Build a mosque a few blocks away from Ground Zero. We have heard all the reasons, seen the imassioned pleas from Americans to not build the mosque, or to block it from happening. While some try and argue they are just trying to ask the people who want to build the Mosque elsewhere, the harsh truth is, I don’t think they want it built anywhere. But a group with ties to Pat Robertson has started a lawsuit to block the building of the mosque.
And it blows my mind. You know why? Because all the reasons against it are…well…terrible. The reasons given are pretty much all under this banner:
It’s too close to ground zero, where Islamic Extremists killed several thousand people.
That would be a solid argument if the mosque’s backer were Islamic Extremists who planned to build the Mosque to train terrorists to fly planes into buildings. Yeah, that would be terrible.
But Park51’s mission is far more insidious than that:
Park51 will become a model for future institutions, with its inclusive focus, outstanding facilities and dedication to social needs. To realize this mission, Park51 will:
- Uphold respect for the diversity of expression and ideas between all people
- Cultivate and embrace neighborly relations between all New Yorkers, fostering a spirit of civic participation and an awareness of common needs and opportunities
- Encourage open discussion and dialogue on issues of relevance to New Yorkers, Americans and the international reality of our interconnected planet
- Revive the historic Muslim tradition of education, engagement and service, becoming a resource for empowerment and advancement
- Connect New York’s communities to global ideas and trends, bringing New York into global conversations
- Commit to social justice, dignified human development and spiritual growth for all
- Pursue the development of American Muslim identities, engaging New York’s many Muslim communities and promoting tolerance, dialogue and compassion for all
- Build partnerships and relationships with key actors and institutions who share our values, to address shared needs and solve common problems
- Establish a state-of-the-art green facility that will serve as a model and inspiration for sustainable space, helping to advance sustainable living in urban contexts
- Empower our communities with the skills and knowledge they need to advance in their various life stages
- Provide financial assistance for those in need, offering subsidies for our programming and scholarships to reach new audiences and further our vision
That runs counter to everything America stands for!
But seriously, the argument always gets to Islamic Extremists were behind 9/11. So the entirety of Islam must pay the penalty. I want to tell you a story. It is, admittedly, fiction…but it is hardly outside the realm of possibility.
Imagine there is a Family Services Clinic…in this clinic abortions are performed. There have been protestors, and harrassment of staff… then one day, a member of the Army of God* sets off a large bomb. The damage to this clinic and it’s surroundings are devastating. Doctors, nurses and voluteers are dead or horribly wounded.
Imagine, eight or nine years later, a young pastor and his church want to build their new church building in the same neighborhood. As they layout their plans, they are met with protest. Local politicians ask them to please understand how painful it is that they would want to build their church so close to this site of great tragedy. They are asked, “Please respect the dead.” Can’t these Christians understand that Christian Extremists killed people very close to where they want to build their new church?
Christians hate all being tarred by our worst. Bring up Fred Phelps or Scott Roeder and instantly Christians will go on and on about how those guys do not really represent Christ or the Church and that it is unfair to swipe us all with such a broad brush. And yet, this is the precise argument being put forth. All Muslims bear the guilt of the 9/11 terrorists. How generous of the critics of Park51.
All Muslim’s do not bear the mark of the 9/11 terrorists. Members of the Islamic faith were in the towers and died on that day, they were victims of the Extremists as well. Nine years later, we should be mature and strong enough as a nation to take a sobered step back and realize that Park51 not only has the right to exist in the proposed site…but that it should. Religious Freedom is something that often can set our nation apart (a number of other free countries are outlawing various aspects of the Muslim faith). Our willingness to overcome our fears and encourage our nation’s basic principals can be that beacon for the rest of the west…and allowing a Mosque dedicated to diversity to be built close to Ground Zero? That spits in the Extremists’ collective eye.
Instead of caving to fear**, let us stand up strong.
*The Army of God is very real. They are a “Pro-Life” group that believes they are at war, and that ending abortion through bombings and shootings is acceptable. They raise money to support people who have shot doctors and clinic volunteers.
**And it is fear, not respect for the dead or any other such nonsense, that drives the opposition to Park51.