Pouring salt in the wound
by Phil Dodson
I always have strongly supported an individual's right to worship as he or she wishes. I also believe that people should not try to force their religious tenets upon others, particularly those whose religious beliefs differ markedly from those doing the proselytizing. Nor do I think a person should be criticized for his or her religious beliefs, or, for that matter, a lack of such beliefs.
My admittedly benevolent approach to religious diversity, however, has limits, and I suspect some actions raise serious questions as to their ultimate intent. For example, I cannot understand the logic of a proposal to build a 15-story Islamic mosque two blocks from the New York City site that's known as "Ground Zero," where Islamic terrorists flew two hijacked jetliners full of passengers into the World Trade Center Towers on Sept. 11, 2001.
Some 3,000 innocent people and 18 jihadist murderers died in this disgusting display of religious fanaticism, and the thought of anchoring the site with an edifice to Islam makes me wonder if those who have given a green light to this proposal have fully considered these implications.
A mosque adjacent to Ground Zero, I suspect, is not only inappropriate but also would seem to be a harsh insult to those who died in that attack. It's patently impossible the group supporting this plan hasn't considered this will be perceived as a slap to America's face, but the imam and his supporters contend the mosque is designed to extend the hand of friendship between Muslims and the rest of America.
Forgive me if I doubt many will see it that way.
The Cordoba Initiative, as it is called, is backed by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who has taken the position, according to Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, that erecting a $100 million mosque 600 feet from Ground Zero is "the way to make a statement opposing what happened on 9/11." I suspect this religious leader's motives are at best questionable and at worst may be intended to "rub salt in the wound" left by the terrorists' suicidal action.
Although a community board voted overwhelmingly in May to back the mosque's construction — an action that granted no official sanction to the project — many others, including relatives of those who died in the attack, have loudly disagreed.
A report in the New York Post quoted FDNY Deputy Chief Al Santora, who contends that because victims' remains were scattered for blocks after the towers collapsed that Ground Zero and adjacent areas are "a burial ground." Santora's oldest son, Christopher, 23, was the youngest firefighter to die on 9/11.
While our country's valued freedom of religion permits beliefs and practices of all stripes, I would point out there already is a major Muslim center in New York City, one large enough to serve Islamic adherents throughout the region. And to the credit of a number of American Islamic leaders, many have come out against the Cordoba project for exactly the objections many have noted.
For example, Jacoby quoted the director of the Center for Islamic Pluralism in Washington, D.C., Stephen Suleyman Schwartz, a "devout Muslim" who says he rejects Rauf's contention that a "highly visible Muslim presence" at Ground Zero is the way to make "a statement opposing what happened on 9/11."
Rather, he says, it would be better to do as many Muslims who hate terrorism have done and to go "privately to the site and recite prayers for the dead silently and unperceived by others."
The Boston Globe columnist asked, "Will a mosque at Ground Zero make reconciliation more likely? Or will it needlessly rub salt in the unhealed wounds of 9/11?"
Perhaps I'm wrong, but I'll bet the mosque's location will result in the latter.
Note: The content of external articles does not necessarily reflect the views of Center for Islamic Pluralism.