The New York City community board endorsed the Cordoba House, a community center and mosque planned for construction near Ground Zero. Significant opposition has emerged against the project. Sarah Palin even weighed in this weekend, tweeting, “Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing.” Should there be a mosque near Ground Zero?
As a Baptist who believes in religious freedom and separation of church and state, I strongly support religious communities’ right to have places of worship within reasonable distance of where they live. However, no religious community has an absolute right to have a place of worship wherever they choose, regardless of the community’s objections.
I believe that putting a mosque at Ground Zero, or very close to Ground Zero, is unacceptable. The persons who committed that atrocity did so in the name of their understanding of Islam. Even though the vast majority of Muslims reject that ideology and condemned their actions on Sept. 11, 2001, it still remains a fact that the people who perpetrated the 9/11 attack were Muslims and proclaimed they were doing what they were doing in the name of Islam. Given that fact, I believe that it is inappropriate for a mosque to be at Ground Zero, and for Muslims to insist that they have the right to have a mosque there is counterproductive to the spirit of reconciliation and healing that we all seek.
Having a mosque at Ground Zero would be the equivalent of having a Japanese Shinto shrine built next to the USS Arizona. Do the followers of Shinto have a right to have a shrine in Honolulu? Yes. In close proximity to the USS Arizona? No. I am well aware that many Japanese did not support the attack on Pearl Harbor and in fact, Japanese-Americans in a Nisei battalion composed the most decorated combat unit in the American armed forces in WWII, as they demonstrated their patriotism, even while many of their family members were shamefully placed in internment camps in the United States. That still does not negate the fact that it would be inappropriate to have a Japanese shrine in close proximity to the USS Arizona. It is similarly inappropriate to put a mosque in close proximity to Ground Zero.