Due diligence, then build both

As the issue of the proposed Muslim Community Center (mosque) two blocks from Ground Zero is roiling public opinion across the country – and lead to an explosive disagreement at a recent family gathering with someone whom I have always liked – it’s time to add a little moderation to the cacophony (and hopefully bolster other, more prominent voices, who also wish to apprehend the situation thoughtfully and intelligently).

As noted – and I think rightly so – in a series of interviews with American religious leaders conducted by Time, the uproar surrounding the Park51/Cordoba House project is being catalyzed more by political figures than religious ones. Though some on the right have come out against their brethren who are deliberately fanning the flames, their criticism was directed towards the party, rather than the American public. As the Time polls show, anti-Muslim sentiment (ranging from distrust to outright hatred) is still very prevalent in this country, so it makes sense that opportunistic politicians would take advantage of Americans’ ignorance of other cultures. So often people clamor for moderate Muslims to speak out, and I think the small cadre of Arab and Muslim Republicans described above could do more good by showing their constituents, not their colleagues, that they, too, share their values.

Now, I fully understand the sentiment that building such a prominent symbol of Islam so close to Ground Zero smacks of insensitivity towards those families who lost loved ones on that horrible day. Their grief is still very real, and those who argue for the mosque on the grounds of religious freedom would do well to be cognizant of those powerful emotions. However, there comes a time when we must let go of the past so that we can focus our attention on building a brighter tomorrow. We must not let the ignorance and hatred which lead to the tragedy of 9/11 be repeated in this country. If we reject the placement of the mosque out-of-hand, without thoughfully considering all perspectives on the issue, then we are no better than those who despise us, and even give some legitimacy to their criticisms of our culture.

The most legitimate criticism I see in this issue is the prospect for rebuilding the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox church, which was flattened when the towers fell and has yet to be rebuilt. Unfortunately, it’s not a simple question of New York allowing the mosque and disallowing the church. The final approval for the mosque came from the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission, whereas the church is negotiating with the Port Authority. It appears that several near-agreements have been reached between church and Port Authority officials over the years, but that they have also broken-down several times. What is most important to note here is that the city is not favoring the establishment of a house of worship and community for one religion over another, but that there are other issues which are preventing the timely rebuilding of the church.

So, how do we go forward? What is most important is that the respective sides try to recognize the legitimate concerns of one another. Those who seek to build the mosque should reveal their funding sources in order to show that it is indeed being built in good faith. Perhaps including some sort of nondenominational monument to honor those who perished in the attacks would further signify the goodwill the mosque is meant to epitomize. And those who oppose its building must recognize that there are in fact good people of all religions who truly do want to coexist in harmony, not spit in the faces of others; and they must be allowed to express their beliefs the same as everyone else in this country. Finally, Mayor Bloomberg should use his significant influence to push through a deal between the St. Nicholas Church and the Port Authority and get reconstruction started, the same way he has adamantly supported the building of the mosque.

If due diligence is made by all parties in trying to understand one another’s perspectives, then I see no reason why we can’t have both religious freedom and respect for emotional sensitivities: a church and a mosque, standing side-by-side, at the site of the most poignant display of hatred and ignorance, as a testament to the enduring effort for peace and harmony between all men.

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    • lastinline
    • August 21st, 2010

    So what your basically saying is that we need to be more tolerant and completely look the other way on the issue. How do you think the left would feel if the Klu Klux Klan decided to build a monument at Gettysburg or Neshoba County? It’s perfectly legal if they own the land,but I think in this situation there needs to be a little sensitivity shown.

  1. Not exactly. I said that those who wish to build the mosque should reveal their funding sources in order to show that it is not being built by those with malignant intentions. If that passes muster then, yes, they should be allowed to build.

    And Islam should not be confused with the unabashedly bigoted positions of groups such as the KKK. Mosques, particularly those in Western nations, stand for coexistence and a spirit of community, not racist inequalities.

    Just as most Christians deny the values of the KKK, so do most Muslims deny the values of those who perpetrated the attacks. If this mosque is being built by those who stand for harmony between all religion, races, ethnicities, etc… then it is our responsibility as Americans to allow others the freedom that we so deeply cherish.

    • trippdup
    • August 25th, 2010

    @lastinline: Show sensitivity? Say what you really mean. You want to curtail certain citizens constitutional right to worship to protect other citizens’ nonexistent right not to be offended.

    • mattstrong
    • August 25th, 2010

    Basically, trippdup nailed it.

  1. August 23rd, 2010

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