The proposed construction of a Muslim community center with a mosque in lower Manhattan near Ground Zero has given birth to a stunning amount of controversy. The furious debate over whether a building that houses the same religion as those who murdered almost 3,000 Americans a few blocks away is surprising and reveals a disturbing downturn in the mood of our country and a weakening of our core values.
America is a symbol of religious and political tolerance and this attack on the Mosque, which amounts to an attack on Muslims everywhere in America, undermines those ideals. “Yes – the 4th amendment guarantees your right to worship freely, but just not here, not at this time.” It doesn’t work like that. Let’s ignore the fact that the constitution clearly favors those who want to build the mosque. Those against the construction of the mosque cite the feelings of those who lost loved ones on 9/11, but that’s simply camouflage hiding a sentiment that has invaded a large part of the American psyche: our fear of people who are different. Exemplified by recent Arizona legislation, among other things, this irrational mindset is threatening to undo all the moral progress this country has made, and is so worldly renown for.
Keeping a Muslim facility away from Ground Zero because of the events of 9/11 is an irrational act of scapegoating. We can’t associate all who practice Islam with the actions of the 9/11 hijackers, just as we can’t associate the work of the Nazis with the entirety of ethnic Germany. It seems the debate boils down to the vague sense that having Muslim buildings and motifs near Ground Zero is an unpleasant reminder of terrorism and the horrible events of that day. But this outburst of religious intolerance and a broad generalization of the character of a few to the character of the whole are exactly what brought about the anger that fueled the 9/11 attack in the first place. We need to teach tolerance by being tolerant, and trust the law. Compromise is frustrating, but if we are to truly embrace the ideals by which this country was built on and by which the 4th amendment was written, the debate over the mosque should end now.