Plans to develop an Islamic cultural center and mosque, called Park51, near New York’s Ground Zero have unleashed a nationwide firestorm of anti-Muslim rhetoric and anger. Ground Zero is the site where the twin towers of the World Trade Center imploded and collapsed hours after being hit by hijacked airliners. The planes were hijacked and piloted by Muslim terrorists organized and funded by the notoriously violent and extremist Islamic hate group Al-Qaeda.
Families and friends of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the 9/11 attacks are vocal in their opposition to the opening of Muslim mosque in such close proximity to what they consider “hallowed ground”. They and others believe (perhaps rightly) allowing the celebration Islam near the site is disrespectful of the dead.
Included in that group is Paul Walier, a Buffalo, New York attorney whose sister died in the World Trade Center collapse. In a Time Magazine article, Walier acknowledged the planners of Park51 have the constitutional right to build the Islamic center but said “I just don’t think it’s the appropriate thing to do”. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrinch has compared the building of an Islamic Center near Ground Zero to planting a Nazi flag next to the Holocaust Memorial.
The opponents of Park51 seem to be focusing on the idea that just because you can do something, does not mean you should do it.
Anti-Islamic Sentiment Has Grown Since 9/11, But America Remains More Tolerant Than Most
Anti-Islamic sentiment in The United States has grown since the 9/11 attacks. Some have attributed these growing feelings to racism or intolerance, but in reality it is a sentiment rooted in fear. 9/11 represented the first time America had been attacked on its own soil since Pearl Harbor in 1941. Americans are afraid of a faith that is routinely portrayed on the nightly news as Anti-American. The predominant feeling across America, rightly or wrongly, is that Islam wants to destroy the United States and return the world to the caliphates of the 6th century, a time when Islam dominated much of the known world.
Still, America’s growing Islamophobia has not yet reached the levels seen in other countries with Muslim minorities. There are no bans on wearing Burkas or building minarets as there are in France and Switzerland respectively. Though American Muslims worry about current developments, recent polls indicate most Muslims feel safer and less oppressed in the United States than anywhere else in the West.
An Idea for Development Near Ground Zero
Some media outlets have tried to dispel the notion that the planned Islamic Cultural Center and Mosque is too close to “hallowed ground” by pointing out that there are strip clubs, liquor stores, and off-track betting parlors within a stone’s throw from the site. These folks ignore the idea that the World Trade Center was not brought down by a group of deranged strippers. The planes that crashed into the towers were not piloted by drunken bettors angry at missing the Daily Double at Saratoga Park. The attack was perpetrated by Islamic extremists.
Subsequent failed terror attempts such as the “shoe bomber” and the recent Times Square car bomb have increased American suspicion of Islam.
Perhaps we should not only accept the proposed mosque but use it as an anchor for further development around Ground Zero. Why not build a synagogue next to a mosque down the block from a cathedral around the corner from a Buddhist Temple, and so on? What better way of displaying diversity, forgiveness, and tolerance. What better way to show that America is not and never will be under the control of intolerant religious zealots like the Taliban? What better way to demonstrate that America is not Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan or any other intolerant nation.
What better way for religious leaders of all faiths to not just talk of tolerance, but to walk the walk?
What better way to honor the ideals of the Constitution of the United States?
Sources: Bobby Ghosh, Islam in America, Time Magazine