The “Ground Zero mosque” is a hot topic right now, even though it is, in fact, not visible from Ground Zero and not primarily a mosque. Its main purpose is a Muslim community center and secondly a place of worship. Muslim religious leader Imam Abdul Rauf proposed the building of this mosque and, although he is a well-known and respected member of the New York community, Imam Rauf is experiencing considerable backlash. The location of the mosque has been deserted ever since wreckage from the Twin Towers fell onto the building in 2001. The community center has literally risen from the ashes.
Nine years have passed since that tragic day, and yet we as a country continue to maintain discriminatory attitudes toward the majority of Muslims. It is not only unjust to hate an entire group of people for the actions of few, but illogical as well. It would be the same as hating all Christians during the 19th and 20th centuries because of the obscene acts committed by the Ku Klux Klan. The building of this community center and mosque gives us a chance for healing, peacemaking and redemption, something God knows we need. With regard to this issue, President Obama said, “In this country we treat everybody equally and in accordance with the law, regardless of race, regardless of religion.”(Associated Press)
Though there is certainly emotion attached with any place where lives were lost, we need to remain tolerant in the face of our pain. Turning our own hurt into hatred does not honor the people who perished that day.
Those in opposition to the center most often claim disrespect for those killed on 9/11 as the primary offense, referring to it as a “slap in the face” to Americans and a “victory” for the Muslim world. And yet, there is a prayer room in the Pentagon where Muslim employees bring rugs and pray toward Mecca daily. There was never discussion of removing that after the Pentagon itself was attacked. Those who lost their lives while in service to our government were working for freedom and respect for all beliefs within this country, including Rauf’s right to establish a community center and place of worship.
Some say it is too soon, but when will enough time have passed for people not to be offended by the presence of a mosque and Muslim cultural center in this country? We live in a nation built on the ideals of democracy, freedom and equality for all. Whereas previous generations have fought for blacks and women to have equal opportunities, perhaps this is the fight of our generation: to fight for the equal treatment of Muslims in America and for the freedom of assembly and religion to be fairly extended to all Americans. In the words of Daisy Rauf, Imam’s wife, “We have to convince people that not all Muslims are extremists. We have to educate them on being able to distinguish between us and on the issue of Islamophobia. This is a bigger fight. This is a defining moment for us.” (ABC News) We need to consider the perspective of the majority of the Muslim world and practice tolerance and education, which would no doubt lead to a more peaceful world. Let’s make this adefining moment for our country as well, and use it to demonstrate respect and acceptance for all.
Ashby Conwell is a sophomore Sociology major
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