Plans to build a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero have touched off a firestorm of debate. Ground Zero was the site of the World Trade Center Twin Towers, which were destroyed by radical Al Qaida (aka Al Qaeda) extremists/terrorists. Al Qaida has Islamic roots, although the Islamic religion itself is widely regarded as peaceful in intent. The plans are considered by many as an "in your face" bit of confrontational disrespect.
Various Jewish groups have offered differing responses. One group asserts that it is a religious right and an indication of tolerance. Another group says that putting the mosque there is insensitive.
Many Christian and political leaders believe the plan is a slap in the face. President Obama said that it was a "right." The Republicans immediately jumped on that. Obama said that he meant it is a right guaranteed by our Constitution, not that it should actually be built.
Quoting from a NY Times article, Debate Heats Up About Mosque Near Ground Zero, the planners had noble and peace enhancing ideas: the community center is proposed to be "...up to 15 stories, and would house a prayer space, a performing arts center, a pool and a restaurant." It would have a "board composed of Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders and is intended to create a national model of moderate Islam." "We are looking to build bridges between faiths," Mr. Sultan said in an interview.
Why would US citizens be disturbed by this plan? It might not be so much because of Al Qaida's Islamic roots. That is like saying Islamists should be intolerant of Americans because of the Crusades, or proselytizing (trying to make converts of Muslims), or Timothy McVeigh, the terrorist who blew up a government building in Oklahoma. There are extremists with terrorist tendencies everywhere, even in the name of religion. Islamists, to their credit, can move beyond that type of thing.
Despite the fact that Muslims have not been a problem in the US, people might be upset because of all the teaching of hate that goes on in the schools in Islamist countries. You can't incite people to the passion of hatred and teach peace in the same breath. It might be because in Iraq in high percentages people think it is OK to kill Americans - people who have spent billions of dollars, risked their lives, and died to give them freedom from oppression and terror. It might be because some Muslims are becoming radicalized in the US and attacking us from within. Hate is a very powerful thing once it gets rolling, as it has in Islamic countries. These things done in Islam's name can't escape notice and are difficult to swallow. It's difficult to reach out a hand in peace with these kinds of things going on.
Muslims aren't the only ones to teach hate - even Christians have taught hatred and killing, as seen even in the recent past in Northern Ireland. Even so, there are bigger questions than rights and being sensitive. We all worship the same God - there is only one creator. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam are even rooted in the same religion: the first five books of the Bible. How well does all of this heated rhetoric, and even hate, represent a loving and just God? We're not asked to "love" only our close friends. Perhaps it is time for all sides to realize none of us should be throwing stones at each other. It might be best if all sides just quietly back away, and try less high profile ways of reaching out... not in obstinate hate, but in peace and tolerance. And we all should choose the time and place to reach out wisely.
Let's talk about it. - Dorian Scott Cole.