Ground Zero mosque: villainous or virtuous?
Like many other Americans, I will never forget where I was the morning of September 11, 2001. I had received an unusually early, frantic phone call from a friend who could only say, “Turn on the television.” As the picture came into focus my dreams of a perfect, impenetrable America began to shatter.
We were at war.
New York became a city forever marred with an unbelievably horrific event. Pictures of the tragedy were everywhere, and the entire world seemed to stand still as everyone’s attention turned toward the tragedy. Just as soon as the terrorists believed they had won, Americans stood together and proclaimed that we were still a strong, united nation.
Fast-forward 10 years to the Manhattan project located near Ground Zero named “Park51.” Initially, the development was named Cordoba House, but under intense scrutiny the project decided to change its name to focus on the community center aspect. Park 51 has touted itself as a cultural center that will offer both full- and part-time jobs, culture and an “accessible platform for conversations across our identities,” according to the project’s website project51.org. So why all the commotion over an economic-stimulating project located in a part of New York which needs to rebuild and move forward?
Park51 is far from being just a community center; it is a proposed 13-story mosque which happens to also contain a community center (though they like to see it from the other direction). As expected, New Yorkers, along with countless other Americans across the country, are up in arms about an Islamic religious center being built within such close proximity to the site of such a tragic event performed by an Islamic nation.
While the battle is heated from both sides, it is difficult to choose a “right” side in this argument. Are we supposed to sit back idly while Muslims pray and worship so close to a sacred ground, the reminder of what brought us into this war and the men and women who innocently died due to fundamentalist beliefs? Or are we to become a nation that forces religions to hide in secrecy, an act that sows seeds of hatred and miscommunication between cultures? In true American fashion, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has openly supported the right for Americans to practice their religion without fear.
“Government should never, never be in the business of telling people how they should pray, or where they can pray,” Bloomberg says.
On the other side of the argument for many Americans is the question of why it has to be so close to the site of the 9/11 tragedy? The answer isn’t clear-cut and simple.
Many Americans have testified against the proposal calling it insensitive, and a dishonor to the memory of the attack’s victims.
While the center’s mission is to open an interfaith dialogue and help with the healing process, I can’t help but feel strongly for both sides of the argument. There is a part of me that is also up in arms about a mosque located so close to the nightmarish memories I have of September 11th; however, I also know that not every Muslim is a terrorist or sees our country as the “evil America” that Osama bin Laden has proclaimed it to be.
There is no right answer when speaking about something so close to every citizen of this country, but if we are going to become a country in which people are prosecuted and ostracized because they believe in something that isn’t popular, then we are slowly becoming a nation of oppression and hatred, just as we are trying to demolish oppression and hatred from the source of this war.
Kristen Martinez is an accounting junior and may be reached at [email protected]