Any argument for or against the building of a mosque close to ground zero cannot begin without first acknowledging the pain that is tied to the site. On September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 innocent men and women were killed by religious fanatics who sought to inflict violence on a country they believed was at odds with their religious ideology. Although they may share a common religion, those who flew their planes into the twin towers are not the same people who are trying to build a mosque in downtown New York.
The Islamic community trying to build their mosque near ground zero has resided in that area of New York for decades. They resided in downtown New York when the twin towers fell and likely shared in the grief of their fellow Americans in the following weeks and months. We can only hope that the Islamic community will uphold the claim that the center will help bring down social barriers and repudiate the belief that all Muslims share the same views as the terrorists that have repeatedly attacked our country.
The terrorists of 9/11 were born in a region of the world where religious tolerance is not appreciated. The disparity in the amount of religious freedom between the two regions is as disparate as the Atlantic Ocean that comes between them. If the mosque is built, it will be a signal to the Middle East and the rest of the world that the United States is far from a threat to Islam but a place where differing religions are respected.
Furthermore, the site of the proposed mosque is private property. An Islamic community has as much a right to build a mosque at ground zero as a Baptist community has to build a church or the Catholic community, a cathedral. Selecting which religious groups can and cannot build places of worship wades into dangerous territory. It would be the antithesis of the religious freedom that has been the foundation of America.
The United States stands for freedom in all its forms, freedom that countless men and women have fought for since our country’s founding. This value of religious freedom is precisely why there is no reason that an Islamic community cannot promote peace and understanding, even a few blocks from the site that reminds us of what happens when intolerance breeds hatred and violence.