Finding Middle Ground Near Hallowed Ground
The controversy over the construction of a Muslim cultural center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero in New York City continues unabated after weeks of heated rhetoric. I saw on the news today that over 60% of New Yorkers oppose the construction of the center and mosque.
We should never condemn the members of an entire group based on the actions of the most extreme members of that group. This particularly applies to religions. Would those of you who are Christian want to be judged by the excesses of the Crusades, or the Irish Troubles, or the Sex Abuse crises currently rending so many denominations in two? I would imagine most definitely not. In the same way, no one should condemn all Muslims for the actions of the Taliban, Muammar Qaddafi, or al-Qaeda.
In America, we often condemn Muslim countries such as Iran or even Saudi Arabia for their lack of toleration for those of other faiths. We are proud of our commitment to freedom of religion. Well, situations like this are where our values truly get tested. We only have values if we stick to them even when it is difficult and uncomfortable. It's easy to claim the high road when that road is smooth and easy.
Muslims have the right to worship freely in America, and unless we want to allow extremists like those who attacked us on 9/11 to succeed in their campaign to destroy America and what it stands for, we must resist the impulse to retreat from that value.
Having said that, it would also be wonderful if our Muslim brethren would be sensitive to the very real pain and trauma that still lingers in the wake of these attacks. They don't need to be told that the world will never be the same again, since their lives were changed as well by the terrible events of that day. It would be a sensitive gesture to reconsider the location of a Muslim cultural center and mosque so close to a place that was, let's face it, attacked by people who claimed a fervent if misguided devotion to that religion.
I would like to humbly suggest that a Muslim cultural center doesn't HAVE to be built at that location, and the greatest examples of charity, kindness, and concern for others enshrined within the pages of the Qur'an could be demonstrated by a willingness to consider an alternative location. If the group promoting this project truly wishes to advance understanding about Islam to a still-traumatized America, perhaps it could consider relocating this project to somewhere less sensitive. Frankly, a Muslim cultural center and mosque on this location would not go very far in its goal of promoting understanding and friendship for millions of people-- the very people I am sure they hope to reach out to in goodwill.
Let's search for a middle ground near this hallowed ground.