Saturday, August 14, 2010

To Build or Not To Build

A friend who doesn’t usually discuss politics with me asked me recently what I thought about plans to build a mosque near the site of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York. I gave my usual complicated, multi-tiered answer: Muslims have a right to build it but it seems inappropriate, not because they are Muslim but because I don’t think there should be any religious structure there.

I hadn’t heard of the plan till she asked me the question. In the two weeks since, I’ve heard about it many times as it has grown into a polarizing Religion-Politics-Media story, with the usual associated misrepresented mixing of opinions and facts.

I just read an online article with the headline “President Obama Supports Ground Zero Mosque.” The article, however, quotes the President as saying he believes Muslims have the right to practice their religion and to build a place of worship on private property in accordance with local laws. I agree totally with that. But I do not see the President’s remarks as showing support for the mosque; I see his statements as showing supporting for religious rights as well as zoning rights. But the sensasionalist headline gets attention.

The same article noted the predictable reactions of Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, who oppose the mosque by saying that building it so close to that site is an affront to the memory of those who died in the terrorist attacks. I totally disagree with their reasoning. Many terrorists this century have been Muslims but most Muslims are NOT terrorists! Their comments tell me that they think the Islam religion is responsible for the attacks and deaths. Not so. The responsibility lies with a minority of Muslims who have twisted the principles of their own faith to suit other needs.

So should they build it there? I say no. But I also say that no specific place of worship representing any specific religious belief should be built there. People who visit that site and view it as hallowed ground should honor it in their own private manner.

Should they be allowed to build it there? I say yes. Any developer who complies with zoning laws and building codes should be allowed to build there. The previous occupant of that property was a factory outlet store.

But if that Islamic group goes through with their plans they should be ready to face the inevitable difficulties relating to the sentiments expressed by Palin and Gingrich. While Palin and Gingrich make their points with words, as is their right, you know someone will try to make points using more violent means, a form of terrorism, for example, and it is likely those individuals will profess to be Christians. If that happens, my first thought will be that some terrorists are Christians but most Christians are NOT terrorists.

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