Ground Zero Mosque Controversy

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About a month ago I woke up and was checking my morning newsfeed on Facebook when I saw someone had posted this video.

My immediate reaction was a nice chuckle, but after reaching the end of the video I saw that the message had been sponsored by the National Republican Trust PAC or G.O.P. Trust–an organization with a great deal of political power and influence.  Although I’ve had my concerns about certain issues pushed by the political right, this one seemed particularly misguided so I decided to do a little research.


First off, the title of “Ground Zero Mosque” is fundamentally wrong.  The now ravished building, initially named Cordoba House and now Park51, is two blocks away from Ground Zero site and isn’t even viewable from its location due to it being blocked by other large, non-descriptive buildings.  So how close is too close?  Also, what do you say to the other mosques in the lower Manhattan area, especially those that were already in place before the 9/11 attacks?

I wholeheartedly agree that ground zero is a burial site and that many Americans consider it to be sacred ground.  Done and done.  But what is so concerning about this “mega mosque”?

Many people against the building of Park51 have seemed to jump to conclusions and lump together the totality of Islamic religion with terrorism.  Surprisingly, according to an FBI database showcasing terrorist attack groups on U.S. soil from 1980 to 2005, Islamic extremists were ranked as the second lowest terrorist attack group at 6% next to the ever-growing red scare of communism.

Aside from housing prayer spaces, the Park51 building is first and foremost a community center and will contain:

  • A 500-seat auditorium
  • Theater
  • Performing arts center
  • Fitness center
  • Swimming pool
  • Basketball court
  • Childcare area
  • Bookstore
  • Culinary school
  • Art studio
  • Food court
  • September 11 memorial
  • Multifaith prayer space that can accommodate 1,000–2,000 people

If this is in fact a secret terrorist command center, it sounds like these terrorists are going to attack with a terrifying barrage of alley-oops and crème brulée.

Researchers at Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have also stated that terrorist threats posed by radicalized Muslim-Americans have been blown out of proportion.  At a number similar to Islamic terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, only around 7% of Muslims in the entire world have been identified as terrorists or terrorism suspects (this  percentage reflects certain entities like Al-Qaeda and other small groups that perpetuate radical Islamic beliefs and haphazardly extremism.)  How would it sound if a radical Christian saw his neighbor mowing his front yard on a day of worship and said to himself, “Hmm, work on a Sunday? I really should kill him.”  Would this act represent the larger worldview of Christianity?  At such a minute number, there is no possible way the huge religion of Islam supports or condones such egregious acts of violence.

[Update 9/9/10]

Double standard all the way….WOAH, it’s almost a triple standard!!

This morning I was reading The Kansas City Star when I came across an article discussing a man named Rev. Terry Jones who is proposing to have an ‘International Burn A Koran Day’ on 9/11/2010.   And so it doesn’t sound completely crazy, the voice of religious tolerance Fred Phelps’ daughter Shirley Phelps Roper is also planning on attending the event.  I think Jon Stewart said it best when he said, “…a Christian is an extremist for burning the Quran, and a Muslim is an extremist for reading from it.”   What’s more, this burning could increase the danger posed to American soldiers still stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.  (I point out more ironies like this below.)

In addition, a recent catch phrase  has been circulating among some members of the the Tea Party movement and those opposed to the building of Park51: “All I ever needed to know about Islam, I learned on 9/11.” As posted on another blogger’s site: “There may be more that we should know about Islam than just what we learned 9 years ago but that lesson and previous lessons were pretty informative: Islam as an institution wants us dead and our resident non-Muslims lack both the rectitude and the fortitude to oppose that Islamic intent.”

So what did they learn?  Maybe I can also lend some input.

When I was in college I roomed with a good friend of mine from Pakistan who was Muslim.  I even had him over for Thanksgiving dinner with my extended family.  However, I specifically remember one instance at the dinner table when my grandfather asked him to pass the cranberry relish.  As they exchanged a passing glance I noticed a terrifying look in my friend’s eyes.  It was at this point I believe he realized we were all infidels.  He stood up as his chair crashed to the ground and lifting up his shirt he screamed, “This is for Muhamm…are you kidding me?  Have you even read this Koran?  Like I stated above, some people seem like they want an answer as quickly as possible for events like 9/11 so they make whatever association they want or they only know selective portions of an issue and project them in their own manner. This Daily Show interview really sums up this misinformation well (skip to the 4:40 mark):

And the misconceptions of Islam continue.

Perhaps the most offensive signs I’ve seen against the building of Park51 are the ones that read:

1. ) “Building a Mosque at Ground Zero is like building a memorial for Hitler at Auschwitz.”
2.) “You can build a Mosque at Ground Zero when we can build a synagogue in Mecca.”

1. ) The Hitler reference isn’t even a coherent argument so I’m not even going to bother.   I will, however, counteract an analogy I heard by a commentator on Fox News who said, “Building a Mosque at Ground Zero is like building a Shinto shrine at Pearl Harbor.” Although this comment at least has a religious aspect to it, it still doesn’t make any sense.  If there is a time I’m glad I studied Japanese culture throughout college, this is it.  Here is my brief overview of Shintoism:

Shintoism, a religion native to Japan, during World War II was  nationalized and projected as boosting morale for the wartime effort.  Also under Shintoism at this time, Emperor Hirohito was seen among the Japanese people as a living deity and therefore ignited a call to arms (including the famed kamikaze pilots.)  After the dropping of the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki and a  peace treaty between Japan and the U.S. in 1945, the Emperor came out and told the Japanese people he was not a God but in fact a regular human being.  The perspective of Shintoism changed drastically  after this point in history.  However, regardless of the role of the religion  in Japan after WWII, if the Japanese had wanted to build a Shinto shrine at Pearl Harbor it would have been their right to do so under the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.

The move by Separatist pilgrims to America from England in 1620 was mainly prompted by the desire to freely practice one’s religion.  If I had to take a wild guess, this is why religious freedom is listed in the very first amendment.  This leads me to my next point.

2. ) Prior to the making of this sign, politician Newt Gingrich was quoted as saying the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ shouldn’t be built near Ground Zero until churches and synagogues were allowed in Saudi Arabia.  Mr. Gingrich would have a valid point if it weren’t for one little difference between Saudi Arabia and America–freedom of religion.  Once again, fighting ignorance with ignorance just doesn’t seem to solve the problem.

However, the most abundant argument I’ve seen against the building of Park51 goes something like:  “With all constitutionality aside, what about the sensitivity of the issue?  It’s a slap in the face of the families of the victims who died on 9/11.”

Sensitivity?  Among the victims on 9/11 were countless Muslims that died in the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.  According to a recent poll done by Quinnipiac University, 54% of New Yorkers (including 9/11 victims’ families) are for the building of Park51 while 40% are against it and 6% are undecided.  The people have spoken.  If that isn’t enough, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and President Barack Obama have both supported the project.  The government has spoken.  You know what’s a slap in the face of 9/11 victims’ families?  The people that are still bigoted enough to speak out against a center which purpose is community outreach and religious tolerance.

In short, people that passionately spread beliefs without justifiable reasoning can make anything seem plausible.  Just because someone vehemently argues 2+2 = 5 doesn’t mean they are correct.  Disallowing the right to practice one’s religion in a country built up upon such freedoms is ridiculously counterintuitive.

This shouldn’t even be a controversial issue. I give this one 0 X‘s.