As the debate over Park 51 continues, debate over the planned “9/11 Christian Center” has yet to begin. The $8 million center will be located two just two blocks from Ground Zero.
Bill Keller, an evangelical pastor from Florida who is no stranger to controversy, will head the center. Keller’s previous claim to fame came in 2008 when he told his congregation that voting for then-presidential contender Mitt Romney was akin to voting for Satan (because of Romney’s Mormon faith). Keller calls his center, “A Christian response to the Ground Zero Mosque.”
But what kind of response will this center offer? Will it be a place for interfaith dialogue, as Park51 is slated to be? Or will it instead be a breeding ground for Islamophobia? In his ominously titled, “The Coming Showdown Between Islam and Christianity,” Keller wrote the following statement, published in a daily devotional on his website liveprayer.com:
“The fact is, Mohammed was a murdering pedophile who dreamed up his false God, ‘Allah’, and the false religion of Islam out of a heart that rejected the one true God of the Bible,” Keller wrote.
Keller is a xenophobic pedagogue who dreamed up the idea for a Christian center near Ground Zero to further his hateful and inherently un-Christian message. How does mocking the Muslim religion in any way honor those who died on 9/11? Furthermore, how will a man who espouses such hatred help 9/11 families heal?
If we are ever going to heal as a nation, we must first forgive. I’m not saying we should try to forget what happened on 9/11. I am merely saying that we must recognize that the men who crashed the planes into the World Trade Center on 9/11 did so in defense of an idea that is not shared by all Muslims. People like Keller would have you believe that every one of the 1.5 billion Muslims with whom we share the world are closeted jihadists. This belief sounds laughable until one realizes that it is a belief held by many Americans.
These people fail to recognize that there are many sects of Islam, and that these sects have radically different views on how the Quran should be interpreted. A comparison can be made between the ideological differences between the various denominations of the Christian faith. If a fundamentalist Christian were to blow up an abortion center, would you expect protests to take place outside of an Episcopalian church? Of course not! The Muslims behind Park51 belong to the Sufi sect of Islam. Their views are so moderate that they themselves have been the targets of Islamic extremism.
In July of this year three suicide bombers attacked a Sufi shrine in Pakistan killing 41 people. If the Sufis were really in cahoots with Islamic terrorists, as people like Newt Ginrich would have you believe, then why are terrorists attacking their holy sites?
Park51’s Imam Abdul Rauf gave an interview to the New York Times in which he said the following:
“Fanaticism and terrorism have no place in Islam. That’s just as absurd as associating Hitler with Christianity, or David Koresh with Christianity. There are always people who will do peculiar things and think that they are doing things in the name of their religion.”
It is not to be mistaken; the threat of radical Islam is very real. One only has to look at what is going on in Europe to become aware of this. However, if we sacrifice the principles of our founding fathers in our fight against radical Islam we have already lost. There will be a solution to the threat of radical Islam here in the United States, but that solution should be one that is uniquely American. It should not be a solution that causes us to sacrifice our devotion to religious freedom and tolerance. In the words of Benjamin Franklin:
“If an Indian injures me, does it follow that I may revenge that Injury on all Indians? It is well known that Indians are of different Tribes, Nations and languages, as well as the White People,” Franklin wrote in “A Narrative of the Late Massacres.”
Daniel Renfrow is an anthropology junior and may be reached at email@example.com