President Obama’s support of a proposed Islamic center and mosque to be built two blocks from the site of the World Trade Center has fueled national controversy over the project. But the president’s voice has largely been drowned out by the cries of the families of 9/11 victims who believe that the project would dishonor the memories of those who died that day.
Regardless of the public outcry, however, Manhattan Borough Community Board 1 voted 29 to 1 in favor of the project. Many have compared the development with the idea of locating a Nazi meeting facility in a Jewish neighborhood somewhere in Queens – it just isn’t done.
So why locate such a facility in that particular spot? What does fighting such overwhelming opposition achieve? If located there, the center could be open to vandalism or other acts of violence by people who think it is their duty to chase away the Islamic intruders.
People need to understand that Muslims are not the enemy. The horrific acts of 9/11 were the work of radicals, just as cross burning and lynching were the actions of Ku Klux Klan racists cloaked in white sheets and extremist Christianity. Did the activities of the Klan make all Christians bigoted murderers?
Every religion has extremists, but until 2001, America had mostly been shielded from their actions. Muslim Americans have lived in peaceful coexistence here for many years.
There is, in fact, an Islamic center in Dayton located near Keowee Street and US 35. Chances are that unless someone lived in that neighborhood or practiced the faith it is unlikely they would even notice it was there.
Apart from the bigoted, hateful people who detest any lifestyle or religion that is not like theirs, it is unlikely that most opponents of the mosque are trying to curtail anyone’s religious freedom. They simply feel that it is thoughtless and insensitive to put such a structure so close to a place where radical Islamic terrorists murdered thousands of innocent people in the name of religion.
On the other hand, it also seems as though the proponents of the project are pushing beyond reason to secure the location when they could build it just about anywhere else without incident. Is this Islamic group looking to mock those who perished on September 11th?
Would it not make more sense to locate the facility a bit farther from the site and avoid so much controversy and anger? It almost seems like those who want the Islamic center at Ground Zero are purposely trying to bait the patriotic activists into a fight.
Then there is the question of funding. Nearly $100 million is needed to complete the facility. Many project opponents say that the money will come from Islamic sects located overseas who want the mosque as a preparation center for domestic terrorism.
A terrorist base theory seems like a plan conspiracy fanatics would dream up. But, given that there were Russian spies in Virginia operating, unnoticed, and right under the noses of the FBI for more than two decades, the possibility cannot be ignored. That said there are still highly respected people in favor of this project.
Kevin Madigan is a Catholic priest at St. Peter’s Church, which is about a block away from Ground Zero. In the May 26th edition of the New York Post, he is quoted in favor of the development saying, “I think they need to establish a place such as this for people of goodwill from mainline Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths so we can come together to talk.”
If the opportunity for a multi-faith open forum is truly the goal, then it shouldn’t matter where the building is located. People should be able to come together and talk whether it’s in a mosque at Ground Zero or in a cornfield in Iowa.
Whatever side of the debate people are on, there is no question that it may simply be a matter of good sense to locate the mosque and Islamic center somewhere else. If the planners go through with the project as planned it may damage Islamic-Judea Christian relations in that region for decades.
Independent columnist Gery L. Deer is syndicated by GLD Enterprises Commercial Writing. www.gerydeer.com