For many Americans, Sept. 11, 2001 is one of the most terrible and painful days they can remember. The thousands of families that were marred by the attacks can never be made whole again, and the landscape of the world, both culturally and emotionally, will never be the same. Now, because of that one act, people are questioning whether or not a group of Muslims should build a mosque just seven blocks away from ground zero.
It should be noted that Islamic extremists represent less than one percent of a Muslim community that is over one billion strong, and the group of Muslims who wish to build the mosque are not in that one percent. In fact, many lived and worshiped in downtown New York when the towers were struck. They shared in the pain that many Americans felt that day.
Legally, no arguments can be made against the construction of the mosque. The first amendment gives all Americans the right to worship how and where they please. The Islamic community has been well established in lower Manhattan for years and has every legal right to be there.
But there is an emotional side of the debate the leadership of the mosque has failed to consider. Right or wrong, many Americans have a prejudice against Islam, mostly through ignorance of the religion or because of Sept. 11.
One may find it hard to believe that at no point in the planning of the mosque did anyone within its leadership consider the controversy it would create. The leaders of the project have said from the beginning that they hope the mosque, as part of an Islamic community center, will help to repair relationships between different religious communities within the United States, but they have not thought enough about what the chosen building site represents to many Americans. Building the mosque so near an area where so many Americans and families lost loved ones in the attacks is insensitive.
Governor of New York David Patterson has offered to give the developers state land if they agree to move the mosque a little further away from ground zero. If the center were truly about repairing relationships and educating people on Islam, moving the location would go a long way in showing people the reality of that goal.
The mosque should not be moved because it has no right to be there. It should be moved because just like us, they are Americans, and being a part of one nation means considering each other’s feelings.