Building of “Ground Zero Mosque” Would Promote Ideals
By Andrew Kaake '14
Over the past couple weeks, there have been many things said about what the potential Islamic “community center” would be, what it represents and how evil the people that support or disapprove of it are, depending upon who’s doing the talking at the moment. People on both sides of the issue have basically been holding ad hominem shouting matches, which has not solved anything, but has dramatically increased the ratings of editorial news programs. So, what does this firestorm really amount to?

First of all, it has zero to do with the religious freedom of Muslims. The number of mosques in New York City (NYC) is in the triple digits, which means the government is not exactly denying them their right to worship. Also, while NYC politicians have approved the unfunded mosque design, the Port Authority has been fighting for the last nine years with the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church — the only religious institution destroyed in the 9/11 attacks — about where it would be allowed to rebuild. If anything, it seems that the City of New York is favoring the Muslims over the Christians.

Furthermore, the ordeal is not really about location. The Masjid Manhattan is an active mosque that is located about four blocks from Ground Zero. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, the man behind the controversial Cordoba House community center, currently heads a congregation that is 12 blocks from the former Twin Towers. Does moving one-and-a-half blocks closer than the Masjid really matter in the grand scheme of Islamic-American relations? I would like to think that it doesn’t.

The politicians and pundits are also voicing their “concern” for the feelings of the families who lost loved ones in the 9/11 tragedy, as well as for the emotional well-being of the nation as a whole. I’m just going to get this little fact of life out of the way now: the average politician only cares about what you’re feeling at the ballot box, and the average pundit cares only about stirring up controversy in order to get more followers on Twitter. They are not watching out for the American citizen. Interestingly enough, the families affected by the attacks seem to be split on the mosque issue. Had this been discussed nine years ago, that probably would have been different. While the pain of losing family or friends, especially before their time, never really goes away, polls show that many of those most affected by the attacks are ready to make their peace with Islam. If they don’t blame the Islamic religion for the attacks, what right do we have to do so?

The one valid point that the news media has made, and by the news media I mean Glenn Beck, is that the mosque’s funding and leader are both questionable. The proposed Cordoba House is projected to cost around $100 million, and even the Imam acknowledges that nowhere near that amount has been raised yet. I think that other projects with funding should be taking precedence in the minds of the NYC government, let alone in the daily headlines. Imam Rauf appears to be similarly sketchy, having been quoted as saying that the United States contributed to Osama bin Laden’s ability to attack us, among other things. According to the Cordoba Initiative website, the Imam was referring to the United States’ strengthening of bin Laden and the Taliban in the 80’s, when the country’s biggest concern was the communist Soviet Union. If he is telling the truth, which I believe he is, he is merely stating a fact that should be simple common sense. Our desire to make anyone who would fight the Russians into our allies backfired, and has equipped them to be our enemies today. Can America be held at fault for the 9/11 attacks because of this? No, and that was not what Rauf was saying. He simply mentioned that we had contributed to the problem, and he called into question our Middle Eastern foreign policy, which is questionable at best.

What, then, is the purpose of the “Ground Zero Mosque” debate? It seems that the politicians simply want to polarize America before election time; the Democrats want to distract citizens from the failed “summer of recovery,” and the Republicans are trying to hammer home a general disdain for the Democratic policies and ideals. Sorry, Obama, but it seems like it’s politics as usual in Washington, despite your oh-so-suave campaign promises. The American people are not racists; they are not intolerant; they are not unforgiving. We know by now that terrorists do not espouse the views of the average Muslim. In fact, if you pay attention to the rhetoric of Imam Rauf, the goal of the center is to promote interfaith relations. Although Laura Ingraham quipped that it would be more effective if a synagogue and church also shared space in the center, a Muslim mega-YMCA could be a good starting point in reintegrating Muslim-Americans with the rest of the country. I believe that the Imam is well-intentioned, although he might be pouring rubbing alcohol on an open emotional wound; then again, the pain of disinfection is the beginning of the process of healing. Let them build the Cordoba House — I bid them peace, shalom, salaam, as long as it fulfills its stated purpose of reuniting the American people.

Issue 01, Submitted 2010-09-20 20:14:28