anyone interested in that perspective, and the real history of Mt. Rushmore, might be interested in this article from The Smithsonian
    With regard to the construction of an Islamic cultural center in New York City, (1) it’s not a mosque (and so what if it was!), (2) It’s not “at Ground Zero,” (3) There are many more business establishments at or near the World Trade Center site that might be thought of as offensive to the memories of those killed, and (4) Perhaps most importantly, this is NOT a Christian nation!

    The USA is supposedly a nation founded on principles of freedom, including freedom of religion! It is, always has been, and hopefully always will be a place where ALL people are free to worship as they choose. Hate- and fear-mongering are not becoming to those who profess to be Christians.

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