August 1, 2010

Islamic Center at Ground Zero

IslamUntil now, I haven't addressed the controversy over the proposal by the Cordoba Initiative to build an Islamic center near Ground Zero. Initially, I did not have particularly strong feelings either way. I understood why many of the families of 9/11 victims would object and why some would consider it insensitive. I also found the bitterness of the right-wing pundits and Christian extremists who opposed the proposal to be quite interesting for what it revealed about them. I was also fairly certain that much of what I had heard about the center was inaccurate. Before sounding off, I thought it would be reasonable to wait until I knew something about the real issues (imagine that).

I have since learned that the proposed center is not a Mosque, that it would be located two blocks from Ground Zero, and that it is designed to serve more than just Muslims. I should point out that those who get their information primarily from Fox "News" are unlikely to know any of this.

I agree with John L. Esposito when he wrote the following:
Why should Muslims who are building a center be any more suspect than Jews who build a synagogue or center or Christians who build a church or conference center?
For me, the problem with the proposed center is not that it is Muslim but that it is religious in any way. Given that 9/11 probably would not have happened but for religion, it seems like a secular center to promote tolerance would be a more appropriate choice. The thing is, that is not what is being proposed. So the question must be about whether this particular center should be permitted and not about whether some other hypothetical center would be better.

I so not see any defensible grounds for denying permission to build the proposed center. Yes, we could have a "no religion of any kind near Ground Zero" policy, but this would not be constitutional. So yeah, if it was my decision (and I am glad it isn't), I'd allow the proposed center to be built. There is no other choice.

I suppose I don't see this as the major issue some do. Personally, I am far more outraged by the refusal of the Republican party to help the rescue workers who put their lives in danger at Ground Zero and are now struggling to obtain medical care.

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